Summary: This deals with the early church's views on abortion and the sanctity of life. Abortion is not a new issue for the church and this present the orthodox viewpoint regarding this controversial topic.
Sanctity of Life Sermon
Fr. James Cloud
Many of you may not know, but approximatelyfour years ago I joined the Order of Holy Innocents under the Anglican Priests for Life. This sermon's focus has always been a topic close to my heart and something with which I know is very close to the heart of God. Jesus spoke about a person who simply "offends" a little one and causes them to stumble, much less being the direct cause for their demise. He stated that it would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their neck and to be tossed into the sea than to have caused injury to a little one; and that these small one's angels always behold the face of God.
This past summer the nation was clamoring over fetal tissue cell research. As I pondered the question I turned to the Scriptures to see what the Word of God really had to say about unborn life. I believe the Lord led me to a passage of Scripture in Jeremiah 1:5-6. Jeremiah is receiving his call from God to the office of Prophet. Before the call is stated the preceding verse says, "The Word of the Lord came to me saying..." This is what God says about the unborn. In the final analysis this is all that matters. Political parties will have their opinions, doctors and medical organizations will have theirs, you and I will have ours, but all of them will be judged by the "Word of the Lord." Let God be true and every man a liar. First I would like to examine what the early church thought about the subject, and yes, abortion is not a new concept but, in fact, is a very old one.
The Didache ca 120 A. D.
"Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion." 2:2 "The Way of Death is filled with people who are... murderers of children and abortionists of God's creatures." 5:1-2
The Epistle of Barnabas ca 125 A.D.
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor more than thy own life. Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion." 19:5
The Apocalypse of Peter ca 135 A.D.
"I saw a gorge in which the discharge and excrement of the tortured ran down and became like a lake. There sat women, and the discharge came up to their throats; and opposite them sat many children, who were born prematurely, weeping. And from them went forth rays of fire and smote the women on the eyes. These were those who produced children outside of marriage and who procured abortions." -26
"Those who slew the unborn children will be tortured forever, for God wills it to so." -2:264
Clement of Alexandria ca 150-180 A.D.
"Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, in order hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the child completely dead, abort at the same time their own human feelings." -Paedagogus 2
St. Athenagoras ca 177 A.D.
"We say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God. For the same person, would not regard the child in the womb as a living being and therefore an object of God's care and then kill it.... But we are altogether consistent in our conduct. We obey reason and do not override it." -Legatio 35
Tertullian ca 160-240 A.D.
"For us [Christians] we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed."
"They [John and Jesus] were both alive while still in the womb. Elizabeth rejoiced as the infant leaped in her womb; Mary glorifies the Lord because Christ within inspired her. Each mother recognizes her child and is known by her child who is alive, being not merely souls but also spirits."
-De A ninta 26:4
Nlititicilis Felix ca 180-225 A.D.
"There are women who swallow drugs to stifle in their own womb the beginnings of a man to be - committing infanticide before they even give birth to the infant." -Octavius
St. Hippolytus ca 170-236 A.D.
"Reputed believers began to resort to drugs for producing sterility and to gird themselves round, so as to expel what was conceived on account of their not wanting to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time." -Refutation of all Heresies 9:7