Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Exhortation to Chastity/Chapter 9

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Exhortation to Chastity
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
Chapter 9
155801Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Exhortation to Chastity — Chapter 9Sydney ThelwallTertullian

Chapter IX.—Second Marriage a Species of Adultery, Marriage Itself Impugned, as Akin to Adultery.

If we look deeply into his meanings, and interpret them, second marriage will have to be termed no other than a species of fornication.  For, since he says that married persons make this their solicitude, “how to please one another”[1] (not, of course, morally, for a good solicitude he would not impugn); and (since), he wishes them to be understood to be solicitous about dress, and ornament, and every kind of personal attraction, with a view to increasing their power of allurement; (since), moreover, to please by personal beauty and dress is the genius of carnal concupiscence, which again is the cause of fornication:  pray, does second marriage seem to you to border upon fornication, since in it are detected those ingredients which are appropriate to fornication?  The Lord Himself said, “Whoever has seen a woman with a view to concupiscence has already violated her in his heart.”[2]  But has he who has seen her with a view to marriage done so less or more?  What if he have even married her?—which he would not do had he not desired her with a view to marriage, and seen her with a view to concupiscence; unless it is possible for a wife to be married whom you have not seen or desired.  I grant it makes a wide difference whether a married man or an unmarried desire another woman.  Every woman, (however), even to an unmarried man, is “another,” so long as she belongs to some one else; nor yet is the mean through which she becomes a married woman any other than that through which withal (she becomes) an adulteress.  It is laws which seem to make the difference between marriage and fornication; through diversity of illicitness, not through the nature of the thing itself.  Besides, what is the thing which takes place in all men and women to produce marriage and fornication?  Commixture of the flesh, of course; the concupiscence whereof the Lord put on the same footing with fornication.  “Then,” says (some one), “are you by this time destroying first—that is, single—marriage too?”  And (if so) not without reason; inasmuch as it, too, consists of that which is the essence of fornication.[3]  Accordingly, the best thing for a man is not to touch a woman; and accordingly the virgin’s is the principal sanctity,[4] because it is free from affinity with fornication.  And since these considerations may be advanced, even in the case of first and single marriage, to forward the cause of continence, how much more will they afford a prejudgment for refusing second marriage?  Be thankful if God has once for all granted you indulgence to marry.  Thankful, moreover, you will be if you know not that He has granted you that indulgence a second time.  But you abuse indulgence if you avail yourself of it without moderation.  Moderation is understood (to be derived) from modus, a limit.  It does not suffice you to have fallen back, by marrying, from that highest grade of immaculate virginity; but you roll yourself down into yet a third, and into a fourth, and perhaps into more, after you have failed to be continent in the second stage; inasmuch as he who has treated about contracting second marriages has not willed to prohibit even more.  Marry we, therefore, daily.[5]  And marrying, let us be overtaken by the last day, like Sodom and Gomorrah; that day when the “woe” pronounced over “such as are with child and giving suck” shall be fulfilled, that is, over the married and the incontinent:  for from marriage result wombs, and breasts, and infants.  And when an end of marrying?  I believe after the end of living!

Footnotes edit

  1. Sibi, “themselves,” i.e., mutually.  See 1 Cor. vii. 32–35.
  2. Matt. v. 28.  See de Idol., cc. ii. xxiii.; de Pæn., c. iii.; de Cult. Fem., l. ii. c. ii.; de Pa., c. vi.
  3. But compare, or rather, contrast, herewith, ad Ux., l. i. cc. ii. iii.
  4. Comp. ad Ux., l. i. c. viii.; c. i. above; and de Virg. Vel., c. x.
  5. Comp. ad Ux., l. i. c. v. ad fin.