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ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
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Chapter IV.—Of the Infirmity of the Flesh, and Similar Pleas.

But we read “that the flesh is weak;”370370    Matt. xxvi. 41. and hence we soothe371371    Adulamur:  “we fawn upon,” or “caress,” or “flatter.”  Comp. de Pæn., c. vi. sub init.:  “flatter their own sweetness.” ourselves in some cases.  Yet we read, too, that “the spirit is strong;”372372    “Firmum,” opp. to “infirmam” above.  In the passage there referred to (Matt. xxvi. 41) the word is πρόθυμον. for each clause occurs in one and the same sentence.  Flesh is an earthly, spirit a heavenly, material.  Why, then, do we, too prone to self-excuse, put forward (in our defence) the weak part of us, but not look at373373    Tuemur.  Mr. Dodgson renders, “guard not.” the strong?  Why should not the earthly yield to the heavenly?  If the spirit is stronger than the flesh, because it is withal of nobler origin, it is our own fault if we follow the weaker.  Now there are two phases374374    Species. of human weakness which make marriages375375    i.e., apparently second marriages:  “disjunctis a matrimonio” can scarcely include such as were never “juncti;” and comp. the “præmissis maritis” below. necessary to such as are disjoined from matrimony.  The first and most powerful is that which arises from fleshly concupiscence; the second, from worldly concupiscence.  But by us, who are servants of God, who renounce both voluptuousness and ambition, each is to be repudiated.  Fleshly concupiscence claims the functions of adult age, craves after beauty’s harvest, rejoices in its own shame, pleads the necessity of a husband to the female sex, as a source of authority and of comfort, or to render it safe from evil rumours.  To meet these its counsels, do you apply the examples of sisters of ours whose names are with the Lord,376376    Comp. Phil. iv. 3; 2 Tim. ii. 19; Mal. iii. 16; and similar passages.—who, when their husbands have preceded them (to glory), give to no opportunity of beauty or of age the precedence over holiness.  They prefer to be wedded to God.  To God their beauty, to God their youth (is dedicated).  With Him they live; with Him they converse; Him they “handle”377377    1 John i. 1; Luke xxiv. 39; John xx. 17. by day and by night; to the Lord they assign their prayers as dowries; from Him, as oft as they desire it, they receive His approbation378378    Dignationem. as dotal gifts.  Thus they have laid hold for themselves of an eternal gift of the Lord; and while on earth, by abstaining from marriage, are already counted as belonging to the angelic family.  Training yourself to an emulation of (their) constancy by the examples of such women, you will by spiritual affection bury that fleshly concupiscence, in abolishing the temporal379379    Or, “temporary.” and fleeting desires of beauty and youth by the compensating gain of immortal blessings.

On the other hand, this worldly concupiscence (to which I referred) has, as its causes, glory, cupidity, ambition, want of sufficiency; through which causes it trumps up the “necessity” for marrying,—promising itself, forsooth, heavenly things in return—to lord it, (namely,) in another’s family; to roost380380    Incubare. on another’s wealth; to extort splendour from another’s store to lavish expenditure381381    Cædere sumptum. which you do not feel!  Far be all this from believers, who have no care about maintenance, unless it be that we distrust the promises of God, and (His) care and providence, who clothes with such grace the lilies of the field;382382    Matt. vi. 28–30. who, without any labour on their part, feeds the fowls of the heaven;383383    Matt. vi. 26. who prohibits care to be taken about to-morrow’s food and clothing,384384    Matt. vi. 31, 34. promising that He knows what is needful for each of His servants—not indeed ponderous necklaces, not burdensome garments, not Gallic mules nor German bearers, which all add lustre to the glory of nuptials; but “sufficiency,”385385    Comp. Phil. iv. 19; 1 Tim. vi. 8. which is suitable to moderation and modesty.  Presume, I pray you, that you have need of nothing if you “attend upon the Lord;”386386    Comp. 1 Cor. vii. 35, esp. in Eng. ver. nay, that you have all things, if you have the Lord, whose are all things.  Think often387387    Recogita. on things heavenly, and you will despise things earthly.  To widowhood signed and sealed before the Lord nought is necessary but perseverance.


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