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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 22

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 22.—Shall We Be Ashamed of What We Do, or of What God Does?

It is, however, of pleasure that this man spoke in his passage, because pleasure can be even honourable: of carnal concupiscence, or lust, which produces shame, he made no mention. In some subsequent words, however, he uncovered his susceptibility of shame; and he was unable to dissemble what nature herself has prescribed so forcibly. “There is also,” says he, “that statement: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh.’” Then after these words of God, he goes on to offer some of his own, saying: “That he might express faith in works, the prophet approached very near to a perilling of modesty.” What a confession! How clear and extorted from him by the force of truth! The prophet, it would seem, to express faith in works, almost imperilled modesty, when he said, “They twain shall become one flesh;” wishing it to be understood of the sexual union of the male and the female. Let the cause be alleged, why the prophet, in expressing the works of God, should approach so near an imperilling of modesty? Is it then the case that the works of man ought not to produce shame, but must be gloried in at all events, and that the works of God must produce shame? Is it, that in setting forth and expressing the works of God the prophet’s love or labour receives no honour, but his modesty is imperilled? What, then, was it possible for God to do, which it would be a shame for His prophet to describe? And, what is a weightier question still, could a man be ashamed of any work which not man, but God, has made in man? whereas workmen in all cases strive, with all the labour and diligence in their power, to avoid shame in the works of their own hands. The truth, however, is, that we are ashamed of that very thing which made those primitive human beings ashamed, when they covered their loins. That is the penalty of sin; that is the plague and mark of sin; that is the temptation and very fuel of sin; that is the law in our members warring against the law of our mind; that is the rebellion against our own selves, proceeding from our very selves, which by a most righteous retribution is rendered us by our disobedient members. It is this which makes us ashamed, and justly ashamed. If it were not so, what could be more ungrateful, more irreligious in us, if in our members we were to suffer confusion of face, not for our own fault or penalty, but because of the works of God?

Next: Chapter 23

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