Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/A Treatise on the Soul/Chapter XXXVIII
Chapter XXXVIII.—On the Growth of the Soul. Its Maturity Coincident with the Maturity of the Flesh in Man.
Now we have already laid down the principle, that all the natural properties of the soul which relate to sense and intelligence are inherent in its very substance, and spring from its native constitution, but that they advance by a gradual growth through the stages of life and develope themselves in different ways by accidental circumstances, according to men’s means and arts, their manners and customs their local situations, and the influences of the Supreme Powers; but in pursuance of that aspect of the association of body and soul which we have now to consider, we maintain that the puberty of the soul coincides with that of the body, and that they attain both together to this full growth at about the fourteenth year of life, speaking generally,—the former by the suggestion of the senses, and the latter by the growth of the bodily members; and (we fix on this age) not because, as Asclepiades supposes, reflection then begins, nor because the civil laws date the commencement of the real business of life from this period, but because this was the appointed order from the very first. For as Adam and Eve felt that they must cover their nakedness after their knowledge of good and evil so we profess to have the same discernment of good and evil from the time that we experience the same sensation of shame. Now from the before-mentioned age (of fourteen years) sex is suffused and clothed with an especial sensibility, and concupiscence employs the ministry of the eye, and communicates its pleasure to another, and understands the natural relations between male and female, and wears the fig-tree apron to cover the shame which it still excites, and drives man out of the paradise of innocence and chastity, and in its wild pruriency falls upon sins and unnatural incentives to delinquency; for its impulse has by this time surpassed the appointment of nature, and springs from its vicious abuse. But the strictly natural concupiscence is simply confined to the desire of those aliments which God at the beginning conferred upon man. “Of every tree of the garden” He says, “ye shall freely eat;” and then again to the generation which followed next after the flood He enlarged the grant: “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; behold, as the green herb have I given you all these things,”—where He has regard rather to the body than to the soul, although it be in the interest of the soul also. For we must remove all occasion from the caviller, who, because the soul apparently wants ailments, would insist on the soul’s being from this circumstance deemed mortal, since it is sustained by meat and drink and after a time loses its rigour when they are withheld, and on their complete removal ultimately droops and dies. Now the point we must keep in view is not merely which particular faculty it is which desires these (aliments), but also for what end; and even if it be for its own sake, still the question remains, Why this desire, and when felt, and how long? Then again there is the consideration, that it is one thing to desire by natural instinct, and another thing to desire through necessity; one thing to desire as a property of being, another thing to desire for a special object. The soul, therefore, will desire meat and drink—for itself indeed, because of a special necessity; for the flesh, however, from the nature of its properties. For the flesh is no doubt the house of the soul, and the soul is the temporary inhabitant of the flesh. The desire, then, of the lodger will arise from the temporary cause and the special necessity which his very designation suggests,—with a view to benefit and improve the place of his temporary abode, while sojourning in it; not with the view, certainly, of being himself the foundation of the house, or himself its walls, or himself its support and roof, but simply and solely with the view of being accommodated and housed, since he could not receive such accommodation except in a sound and well-built house. (Now, applying this imagery to the soul,) if it be not provided with this accommodation, it will not be in its power to quit its dwelling-place, and for want of fit and proper resources, to depart safe and sound, in possession, too, of its own supports, and the aliments which belong to its own proper condition,—namely immortality, rationality, sensibility, intelligence, and freedom of the will.
- See above, in ch. xx.
- See above, in ch. xxiv.
- Gen. ii. 16.
- Gen. ix. 3.