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Chapter XII.—Paul an Example to Widows, and to Those Who Do Not Live with Their Wives.

Come, now, and let us examine more carefully the very words which are before us, and observe that the apostle did not grant these things unconditionally to all, but first laid down the reason on account of which he was led to this. For, having set forth that “it is good for a man not to touch a woman,”25912591    1 Cor. vii. 1. [All vulgar familiarity included.] he added immediately, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife”25922592    1 Cor. vii. 2.—that is, “on account of the fornication which would arise from your being unable to restrain your voluptuousness”—“and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to prayer;25932593    E.V. “Fasting and prayer.” As in the best mss., τῇ νηστείᾳ καί is wanting in the text. and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.”25942594    1 Cor. vii. 2–6. And this is very carefully considered. “By permission” he says, showing that he was giving counsel, “not of command;” for he receives command respecting chastity and the not touching of a woman, but permission respecting those who are unable, as I said, to chasten their appetites. These things, then, he lays down concerning men and women who are married to one spouse, or who shall hereafter be so; but we must now examine carefully the apostle’s language respecting men who have lost their wives, and women who have lost their husbands, and what he declares on this subject.

“I say therefore,” he goes on,25952595    1 Cor. vii. 8, 9. “to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” Here also he persisted in giving the preference to continence. For, taking himself as a notable example, in order to stir them up to emulation, he challenged his hearers to this state of life, teaching that it was better that a man who had been bound to one wife should henceforth remain single, as he also did.25962596    [See p. 316, supra (note), and also Eusebius, there cited. Per contra, see Lewin, vol. i. 382, 386.] But if, on the other hand, this should be a matter of difficulty to any one, on account of the strength of animal passion, he allows that one who is in such a condition may, “by permission,” contract a second marriage; not as though he expressed the opinion that a second marriage was in itself good,25972597    Καλόν. It is the same word which is translated good in ver. 1, “It is good for a man.” but judging it better than burning. Just as though, in the fast which prepares for the Easter celebration, one should offer food to another who was dangerously ill, and say,” In truth, my friend, it were fitting and good that you should bravely hold out like us, and partake of the same things,25982598    i.e., participate in the same ordinances, and in their fruits. for it is forbidden even to think of food to-day; but since you are held down and weakened by disease, and cannot bear it, therefore, ‘by permission,’ we advise you to eat food, lest, being quite unable, from sickness, to hold up against the desire for food, you perish.” Thus also the apostle speaks here, first saying that he wished all were healthy and continent, as he also was, but afterwards allowing a second marriage to those who are burdened with the disease of the passions, lest they should be wholly defiled by fornication, goaded on by the itchings of the organs of generation to promiscuous intercourse, considering such a second marriage far preferable to burning and indecency.

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