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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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Sec. V.—The Teaching of the Apostles in Opposition to Jewish and Gentile Superstitions, Especially in Regard to Marriage and Funerals.

That We Ought to Avoid the Heretics as the Corrupters of Souls.

XXVI. Do you therefore, O bishops, and ye of the laity, avoid all heretics who abuse the law and the prophets. For they are enemies to God Almighty, and disobey Him, and do not confess Christ to be the Son of God. For they also deny His generation according to the flesh; they are ashamed of the cross; they abuse His passion and His death; they know not His resurrection; they take away His generation before all ages. Nay, some of them are impious after another manner, imagining the Lord to be a mere man, supposing Him to consist of a soul and body. But others of them suppose that Jesus Himself is the God over all, and glorify Him as His own Father, and suppose Him to be both the Son and the Comforter; than which doctrines what can be more detestable? Others, again, of them do refuse certain meats, and say that marriage with the procreation of children is evil, and the contrivance of the devil; and being ungodly themselves, they are not willing to rise again from the dead on account of their wickedness. Wherefore also they ridicule the resurrection, and say, We are holy people, unwilling to eat and to drink; and they fancy that they shall rise again from the dead demons without flesh, who shall be condemned for ever in eternal fire. Fly therefore from them, lest ye perish with them in their impieties.  

Of Some Jewish and Gentile Observances.

XXVII. Now if any persons keep to the Jewish customs and observances concerning the natural emission and nocturnal pollutions, and the lawful conjugal acts,33133313     Lev. xv.   let them tell us whether in those hours or days, when they undergo any such thing, they observe not to pray, or to touch a Bible, or to partake of the Eucharist? And if they own it to be so, it is plain they are void of the Holy Spirit, which always continues with the faithful. For concerning holy persons Solomon says: “That every one may prepare himself, that so when he sleeps it may keep him, and when he arises it may talk with him.”33143314     Prov. vi. 22.   For if thou thinkest, O woman, when thou art seven days in thy separation, that thou art void of the Holy Spirit, then if thou shouldest die suddenly thou wilt depart void of the Spirit, and without assured hope in God; or else thou must imagine that the Spirit always is inseparable from thee, as not being in a place. But thou standest in need of prayer and the Eucharist, and the coming of the Holy Ghost, as having been guilty of no fault in this matter. For neither lawful mixture, nor child-bearing, nor the menstrual purgation, nor nocturnal pollution, can defile the nature of a man, or separate the Holy Spirit from him. Nothing but impiety and unlawful practice can do that. For the Holy Spirit always abides with those that are possessed of it, so long as they are worthy; and those from whom it is departed, it leaves them desolate, and exposed to the wicked spirit. Now every man is filled either with the holy or with the unclean spirit; and it is not possible to avoid the one or the other, unless they can receive opposite spirits. For the Comforter hates every lie, and the devil hates all truth. But every one that is baptized agreeably to the truth is separated from the diabolical spirit, and is under the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit remains with him so long as he is doing good, and fills him with wisdom and understanding, and suffers not the wicked spirit to approach him, but watches over his goings. Thou therefore, O woman, if, as thou sayest, in the days of thy separation thou art void of the Holy Spirit, thou art then filled with the unclean one; for by neglecting to pray and to read thou wilt invite him to thee, though he were unwilling. For this spirit, of all others, loves the ungrateful, the slothful, the careless, and the drowsy, since he himself by ingratitude was distempered with evil mind, and was thereby deprived by God his dignity; having rather chosen to be a devil than an archangel. Wherefore, O woman, eschew such vain words, and be ever mindful of God that created thee, and pray to Him. For He is thy Lord, and the Lord of the universe; and meditate in His laws without observing any such things, such as the natural purgation, lawful mixture, child-birth, a miscarriage, or a blemish of the body; since such observations are the vain inventions of foolish men, and such inventions as have no sense in them. Neither the burial of a man, nor a dead man’s bone, nor a sepulchre, nor any particular sort of food, nor the nocturnal pollution, can defile the soul of man; but only impiety towards God, and transgression, and injustice towards one’s neighbour; I mean rapine, violence, or if there be anything contrary to His righteousness, adultery or fornication. Wherefore, beloved, avoid and eschew such observations, for they are heathenish. For we do not abominate a dead man, as do they, seeing we hope that he will live again. Nor do we hate lawful mixture; for it is their practice to act impiously in such instances. For the conjunction of man and wife, if it be with righteousness, is agreeable to the mind of God. “For He that made them at the beginning made them male and female; and He blessed them, and said, Increase and multiply, and fill the earth.”33153315     Matt. xix. 4; Gen. i. 28.   If, therefore, the difference of sexes was made by the will of God for the generation of multitudes, then must the conjunction of male and female be also acceptable to His mind.  

Of the Love of Boys, Adultery, and Fornication.

XXVIII. But we do not say so of that mixture that is contrary to nature, or of any unlawful practice; for such are enmity to God. For the sin of Sodom is contrary to nature, as is also that with brute beasts. But adultery and fornication are against the law; the one whereof is impiety, the other injustice, and, in a word, no other than a great sin. But neither sort of them is without its punishment in its own proper nature. For the practisers of one sort attempt the dissolution of the world, and endeavour to make the natural course of things to change for one that is unnatural; but those of the second sort—the adulterers—are unjust by corrupting others’ marriages, and dividing into two what God hath made one, rendering the children suspected, and exposing the true husband to the snares of others. And fornication is the destruction of one’s own flesh, not being made use of for the procreation of children, but entirely for the sake of pleasure, which is a mark of incontinency, and not a sign of virtue. All these things are forbidden by the laws; for thus say the oracles: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind.”33163316     Lev. xviii. 22   “For such a one is accursed, and ye shall stone them with stones: they have wrought abomination.”33173317     Lev. xx. 13   “Every one that lieth with a beast, slay ye him: he has wrought wickedness in his people.”33183318     Ex. xxii. 19   “And if any one defile a married woman, slay ye them both: they have wrought wickedness; they are guilty; let them die.”33193319     Lev. xx. 10; Deut. xxii. 22   And afterwards: “There shall not be a fornicator among the children of Israel, and there shall not be an whore among the daughters of Israel. Thou shalt not offer the hire of an harlot to the Lord thy God upon the altar, nor the price of a dog.”33203320     Deut. xxiii. 17, 18   “For the vows arising from the hire of an harlot are not clean.”33213321     Prov. xix. 13, LXX.   These things the laws have forbidden, but they have honoured marriage, and have called it blessed, since God has blessed it who joined male and female together.33223322     Gen. i. 28   And wise Solomon somewhere says: “A wife is suited to her husband by the Lord.”33233323     Prov. xix. 14   And David says: “Thy wife is like a flourishing vine in the sides of thine house; thy children like olive-branches round about thy table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.”33243324     Ps. cxxviii. 3, 4   Wherefore “marriage is honourable”33253325     Heb. xiii. 4   and comely, and the begetting of children pure, for there is no evil in that which is good. Therefore neither is the natural purgation abominable before God, who has ordered it to happen to women within the space of thirty days for their advantage and healthful state, who do less move about, and keep usually at home in the house. Nay, moreover, even in the Gospel, when the woman with the perpetual purgation of blood33263326     Matt ix. 22   touched the saving border of the Lord’s garment in hope of being healed, He was not angry at her, nor did complain of her at all; but, on the contrary, He healed her, saying, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” When the natural purgations do appear in the wives, let not their husbands approach them, out of regard to the children to be begotten; for the law has forbidden it, for it says: “Thou shalt not come near thy wife when she is in her separation.”33273327     Lev. xviii. 19; Ezek. xviii. 6.   Nor, indeed, let them frequent their wives’ company when they are with child.33283328     [But if this be otherwise done, it may be well to compare Lactantius as to a question of actual crime. See p. 190, n. 1, supra.]   For they do this not for the begetting of children, but for the sake of pleasure. Now a lover of God ought not to be a lover of pleasure.  

How Wives Ought to Be Subject to Their Own Husbands, and Husbands Ought to Love Their Own Wives.

XXXIX. Ye wives, be subject to your own husbands, and have them in esteem, and serve them with fear and love, as holy Sarah honoured Abraham. For she could not endure to call him by his name, but called him lord, when she said, “My lord is old.”33293329     1 Pet. iii. 6   In like manner, ye husbands, love your own wives as your own members, as partners in life, and fellow-helpers for the procreation of children. For says He, “Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her conversation be to thee as a loving hind, and a pleasant foal; let her alone guide thee, and be with thee at all times: for if thou beest every way encompassed with her friendship, thou wilt be happy in her society.”33303330     Prov. v. 18, etc.   Love them therefore as your own members, as your very bodies; for so it is written, “The Lord has testified between thee and between the wife of thy youth; and she is thy partner, and another has not made her: and she is the remains of thy spirit;” and, “Take heed to your spirit, and do not forsake the wife of thy youth.”33313331     Mal. ii. 14, 15, 16   An husband, therefore, and a wife, when they company together in lawful marriage, and rise from one another, may pray without any observations, and without washing are clean. But whosoever corrupts and defiles another man’s wife, or is defiled with an harlot, when he arises up from her, though he should wash himself in the entire ocean and all the rivers, cannot be clean.  


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