On Exhortation To Chastity by Tertullian
Chapter VI.--The Objection from the Polygamy of the Patriarchs Answered.
|But withal the blessed patriarchs,| you say, |made mingled alliances not only with more wives (than one), but with concubines likewise.| Shall that, then, make it lawful for us also to marry without limit? I grant that it will, if there still remain types -- sacraments of something future -- for your nuptials to figure; or if even now there is room for that command, |Grow and multiply;| that is, if no other command has yet supervened: |The time is already wound up; it remains that both they who have wives act as if they had not:| for, of course, by enjoining continence, and restraining concubitance, the seminary of our race, (this latter command) has abolished that |Grow and multiply.| As I think, moreover, each pronouncement and arrangement is (the act) of one and the same God; who did then indeed, in the beginning, send forth a sowing of the race by an indulgent laxity granted to the reins of connubial alliances, until the world should be replenished, until the material of the new discipline should attain to forwardness: now, however, at the extreme boundaries of the times, has checked (the command) which He had sent out, and recalled the indulgence which He had granted; not without a reasonable ground for the extension (of that indulgence) in the beginning, and the limitation of it in the end. Laxity is always allowed to the beginning (of things). The reason why any one plants a wood and lets it grow, is that at his own time he may cut it. The wood was the old order, which is being pruned down by the new Gospel, in which withal |the axe has been laid at the roots.| So, too, |Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,| has now grown old, ever since |Let none render evil for evil| grew young. I think, moreover, that even with a view to human institutions and decrees, things later prevail over things primitive.