Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 18 [XVI.]--Continence Better Than Marriage; But Marriage Better Than Fornication.
Forasmuch, then, as marriage cannot be such as that of the primitive men might have been, if sin had not preceded; it may yet be like that of the holy fathers of the olden time, in such wise that the carnal concupiscence which causes shame (which did not exist in paradise previous to the fall, and after that event was not allowed to remain there), although necessarily forming a part of the body of this death, is not subservient to it, but only submits its function, when forced thereto, for the sole purpose of assisting in the procreation of children; otherwise, since the present time (as we have already said) is the period for abstaining from the nuptial embrace, and therefore makes no necessary demand on the exercise of the said function, seeing that all nations now contribute so abundantly to the production of an offspring which shall receive spiritual birth, there is the greater room for the blessing of an excellent continence. |He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.| He, however, who cannot receive it, |even if he marry, sinneth not;| and if a woman have not the gift of continence, let her also marry. |It is good, indeed, for a man not to touch a woman.| But since |all men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given,| it remains that |to avoid fornication, every man ought to have his own wife, and every woman her own husband.| And thus the weakness of incontinence is hindered from falling into the ruin of profligacy by the honourable estate of matrimony. Now that which the apostle says of women, |I will therefore that the younger women marry,| is also applicable to males: I will that the younger men take wives; that so it may appertain to both sexes alike |to bear children, to be| fathers and |mothers of families, to give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.|