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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Grace of Christ, and...: Chapter 39

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 39 [XXXIV.]—Three Things Good and Laudable in Matrimony.

Marriage, therefore, is a good in all the things which are proper to the married state. And these are three: it is the ordained means of procreation, it is the guarantee 2017 of chastity, it is the bond of union. 2018 In respect of its ordination for generation the Scripture says, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house;” 2019 as regards its guaranteeing chastity, it is said of it, “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife;” 2020 and considered as the bond of union: “What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” 2021 Touching these points, we do not forget that we have treated at sufficient length, with whatever ability the Lord has given us, in other works of ours, which are not unknown to you. 2022 In relation to them all the Scripture has this general praise: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.” 2023 For, inasmuch as the wedded state is good, insomuch does it produce a very large amount of good in respect of the evil of concupiscence; for it is not lust, but reason, which makes a good use of concupiscence. Now lust lies in that law of the “disobedient” members which the apostle notes as “warring against the law of the mind;” 2024 whereas reason lies in that law of the wedded state which makes good use of concupiscence. If, however, it were impossible for any good to arise out of evil, God could not create man out of the embraces of adultery. As, therefore, the damnable evil of adultery, whenever man is born in it, is not chargeable on God, who certainly amidst man’s evil work actually produces a good work; so, likewise, all which causes shame in that rebellion of the members which brought the accusing blush on those who after their sin covered these members with the fig-tree leaves, 2025 is not laid to the charge of marriage, by virtue of which the conjugal embrace is not only allowable, but is even useful and honourable; but it is imputable to the sin of that disobedience which was followed by the penalty of man’s finding his own members emulating against himself that very disobedience which he had practised against God. Then, abashed at their action, since they moved no more at the bidding of his rational will, but at their own arbitrary choice as it were, instigated by lust, he devised the covering which should conceal such of them as he judged to be worthy of shame. For man, as the handiwork of God, deserved not confusion of face; nor were the members which it seemed fit to the Creator to form and appoint by any means designed to bring the blush to the creature. Accordingly, that simple nudity was displeasing neither to God nor to man: there was nothing to be ashamed of, because nothing at first accrued which deserved punishment.





Connubii sacramentum.


1 Tim. v. 14.


1 Cor. vii. 4.


Matt. xix. 6.


De Bono Conjugali, 3 sqq.


Heb. xiii. 4.


Rom. vii. 23.


Gen. iii. 7.

Next: Chapter 40

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