Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: The Details of Our Bodily Sex, and of the Functions of Our Various Members. Apology for the Necessity Which Heresy Imposes of Hunting Up All Its Unblushing Cavils.
Chapter LXI.—The Details of Our Bodily Sex, and of the Functions of Our Various Members. Apology for the Necessity Which Heresy Imposes of Hunting Up All Its Unblushing Cavils.
Now you have received your mouth, O man, for the purpose of devouring your food and imbibing your drink: why not, however, for the higher purpose of uttering speech, so as to distinguish yourself from all other animals? Why not rather for preaching the gospel of God, that so you may become even His priest and advocate before men? Adam indeed gave their several names to the animals, before he plucked the fruit of the tree; before he ate, he prophesied. Then, again, you received your teeth for the consumption of your meal: why not rather for wreathing your mouth with suitable defence on every opening thereof, small or wide? Why not, too, for moderating the impulses of your tongue, and guarding your articulate speech from failure and violence? Let me tell you, (if you do not know), that there are toothless persons in the world. Look at them, and ask whether even a cage of teeth be not an honour to the mouth. There are apertures in the lower regions of man and woman, by means of which they gratify no doubt their animal passions; but why are they not rather regarded as outlets for the cleanly p. 593 discharge of natural fluids? Women, moreover, have within them receptacles where human seed may collect; but are they not designed for the secretion of those sanguineous issues, which their tardier and weaker sex is inadequate to disperse? For even details like these require to be mentioned, seeing that heretics single out what parts of our bodies may suit them, handle them without delicacy, and, as their whim suggests, pour torrents of scorn and contempt upon the natural functions of our members, for the purpose of upsetting the resurrection, and making us blush over their cavils; not reflecting that before the functions cease, the very causes of them will have passed away. There will be no more meat, because no more hunger; no more drink, because no more thirst; no more concubinage, because no more child-bearing; no more eating and drinking, because no more labour and toil. Death, too, will cease; so there will be no more need of the nutriment of food for the defence of life, nor will mothers limbs any longer have to be laden for the replenishment of our race. But even in the present life there may be cessations of their office for our stomachs and our generative organs. For forty days Moses 7749 and Elias 7750 fasted, and lived upon God alone. For even so early was the principle consecrated: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” 7751 See here faint outlines of our future strength! We even, as we may be able, excuse our mouths from food, and withdraw our sexes from union. How many voluntary eunuchs are there! How many virgins espoused to Christ! How many, both of men and women, whom nature has made sterile, with a structure which cannot procreate! Now, if even here on earth both the functions and the pleasures of our members may be suspended, with an intermission which, like the dispensation itself, can only be a temporary one, and yet mans safety is nevertheless unimpaired, how much more, when his salvation is secure, and especially in an eternal dispensation, shall we not cease to desire those things, for which, even here below, we are not unaccustomed to check our longings!
Ex. xxiv. 8.593:7750
1 Kings xix. 8.593:7751
Deut. 8:3, Matt. 4:4.
Next: Our Destined Likeness to the Angels in the Glorious Life of the Resurrection.
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