Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Monogamy/Chapter 15
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Chapter XV.—Unfairness of Charging the Disciples of the New Prophecy with Harshness. The Charge Rather to Be Retorted Upon the Psychics.
What harshness, therefore, is here on our part, if we renounce (communion with) such as do not the will of God? What heresy, if we judge second marriage, as being unlawful, akin to adultery? For what is adultery but unlawful marriage? The apostle sets a brand upon those who were wont entirely to forbid marriage, who were wont at the same time to lay an interdict on meats which God has created. We, however, no more do away with marriage if we abjure its repetition, than we reprobate meats if we fast oftener (than others). It is one thing to do away with, another to regulate; it is one thing to lay down a law of not marrying, it is another to fix a limit to marrying. To speak plainly, if they who reproach us with harshness, or esteem heresy (to exist) in this (our) cause, foster the “infirmity of the flesh” to such a degree as to think it must have support accorded to it in frequency of marriage; why do they in another case neither accord it support nor foster it with indulgence—when, (namely), torments have reduced it to a denial (of the faith)? For, of course, that (infirmity) is more capable of excuse which has fallen in battle, than (that) which (has fallen) in the bed-chamber; (that) which has succumbed on the rack, than (that) which (has succumbed) on the bridal bed; (that) which has yielded to cruelty, than (that) which (has yielded) to appetite; that which has been overcome groaning, than (that) which (has been overcome) in heat. But the former they excommunicate, because it has not “endured unto the end:” the latter they prop up, as if withal it has “endured unto the end.” Propose (the question) why each has not “endured unto the end;” and you will find the cause of that (infirmity) to be more honourable which has been unable to sustain savagery, than (of that) which (has been unable to sustain) modesty. And yet not even a bloodwrung—not to say an immodest—defection does the “infirmity of the flesh” excuse!
- See 1 Tim. iv. 1–3.
- See Matt. xxiv. 13, and the references there.