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Early Church Fathers Quotes on Marriage


It becomes men and women too, when they marry, to unite themselves with the consent of the bishop, that the marriage may be after the Lord and not after concupiscence. Let all things be done to the honor of God.

Shepherd of Hermas

“If a wife, Sir,” say I, “or, it may be, a husband fall asleep, and one of them marry, does the one that marries sin?” “He sins not,” said he, “but if he remain single, he invests himself with more exceeding honor and with great glory before the Lord; yet even if he should marry, he sins not. Preserve purity and holiness therefore, and you shall live unto God.”


Therefore, having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even to the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning her his wife whom he has married according to the laws laid down by us, and that only for the purpose of having children. For as the husbandman throwing the seed into the ground awaits the harvest, not sowing more upon it, so to us the procreation of children is the measure of our indulgence in appetite.

Clement of Alexandria 

And they say that by the words “it is better to marry than to burn” the apostle means this: “Do not cast your soul into the fire, so that you have to endure night and day and go in fear lest you should fall from continence. For a soul which has to concentrate upon endurance has lost hope.” In his Ethics, Isidore says in these very words: “Abstain, then, from a quarrelsome woman lest you are distracted from the grace of God. But when you have rejected the fire of the seed, then pray with an undisturbed conscience. And when your prayer of thanksgiving,” he says, “descends to a prayer of request, and your request is not that in future you may do right, but that you may do no wrong, then marry. But perhaps a man is too young or poor or suffers from weak health, and has not the will to marry as the apostle’s saying suggests. Such a man should not separate himself from his brother Christian. He should say, I have come into the sanctuary, I can suffer nothing. And if he has a presentiment that he may fall, he may say, Brother, lay your hand on me lest I sin, and he will receive help both spiritually and physically. Let him only wish to accomplish what is right and he will achieve his object.

Our view is that we welcome as blessed the state of abstinence from marriage in those to whom this has been granted by God. We admire monogamy and the high standing of single marriage, holding that we ought to share suffering with another and “bear one another’s burdens,” lest anyone who thinks he stands securely should himself fall. -ibid

For we are children not of desire but of will. A man who marries for the sake of begetting children must practice continence so that it is not desire he feels for his wife, whom he ought to love, and that he may beget children with a chaste and controlled will. -ibid

If by agreement marriage relations are suspended for a time to give opportunity for prayer, this teaches continence. He adds the words “by agreement” lest anyone should dissolve his marriage, and the words “for a time” lest a married man, brought to continence by force, should then fall into sin; for if he spares his own wife he may fall into desire for another woman. -ibid

And again when the apostle says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman; but because of the risk of immorality let man have his own wife,” he explains it, as it were, by the further words “lest Satan tempt you.” In the phrase “because of continence” he speaks not to those who chastely use marriage for procreation alone, but to those who were desiring to beyond procreation, lest the adversary should raise a storm and arouse desire for alien pleasures. But perhaps because Satan is zealously hostile to those who live rightly and contends against them, and wishes to bring them over to his own side, he aims to give them occasions for falling by making it difficult for to be continent. -ibid

And for the married he goes on to say, “My elect shall not labor in vain nor bear children to be accursed; for they are a seed blessed by the Lord.” For him who begets children and brings them up and educates them in the Lord, just as for him who begets children by means of the true teaching, a reward is laid up, as also for the elect seed. -ibid


Assuredly also, when (the apostle) rules that marriage should be “only in the Lord,” that no Christian should intermarry with a heathen, he maintains a law of the Creator, who everywhere prohibits marriage with strangers.


Also in the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. But, on account of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render what is due to the wife, and similarly the wife to the husband. The wife has not power over her own body, but the husband. And in like manner, the husband has not power over his own body, but the wife. Defraud not one the other, except by agreement for a time, that you may have leisure for prayer; and again return to the same point, lest Satan tempt you on account of your incontinency. This I say by way of allowance, not by way of command. But I wish that all men should be even as I am. But every one has his proper gift from God; one in one way, but another in another way. Also in the same place: An unmarried man thinks of those things which are the Lord’s, in what way he may please God; but he who has contracted marriage thinks of those things that are of this world, in what way he may please his wife. Thus also, both the woman and the unmarried virgin thinks of those things which are the Lord’s, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but she that has married thinks of those things which are of this world, in what way she may please her husband. – Treatises of Cyprian – Treatise XII, Book III

In Tobias: Take a wife from the seed of your parents, and take not a strange woman who is not of the tribe of your parents. Also in Genesis, Abraham sends his servant to take from his seed Rebecca, for his son Isaac. Also in Esdras, it was not sufficient for God when the Jews were laid waste, unless they forsook their foreign wives, with the children also whom they had begotten of them. Also in the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: The woman is bound so long as her husband lives; but if he die, she is freed to marry whom she will, only in the Lord. But she will be happier if she abide thus. And again: Do you not know that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? Far be it from me. Or do you not know that he who is joined together with an harlot is one body? For two shall be in one flesh. But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Also in the second to the Corinthians: Be not joined together with unbelievers. For what participation is there between righteousness and unrighteousness? Or what communication has light with darkness? Also concerning Solomon in the third book of Kings: And foreign wives turned away his heart after their gods. – Treatises of Cyprian – Treatise XII, Book III

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

Afterwards also others were the authors of absurd doctrines: Cerinthus, and Marcus, and Menander, and Basilides, and Saturnilus. Of these some own the doctrine of many gods, some only of three, but contrary to each other, without beginning, and ever with one another, and some of an infinite number of them, and those unknown ones also. And some reject marriage; and their doctrine is, that it is not the appointment of God; and others abhor some kinds of food: some are impudent in uncleanness, such as those who are falsely called Nicolaitans. – Book VI

We believe that lawful marriage, and the begetting of children, is honourable and undefiled; for difference of sexes was formed in Adam and Eve for the increase of mankind. – Book VI

Let us pray for all the deacons and ministers in Christ, that the Lord may grant them an unblameable ministration. Let us pray for the readers, singers, virgins, widows, and orphans. Let us pray for those that are in marriage and in child-bearing, that the Lord may have mercy upon them all. Let us pray for the eunuchs who walk holily. Let us pray for those in a state of continence and piety. Let us pray for those that bear fruit in the holy Church, and give alms to the needy. – Book VIII

A confessor is not ordained; for he is so by choice and patience, and is worthy of great honour, as having confessed the name of God, and of His Christ, before nations and kings. But if there be occasion, he is to be ordained(3) either a bishop, priest, or deacon. But if any one of the confessors who is not ordained snatches to himself any such dignity upon account of his confession, let the same person be deprived and rejected; for he is not in such an office, since he has denied the constitution of Christ, and is “worse than an infidel.”(I, the same, make a constitution in regard to virgins: A virgin is not ordained, for we have no such command from the Lord ; for this is a state of voluntary trial, not for the reproach of marriage, but an account of leisure for piety. – Book VIII

If any bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, or indeed any one of the sacerdotal catalogue, abstains from marriage, flesh, and wine, not for his own exercise, but because he abominates these things, forgetting that “all things were very good,” and that “God made man male and female,”and blasphemously abuses the creation, either let him reform, or let him be deprived, and be cast out of the Church; and the same for one of the laity. . – Book VIII


Let lust not go beyond the marriage-bed, but be subservient to the procreation of children. For a too great eagerness for pleasure both produces danger and generates disgrace, and that which is especially to be avoided, leads to eternal death. Nothing is so hateful to God as an unchaste mind and an impure soul. Nor let any one think that he must abstain from this pleasure only, quae capitur ex foeminei corporis copulatione, but also from the other pleasures which arise from the rest of the senses, because they also are of themselves vicious, and it is the part of the same virtue to despise them. – THE EPITOME OF THE DIVINE INSTITUTES (CHAP. XLVI TO CHAP. LXXIII / ELUCIDATIONS)

We are likewise commanded not to commit adultery; but by this precept we are not only prohibited from polluting the marriage of another, which is condemned even by the common law of nations, but even to abstain from those who prostitute their persons. – THE EPITOME OF THE DIVINE INSTITUTES (CHAP. XLVI TO CHAP. LXXIII / ELUCIDATIONS)

Therefore let it be observed in all the duties of life, let it be observed in marriage. For it is not sufficient if you abstain from another’s bed, or from the brothel. Let him who has a wife seek nothing further, but, content with her alone, let him guard the mysteries of the marriage-bed. chaste and undefiled. For he is equally an adulterer in the sight of God and impure, who, having thrown off the yoke, wantons in strange pleasure either with a free woman or a slave. But as a woman is bound by the bonds of chastity not to desire any other man, so let the husband be bound by the same law, since God has joined together the husband and the wife in the union of one body.- THE EPITOME OF THE DIVINE INSTITUTES (CHAP. XLVI TO CHAP. LXXIII / ELUCIDATIONS)

Wherefore, if any one on account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from marriage s than with wicked hands to mar the work of God. – THE DIVINE INSTITUTES. BOOK VI



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