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A History Of The Church In Seven Books by Socrates

As we have before pledged ourselves to make some mention of Paphnutius and Spyridon, it will be seasonable to speak of them here. Paphnutius then was bishop of one of the cities in Upper Thebes: he was a man of such eminent piety, that extraordinary miracles were done by him. In the time of the persecution he had been deprived of one of his eyes. The emperor honoured this man exceedingly, and often sent for him to the palace, and kissed the part where the eye had been torn out. So devout was the emperor Constantine. Having noticed this circumstance respecting Paphnutius, I shall explain another thing which was wisely ordered in consequence of his advice, both for the good of the church and the honour of the clergy. It seemed fit to the bishops to introduce a new law into the church, that those who were in holy orders, I speak of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, should have no conjugal intercourse with the wives which they had married prior to their ordination. And when it was proposed to deliberate on this matter, Paphnutius having arisen in the midst of the assembly of bishops, earnestly entreated them not to impose so heavy a yoke on the ministers of religion: asserting that “marriage is honourable among all, and the nuptial bed undefiled;” so that they ought not to injure the church by too stringent restrictions. “For all men,” said he, “cannot bear the practice of rigid continence; neither perhaps would the chastity of each of their wives be preserved.” He termed the intercourse of a man with his lawful wife chastity. It would be sufficient, he thought, that such as had previously entered on their sacred calling should abjure matrimony, according to the ancient tradition of the church: but that none should be separated from her to whom, while yet unordained, he had been legally united. And these sentiments he expressed, although himself without experience of marriage, and, to speak plainly, without ever having known a woman: for from a boy he had been brought up in a monastery, and was specially renowned above all men for his chastity. The whole assembly of the clergy assented to the reasoning of Paphnutius: wherefore they silenced all further debate on this point, leaving it to those who were husbands to exercise their own discretion in reference to their wives.








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