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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 17

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 17 [VII.]—The Pelagians are Not Ashamed to Eulogize Concupiscence, Although They are Ashamed to Mention Its Name.

But among so many names of good things, such as bodies, sexes, unions, he never once mentions the lust or concupiscence of the flesh. He is silent, because he is ashamed; and yet with a strange shamelessness of shame (if the expression may be used), he is not ashamed to praise what he is ashamed to mention. Now just observe how he prefers to point to his object by circumlocution rather than by direct mention of it. “After that the man,” says he, “by natural appetite knew his wife.” See again, he refused to say, He knew his wife by carnal concupiscence; but he used the phrase, “by natural appetite,” by which it is open to us to understand that holy and honourable will which wills the procreation of children, and not that lust, of which even he is so much ashamed, forsooth, that he prefers to use ambiguous language to us, to expressing his mind in unmistakeable words. “Now what is the meaning of his phrase—“by natural appetite”? Is not both the wish to be saved and the wish to beget, nourish, and educate children, natural appetite? and is it not likewise of reason, and not of lust? Since, however, we can ascertain his intention, we are pretty sure that he meant by these words to indicate the lust of the organs of generation. Do not the words in question appear to you to be the fig-leaves, under cover of which is hidden nothing else but that which he feels ashamed of? For just as they of old sewed the leaves together  2234 as a girdle of concealment, so has this man woven a web of circumlocution to hide his meaning. Let him weave out his statement: “But when the man knew his wife by natural appetite, the divine Scripture says, Eve conceived, and bare a son, and called his name Cain. But what,” he adds, “does Adam say? Let us hear: I have obtained a man from God. So that it is evident that he was God’s work, and the divine Scripture testifies to his having been received from God.”  2235 Well, who can entertain a doubt on this point? Who can deny this statement, especially if he be a catholic Christian? A man is God’s work; but carnal concupiscence (without which, if sin had not preceded, man would p. 290 have been begotten by means of the organs of generation, not less obedient than the other members to a quiet and normal will) is not of the Father, but is of the world. 2236



Gen. iii. 7.


Gen. iv. 1.


1 John ii. 16.

Next: Chapter 18