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Chapter III.—By the Circumcision of Abraham, Marriage with Sisters Forbidden; In the Times of the Prophets Polygamy Put a Stop To; Conjugal Purity Itself by Degrees Enforced.

If, however, any one should venture to find fault with our argument as destitute of Scripture proof, we will bring forward the writings of the prophets, and more fully demonstrate the truth of the statements already made. Now Abraham, when he first received the covenant of circumcision, seems to signify, by receiving circumcision in a member of his own body, nothing else than this, that one should no longer beget children with one born of the same parent; showing that every one should abstain from intercourse with his own sister, as his own flesh. And thus, from the time of Abraham, the custom of marrying with sisters has ceased; and from the times of the prophets the contracting of marriage with several wives has been done away with; for we read, “Go not after thy lusts, but refrain thyself from thine appetites;”25152515    Ecclus. xviii. 30. for “wine and women will make men of understanding to fall away;”25162516    Ecclus. xix. 2. and in another place, “Let thy fountain be blessed; and rejoice with the wife of thy youth,”25172517    Prov. v. 18. manifestly forbidding a plurality of wives. And Jeremiah clearly gives the name of “fed horses”25182518    Jer. v. 8. to those who lust after other women; and we read, “The multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take deep rooting from bastard slips, nor lay any fast foundation.”25192519    Wisd. iv. 3.

Lest, however, we should seem prolix in collecting the testimonies of the prophets, let us again point out how chastity succeeded to marriage with one wife, taking away by degrees the lusts of the flesh, until it removed entirely the inclination for sexual intercourse engendered by habit. For presently one is introduced earnestly deprecating, from henceforth, this seduction, saying, “O Lord, Father, and Governor of my life, leave me not to their counsels; give me not a proud look; let not the greediness of the belly, nor lust of the flesh, take hold of me.”25202520    Ecclus. xxiii. 1, 4, 6. And in the Book of Wisdom, a book full of all virtue, the Holy Spirit, now openly drawing His hearers to continence and chastity, sings on this wise, “Better it is to have no children, and to have virtue, for the memorial thereof is immortal; because it is known with God and with men. When it is present men take example at it; and when it is gone they desire it: it weareth a crown and triumpheth for ever, having gotten the victory, striving for undefiled rewards.”25212521    Wisd. iv. 1, 2.


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