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Chapter XV.—The Same Subject Continued.
If you hammer out the sequel of that Epistle to illustrate the meaning of the apostle, neither will that sequel be found to square with the obliteration of incest; lest even here the apostle be put to the blush by the incongruity of his later meanings. For what kind (of hypothesis) is it, that the very moment after making a largess of restoration to the privileges of ecclesiastical peace to an incestuous fornicator, he should forthwith have proceeded to accumulate exhortations about turning away from impurities, about pruning away of blemishes, about exhortations to deeds of sanctity, as if he had decreed nothing of a contrary nature just before? Compare, in short, (and see) whether it be his province to say, “Wherefore, having this ministration, in accordance with (the fact) that we have obtained mercy, we faint not; but renounce the secret things of disgrace,”857857 2 Cor. iv. 1, 2. who has just released from condemnation one manifestly convicted of, not “disgrace” merely, but crime too: whether it be province, again, to excuse a conspicuous immodesty, who, among the counts of his own labours, after “straits and pressures,” after “fasts and vigils,” has named “chastity” also:858858 Ib. vi. 5, 6. whether it be, once more, his province to receive back into communion whatsoever reprobates, who writes, “For what society (is there) between righteousness and iniquity? what communion, moreover, between light and darkness? what consonance between Christ and Belial? or what part for a believer with an unbeliever? or what agreement between the temple of God and idols?” Will he not deserve to hear constantly (the reply); “And in what manner do you make a separation between things which, in the former part of your Epistle, by restitution of the incestuous one, you have joined? For by his restoration to concorporate unity with the Church, righteousness is made to have fellowship with iniquity, darkness has communion with light, Belial is consonant with Christ, and believer shares the sacraments with unbeliever. And idols may see to themselves: the very vitiator of the temple of God is converted into a temple of God: for here, too, he says, ‘For ye are a temple of the living God. For He saith, That I will dwell in you, and will walk in (you), and will be their God, and they shall be to Me a people. Wherefore depart from the midst of them, be separate, and touch not the unclean.’859859 2 Cor. vi. 16–18. This (thread of discourse) also you spin out, O apostle, when at the very moment you yourself are offering your hand to so huge a whirlpool of impurities; nay, you superadd yet further, ‘Having therefore this promise, beloved, cleanse we ourselves out from every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting chastity in God’s fear.’”860860 2 Cor. vii. 1, not accurately given. I pray you, had he who fixes such (exhortations) in our minds been recalling some notorious fornicator into the Church? or is his reason for writing it, to prevent himself from appearing to you in the present day to have so recalled him? These (words of his) will be in duty bound alike to serve as a prescriptive rule for the foregone, and a prejudgment for the following, (parts of the Epistle). For in saying, toward the end of the Epistle, “Lest, when I shall have come, God humble me, and I bewail many of those who have formerly sinned, and have not repented of the impurity which they have committed, the fornication, and the vileness,”861861 2 Cor. xii. 21, again inexactly given. he did not, of course, determine that they were to be received back (by him into the Church) if they should have entered (the path of) repentance, whom he was to find in the Church, but that they were to be bewailed, and indubitably ejected, that they might lose (the benefit of) repentance. And, besides, it is not congruous that he, who had above asserted that there was no communion between light and darkness, righteousness and iniquity, should in this place have been indicating somewhat touching communion. But all such are ignorant of the apostle as understand anything in a sense contrary to the nature and design of the man himself, contrary to the norm and rule of his doctrines; so as to presume that he, a teacher of every sanctity, even by his own example, an execrator and expiator of every impurity, and universally consistent with himself in these points, restored ecclesiastical privileges to an incestuous person sooner than to some more mild offender.
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