Writings of Jerome - Letters

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The Principal Works of St. Jerome

Translated by the Hon. W. H. Fremantle, M.A.,
Canon of Canterbury Cathedral and Fellow and Tutor of Balliol College, Oxford,

with the assistance of The Rev. G. Lewis, M.A.,
Of Balliol College, Oxford, Vicar of Dodderhill near Droitwick,

and The Rev. W. G. Martley, M.A.,
Of Balliol College, Oxford.

Under the editorial supervision of Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Semimary, New York, and Henry Wace, D.D., Principal of King's College, London

Published in 1892 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

The Letters of St. Jerome.

Letter I. To Innocent.

Not only the first of the letters but probably the earliest extant composition of Jerome (c. 370 a.d.). Innocent, to whom it is addressed, was one of the little band of enthusiasts whom Jerome gathered round him in Aquileia. He followed his friend to Syria, where he died in 374 a.d. (See Letter III., 3.)

1. You have frequently asked me, dearest Innocent, not to pass over in silence the marvellous event which has happened in our own day. I have declined the task from modesty and, as I now feel, with justice, believing myself to be incapable of it, at once because human language is inadequate to the divine praise, and because inactivity, acting like rust upon the intellect, has dried up any little power of expression that I have ever had. You in reply urge that in the things of God we must look not at the work which we are able to accomplish, but at the spirit in which it is undertaken, and that he can never be at a loss for words who has believed on the Word.

2. What, then, must I do? The task is beyond me, and yet I dare not decline it. I am a mere unskilled passenger, and I find myself placed in charge of a freighted ship. I have not so much as handled a rowboat on a lake, and now I have to trust myself to the noise and turmoil of the Euxine. I see the shores sinking beneath the horizon, "sky and sea on every side"; [2] darkness lowers over the water, the clouds are black as night, the waves only are white with foam. You urge me to hoist the swelling sails, to loosen the sheets, and to take the helm. At last I obey your commands, and as charity can do all things, I will trust in the Holy Ghost to guide my course, and I shall console myself, whatever the event. For, if our ship is wafted by the surf into the wished-for haven, I shall be content to be told that the pilotage was poor. But, if through my unpolished diction we run aground amid the rough cross-currents of language, you may blame my lack of power, but you will at least recognize my good intentions.

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3. To begin, then: Vercellæ is a Ligurian town, situated not far from the base of the Alps, once important, but now sparsely peopled and fallen into decay. When the consular [3] was holding his visitation there, a poor woman and her paramour were brought before him--the charge of adultery had been fastened upon them by the husband--and were both consigned to the penal horrors of a prison. Shortly after an attempt was made to elicit the truth by torture, and when the blood-stained hook smote the young man's livid flesh and tore furrows in his side, the unhappy wretch sought to avoid prolonged pain by a speedy death. Falsely accusing his own passions, he involved another in the charge; and it appeared that he was of all men the most miserable, and that his execution was just inasmuch as he had left to an innocent woman no means of self-defence. But the woman, stronger in virtue if weaker in sex, though her frame was stretched upon the rack, and though her hands, stained with the filth of the prison, were tied behind her, looked up to heaven with her eyes, which alone the torturer had been unable to bind, and while the tears rolled down her face, said: "Thou art witness, Lord Jesus, to whom nothing is hid, who triest the reins and the heart. [4] Thou art witness that it is not to save my life that I deny this charge. I refuse to lie because to lie is sin. And as for you, unhappy man, if you are bent on hastening your death, why must you destroy not one innocent person, but two? I also, myself, desire to die. I desire to put off this hated body, but not as an adulteress. I offer my neck; I welcome the shining sword without fear; yet I will take my innocence with me. He does not die who is slain while purposing so to live."

4. The consular, who had been feasting his eyes upon the bloody spectacle, now, like a wild beast, which after once tasting blood always thirsts for it, ordered the torture to be doubled, and cruelly gnashing his teeth, threatened the executioner with like punishment if he failed to extort from the weaker sex a confession which a man's strength had not been able to keep back.

5. Send help, Lord Jesus. For this one creature of Thine every species of torture is devised. She is bound by the hair to a stake, her whole body is fixed more firmly than ever on the rack; fire is brought and applied to her feet; her sides quiver beneath the executioner's probe; even her breasts do not escape. Still the woman remains unshaken; and, triumphing in spirit over the pain of the body, enjoys the happiness of a good conscience, round which the tortures rage in vain. [5] The cruel judge rises, overcome with passion. She still prays to God. Her limbs are wrenched from their sockets; she only turns her eyes to heaven. Another confesses what is thought their common guilt. She, for the confessor's sake, denies the confession, and, in peril of her own life, clears one who is in peril of his.

6. Meantime she has but one thing to say: "Beat me, burn me, tear me, if you will; I have not done it. If you will not believe my words, a day will come when this charge shall be carefully sifted. I have One who will judge me." Wearied out at last, the torturer sighed in response to her groans; nor could he find a spot on which to inflict a fresh wound. His cruelty overcome, he shuddered to see the body he had torn. Immediately the consular cried, in a fit of passion, "Why does it surprise you, bystanders, that a woman prefers torture to death? It takes two people, most assuredly, to commit adultery; and I think it more credible that a guilty woman should deny a sin than that an innocent young man should confess one."

7. Like sentence, accordingly, was passed on both, and the condemned pair were dragged to execution. The entire people poured out to see the sight; indeed, so closely were the gates thronged by the out-rushing crowd, that you might have fancied the city itself to be migrating. At the very first stroke of the sword the head of the hapless youth was cut off, and the headless trunk rolled over in its blood. Then came the woman's turn. She knelt down upon the ground, and the shining sword was lifted over her quivering neck. But though the headsman summoned all his strength into his bared arm, the moment it touched her flesh the fatal blade stopped short, and, lightly glancing over the skin, merely grazed it sufficiently to draw blood. The striker saw, with terror, his hand unnerved, and, amazed at his defeated skill and at his drooping sword, he whirled it aloft for another stroke. Again the blade fell forceless on the woman, sinking harmlessly on her neck, as though the steel feared to touch her. The enraged and panting officer, who had thrown open his cloak at the neck to give his full strength to the blow, shook to the ground the brooch which clasped the edges of his mantle, and not noticing this, began to poise his sword for a fresh stroke. "See," cried the woman, "a jewel has fallen from your shoulder. Pick up what you have earned by hard toil, that you may not lose it."

8. What, I ask, is the secret of such confidence as this? Death draws near, but it has no terrors for her. When smitten she exults, and the executioner turns pale. Her eyes see the brooch, they fail to see the sword. And, as if intrepidity in the presence of death were not enough, she confers a favor upon her cruel foe. And now the mysterious Power of the Trinity rendered even a third blow vain. The terrified soldier, no longer trusting the blade, proceeded to apply the point to her throat, in the idea that though it might not cut, the pressure of his hand might plunge it into her flesh. Marvel unheard of through all the ages! The sword bent back to the hilt, and in its defeat looked to its master, as if confessing its inability to slay.

9. Let me call to my aid the example of the three children, [6] who, amid the cool, encircling fire, sang hymns, [7] instead of weeping, and around whose turbans and holy hair the flames played harmlessly. Let me recall, too, the story of the blessed Daniel, [8] in whose presence, though he was their natural prey, the lions crouched, with fawning tails and frightened mouths. Let Susannah also rise in the nobility of her faith before the thoughts of all; who, after she had been condemned by an unjust sentence, was saved through a youth inspired by the Holy Ghost. [9] In both cases the Lord's mercy was alike shewn; for while Susannah was set free by the judge, so as not to die by the sword, this woman, though condemned by the judge, was acquitted by the sword.

10. Now at length the populace rise in arms to defend the woman. Men and women of every age join in driving away the executioner, shouting round him in a surging crowd. Hardly a man dares trust his own eyes. The disquieting news reaches the city close at hand, and the entire force of constables is mustered. The officer who is responsible for the execution of criminals bursts from among his men, and

Staining his hoary hair with soiling dust, [10]

exclaims: "What! citizens, do you mean to seek my life? Do you intend to make me a substitute for her? However much your minds are set on mercy, and however much you wish to save a condemned woman, yet assuredly I--I who am innocent--ought not to perish." His tearful appeal tells upon the crowd, they are all benumbed by the influence of sorrow, and an extraordinary change of feeling is manifested. Before it had seemed a duty to plead for the woman's life, now it seemed a duty to allow her to be executed.

11. Accordingly a new sword is fetched, a new headsman appointed. The victim takes her place, once more strengthened only with the favor of Christ. The first blow makes her quiver, beneath the second she sways to and fro, by the third she falls wounded to the ground. Oh, majesty of the divine power highly to be extolled! She who previously had received four strokes without injury, now, a few moments later, seems to die that an innocent man may not perish in her stead.

12. Those of the clergy whose duty it is to wrap the blood-stained corpse in a winding-sheet, dig out the earth and, heaping together stones, form the customary tomb. The sunset comes on quickly, and by God's mercy the night of nature arrives more swiftly than is its wont. Suddenly the woman's bosom heaves, her eyes seek the light, her body is quickened into new life. A moment after she sighs, she looks round, she gets up and speaks. At last she is able to cry: "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do unto me?" [11]

13. Meantime an aged woman, supported out of the funds of the church, gave back her spirit to heaven from which it came. [12] It seemed as if the course of events had been thus purposely ordered, for her body took the place of the other beneath the mound. In the gray dawn the devil comes on the scene in the form of a constable, [13] asks for the corpse of her who had been slain, and desires to have her grave pointed out to him. Surprised that she could have died, he fancies her to be still alive. The clergy show him the fresh turf, and meet his demands by pointing to the earth lately heaped up, taunting him with such words as these: "Yes, of course, tear up the bones which have been buried! Declare war anew against the tomb, and if even that does not satisfy you, pluck her limb from limb for birds and beasts to mangle! Mere dying is too good for one whom it took seven strokes to kill."

14. Before such opprobrious words the executioner retires in confusion, while the woman is secretly revived at home. Then, lest the frequency of the doctor's visits to the church might give occasion for suspicion, they cut her hair short and send her in the company of some virgins to a sequestered country house. There she changes her dress for that of a man, and scars form over her wounds. Yet even after the great miracles worked on her behalf, the laws still rage against her. So true is it that, where there is most law, there, there is also most injustice. [14]

15. But now see whither the progress of my story has brought me; we come upon the name of our friend Evagrius. [15] So great have his exertions been in the cause of Christ that, were I to suppose it possible adequately to describe them, I should only show my own folly; and were I minded deliberately to pass them by, I still could not prevent my voice from breaking out into cries of joy. Who can fittingly praise the vigilance which enabled him to bury, if I may so say, before his death Auxentius [16] of Milan, that curse brooding over the church? Or who can sufficiently extol the discretion with which he rescued the Roman bishop [17] from the toils of the net in which he was fairly entangled, and showed him the means at once of overcoming his opponents and of sparing them in their discomfiture? But

Such topics I must leave to other bards,

Shut out by envious straits of time and space. [18]

I am satisfied now to record the conclusion of my tale. Evagrius seeks a special audience of the Emperor; [19] importunes him with his entreaties, wins his favor by his services, and finally gains his cause through his earnestness. The Emperor restored to liberty the woman whom God had restored to life.


Footnotes

[2] Virg. A. iii. 193. [3] I.e. the governor of the province. [4] Ps. vii. 9. [5] Text corrupt. [6] Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. [7] Song of the Three Holy Children. [8] Dan. vi. [9] Susannah 45; the youth spoken of is Daniel. [10] Virg. A. xii. 611. [11] Ps. cxviii. 6. [12] Cf. Eccles. xii. 7. [13] Lictor. [14] An allusion to the well-known proverb, summum jus, summa injuria. [15] A presbyter of Antioch and bishop, 388 a.d. He is mentioned again in Letters III., IV., V., XV. See Jerome De Vir. iii. 125. [16] The predecessor of Ambrose and an Arian. He was still living when Jerome wrote, but died 374. [17] Damasus, who having successfully made good his claim to the papacy, in 369 condemned Auxentius in a council held at Rome. [18] Virg. G. iv. 147, 148. [19] Valentinian I.

Letter II. To Theodosius and the Rest of the Anchorites.

Written from Antioch, 374 a.d., while Jerome was still in doubt as to his future course. Theodosius appears to have been the head of the solitaries in the Syrian Desert.

How I long to be a member of your company, and with uplifting of all my powers to embrace your admirable community! Though, indeed, these poor eyes are not worthy to look upon it. Oh! that I could behold the desert, lovelier to me than any city! Oh! that I could see those lonely spots made into a paradise by the saints that throng them! But since my sins prevent me from thrusting into your blessed company a head laden with every transgression, I adjure you (and I know that you can do it) by your prayers to deliver me from the darkness of this world. I spoke of this when I was with you, and now in writing to you I repeat anew the same request; for all the energy of my mind is devoted to this one object. It rests with you to give effect to my resolve. I have the will but not the power; this last can only come in answer to your prayers. For my part, I am like a sick sheep astray from the flock. Unless the good Shepherd shall place me on his shoulders and carry me back to the fold, [20] my steps will totter, and in the very effort of rising I shall find my feet give way. I am the prodigal son [21] who although I have squandered all the portion entrusted to me by my father, have not yet bowed the knee in submission to him; not yet have I commenced to put away from me the allurements of my former excesses. And because it is only a little while since I have begun not so much to abandon my vices as to desire to abandon them, the devil now ensnares me in new toils, he puts new stumbling-blocks in my path, he encompasses me on every side.

The seas around, and all around the main. [22]

I find myself in mid-ocean, unwilling to retreat and unable to advance. It only remains that your prayers should win for me the gale of the Holy Spirit to waft me to the haven upon the desired shore.


Footnotes

[20] Luke xv. 3-5. [21] Luke xv. 11-32. [22] Virg. A. v. 9.

Letter III. To Rufinus the Monk. [23]

Written from Antioch, 374 a.d., to Rufinus in Egypt. Jerome narrates his travels and the events which have taken place since his arrival in Syria, particularly the deaths of Innocent and Hylas (§3). He also describes the life of Bonosus, who was now a hermit on an island in the Adriatic (§4). The main object of the letter is to induce Rufinus to come to Syria.

1. That God gives more than we ask Him for, [24] and that He often grants us things which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man," [25] I knew indeed before from the mystic declaration of the sacred volumes; but now, dearest Rufinus, I have had proof of it in my own case. For I who fancied it too bold a wish to be allowed by an exchange of letters to counterfeit to myself your presence in the flesh, hear that you are penetrating the remotest parts of Egypt, visiting the monks and going round God's family upon earth. Oh, if only the Lord Jesus Christ would suddenly transport me to you as Philip was transported to the eunuch, [26] and Habakkuk to Daniel, [27] with what a close embrace would I clasp your neck, how fondly would I press kisses upon that mouth which has so often joined with me of old in error or in wisdom. But as I am unworthy (not that you should so come to me but) that I should so come to you, and because my poor body, weak even when well, has been shattered by frequent illnesses; I send this letter to meet you instead of coming myself, in the hope that it may bring you hither to me caught in the meshes of love's net.

2. My first joy at such unexpected good tidings was due to our brother, Heliodorus. I desired to be sure of it, but did not dare to feel sure, especially as he told me that he had only heard it from some one else, and as the strangeness of the news impaired the credit of the story. Once more my wishes hovered in uncertainty and my mind wavered, till an Alexandrian monk who had some time previously been sent over by the dutiful zeal of the people to the Egyptian confessors (in will already martyrs [28] ), impelled me by his presence to believe the tidings. Even then, I must admit I still hesitated. For on the one hand he knew nothing either of your name or country: yet on the other what he said seemed likely to be true, agreeing as it did with the hint which had already reached me. At last the truth broke upon me in all its fulness, for a constant stream of persons passing through brought the report: "Rufinus is at Nitria, and has reached the abode of the blessed Macarius." [29] At this point I cast away all that restrained my belief, and then first really grieved to find myself ill. Had it not been that my wasted and enfeebled frame fettered my movements, neither the summer heat nor the dangerous voyage should have had power to retard the rapid steps of affection. Believe me, brother, I look forward to seeing you more than the storm-tossed mariner looks for his haven, more than the thirsty fields long for the showers, more than the anxious mother sitting on the curving shore expects her son.

3. After that sudden whirlwind [30] dragged me from your side, severing with its impious wrench the bonds of affection in which we were knit together,

The dark blue raincloud lowered o'er my head:

On all sides were the seas, on all the sky. [31]

I wandered about, uncertain where to go. Thrace, Pontus, Bithynia, the whole of Galatia and Cappadocia, Cilicia also with its burning heat, one after another shattered my energies. At last Syria presented itself to me as a most secure harbor to a shipwrecked man. Here, after undergoing every possible kind of sickness, I lost one of my two eyes; for Innocent, [32] the half of my soul, [33] was taken away from me by a sudden attack of fever. The one eye which I now enjoy, and which is all in all to me, is our Evagrius, [34] upon whom I with my constant infirmities have come as an additional burden. We had with us also Hylas, [35] the servant of the holy Melanium, [36] who by his stainless conduct had wiped out the taint of his previous servitude. His death opened afresh the wound which had not yet healed. But as the apostle's words forbid us to mourn for those who sleep, [37] and as my excess of grief has been tempered by the joyful news that has since come to me, I recount this last, that, if you have not heard it, you may learn it; and that, if you know it already, you may rejoice over it with me.

4. Bonosus, [38] your friend, or, to speak more truly, mine as well as yours, is now climbing the ladder foreshown in Jacob's dream. [39] He is bearing his cross, neither taking thought for the morrow [40] nor looking back at what he has left. [41] He is sowing in tears that he may reap in joy. [42] As Moses in a type so he in reality is lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. [43] This is a true story, and it may well put to shame the lying marvels described by Greek and Roman pens. For here you have a youth educated with us in the refining accomplishments of the world, with abundance of wealth, and in rank inferior to none of his associates; yet he forsakes his mother, his sisters, and his dearly loved brother, and settles like a new tiller of Eden on a dangerous island, with the sea roaring round its reefs; while its rough crags, bare rocks, and desolate aspect make it more terrible still. No peasant or monk is to be found there. Even the little Onesimus [44] you know of, in whose kisses he used to rejoice as in those of a brother, in this tremendous solitude no longer remains at his side. Alone upon the island--or rather not alone, for Christ is with him--he sees the glory of God, which even the apostles saw not save in the desert. He beholds, it is true, no embattled towns, but he has enrolled his name in the new city. [45] Garments of sackcloth disfigure his limbs, yet so clad he will be the sooner caught up to meet Christ in the clouds. [46] No watercourse pleasant to the view supplies his wants, but from the Lord's side he drinks the water of life. [47] Place all this before your eyes, dear friend, and with all the faculties of your mind picture to yourself the scene. When you realize the effort of the fighter then you will be able to praise his victory. Round the entire island roars the frenzied sea, while the beetling crags along its winding shores resound as the billows beat against them. No grass makes the ground green; there are no shady copses and no fertile fields. Precipitous cliffs surround his dreadful abode as if it were a prison. But he, careless, fearless, and armed from head to foot with the apostle's armor, [48] now listens to God by reading the Scriptures, now speaks to God as he prays to the Lord; and it may be that, while he lingers in the island, he sees some vision such as that once seen by John. [49]

5. What snares, think you, is the devil now weaving? What stratagems is he preparing? Perchance, mindful of his old trick, [50] he will try to tempt Bonosus with hunger. But he has been answered already: "Man shall not live by bread alone." [51] Perchance he will lay before him wealth and fame. But it shall be said to him: "They that desire to be rich fall into a trap [52] and temptations," [53] and "For me all glorying is in Christ." [54] He will come, it may be, when the limbs are weary with fasting, and rack them with the pangs of disease; but the cry of the apostle will repel him: "When I am weak, then am I strong," and "My strength is made perfect in weakness." [55] He will hold out threats of death; but the reply will be: "I desire to depart and to be with Christ." [56] He will brandish his fiery darts, but they will be received on the shield of faith. [57] In a word, Satan will assail him, but Christ will defend. Thanks be to Thee, Lord Jesus, that in Thy day I have one able to pray to Thee for me. To Thee all hearts are open, Thou searchest the secrets of the heart, [58] Thou seest the prophet shut up in the fish's belly in the midst of the sea. [59] Thou knowest then how he and I grew up together from tender infancy to vigorous manhood, how we were fostered in the bosoms of the same nurses, and carried in the arms of the same bearers; and how after studying together at Rome we lodged in the same house and shared the same food by the half savage banks of the Rhine. Thou knowest, too, that it was I who first began to seek to serve Thee. Remember, I beseech Thee, that this warrior of Thine was once a raw recruit with me. I have before me the declaration of Thy majesty: "Whosoever shall teach and not do shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven." [60] May he enjoy the crown of virtue, and in return for his daily martyrdoms may he follow the Lamb robed in white raiment! [61] For "in my Father's house are many mansions," [62] and "one star differeth from another star in glory." [63] Give me strength to raise my head to a level with the saints' heels! [64] I willed, but he performed. Do Thou therefore pardon me that I failed to keep my resolve, and reward him with the guerdon of his deserts.

I may perhaps have been tedious, and have said more than the short compass of a letter usually allows; but this, I find, is always the case with me when I have to say anything in praise of our dear Bonosus.

6. However, to return to the point from which I set out, I beseech you do not let me pass wholly out of sight and out of mind. A friend is long sought, hardly found, and with difficulty kept. Let those who will, allow gold to dazzle them and be borne along in splendor, their very baggage glittering with gold and silver. Love is not to be purchased, and affection has no price. The friendship which can cease has never been real. Farewell in Christ.


Footnotes

[23] In Jerome's day this term included all--whether hermits or coenobites--who forsook the world and embraced an ascetic life. [24] Cf. Eph. iii. 20. [25] 1 Cor. ii. 9. [26] Acts viii. 26-30. [27] Bel 33-36. [28] Priests, monks, and others who, because they would not declare themselves Arians, were banished by order of Valens to Heliopolis in Phenicia. [29] There were two hermits of this name in Egypt, and it is not certain which is meant. One of them was a disciple of Antony. [30] The ascetic community at Aquileia, of which Jerome and Rufinus were the leaders, had been broken up, perhaps through the efforts of Lupicinus, the bishop of Stridon. [31] Virg. A. iii. 193, 194: v. 9. [32] See Letter I. [33] Hor. C. i. 3, 8. [34] See Letter I. § 15. [35] A freedman of Melanium. [36] A young Roman widow who had given up the world that she might adopt the ascetic life. She accompanied Rufinus to the East and settled with him on the Mount of Olives. She is mentioned again in Letters IV., XXXIX., XLV., and others. [37] 1 Thess. iv. 13. [38] Jerome's foster-brother who had accompanied him on his first visit to Rome. He was now living as a hermit on a small island in the neighborhood of Aquileia. See Letter VII. § 3. [39] Gen. xxviii. 12. [40] Matt. vi. 34. [41] Luke ix. 62. [42] Ps. cxxvi. 5. [43] Nu. xxi. 9. [44] Of this child nothing is known. [45] I.e. the new Jerusalem. Rev. xxi. 2; Is. iv. 3. [46] 1 Thess. iv. 17. [47] Joh. iv. 14; xix. 34. [48] Eph. vi. 13-17. [49] Rev. i. 9, 10. [50] Gen. iii. 1-6; Matt. iv. 1-4. [51] Matt. iv. 4. [52] Literally "mousetrap." This variant is peculiar to Cyprian and Jerome. [53] 1 Tim. vi. 9. [54] 1 Cor. i. 31. [55] 2 Cor. xii. 10, 9. [56] Philip. i. 23. [57] Eph. vi. 16. [58] Acts i. 24; Rev. ii. 23. [59] Jon. ii. 1, 2. [60] Matt. v. 19. [61] Rev. xiv. 4. [62] John xiv. 2. [63] 1 Cor. xv. 41. [64] Quoted from Tert. de C. F. ii. 7.

Letter IV. To Florentius.

Sent to Florentius along with the preceding letter, which Jerome requests him to deliver to Rufinus. This Florentius was a rich Italian who had retired to Jerusalem to pursue the monastic life. Jerome subsequently speaks of him as "a distinguished monk so pitiful to the needy that he was generally known as the father of the poor." (Chron. ad a.d. 381.)

1. How much your name and sanctity are on the lips of the most different peoples you may gather from the fact that I commence to love you before I know you. For as, according to the apostle, "Some men's sins are evident going before unto judgment," [65] so contrariwise the report of your charity is so widespread that it is considered not so much praiseworthy to love you as criminal to refuse to do so. I pass over the countless instances in which you have supported Christ, [66] fed, clothed, and visited Him. The aid you rendered to our brother Heliodorus [67] in his need may well loose the utterance of the dumb. With what gratitude, with what commendation, does he speak of the kindness with which you smoothed a pilgrim's path. I am, it is true, the most sluggish of men, consumed by an unendurable sickness; yet keen affection and desire have winged my feet, and I have come forward to salute and embrace you. I wish you every good thing, and pray that the Lord may establish our nascent friendship.

2. Our brother, Rufinus, is said to have come from Egypt to Jerusalem with the devout lady, Melanium. He is inseparably bound to me in brotherly love; and I beg you to oblige me by delivering to him the annexed letter. You must not, however, judge of me by the virtues that you find in him. For in him you will see the clearest tokens of holiness, whilst I am but dust and vile dirt, and even now, while still living, nothing but ashes. It is enough for me if my weak eyes can bear the brightness of his excellence. He has but now washed himself [68] and is clean, yea, is made white as snow; [69] whilst I, stained with every sin, wait day and night with trembling to pay the uttermost farthing. [70] But since "the Lord looseth the prisoners," [71] and resteth upon him who is of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at His words, [72] perchance he may say even to me who lie in the grave of sin: "Jerome, come forth." [73]

The reverend presbyter, Evagrius, warmly salutes you. We both with united respect salute the brother, Martinianus. [74] I desire much to see him, but I am impeded by the chain of sickness. Farewell in Christ.


Footnotes

[65] 1 Tim. v. 24, R.V. [66] Matt. xxv. 34-40. [67] See introduction to Letter XIV. [68] Rufinus had been baptized at Aquileia about three years previously (371 a.d.). [69] Cf. Ps. li. 7. [70] Matt. v. 26. [71] Ps. cxlvi. 7. [72] Isa. lxvi. 2. [73] Joh. xi. 43. [74] Acc. to Vallarsi a hermit, who at this time lived near Cæsarea.

Letter V. To Florentius.

Written a few months after the preceding (about the end of 374 a.d.) from the Syrian Desert. After dilating on his friendship for Florentius, and making a passing allusion to Rufinus, Jerome mentions certain books, copies of which he desires to be sent to him. He also speaks of a runaway slave about whom Florentius had written to him.

1. Your letter, dear friend, finds me dwelling in that quarter of the desert which is nearest to Syria and the Saracens. And the reading of it rekindles in my mind so keen a desire to set out for Jerusalem that I am almost ready to violate my monastic vow in order to gratify my affection. Wishing to do the best I can, as I cannot come in person I send you a letter instead; and thus, though absent in the body, I come to you in love and in spirit. [75] For my earnest prayer is that our infant friendship, firmly cemented as it is in Christ, may never be rent asunder by time or distance. We ought rather to strengthen the bond by an interchange of letters. Let these pass between us, meet each other on the way, and converse with us. Affection will not lose much if it keeps up an intercourse of this kind.

2. You write that our brother, Rufinus, has not yet come to you. Even if he does come it will do little to satisfy my longing, for I shall not now be able to see him. He is too far away to come hither, and the conditions of the lonely life that I have adopted forbid me to go to him. For I am no longer free to follow my own wishes. I entreat you, therefore, to ask him to allow you to have the commentaries of the reverend Rhetitius, [76] bishop of Augustodunum, [77] copied, in which he has so eloquently explained the Song of Songs. A countryman of the aforesaid brother Rufinus, the old man Paul, [78] writes that Rufinus has his copy of Tertullian, and urgently requests that this may be returned. Next I have to ask you to get written on paper by a copyist certain books which the subjoined list [79] will show you that I do not possess. I beg also that you will send me the explanation of the Psalms of David, and the copious work on Synods of the reverend Hilary, [80] which I copied for him [81] at Trêves with my own hand. Such books, you know, must be the food of the Christian soul if it is to meditate in the law of the Lord day and night. [82]

Others you welcome beneath your roof, you cherish and comfort, you help out of your own purse; but so far as I am concerned, you have given me everything when once you have granted my request. And since, through the Lord's bounty, I am rich in volumes of the sacred library, [83] you may command me in turn. I will send you what you please; and do not suppose that an order from you will give me trouble. I have pupils devoted to the art of copying. Nor do I merely promise a favor because I am asking one. Our brother, Heliodorus, [84] tells me that there are many parts of the Scriptures which you seek and cannot find. But even if you have them all, affection is sure to assert its rights and to seek for itself more than it already has.

3. As regards the present master of your slave--of whom you have done me the honor to write--I have no doubt but that he is his kidnapper. While I was still at Antioch the presbyter, Evagrius, often reproved him in my presence. To whom he made this answer: "I have nothing to fear." He declares that his master has dismissed him. If you both want him, he is here; send him whither you will. I think I am not wrong in refusing to allow a runaway to stray farther. Here in the wilderness I cannot myself execute your orders; and therefore I have asked my dear friend Evagrius to push the affair vigorously, both for your sake and for mine. I desire your welfare in Christ.


Footnotes

[75] Cf. Col. ii. 5. [76] A man of some note, as he was one of the commissioners appointed by Constantine in 313 a.d. to settle the points of issue between the Catholics and the Donatists. Jerome criticises his commentary on the Song of Songs in Letter XXXVII. [77] Autun. [78] See the introd. to Letter X. [79] This list has perished. [80] I.e. Hilary of Poitiers. [81] Rufinus. [82] Ps. i. 2. [83] I.e. the Scriptures. [84] See the introd. to Letter XIV.

Letter VI. To Julian, a Deacon of Antioch.

This letter, written in 374 a.d., is chiefly interesting for its mention of Jerome's sister. It would seem that she had fallen into sin and had been restored to a life of virtue by the deacon, Julian. Jerome speaks of her again in the next letter (§4).

It is an old saying, "Liars are disbelieved even when they speak the truth." [85] And from the way in which you reproach me for not having written, I perceive that this has been my lot with you. Shall I say, "I wrote often, but the bearers of my letters were negligent"? You will reply, "Your excuse is the old one of all who fail to write." Shall I say, "I could not find any one to take my letters"? You will say that numbers of persons have gone from my part of the world to yours. Shall I contend that I have actually given them letters? They not having delivered them, will deny that they have received them. Moreover, so great a distance separates us that it will be hard to come at the truth. What shall I do then? Though really not to blame, I ask your forgiveness, for I think it better to fall back and make overtures for peace than to keep my ground and offer battle. The truth is that constant sickness of body and vexation of mind have so weakened me that with death so close at hand I have not been as collected as usual. And lest you should account this plea a false one, now that I have stated my case, I shall, like a pleader, call witnesses to prove it. Our reverend brother, Heliodorus, has been here; but in spite of his wish to dwell in the desert with me, he has been frightened away by my crimes. But my present wordiness will atone for my past remissness; for, as Horace says in his satire: [86]

All singers have one fault among their friends:

They never sing when asked, unasked they never cease.

Henceforth I shall overwhelm you with such bundles of letters that you will take the opposite line and beg me not to write.

I rejoice that my sister [87] --to you a daughter in Christ--remains steadfast in her purpose, a piece of news which I owe in the first instance to you. For here where I now am I am ignorant not only as to what goes on in my native land, but even as to its continued existence. Even though the Iberian viper [88] shall rend me with his baneful fangs, I will not fear men's judgment, seeing that I shall have God to judge me. As one puts it:

Shatter the world to fragments if you will:

'Twill fall upon a head which knows not fear. [89]

Bear in mind, then, I pray you, the apostle's precept [90] that we should make our work abiding; prepare for yourself a reward from the Lord in my sister's salvation; and by frequent letters increase my joy in that glory in Christ which we share together.


Footnotes

[85] Aristotle is the author of this remark. [86] Hor. S. i. 3, 1-3. [87] Mentioned again in Letter VII., § 4. [88] The person meant is uncertain. Probably it was Lupicinus, bishop of Stridon, for whom see the next letter. [89] Horace, C. iii. 3, 7, 8. [90] 1 Cor. iii. 14.

Letter VII. To Chromatius, Jovinus, and Eusebius. [91]

This letter (written like the preceding in 374 a.d.) is addressed by Jerome to three of his former companions in the religious life. It commends Bonosus (§3), asks guidance for the writer's sister (§4), and attacks the conduct of Lupicinus, Bishop of Stridon (§5).

1. Those whom mutual affection has joined together, a written page ought not to sunder. I must not, therefore, distribute my words some to one and some to another. For so strong is the love that binds you together that affection unites all three of you in a bond no less close than that which naturally connects two of your number. [92] Indeed, if the conditions of writing would only admit of it, I should amalgamate your names and express them under a single symbol. The very letter which I have received from you challenges me in each of you to see all three, and in all three to recognize each. When the reverend Evagrius transmitted it to me in the corner of the desert which stretches between the Syrians and the Saracens, my joy was intense. It wholly surpassed the rejoicings felt at Rome when the defeat of Cannæ was retrieved, and Marcellus at Nola cut to pieces the forces of Hannibal. Evagrius frequently comes to see me, and cherishes me in Christ as his own bowels. [93] Yet as he is separated from me by a long distance, his departure has generally left me as much regret as his arrival has brought me joy.

2. I converse with your letter, I embrace it, it talks to me; it alone of those here speaks Latin. For hereabout you must either learn a barbarous jargon or else hold your tongue. As often as the lines--traced in a well-known hand--bring back to me the faces which I hold so dear, either I am no longer here, or else you are here with me. If you will credit the sincerity of affection, I seem to see you all as I write this.

Now at the outset I should like to ask you one petulant question. Why is it that, when we are separated by so great an interval of land and sea, you have sent me so short a letter? Is it that I have deserved no better treatment, not having first written to you? I cannot believe that paper can have failed you while Egypt continues to supply its wares. Even if a Ptolemy had closed the seas, King Attalus would still have sent you parchments from Pergamum, and so by his skins you could have made up for the want of paper. The very name parchment is derived from a historical incident of the kind which occurred generations ago. [94] What then? Am I to suppose the messenger to have been in haste? No matter how long a letter may be, it can be written in the course of a night. Or had you some business to attend to which prevented you from writing? No claim is prior to that of affection. Two suppositions remain, either that you felt disinclined to write or else that I did not deserve a letter. Of the two I prefer to charge you with sloth than to condemn myself as undeserving. For it is easier to mend neglect than to quicken love.

3. You tell me that Bonosus, like a true son of the Fish, has taken to the water. [95] As for me who am still foul with my old stains, like the basilisk and the scorpion I haunt the dry places. [96] Bonosus has his heel already on the serpent's head, whilst I am still as food to the same serpent which by divine appointment devours the earth. [97] He can scale already that ladder of which the psalms of degrees [98] are a type; whilst I, still weeping on its first step, hardly know whether I shall ever be able to say: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." [99] Amid the threatening billows of the world he is sitting in the safe shelter of his island, [100] that is, of the church's pale, and it may be that even now, like John, he is being called to eat God's book; [101] whilst I, still lying in the sepulchre of my sins and bound with the chains of my iniquities, wait for the Lord's command in the Gospel: "Jerome, come forth." [102] But Bonosus has done more than this. Like the prophet [103] he has carried his girdle across the Euphrates (for all the devil's strength is in the loins [104] ), and has hidden it there in a hole of the rock. Then, afterwards finding it rent, he has sung: "O Lord, thou hast possessed my reins. [105] Thou hast broken my bonds in sunder. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving." [106] But as for me, Nebuchadnezzar has brought me in chains to Babylon, to the babel that is of a distracted mind. There he has laid upon me the yoke of captivity; there inserting in my nostrils a ring of iron, [107] he has commanded me to sing one of the songs of Zion. To whom I have said, "The Lord looseth the prisoners; the Lord openeth the eyes of the blind." [108] To complete my contrast in a single sentence, whilst I pray for mercy Bonosus looks for a crown.

4. My sister's conversion is the fruit of the efforts of the saintly Julian. He has planted, it is for you to water, and the Lord will give the increase. [109] Jesus Christ has given her to me to console me for the wound which the devil has inflicted on her. He has restored her from death to life. But in the words of the pagan poet, for her

There is no safety that I do not fear. [110]

You know yourselves how slippery is the path of youth--a path on which I have myself fallen, [111] and which you are now traversing not without fear. She, as she enters upon it, must have the advice and the encouragement of all, she must be aided by frequent letters from you, my reverend brothers. And--for "charity endureth all things," [112] --I beg you to get from Pope [113] Valerian [114] a letter to confirm her resolution. A girl's courage, as you know, is strengthened when she realizes that persons in high place are interested in her.

5. The fact is that my native land is a prey to barbarism, that in it men's only God is their belly, [115] that they live only for the present, and that the richer a man is the holier he is held to be. Moreover, to use a well-worn proverb, the dish has a cover worthy of it; for Lupicinus is their priest. [116] Like lips like lettuce, as the saying goes--the only one, as Lucilius tells us, [117] at which Crassus ever laughed--the reference being to a donkey eating thistles. What I mean is that an unstable pilot steers a leaking ship, and that the blind is leading the blind straight to the pit. The ruler is like the ruled.

6. I salute your mother and mine with the respect which, as you know, I feel towards her. Associated with you as she is in a holy life, she has the start of you, her holy children, in that she is your mother. Her womb may thus be truly called golden. With her I salute your sisters, who ought all to be welcomed wherever they go, for they have triumphed over their sex and the world, and await the Bridegroom's coming, [118] their lamps replenished with oil. O happy the house which is a home of a widowed Anna, of virgins that are prophetesses, and of twin Samuels bred in the Temple! [119] Fortunate the roof which shelters the martyr-mother of the Maccabees, with her sons around her, each and all wearing the martyr's crown! [120] For although you confess Christ every day by keeping His commandments, yet to this private glory you have added the public one of an open confession; for it was through you that the poison of the Arian heresy was formerly banished from your city.

You are surprised perhaps at my thus making a fresh beginning quite at the close of my letter. But what am I to do? I cannot refuse expression to my feelings. The brief limits of a letter compel me to be silent; my affection for you urges me to speak. I write in haste, my language is confused and ill-arranged; but love knows nothing of order.


Footnotes

[91] Jovinus was archdeacon of Aquileia. All three became bishops--Chromatius of Aquileia, the others of unknown sees. [92] Chromatius and Eusebius were brothers. [93] Philem. 12. [94] See Pliny, H. N. xiii. 21. [95] The Greek word IChThUS represented to the early Christians the sentence 'Iesous Christos Theou !*Uos Soter. Hence the fish became a favorite emblem of Christ. Tertullian connects the symbol with the water of baptism, saying: "We little fishes are born by our Fish, Jesus Christ, in water and can thrive only by continuing in the water." The allusion in the text is to the baptism of Bonosus. See Schaff, "Ante-Nicene Christianity," p. 279. [96] Deut. viii. 15. [97] Gen. iii. 14. [98] Viz., Psa. cxx.-cxxxiv. [99] Ps. cxxi. 1. [100] See Letter III. [101] Rev. x. 9, 10. [102] John xi. 43. [103] Jer. xiii. 4, 5. [104] Job xl. 16 (said of Behemoth); cf. Letter XXII. § 11. [105] Ps. cxxxix. 13. [106] Ps. cxvi. 14, 15, P.B.V. [107] Cf. 2 Kings xix. 28. [108] Psa. cxxxvii. 3; cxlvi. 7, 8. [109] 1 Cor. iii. 6. [110] Virg. A. iv. 298. [111] Jerome again refers to his own frailty in Letters XIV. § 6, XVIII. § 11, and XLVIII. § 20. [112] 1 Cor. xiii. 7. [113] Papa. The word "pope" was at this time used as a name of respect ("father in God") for bishops generally. Only by degrees did it come to be restricted to the bishop of Rome. Similarly the word "imperator," originally applied to any Roman general, came to be used of the Emperor alone. [114] Bishop of Aquileia. [115] Phi. iii. 19. [116] Sacerdos. In the letters this word generally denotes a bishop. Lupicinus held the see of Stridon. [117] Cic. de Fin. v. 30. [118] Matt. xxv. 4. [119] Luke ii. 36; Acts xxi. 9; 1 Sam. ii. 18. [120] 2 Macc. vii.

Letter VIII. To Niceas, Sub-Deacon of Aquileia.

Niceas, the sub-deacon, had accompanied Jerome to the East but had now returned home. In after-years he became bishop of Aquileia in succession to Chromatius. The date of the letter is 374 a.d.

The comic poet Turpilius [121] says of the exchange of letters that it alone makes the absent present. The remark, though occurring in a work of fiction, is not untrue. For what more real presence--if I may so speak--can there be between absent friends than speaking to those whom they love in letters, and in letters hearing their reply? Even those Italian savages, the Cascans of Ennius, who--as Cicero tells us in his books on rhetoric--hunted their food like beasts of prey, were wont, before paper and parchment came into use, to exchange letters written on tablets of wood roughly planed, or on strips of bark torn from the trees. For this reason men called letter-carriers tablet-bearers, [122] and letter-writers bark-users, [123] because they used the bark of trees. How much more then are we, who live in a civilized age, bound not to omit a social duty performed by men who lived in a state of gross savagery, and were in some respects entirely ignorant of the refinements of life. The saintly Chromatius, look you, and the reverend Eusebius, brothers as much by compatibility of disposition as by the ties of nature, have challenged me to diligence by the letters which they have showered upon me. You, however, who have but just left me, have not merely unknit our new-made friendship; you have torn it asunder--a process which Lælius, in Cicero's treatise, [124] wisely forbids. Can it be that the East is so hateful to you that you dread the thought of even your letters coming hither? Wake up, wake up, arouse yourself from sleep, give to affection at least one sheet of paper. Amid the pleasures of life at home sometimes heave a sigh over the journeys which we have made together. If you love me, write in answer to my prayer. If you are angry with me, though angry still write. I find my longing soul much comforted when I receive a letter from a friend, even though that friend be out of temper with me.


Footnotes

[121] Turpilius, who appears to have been a dramatist of some note, died in 101 b.c. He is mentioned by Jerome in his edition of the Eusebian Chronicle. [122] Tabellarii, from tabella, a small tablet. [123] Librarii, from liber, bark. [124] Cic. Lælius, 76.

Letter IX. To Chrysogonus, a Monk of Aquileia.

A bantering letter to an indifferent correspondent. Of the same date as the preceding.

Heliodorus, [125] who is so dear to us both, and who loves you with an affection no less deep than my own, may have given you a faithful account of my feelings towards you; how your name is always on my lips, and how in every conversation which I have with him I begin by recalling my pleasant intercourse with you, and go on to marvel at your lowliness, to extol your virtue, and to proclaim your holy love.

Lynxes, they say, when they look behind them, forget what they have just seen, and lose all thought of what their eyes have ceased to behold. And so it seems to be with you. For so entirely have you forgotten our joint attachment that you have not merely blurred but erased the writing of that epistle which, as the apostle tells us, [126] is written in the hearts of Christians. The creatures that I have mentioned lurk on branches of leafy trees and pounce on fleet roes or frightened stags. In vain their victims fly, for they carry their tormentors with them, and these rend their flesh as they run. Lynxes, however, only hunt when an empty belly makes their mouths dry. When they have satisfied their thirst for blood, and have filled their stomachs with food, satiety induces forgetfulness, and they bestow no thought on future prey till hunger recalls them to a sense of their need.

Now in your case it cannot be that you have already had enough of me. Why then do you bring to a premature close a friendship which is but just begun? Why do you let slip what you have hardly as yet fully grasped? But as such remissness as yours is never at a loss for an excuse, you will perhaps declare that you had nothing to write. Had this been so, you should still have written to inform me of the fact.


Footnotes

[125] See introd. to Letter XIV. [126] 2 Cor. iii. 2.

Letter X. To Paul, an Old Man of Concordia.

Jerome writes to Paul of Concordia, a centenarian (§2), and the owner of a good theological library (§3), to lend him some commentaries. In return he sends him his life (newly written) of Paul the hermit. [127] The date of the letter is 374 a.d.

1. The shortness of man's life is the punishment for man's sin; and the fact that even on the very threshold of the light death constantly overtakes the new-born child proves that the times are continually sinking into deeper depravity. For when the first tiller of paradise had been entangled by the serpent in his snaky coils, and had been forced in consequence to migrate earthwards, although his deathless state was changed for a mortal one, yet the sentence [128] of man's curse was put off for nine hundred years, or even more, a period so long that it may be called a second immortality. Afterwards sin gradually grew more and more virulent, till the ungodliness of the giants [129] brought in its train the shipwreck of the whole world. Then when the world had been cleansed by the baptism--if I may so call it--of the deluge, human life was contracted to a short span. Yet even this we have almost altogether wasted, so continually do our iniquities fight against the divine purposes. For how few there are, either who go beyond their hundredth year, or who, going beyond it, do not regret that they have done so; according to that which the Scripture witnesses in the book of Psalms: "the days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow." [130]

2. Why, say you, these opening reflections so remote and so far fetched that one might use against them the Horatian witticism:

Back to the eggs which Leda laid for Zeus,

The bard is fain to trace the war of Troy? [131]

Simply that I may describe in fitting terms your great age and hoary head as white as Christ's. [132] For see, the hundredth circling year is already passing over you, and yet, always keeping the commandments of the Lord, amid the circumstances of your present life you think over the blessedness of that which is to come. Your eyes are bright and keen, your steps steady, your hearing good, your teeth are white, your voice musical, your flesh firm and full of sap; your ruddy cheeks belie your white hairs, your strength is not that of your age. Advancing years have not, as we too often see them do, impaired the tenacity of your memory; the coldness of your blood has not blunted an intellect at once warm and wary. [133] Your face is not wrinkled nor your brow furrowed. Lastly, no tremors palsy your hand or cause it to travel in crooked pathways over the wax on which you write. The Lord shows us in you the bloom of the resurrection that is to be ours; so that whereas in others who die by inches whilst yet living, we recognize the results of sin, in your case we ascribe it to righteousness that you still simulate youth at an age to which it is foreign. And although we see the like haleness of body in many even of those who are sinners, in their case it is a grant of the devil to lead them into sin, whilst in yours it is a gift of God to make you rejoice.

3. Tully in his brilliant speech on behalf of Flaccus [134] describes the learning of the Greeks as "innate frivolity and accomplished vanity."

Certainly their ablest literary men used to receive money for pronouncing eulogies upon their kings or princes. Following their example, I set a price upon my praise. Nor must you suppose my demand a small one. You are asked to give me the pearl of the Gospel, [135] "the words of the Lord," "pure words, even as the silver which from the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire," [136] I mean the commentaries of Fortunatian [137] and--for its account of the persecutors--the History of Aurelius Victor, [138] and with these the Letters of Novatian; [139] so that, learning the poison set forth by this schismatic, we may the more gladly drink of the antidote supplied by the holy martyr Cyprian. In the mean time I have sent to you, that is to say, to Paul the aged, a Paul that is older still. [140] I have taken great pains to bring my language down to the level of the simpler sort. But, somehow or other, though you fill it with water, the jar retains the odor which it acquired when first used. [141] If my little gift should please you, I have others also in store which (if the Holy Spirit shall breathe favorably), shall sail across the sea to you with all kinds of eastern merchandise.


Footnotes

[127] See the Life of Paul in this volume. [128] Elogium. [129] Gen. vi. 4. [130] Ps. xc. 10. [131] Hor. A. P. 147. Zeus having visited Leda in the form of a swan, she produced two eggs, from one of which came Castor and Pollux, and from the other Helen, who was the cause of the Trojan war. [132] Rev. i. 14. [133] A play on words: callidus, "wary," is indistinguishable in sound from calidus, "warm." [134] The words quoted do not occur in the extant portion of Cicero's speech. [135] Matt. xiii. 46. [136] Ps. xii. 7, P. B. V. [137] For some account of this writer see Jerome, De V. iii. c. xcvii. [138] A Roman annalist some of whose works are still extant. He was contemporary with but probably older than Jerome. [139] A puritan of the third century who seceded from the Roman church because of the laxity of its discipline. [140] I.e. the life of Paul the Hermit, translated in this vol. [141] Hor. Ep. I. ii. 69; cf. T. Moore: "You may break, you may shatter the vase if you will: The scent of the roses will hang round it still."

Letter XI. To the Virgins of Ĉmona.

Ĉmona was a Roman colony not far from Stridon, Jerome's birthplace. The virgins to whom the note is addressed had omitted to answer his letters, and he now writes to upbraid them for their remissness. The date of the letter is 374 a.d.

This scanty sheet of paper shows in what a wilderness I live, and because of it I have to say much in few words. For, desirous though I am to speak to you more fully, this miserable scrap compels me to leave much unsaid. Still ingenuity makes up for lack of means, and by writing small I can say a great deal. Observe, I beseech you, how I love you, even in the midst of my difficulties, since even the want of materials does not stop me from writing to you.

Pardon, I beseech you, an aggrieved man: if I speak in tears and in anger it is because I have been injured. For in return for my regular letters you have not sent me a single syllable. Light, I know, has no communion with darkness, [142] and God's handmaidens no fellowship with a sinner, yet a harlot was allowed to wash the Lord's feet with her tears, [143] and dogs are permitted to eat of their masters' crumbs. [144] It was the Saviour's mission to call sinners and not the righteous; for, as He said Himself, "they that be whole need not a physician." [145] He wills the repentance of a sinner rather than his death, [146] and carries home the poor stray sheep on His own shoulders. [147] So, too, when the prodigal son returns, his father receives him with joy. [148] Nay more, the apostle says: "Judge nothing before the time." [149] For "who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth." [150] And "let him that standeth take heed lest he fall." [151] "Bear ye one another's burdens." [152]

Dear sisters, man's envy judges in one way, Christ in another; and the whisper of a corner is not the same as the sentence of His tribunal. Many ways seem right to men which are afterwards found to be wrong. [153] And a treasure is often stowed in earthen vessels. [154] Peter thrice denied his Lord, yet his bitter tears restored him to his place. "To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much." [155] No word is said of the flock as a whole, yet the angels joy in heaven over the safety of one sick ewe. [156] And if any one demurs to this reasoning, the Lord Himself has said: "Friend, is thine eye evil because I am good?" [157]


Footnotes

[142] 2 Cor. vi. 14. [143] Luke vii. 37 sqq. [144] Matt. xv. 27. [145] Matt. ix. 12, 13. [146] Ezek. xxxiii. 11. [147] Luke xv. 5. [148] Luke xv. 20. [149] 1 Cor. iv. 5. [150] Rom. xiv. 4. [151] 1 Cor. x. 12. [152] Gal. vi. 2. [153] Cf. Prov. xiv. 12. [154] 2 Cor. iv. 7. [155] Luke vii. 47. [156] Luke xv. 7, 10. [157] Matt. xx. 15.

Letter XII. To Antony, Monk.

The subject of this letter is similar to that of the preceding. Of Antony nothing is known except that some mss. describe him as "of Ĉmona." The date of the letter is 374 a.d.

While the disciples were disputing concerning precedence our Lord, the teacher of humility, took a little child and said: "Except ye be converted and become as little children ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." [158] And lest He should seem to preach more than he practised, He fulfilled His own precept in His life. For He washed His disciples' feet, [159] he received the traitor with a kiss, [160] He conversed with the woman of Samaria, [161] He spoke of the kingdom of heaven with Mary at His feet, [162] and when He rose again from the dead He showed Himself first to some poor women. [163] Pride is opposed to humility, and through it Satan lost his eminence as an archangel. The Jewish people perished in their pride, for while they claimed the chief seats and salutations in the market place, [164] they were superseded by the Gentiles, who had before been counted as "a drop of a bucket." [165] Two poor fishermen, Peter and James, were sent to confute the sophists and the wise men of the world. As the Scripture says: "God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble." [166] Think, brother, what a sin it must be which has God for its opponent. In the Gospel the Pharisee is rejected because of his pride, and the publican is accepted because of his humility. [167]

Now, unless I am mistaken, I have already sent you ten letters, affectionate and earnest, whilst you have not deigned to give me even a single line. The Lord speaks to His servants, but you, my brother servant, refuse to speak to me. Believe me, if reserve did not check my pen, I could show my annoyance in such invective that you would have to reply--even though it might be in anger. But since anger is human, and a Christian must not act injuriously, I fall back once more on entreaty, and beg you to love one who loves you, and to write to him as a servant should to his fellow-servant. Farewell in the Lord.


Footnotes

[158] Matt. xviii. 3. [159] Joh. xiii. 5. [160] Luke xxii. 47. [161] Joh. iv. 7. [162] Luke vii. 40 sqq.: the heroine of this story is identified by Jerome with Mary Magdalene. [163] Matt. xxviii. 1, 9. [164] Matt. xxiii. 6, 7. [165] Isa. xl. 15. [166] 1 Pet. v. 5. [167] Luke xviii. 9 sqq.

Letter XIII. To Castorina, His Maternal Aunt.

An interesting letter, as throwing some light on Jerome's family relations. Castorina, his maternal aunt, had, for some reason, become estranged from him, and he now writes to her to effect a reconciliation. Whether he succeeded in doing so, we do not know. The date of the letter is 374 a.d.

The apostle and evangelist John rightly says, in his first epistle, that "whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer." [168] For, since murder often springs from hate, the hater, even though he has not yet slain his victim, is at heart a murderer. Why, you ask, do I begin in this style? Simply that you and I may both lay aside past ill feeling and cleanse our hearts to be a habitation for God. "Be ye angry," David says, "and sin not," or, as the apostle more fully expresses it, "let not the sun go down upon your wrath." [169] What then shall we do in the day of judgment, upon whose wrath the sun has gone down not one day but many years? The Lord says in the Gospel: "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." [170] Woe to me, wretch that I am; woe, I had almost said, to you also. This long time past we have either offered no gift at the altar or have offered it whilst cherishing anger "without a cause." How have we been able in our daily prayers to say "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," [171] whilst our feelings have been at variance with our words, and our petition inconsistent with our conduct? Therefore I renew the prayer which I made a year ago in a previous letter, [172] that the Lord's legacy of peace [173] may be indeed ours, and that my desires and your feelings may find favor in His sight. Soon we shall stand before His judgment seat to receive the reward of harmony restored or to pay the penalty for harmony broken. In case you shall prove unwilling--I hope that it may not be so--to accept my advances, I for my part shall be free. For this letter, when it is read, will insure my acquittal.


Footnotes

[168] 1 Joh. iii. 15. [169] Ps. iv. 4, LXX.; Eph. iv. 26. [170] Matt. v. 23, 24. [171] Matt. vi. 12. [172] This is no longer extant. [173] John xiv. 27.

Letter XIV. To Heliodorus, Monk.

Heliodorus, originally a soldier, but now a presbyter of the Church, had accompanied Jerome to the East, but, not feeling called to the solitary life of the desert, had returned to Aquileia. Here he resumed his clerical duties, and in course of time was raised to the episcopate as bishop of Altinum.

The letter was written in the first bitterness of separation and reproaches Heliodorus for having gone back from the perfect way of the ascetic life. The description given of this is highly colored and seems to have produced a great impression in the West. Fabiola was so much enchanted by it that she learned the letter by heart. [174] The date is 373 or 374 a.d.

1. So conscious are you of the affection which exists between us that you cannot but recognize the love and passion with which I strove to prolong our common sojourn in the desert. This very letter--blotted, as you see, with tears--gives evidence of the lamentation and weeping with which I accompanied your departure. With the pretty ways of a child you then softened your refusal by soothing words, and I, being off my guard, knew not what to do. Was I to hold my peace? I could not conceal my eagerness by a show of indifference. Or was I to entreat you yet more earnestly? You would have refused to listen, for your love was not like mine. Despised affection has taken the one course open to it. Unable to keep you when present, it goes in search of you when absent. You asked me yourself, when you were going away, to invite you to the desert when I took up my quarters there, and I for my part promised to do so. Accordingly I invite you now; come, and come quickly. Do not call to mind old ties; the desert is for those who have left all. Nor let the hardships of our former travels deter you. You believe in Christ, believe also in His words: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you." [175] Take neither scrip nor staff. He is rich enough who is poor--with Christ.

2. But what is this, and why do I foolishly importune you again? Away with entreaties, an end to coaxing words. Offended love does well to be angry. You have spurned my petition; perhaps you will listen to my remonstrance. What keeps you, effeminate soldier, in your father's house? Where are your ramparts and trenches? When have you spent a winter in the field? Lo, the trumpet sounds from heaven! Lo, the Leader comes with clouds! [176] He is armed to subdue the world, and out of His mouth proceeds a two-edged sword [177] to mow down all that encounters it. But as for you, what will you do? Pass straight from your chamber to the battle-field, and from the cool shade into the burning sun? Nay, a body used to a tunic cannot endure a buckler; a head that has worn a cap refuses a helmet; a hand made tender by disuse is galled by a sword-hilt. [178] Hear the proclamation of your King: "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth." [179] Remember the day on which you enlisted, when, buried with Christ in baptism, you swore fealty to Him, declaring that for His sake you would spare neither father nor mother. Lo, the enemy is striving to slay Christ in your breast. Lo, the ranks of the foe sigh over that bounty which you received when you entered His service. Should your little nephew [180] hang on your neck, pay no regard to him; should your mother with ashes on her hair and garments rent show you the breasts at which she nursed you, heed her not; should your father prostrate himself on the threshold, trample him under foot and go your way. With dry eyes fly to the standard of the cross. In such cases cruelty is the only true affection.

3. Hereafter there shall come--yes, there shall come--a day when you will return a victor to your true country, and will walk through the heavenly Jerusalem crowned with the crown of valor. Then will you receive the citizenship thereof with Paul. [181] Then will you seek the like privilege for your parents. Then will you intercede for me who have urged you forward on the path of victory.

I am not ignorant of the fetters which you may plead as hindrances. My breast is not of iron nor my heart of stone. I was not born of flint or suckled by a tigress. [182] I have passed through troubles like yours myself. Now it is a widowed sister who throws her caressing arms around you. Now it is the slaves, your foster-brothers, who cry, "To what master are you leaving us?" Now it is a nurse bowed with age, and a body-servant loved only less than a father, who exclaim: "Only wait till we die and follow us to our graves." Perhaps, too, an aged mother, with sunken bosom and furrowed brow, recalling the lullaby [183] with which she once soothed you, adds her entreaties to theirs. The learned may call you, if they please,

The sole support and pillar of your house. [184]

The love of God and the fear of hell will easily break such bonds.

Scripture, you will argue, bids us obey our parents. [185] Yes, but whoso loves them more than Christ loses his own soul. [186] The enemy takes sword in hand to slay me, and shall I think of a mother's tears? Or shall I desert the service of Christ for the sake of a father to whom, if I am Christ's servant, I owe no rites of burial, [187] albeit if I am Christ's true servant I owe these to all? Peter with his cowardly advice was an offence to the Lord on the eve of His passion; [188] and to the brethren who strove to restrain him from going up to Jerusalem, Paul's one answer was: "What mean ye to weep and to break my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." [189] The battering-ram of natural affection which so often shatters faith must recoil powerless from the wall of the Gospel. "My mother and my brethren are these whosoever do the will of my Father which is in heaven." [190] If they believe in Christ let them bid me God-speed, for I go to fight in His name. And if they do not believe, "let the dead bury their dead." [191]

4. But all this, you argue, only touches the case of martyrs. Ah! my brother, you are mistaken, you are mistaken, if you suppose that there is ever a time when the Christian does not suffer persecution. Then are you most hardly beset when you know not that you are beset at all. "Our adversary as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour," [192] and do you think of peace? "He sitteth in the lurking-places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent; his eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den; he lieth in wait to catch the poor;" [193] and do you slumber under a shady tree, so as to fall an easy prey? On one side self-indulgence presses me hard; on another covetousness strives to make an inroad; my belly wishes to be a God to me, in place of Christ, [194] and lust would fain drive away the Holy Spirit that dwells in me and defile His temple. [195] I am pursued, I say, by an enemy

Whose name is Legion and his wiles untold; [196]

and, hapless wretch that I am, how shall I hold myself a victor when I am being led away a captive?

5. My dear brother, weigh well the various forms of transgression, and think not that the sins which I have mentioned are less flagrant than that of idolatry. Nay, hear the apostle's view of the matter. "For this ye know," he writes, "that no whore-monger or unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." [197] In a general way all that is of the devil savors of enmity to God, and what is of the devil is idolatry, since all idols are subject to him. Yet Paul elsewhere lays down the law in express and unmistakable terms, saying: "Mortify your members, which are upon the earth, laying aside fornication, uncleanness, evil concupiscence and covetousness, which are [198] idolatry, for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh." [199]

Idolatry is not confined to casting incense upon an altar with finger and thumb, or to pouring libations of wine out of a cup into a bowl. Covetousness is idolatry, or else the selling of the Lord for thirty pieces of silver was a righteous act. [200] Lust involves profanation, or else men may defile with common harlots [201] those members of Christ which should be "a living sacrifice acceptable to God." [202] Fraud is idolatry, or else they are worthy of imitation who, in the Acts of the Apostles, sold their inheritance, and because they kept back part of the price, perished by an instant doom. [203] Consider well, my brother; nothing is yours to keep. "Whosoever he be of you," the Lord says, "that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." [204] Why are you such a half-hearted Christian?

6. See how Peter left his net; [205] see how the publican rose from the receipt of custom. [206] In a moment he became an apostle. "The Son of man hath not where to lay his head," [207] and do you plan wide porticos and spacious halls? If you look to inherit the good things of the world you can no longer be a joint-heir with Christ. [208] You are called a monk, and has the name no meaning? What brings you, a solitary, into the throng of men? The advice that I give is that of no inexperienced mariner who has never lost either ship or cargo, and has never known a gale. Lately shipwrecked as I have been myself, my warnings to other voyagers spring from my own fears. On one side, like Charybdis, self-indulgence sucks into its vortex the soul's salvation. On the other, like Scylla, lust, with a smile on her girl's face, lures it on to wreck its chastity. The coast is savage, and the devil with a crew of pirates carries irons to fetter his captives. Be not credulous, be not over-confident. The sea may be as smooth and smiling as a pond, its quiet surface may be scarcely ruffled by a breath of air, yet sometimes its waves are as high as mountains. There is danger in its depths, the foe is lurking there. Ease your sheets, spread your sails, fasten the cross as an ensign on your prow. The calm that you speak of is itself a tempest. "Why so?" you will perhaps argue; "are not all my fellow-townsmen Christians?" Your case, I reply, is not that of others. Listen to the words of the Lord: "If thou wilt be perfect go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come and follow me." [209] You have already promised to be perfect. For when you forsook the army and made yourself an eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake, [210] you did so that you might follow the perfect life. Now the perfect servant of Christ has nothing beside Christ. Or if he have anything beside Christ he is not perfect. And if he be not perfect when he has promised God to be so, his profession is a lie. But "the mouth that lieth slayeth the soul." [211] To conclude, then, if you are perfect you will not set your heart on your father's goods; and if you are not perfect you have deceived the Lord. The Gospel thunders forth its divine warning: "Ye cannot serve two masters," [212] and does any one dare to make Christ a liar by serving at once both God and Mammon? Repeatedly does He proclaim, "If any one will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." [213] If I load myself with gold can I think that I am following Christ? Surely not. "He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked." [214]

7. I know you will rejoin that you possess nothing. Why, then, if you are so well prepared for battle, do you not take the field? Perhaps you think that you can wage war in your own country, although the Lord could do no signs in His? [215] Why not? you ask. Take the answer which comes to you with his authority: "No prophet is accepted in his own country." [216] But, you will say, I do not seek honor; the approval of my conscience is enough for me. Neither did the Lord seek it; for when the multitudes would have made Him a king he fled from them. [217] But where there is no honor there is contempt; and where there is contempt there is frequent rudeness; and where there is rudeness there is vexation; and where there is vexation there is no rest; and where there is no rest the mind is apt to be diverted from its purpose. Again, where, through restlessness, earnestness loses any of its force, it is lessened by what it loses, and that which is lessened cannot be called perfect. The upshot of all which is that a monk cannot be perfect in his own country. Now, not to aim at perfection is itself a sin.

8. Driven from this line of defence you will appeal to the example of the clergy. These, you will say, remain in their cities, and yet they are surely above criticism. Far be it from me to censure the successors of the apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians. [218] Having the keys of the kingdom of heaven, they judge men to some extent before the day of judgment, and guard the chastity of the bride of Christ. But, as I have before hinted, the case of monks is different from that of the clergy. The clergy feed Christ's sheep; I as a monk am fed by them. They live of the altar: [219] I, if I bring no gift to it, have the axe laid to my root as to that of a barren tree. [220] Nor can I plead poverty as an excuse, for the Lord in the gospel has praised an aged widow for casting into the treasury the last two coins that she had. [221] I may not sit in the presence of a presbyter; [222] he, if I sin, may deliver me to Satan, "for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved." [223] Under the old law he who disobeyed the priests was put outside the camp and stoned by the people, or else he was beheaded and expiated his contempt with his blood. [224] But now the disobedient person is cut down with the spiritual sword, or he is expelled from the church and torn to pieces by ravening demons. Should the entreaties of your brethren induce you to take orders, I shall rejoice that you are lifted up, and fear lest you may be cast down. You will say: "If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." [225] I know that; but you should add what follows: such an one "must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, chaste, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, no striker but patient." [226] After fully explaining the qualifications of a bishop the apostle speaks of ministers of the third degree with equal care. "Likewise must the deacons be grave," he writes, "not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then, let them minister, being found blameless." [227] Woe to the man who goes in to the supper without a wedding garment. Nothing remains for him but the stern question, "Friend, how camest thou in hither?" And when he is speechless the order will be given, "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." [228] Woe to him who, when he has received a talent, has bound it in a napkin; and, whilst others make profits, only preserves what he has received. His angry lord shall rebuke him in a moment. "Thou wicked servant," he will say, "wherefore gavest thou not my money into the bank that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?" [229] That is to say, you should have laid before the altar what you were not able to bear. For whilst you, a slothful trader, keep a penny in your hands, you occupy the place of another who might double the money. Wherefore, as he who ministers well purchases to himself a good degree, [230] so he who approaches the cup of the Lord unworthily shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. [231]

9. Not all bishops are bishops indeed. You consider Peter; mark Judas as well. You notice Stephen; look also on Nicolas, sentenced in the Apocalypse by the Lord's own lips, [232] whose shameful imaginations gave rise to the heresy of the Nicolaitans. "Let a man examine himself and so let him come." [233] For it is not ecclesiastical rank that makes a man a Christian. The centurion Cornelius was still a heathen when he was cleansed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Daniel was but a child when he judged the elders. [234] Amos was stripping mulberry bushes when, in a moment, he was made a prophet. [235] David was only a shepherd when he was chosen to be king. [236] And the least of His disciples was the one whom Jesus loved the most. My brother, sit down in the lower room, that when one less honorable comes you may be bidden to go up higher. [237] Upon whom does the Lord rest but upon him that is lowly and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at His word? [238] To whom God has committed much, of him He will ask the more. [239] "Mighty men shall be mightily tormented." [240] No man need pride himself in the day of judgment on merely physical chastity, for then shall men give account for every idle word, [241] and the reviling of a brother shall be counted as the sin of murder. [242] Paul and Peter now reign with Christ, and it is not easy to take the place of the one or to hold the office of the other. There may come an angel to rend the veil of your temple, [243] and to remove your candlestick out of its place. [244] If you intend to build the tower, first count the cost. [245] Salt that has lost its savor is good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of swine. [246] If a monk fall, a priest shall intercede for him; but who shall intercede for a fallen priest?

10. At last my discourse is clear of the reefs: at last this frail bark has passed from the breakers into deep water. I may now spread my sails to the breeze; and, as I leave the rocks of controversy astern, my epilogue will be like the joyful shout of mariners. O desert, bright with the flowers of Christ! O solitude whence come the stones of which, in the Apocalypse, the city of the great king is built! [247] O wilderness, gladdened with God's especial presence! What keeps you in the world, my brother, you who are above the world? [248] How long shall gloomy roofs oppress you? How long shall smoky cities immure you? Believe me, I have more light than you. Sweet it is to lay aside the weight of the body and to soar into the pure bright ether. Do you dread poverty? Christ calls the poor blessed. [249] Does toil frighten you? No athlete is crowned but in the sweat of his brow. Are you anxious as regards food? Faith fears no famine. Do you dread the bare ground for limbs wasted with fasting? The Lord lies there beside you. Do you recoil from an unwashed head and uncombed hair? Christ is your true head. [250] Does the boundless solitude of the desert terrify you? In the spirit you may walk always in paradise. Do but turn your thoughts thither and you will be no more in the desert. Is your skin rough and scaly because you no longer bathe? He that is once washed in Christ needeth not to wash again. [251] To all your objections the apostle gives this one brief answer: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory" which shall come after them, "which shall be revealed in us." [252] You are too greedy of enjoyment, my brother, if you wish to rejoice with the world here, and to reign with Christ hereafter.

11. It shall come, it shall come, that day when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality. [253] Then shall that servant be blessed whom the Lord shall find watching. [254] Then at the sound of the trumpet [255] the earth and its peoples shall tremble, but you shall rejoice. The world shall howl at the Lord who comes to judge it, and the tribes of the earth shall smite the breast. Once mighty kings shall tremble in their nakedness. Venus shall be exposed, and her son too. Jupiter with his fiery bolts will be brought to trial; and Plato, with his disciples, will be but a fool. Aristotle's arguments shall be of no avail. You may seem a poor man and country bred, but then you shall exult and laugh, and say: Behold my crucified Lord, behold my judge. This is He who was once an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and crying in a manger. [256] This is He whose parents were a workingman and a working-woman. [257] This is He, who, carried into Egypt in His mother's bosom, though He was God, fled before the face of man. This is He who was clothed in a scarlet robe and crowned with thorns. [258] This is He who was called a sorcerer and a man with a devil and a Samaritan. [259] Jew, behold the hands which you nailed to the cross. Roman, behold the side which you pierced with the spear. See both of you whether it was this body that the disciples stole secretly and by night. [260] For this you profess to believe.

My brother, it is affection which has urged me to speak thus; that you who now find the Christian life so hard may have your reward in that day.


Footnotes

[174] See Ep. lxxvii. 9. [175] Matt. vi. 33. [176] Rev. i. 7. [177] Rev. i. 16. [178] A reminiscence of Tertullian. [179] Matt. xii. 30. [180] Nepotian, afterwards famous as the recipient of Letter LII., and the subject of Letter LX. [181] Phi. iii. 20, R.V. [182] Virg. A. iv. 367. [183] Pers. iii. 18. [184] Virg. A. xii. 59. [185] Eph. vi. 1. [186] Matt. x. 37. [187] Luke ix. 59, 60. [188] Matt. xvi. 23. [189] Acts xxi. 13. [190] Luke viii. 21; Matt. xii. 50. [191] Matt. viii. 22. [192] 1 Pet. v. 8. [193] Ps. x. 8, 9. [194] Phi. iii. 19. [195] 1 Cor iii. 17. [196] Virg. A. vii. 337. [197] Eph. v. 5. [198] So Jerome, although the Vulg. has "is." [199] Col. iii. 5, 6. [200] Matt. xxvi. 15. [201] Publicarum libidinum victimæ; words borrowed from Tertullian, de C. F. II. 12. [202] Rom. xii. 1. [203] Acts v., Ananias and Sapphira. [204] Luke xiv. 33. [205] Matt. iv. 18-20. [206] Matt. ix. 9. [207] Matt. viii. 20. [208] Rom. viii. 17. [209] Matt. xix. 21. [210] Matt. xix. 12. [211] Wisd. i. 11. [212] Luke xvi. 13. [213] Luke ix. 23. [214] 1 Joh. ii. 6. [215] Matt. xiii. 58. [216] Luke iv. 24. [217] Joh. vi. 15. [218] In the sacrament of baptism. [219] 1 Cor. ix. 13, 14. [220] Matt. iii. 10. [221] Luke xxi. 1-4. [222] Cf. Letter CXLVI. [223] 1 Cor. v. 5. [224] Deut. xvii. 5, 12. [225] 1 Tim. iii. 1. [226] 1 Tim. iii. 2, 3. [227] 1 Tim. iii. 8-10. [228] Matt. xxii. 11-13. [229] Luke xix. 23. [230] 1 Tim. iii. 13. [231] 1 Cor. xi. 27. [232] Rev. ii. 6. [233] 1 Cor. xi. 28. [234] Susannah 45 sqq. [235] Amos vii. 14. [236] 1 Sam. xvi. 11-13. [237] Luke xiv. 10. [238] Isa. lxvi. 2. [239] Luke xii. 48. [240] Wisd. vi. 6. [241] Matt. xii. 36. [242] Matt. v. 21, 22. [243] Matt. xxvii. 51. [244] Rev. ii. 5. [245] Luke xiv. 28. [246] Matt. v. 13. [247] Rev. xxi. 19, 20. [248] From Cyprian, Letter I. 14 (to Donatus). [249] Luke vi. 20. [250] From Cyprian, Letter LXXVII. 2 (to Nemesianus). [251] Joh. xiii. 10. [252] Rom. viii. 18. [253] 1 Cor. xv. 53. [254] Matt. xxiv. 46. [255] 1 Thess. iv. 16. [256] Luke ii. 7. [257] From Tertullian, de Spect. xxx. [258] Matt. xxvii. 28, 29. [259] Joh. viii. 48. [260] Matt. xxvii. 64.

Letter XV. To Pope Damasus.

This letter, written in 376 or 377 a.d., illustrates Jerome's attitude towards the see of Rome at this time held by Damasus, afterwards his warm friend and admirer. Referring to Rome as the scene of his own baptism and as a church where the true faith has remained unimpaired (§1), and laying down the strict doctrine of salvation only within the pale of the church (§2), Jerome asks "the successor of the fisherman" two questions, viz.: (1) who is the true bishop of the three claimants of the see of Antioch, and (2) which is the correct terminology, to speak of three "hypostases" in the Godhead, or of one? On the latter question he expresses fully his own opinion.

1. Since the East, shattered as it is by the long-standing feuds, subsisting between its peoples, is bit by bit tearing into shreds the seamless vest of the Lord, "woven from the top throughout," [261] since the foxes are destroying the vineyard of Christ, [262] and since among the broken cisterns that hold no water it is hard to discover "the sealed fountain" and "the garden inclosed," [263] I think it my duty to consult the chair of Peter, and to turn to a church whose faith has been praised by Paul. [264] I appeal for spiritual food to the church whence I have received the garb of Christ. [265] The wide space of sea and land that lies between us cannot deter me from searching for "the pearl of great price." [266] "Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together." [267] Evil children have squandered their patrimony; you alone keep your heritage intact. The fruitful soil of Rome, when it receives the pure seed of the Lord, bears fruit an hundredfold; but here the seed corn is choked in the furrows and nothing grows but darnel or oats. [268] In the West the Sun of righteousness [269] is even now rising; in the East, Lucifer, who fell from heaven, [270] has once more set his throne above the stars. [271] "Ye are the light of the world," [272] "ye are the salt of the earth," [273] ye are "vessels of gold and of silver." Here are vessels of wood or of earth, [274] which wait for the rod of iron, [275] and eternal fire.

2. Yet, though your greatness terrifies me, your kindness attracts me. From the priest I demand the safe-keeping of the victim, from the shepherd the protection due to the sheep. Away with all that is overweening; let the state of Roman majesty withdraw. My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! [276] This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. [277] This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails. [278] But since by reason of my sins I have betaken myself to this desert which lies between Syria and the uncivilized waste, I cannot, owing to the great distance between us, always ask of your sanctity the holy thing of the Lord. [279] Consequently I here follow the Egyptian confessors [280] who share your faith, and anchor my frail craft under the shadow of their great argosies. I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus. [281] He that gathers not with you scatters; [282] he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist.

3. Just now, I am sorry to say, those Arians, the Campenses, [283] are trying to extort from me, a Roman Christian, their unheard-of formula of three hypostases. [284] And this, too, after the definition of Nicæa [285] and the decree of Alexandria, [286] in which the West has joined. Where, I should like to know, are the apostles of these doctrines? Where is their Paul, their new doctor of the Gentiles? I ask them what three hypostases are supposed to mean. They reply three persons subsisting. I rejoin that this is my belief. They are not satisfied with the meaning, they demand the term. Surely some secret venom lurks in the words. "If any man refuse," I cry, "to acknowledge three hypostases in the sense of three things hypostatized, that is three persons subsisting, let him be anathema." Yet, because I do not learn their words, I am counted a heretic. "But, if any one, understanding by hypostasis essence, [287] deny that in the three persons there is one hypostasis, he has no part in Christ." Because this is my confession I, like you, am branded with the stigma of Sabellianism. [288]

4. If you think fit enact a decree; and then I shall not hesitate to speak of three hypostases. Order a new creed to supersede the Nicene; and then, whether we are Arians or orthodox, one confession will do for us all. In the whole range of secular learning hypostasis never means anything but essence. And can any one, I ask, be so profane as to speak of three essences or substances in the Godhead? There is one nature of God and one only; and this, and this alone, truly is. For absolute being is derived from no other source but is all its own. All things besides, that is all things created, although they appear to be, are not. For there was a time when they were not, and that which once was not may again cease to be. God alone who is eternal, that is to say, who has no beginning, really deserves to be called an essence. Therefore also He says to Moses from the bush, "I am that I am," and Moses says of Him, "I am hath sent me." [289] As the angels, the sky, the earth, the seas, all existed at the time, it must have been as the absolute being that God claimed for himself that name of essence, which apparently was common to all. But because His nature alone is perfect, and because in the three persons there subsists but one Godhead, which truly is and is one nature; whosoever in the name of religion declares that there are in the Godhead three elements, three hypostases, that is, or essences, is striving really to predicate three natures of God. And if this is true, why are we severed by walls from Arius, when in dishonesty we are one with him? Let Ursicinus be made the colleague of your blessedness; let Auxentius be associated with Ambrose. [290] But may the faith of Rome never come to such a pass! May the devout hearts of your people never be infected with such unholy doctrines! Let us be satisfied to speak of one substance and of three subsisting persons--perfect, equal, coeternal. Let us keep to one hypostasis, if such be your pleasure, and say nothing of three. It is a bad sign when those who mean the same thing use different words. Let us be satisfied with the form of creed which we have hitherto used. Or, if you think it right that I should speak of three hypostases, explaining what I mean by them, I am ready to submit. But, believe me, there is poison hidden under their honey; the angel of Satan has transformed himself into an angel of light. [291] They give a plausible explanation of the term hypostasis; yet when I profess to hold it in the same sense they count me a heretic. Why are they so tenacious of a word? Why do they shelter themselves under ambiguous language? If their belief corresponds to their explanation of it, I do not condemn them for keeping it. On the other hand, if my belief corresponds to their expressed opinions, they should allow me to set forth their meaning in my own words.

5. I implore your blessedness, therefore, by the crucified Saviour of the world, and by the consubstantial trinity, to authorize me by letter either to use or to refuse this formula of three hypostases. And lest the obscurity of my present abode may baffle the bearers of your letter, I pray you to address it to Evagrius, the presbyter, with whom you are well acquainted. I beg you also to signify with whom I am to communicate at Antioch. Not, I hope, with the Campenses; [292] for they--with their allies the heretics of Tarsus [293] --only desire communion with you to preach with greater authority their traditional doctrine of three hypostases.


Footnotes

[261] Joh. xix. 23. [262] Cant. ii. 15. [263] Cant. iv. 12. [264] Rom. i. 8: I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. [265] I.e. holy baptism; cf. Gal. iii. 27. [266] Matt. xiii. 46. [267] Matt. xxiv. 28. [268] Matt. xiii. 22, 23. [269] Mal. iv. 2. [270] Luke x. 18. [271] Isa. xiv. 12. [272] Matt. v. 14. [273] Matt. v. 13. [274] 2 Tim. ii. 20. [275] Rev. ii. 27. [276] Matt. xvi. 18. [277] Ex. xii. 22. [278] Gen. vii. 23. [279] I.e. the bread of the Eucharist, at this time sent by one bishop to another in token of communion; or possibly the allusion is different, and what Jerome means to say is: "You are the oracle of God, but owing to my present situation I cannot consult you." [280] Certain bishops banished from their sees by Valens. See Letter III. § 2. [281] The three rival claimants of the see of Antioch. See note on Letter XVI. § 2. [282] Matt. xii. 30. [283] I.e. the field party. The Meletians were so called because, denied access to the churches of the city, they had to worship in the open air outside the walls. [284] hupostasis=substantia. It is the word used in Heb. i. 3, "The express image of his person [R.V. substance]." Except at Alexandria it was usual to speak of one hypostasis as of one ousia in the Divine Nature. But at Alexandria from Origen downwards three hypostases had been ascribed to the Deity. Two explanations are given of the latter formula: (1) That at Alexandria hupostasis was taken in the sense of prosopon, so that by "three hypostases" was meant only "three persons." (2) That "three hypostases" was an inexact expression standing for "three hypostatic persons" or "a threefold hypostasis." This latter seems to be the true account of the matter. See an interesting note in Newman, Arians of the Fourth Century, Appendix IV. [285] In the Nicene Creed the Son is declared to be "of one substance [ousia] with the Father." [286] This decree allowed the formula of "three hypostases" to be susceptible of an orthodox interpretation. It did not, however, encourage its use. [287] ousia. [288] Cauterio unionis inurimur. Sabellius recognized three "aspects" in the Godhead but denied "three persons," at least in the Catholic sense. [289] Ex. iii. 14. [290] Ursicinus, at this time anti-pope; Auxentius, Arian bishop of Milan. [291] 2 Cor. xi. 14. [292] I.e. the followers of the orthodox Bishop Meletius, who, as they had no church in Antioch, were compelled to meet for worship outside the city. [293] These appear to have been semi-Arians or Macedonians. Silvanus of Tarsus was their recognized leader.

Letter XVI. To Pope Damasus.

This letter, written a few months after the preceding, is another appeal to Damasus to solve the writer's doubts. Jerome once more refers to his baptism at Rome, and declares that his one answer to the factions at Antioch is, "He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me." Written from the desert in the year 377 or 378.

1. By her importunity the widow in the gospel at last gained a hearing, [294] and by the same means one friend induced another to give him bread at midnight, when his door was shut and his servants were in bed. [295] The publican's prayers overcame God, [296] although God is invincible. Nineveh was saved by its tears from the impending ruin caused by its sin. [297] To what end, you ask, these far-fetched references? To this end, I make answer; that you in your greatness should look upon me in my littleness; that you, the rich shepherd, should not despise me, the ailing sheep. Christ Himself brought the robber from the cross to paradise, [298] and, to show that repentance is never too late, He turned a murderer's death into a martyrdom. Gladly does Christ embrace the prodigal son when he returns to Him; [299] and, leaving the ninety and nine, the good shepherd carries home on His shoulders the one poor sheep that is left. [300] From a persecutor Paul becomes a preacher. His bodily eyes are blinded to clear the eyes of his soul, [301] and he who once haled Christ's servants in chains before the council of the Jews, [302] lives afterwards to glory in the bonds of Christ. [303]

2. As I have already written to you, [304] I, who have received Christ's garb in Rome, am now detained in the waste that borders Syria. No sentence of banishment, however, has been passed upon me; the punishment which I am undergoing is self-inflicted. But, as the heathen poet says:

They change not mind but sky who cross the sea. [305]

The untiring foe follows me closely, and the assaults that I suffer in the desert are severer than ever. For the Arian frenzy raves, and the powers of the world support it. The church is rent into three factions, and each of these is eager to seize me for its own. The influence of the monks is of long standing, and it is directed against me. I meantime keep crying: "He who clings to the chair of Peter is accepted by me." Meletius, Vitalis, and Paulinus [306] all profess to cleave to you, and I could believe the assertion if it were made by one of them only. As it is, either two of them or else all three are guilty of falsehood. Therefore I implore your blessedness, by our Lord's cross and passion, those necessary glories of our faith, as you hold an apostolic office, to give an apostolic decision. Only tell me by letter with whom I am to communicate in Syria, and I will pray for you that you may sit in judgment enthroned with the twelve; [307] that when you grow old, like Peter, you may be girded not by yourself but by another, [308] and that, like Paul, you may be made a citizen of the heavenly kingdom. [309] Do not despise a soul for which Christ died.


Footnotes

[294] Matt. xv. 28. [295] Luke xi. 7, 8. [296] Luke xviii. 10-14. [297] Jon. iii. 5, 10. [298] Luke xxiii. 43. [299] Luke xv. 20. [300] Luke xv. 5. [301] Acts ix. 8. [302] Acts viii. 3. [303] 2 Cor. xii. 10. [304] See Letter XV. [305] Hor. Epist. i. 11, 27. [306] The three rival claimants of the see of Antioch. Paulinus and Meletius were both orthodox, but Meletius derived his orders from the Arians and was consequently not recognized in the West. In the East, however, he was so highly esteemed that some years after this he was chosen to preside over the Council of Constantinople (a.d. 391). Vitalis, the remaining claimant, was a follower of Apollinaris, but much respected by the orthodox on account of his high character. [307] Matt. xix. 28. [308] Joh. xxi. 18. [309] Phi. iii. 20, R.V.

Letter XVII. To the Presbyter Marcus.

In this letter, addressed to one who seems to have had some pre-eminence among the monks of the Chalcidian desert, Jerome complains of the hard treatment meted out to him because of his refusal to take any part in the great theological dispute then raging in Syria. He protests his own orthodoxy, and begs permission to remain where he is until the return of spring, when he will retire from "the inhospitable desert." Written in a.d. 378 or 379.

1. I had made up my mind to use the words of the psalmist: "While the wicked was before me I was dumb with silence; I was humbled, and I held my peace even from good" [310] and "I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth. Thus I was as a man that heareth not." [311] But charity overcomes all things, [312] and my regard for you defeats my determination. I am, indeed, less careful to retaliate upon my assailants than to comply with your request. For among Christians, as one has said, [313] not he who endures an outrage is unhappy, but he who commits it.

2. And first, before I speak to you of my belief (which you know full well), I am forced to cry out against the inhumanity of this country. A hackneyed quotation best expresses my meaning:

What savages are these who will not grant

A rest to strangers, even on their sands!

They threaten war and drive us from their coasts. [314]

I take this from a Gentile poet that one who disregards the peace of Christ may at least learn its meaning from a heathen. I am called a heretic, although I preach the consubstantial trinity. I am accused of the Sabellian impiety although I proclaim with unwearied voice that in the Godhead there are three distinct, [315] real, whole, and perfect persons. The Arians do right to accuse me, but the orthodox forfeit their orthodoxy when they assail a faith like mine. They may, if they like, condemn me as a heretic; but if they do they must also condemn Egypt and the West, Damasus and Peter. [316] Why do they fasten the guilt on one and leave his companions uncensured? If there is but little water in the stream, it is the fault, not of the channel, but of the source. I blush to say it, but from the caves which serve us for cells we monks of the desert condemn the world. Rolling in sack-cloth and ashes, [317] we pass sentence on bishops. What use is the robe of a penitent if it covers the pride of a king? Chains, squalor, and long hair are by right tokens of sorrow, and not ensigns of royalty. I merely ask leave to remain silent. Why do they torment a man who does not deserve their ill-will? I am a heretic, you say. What is it to you if I am? Stay quiet, and all is said. You are afraid, I suppose, that, with my fluent knowledge of Syriac and Greek, I shall make a tour of the churches, lead the people into error, and form a schism! I have robbed no man of anything; neither have I taken what I have not earned. With my own hand [318] daily and in the sweat of my brow [319] I labor for my food, knowing that it is written by the apostle: "If any will not work, neither shall he eat." [320]

3. Reverend and holy father, Jesus is my witness with what groans and tears I have written all this. "I have kept silence, saith the Lord, but shall I always keep silence? Surely not." [321] I cannot have so much as a corner of the desert. Every day I am asked for my confession of faith; as though when I was regenerated in baptism I had made none. I accept their formulas, but they are still dissatisfied. I sign my name to them, but they still refuse to believe me. One thing only will content them, that I should leave the country. I am on the point of departure. They have already torn away from me my dear brothers, who are a part of my very life. They are, as you see, anxious to depart--nay, they are actually departing; it is preferable, they say, to live among wild beasts rather than with Christians such as these. I myself, too, would be at this moment a fugitive were I not withheld by physical infirmity and by the severity of the winter. I ask to be allowed the shelter of the desert for a few months till spring returns; or if this seems too long a delay, I am ready to depart now. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof." [322] Let them climb up to heaven alone; [323] for them alone Christ died; they possess all things and glory in all. Be it so. "But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world." [324]

4. As regards the questions which you have thought fit to put to me concerning the faith, I have given to the reverend Cyril [325] a written confession which sufficiently answers them. He who does not so believe has no part in Christ. My faith is attested both by your ears and by those of your blessed brother, Zenobius, to whom, as well as to yourself, we all of us here send our best greeting.


Footnotes

[310] Ps. xxxix. 1, 2, Vulg. [311] Ps. xxxviii. 13, 14. [312] Cf. 1 Cor. xiii. 7. [313] Cyprian, Letter LV. Cf. Cic. T. Q. v. accipere quam facere præstat injuriam. [314] Virg. A. i. 539-541. [315] Subsistenets. [316] The contemporary bishops of Rome and Alexandria. [317] Tert. Apol. 40, s. f. [318] 1 Cor. iv. 12. [319] Gen. iii. 19. [320] 2 Thess. iii. 10. [321] Isa. xlii. 14, LXX. [322] Ps. xxiv. 1. [323] Was Jerome thinking of Constantine's rebuke to the Novatian bishop at Nicæa, "Plant a ladder for thyself, Acesius, and mount alone to heaven"? [324] Gal. vi. 14. [325] Who this was is unknown. The extant document purporting to contain this confession is not genuine.

Letter XVIII. To Pope Damasus.

This (written from Constantinople in a.d. 381) is the earliest of Jerome's expository letters. In it he explains at length the vision recorded in the sixth chapter of Isaiah, and enlarges upon its mystical meaning. "Some of my predecessors," he writes, "make `the Lord sitting upon a throne' God the Father, and suppose the seraphim to represent the Son and the Holy Spirit. I do not agree with them, for John expressly tells us [326] that it was Christ and not the Father whom the prophet saw." And again, "The word seraphim means either `glow' or `beginning of speech,' and the two seraphim thus stand for the Old and New Testaments. [327] `Did not our heart burn within us,' said the disciples, `while he opened to us the Scriptures?' [328] Moreover, the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, and this unquestionably was man's original language." Jerome then speaks of the unity of the sacred books. "Whatever," he asserts, "we read in the Old Testament we find also in the Gospel; and what we read in the Gospel is deduced from the Old Testament. [329] There is no discord between them, no disagreement. In both Testaments the Trinity is preached."

The letter is noticeable for the evidence it affords of the thoroughness of Jerome's studies. Not only does he cite the several Greek versions of Isaiah in support of his argument, but he also reverts to the Hebrew original. So far as the West was concerned he may be said to have discovered this anew. Even educated men like Augustine had ceased to look beyond the LXX., and were more or less aghast at the boldness with which Jerome rejected its time-honored but inaccurate renderings. [330]

The letter also shows that independence of judgment which always marked Jerome's work. At the time when he wrote it he was much under the sway of Origen. But great as was his admiration for the master, he was not afraid to discard his exegesis when, as in the case of the seraphim, he believed it to be erroneous.


Footnotes

[326] John xii. 41. [327] Jerome greatly prides himself on this explanation, and frequently reverts to it. [328] Luke xxiv. 32. [329] Cf. Augustine's dictum: "The New Testament is latent in the Old; the Old Testament is patent in the New." [330] See Augustine's letters to Jerome, passim.

Letter XIX. From Pope Damasus.

A letter from Damasus to Jerome, in which he asks for an explanation of the word "Hosanna" (a.d. 383).

Letter XX. To Pope Damasus.

Jerome's reply to the foregoing. Exposing the error of Hilary of Poitiers, who supposed the expression to signify "redemption of the house of David," he goes on to show that in the gospels it is a quotation from Psa. cxviii. 25 and that its true meaning is "save now" (so A.V.). "Let us," he writes, "leave the streamlets of conjecture and return to the fountain-head. It is from the Hebrew writings that the truth is to be drawn." Written at Rome a.d. 383.

Letter XXI. To Damasus

In this letter Jerome, at the request of Damasus, gives a minutely detailed explanation of the parable of the prodigal son.

Letter XXII. To Eustochium.

Perhaps the most famous of all the letters. In it Jerome lays down at great length (1) the motives which ought to actuate those who devote themselves to a life of virginity, and (2) the rules by which they ought to regulate their daily conduct. The letter contains a vivid picture of Roman society as it then was--the luxury, profligacy, and hypocrisy prevalent among both men and women, besides some graphic autobiographical details (§§7, 30), and concludes with a full account of the three kinds of monasticism then practised in Egypt (§§34-36). Thirty years later Jerome wrote a similar letter to Demetrias (CXXX.), with which this ought to be compared. Written at Rome 384 a.d.

1. "Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father's house, and the king shall desire thy beauty." [331] In this forty-fourth [332] psalm God speaks to the human soul that, following the example of Abraham, [333] it should go out from its own land and from its kindred, and should leave the Chaldeans, that is the demons, and should dwell in the country of the living, for which elsewhere the prophet sighs: "I think to see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living." [334] But it is not enough for you to go out from your own land unless you forget your people and your father's house; unless you scorn the flesh and cling to the bridegroom in a close embrace. "Look not behind thee," he says, "neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed." [335] He who has grasped the plough must not look behind him [336] or return home from the field, or having Christ's garment, descend from the roof to fetch other raiment. [337] Truly a marvellous thing, a father charges his daughter not to remember her father. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do." [338] So it was said to the Jews. And in another place, "He that committeth sin is of the devil." [339] Born, in the first instance, of such parentage we are naturally black, and even when we have repented, so long as we have not scaled the heights of virtue, we may still say: "I am black but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem." [340] But you will say to me, "I have left the home of my childhood; I have forgotten my father, I am born anew in Christ. What reward do I receive for this?" The context shows--"The king shall desire thy beauty." This, then, is the great mystery. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be" not as is there said, "of one flesh," [341] but "of one spirit." Your bridegroom is not haughty or disdainful; He has "married an Ethiopian woman." [342] When once you desire the wisdom of the true Solomon and come to Him, He will avow all His knowledge to you; He will lead you into His chamber with His royal hand; [343] He will miraculously change your complexion so that it shall be said of you, "Who is this that goeth up and hath been made white?" [344]

2. I write to you thus, Lady Eustochium (I am bound to call my Lord's bride "lady"), to show you by my opening words that my object is not to praise the virginity which you follow, and of which you have proved the value, or yet to recount the drawbacks of marriage, such as pregnancy, the crying of infants, the torture caused by a rival, the cares of household management, and all those fancied blessings which death at last cuts short. Not that married women are as such outside the pale; they have their own place, the marriage that is honorable and the bed undefiled. [345] My purpose is to show you that you are fleeing from Sodom and should take warning by Lot's wife. [346] There is no flattery, I can tell you, in these pages. A flatterer's words are fair, but for all that he is an enemy. You need expect no rhetorical flourishes setting you among the angels, and while they extol virginity as blessed, putting the world at your feet.

3. I would have you draw from your monastic vow not pride but fear. [347] You walk laden with gold; you must keep out of the robber's way. To us men this life is a race-course: we contend here, we are crowned elsewhere. No man can lay aside fear while serpents and scorpions beset his path. The Lord says: "My sword hath drunk its fill in heaven," [348] and do you expect to find peace on the earth? No, the earth yields only thorns and thistles, and its dust is food for the serpent. [349] "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." [350] We are hemmed in by hosts of foes, our enemies are upon every side. The weak flesh will soon be ashes: one against many, it fights against tremendous odds. Not till it has been dissolved, not till the Prince of this world has come and found no sin therein, [351] not till then may you safely listen to the prophet's words: "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the trouble which haunteth thee in darkness; nor for the demon and his attacks at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." [352] When the hosts of the enemy distress you, when your frame is fevered and your passions roused, when you say in your heart, "What shall I do?" Elisha's words shall give you your answer, "Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." [353] He shall pray, "Lord, open the eyes of thine handmaid that she may see." And then when your eyes have been opened you shall see a fiery chariot like Elijah's waiting to carry you to heaven, [354] and shall joyfully sing: "Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken and we are escaped." [355]

4. So long as we are held down by this frail body, so long as we have our treasure in earthen vessels; [356] so long as the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, [357] there can be no sure victory. "Our adversary the devil goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." [358] "Thou makest darkness," David says, "and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey and seek their meat from God." [359] The devil looks not for unbelievers, for those who are without, whose flesh the Assyrian king roasted in the furnace. [360] It is the church of Christ that he "makes haste to spoil." [361] According to Habakkuk, "His food is of the choicest." [362] A Job is the victim of his machinations, and after devouring Judas he seeks power to sift the [other] apostles. [363] The Saviour came not to send peace upon the earth but a sword. [364] Lucifer fell, Lucifer who used to rise at dawn; [365] and he who was bred up in a paradise of delight had the well-earned sentence passed upon him, "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord." [366] For he had said in his heart, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God," and "I will be like the Most High." [367] Wherefore God says every day to the angels, as they descend the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream, [368] "I have said ye are Gods and all of you are children of the Most High. But ye shall die like men and fall like one of the princes." [369] The devil fell first, and since "God standeth in the congregation of the Gods and judgeth among the Gods," [370] the apostle writes to those who are ceasing to be Gods--"Whereas there is among you envying and strife, are ye not carnal and walk as men?" [371]

5. If, then, the apostle, who was a chosen vessel [372] separated unto the gospel of Christ, [373] by reason of the pricks of the flesh and the allurements of vice keeps under his body and brings it into subjection, lest when he has preached to others he may himself be a castaway; [374] and yet, for all that, sees another law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin; [375] if after nakedness, fasting, hunger, imprisonment, scourging and other torments, he turns back to himself and cries "Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" [376] do you fancy that you ought to lay aside apprehension? See to it that God say not some day of you: "The virgin of Israel is fallen and there is none to raise her up." [377] I will say it boldly, though God can do all things He cannot raise up a virgin when once she has fallen. He may indeed relieve one who is defiled from the penalty of her sin, but He will not give her a crown. Let us fear lest in us also the prophecy be fulfilled, "Good virgins shall faint." [378] Notice that it is good virgins who are spoken of, for there are bad ones as well. "Whosoever looketh on a woman," the Lord says, "to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." [379] So that virginity may be lost even by a thought. Such are evil virgins, virgins in the flesh, not in the spirit; foolish virgins, who, having no oil, are shut out by the Bridegroom. [380]

6. But if even real virgins, when they have other failings, are not saved by their physical virginity, what shall become of those who have prostituted the members of Christ, and have changed the temple of the Holy Ghost into a brothel? Straightway shall they hear the words: "Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground; there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldæans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate. Take the millstone and grind meal; uncover thy locks, make bare the legs, pass over the rivers; thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen." [381] And shall she come to this after the bridal-chamber of God the Son, after the kisses of Him who is to her both kinsman and spouse? [382] Yes, she of whom the prophetic utterance once sang, "Upon thy right hand did stand the queen in a vesture of gold wrought about with divers colours," [383] shall be made naked, and her skirts shall be discovered upon her face. [384] She shall sit by the waters of loneliness, her pitcher laid aside; and shall open her feet to every one that passeth by, and shall be polluted to the crown of her head. [385] Better had it been for her to have submitted to the yoke of marriage, to have walked in level places, than thus, aspiring to loftier heights, to fall into the deep of hell. I pray you, let not Zion the faithful city become a harlot: [386] let it not be that where the Trinity has been entertained, there demons shall dance and owls make their nests, and jackals build. [387] Let us not loose the belt that binds the breast. When lust tickles the sense and the soft fire of sensual pleasure sheds over us its pleasing glow, let us immediately break forth and cry: "The Lord is on my side: I will not fear what the flesh can do unto me." [388] When the inner man shows signs for a time of wavering between vice and virtue, say: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God." [389] You must never let suggestions of evil grow on you, or a babel of disorder win strength in your breast. Slay the enemy while he is small; and, that you may not have a crop of tares, nip the evil in the bud. Bear in mind the warning words of the Psalmist: "Hapless daughter of Babylon, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones." [390] Because natural heat inevitably kindles in a man sensual passion, he is praised and accounted happy who, when foul suggestions arise in his mind, gives them no quarter, but dashes them instantly against the rock. "Now the Rock is Christ." [391]

7. How often, when I was living in the desert, in the vast solitude which gives to hermits a savage dwelling-place, parched by a burning sun, how often did I fancy myself among the pleasures of Rome! I used to sit alone because I was filled with bitterness. Sackcloth disfigured my unshapely limbs and my skin from long neglect had become as black as an Ethiopian's. Tears and groans were every day my portion; and if drowsiness chanced to overcome my struggles against it, my bare bones, which hardly held together, clashed against the ground. Of my food and drink I say nothing: for, even in sickness, the solitaries have nothing but cold water, and to eat one's food cooked is looked upon as self-indulgence. Now, although in my fear of hell I had consigned myself to this prison, where I had no companions but scorpions and wild beasts, I often found myself amid bevies of girls. My face was pale and my frame chilled with fasting; yet my mind was burning with desire, and the fires of lust kept bubbling up before me when my flesh was as good as dead. Helpless, I cast myself at the feet of Jesus, I watered them with my tears, I wiped them with my hair: and then I subdued my rebellious body with weeks of abstinence. I do not blush to avow my abject misery; rather I lament that I am not now what once I was. I remember how I often cried aloud all night till the break of day and ceased not from beating my breast till tranquillity returned at the chiding of the Lord. I used to dread my very cell as though it knew my thoughts; and, stern and angry with myself, I used to make my way alone into the desert. Wherever I saw hollow valleys, craggy mountains, steep cliffs, there I made my oratory, there the house of correction for my unhappy flesh. There, also--the Lord Himself is my witness--when I had shed copious tears and had strained my eyes towards heaven, I sometimes felt myself among angelic hosts, and for joy and gladness sang: "because of the savour of thy good ointments we will run after thee." [392]

8. Now, if such are the temptations of men who, since their bodies are emaciated with fasting, have only evil thoughts to fear, how must it fare with a girl whose surroundings are those of luxury and ease? Surely, to use the apostle's words, "She is dead while she liveth." [393] Therefore, if experience gives me a right to advise, or clothes my words with credit, I would begin by urging you and warning you as Christ's spouse to avoid wine as you would avoid poison. For wine is the first weapon used by demons against the young. Greed does not shake, nor pride puff up, nor ambition infatuate so much as this. Other vices we easily escape, but this enemy is shut up within us, and wherever we go we carry him with us. Wine and youth between them kindle the fire of sensual pleasure. Why do we throw oil on the flame--why do we add fresh fuel to a miserable body which is already ablaze. Paul, it is true, says to Timothy "drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and for thine often infirmities." [394] But notice the reasons for which the permission is given, to cure an aching stomach and a frequent infirmity. And lest we should indulge ourselves too much on the score of our ailments, he commands that but little shall be taken; advising rather as a physician than as an apostle (though, indeed, an apostle is a spiritual physician). He evidently feared that Timothy might succumb to weakness, and might prove unequal to the constant moving to and fro involved in preaching the Gospel. Besides, he remembered that he had spoken of "wine wherein is excess," [395] and had said, "it is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine." [396] Noah drank wine and became intoxicated; but living as he did in the rude age after the flood, when the vine was first planted, perhaps he did not know its power of inebriation. And to let you see the hidden meaning of Scripture in all its fulness (for the word of God is a pearl and may be pierced on every side) after his drunkenness came the uncovering of his body; self-indulgence culminated in lust. [397] First the belly is crammed; then the other members are roused. Similarly, at a later period, "The people sat down to eat and to drink and rose up to play." [398] Lot also, God's friend, whom He saved upon the mountain, who was the only one found righteous out of so many thousands, was intoxicated by his daughters. And, although they may have acted as they did more from a desire of offspring than from love of sinful pleasure--for the human race seemed in danger of extinction--yet they were well aware that the righteous man would not abet their design unless intoxicated. In fact he did not know what he was doing, and his sin was not wilful. Still his error was a grave one, for it made him the father of Moab and Ammon, [399] Israel's enemies, of whom it is said: "Even to the fourteenth generation they shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord forever." [400]

9. When Elijah, in his flight from Jezebel, lay weary and desolate beneath the oak, there came an angel who raised him up and said, "Arise and eat." And he looked, and behold there was a cake and a cruse of water at his head. [401] Had God willed it, might He not have sent His prophet spiced wines and dainty dishes and flesh basted into tenderness? When Elisha invited the sons of the prophets to dinner, he only gave them field-herbs to eat; and when all cried out with one voice: "There is death in the pot," the man of God did not storm at the cooks (for he was not used to very sumptuous fare), but caused meal to be brought, and casting it in, sweetened the bitter mess [402] with spiritual strength as Moses had once sweetened the waters of Mara. [403] Again, when men were sent to arrest the prophet, and were smitten with physical and mental blindness, that he might bring them without their own knowledge to Samaria, notice the food with which Elisha ordered them to be refreshed. "Set bread and water," he said, "before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." [404] And Daniel, who might have had rich food from the king's table, [405] preferred the mower's breakfast, brought to him by Habakkuk, [406] which must have been but country fare. He was called "a man of desires," [407] because he would not eat the bread of desire or drink the wine of concupiscence.

10. There are, in the Scriptures, countless divine answers condemning gluttony and approving simple food. But as fasting is not my present theme and an adequate discussion of it would require a treatise to itself, these few observations must suffice of the many which the subject suggests. By them you will understand why the first man, obeying his belly and not God, was cast down from paradise into this vale of tears; [408] and why Satan used hunger to tempt the Lord Himself in the wilderness; [409] and why the apostle cries: "Meats for the belly and the belly for meats, but God shall destroy both it and them;" [410] and why he speaks of the self-indulgent as men "whose God is their belly." [411] For men invariably worship what they like best. Care must be taken, therefore, that abstinence may bring back to Paradise those whom satiety once drove out.

11. You will tell me, perhaps, that, high-born as you are, reared in luxury and used to lie softly, you cannot do without wine and dainties, and would find a stricter rule of life unendurable. If so, I can only say: "Live, then, by your own rule, since God's rule is too hard for you." Not that the Creator and Lord of all takes pleasure in a rumbling and empty stomach, or in fevered lungs; but that these are indispensable as means to the preservation of chastity. Job was dear to God, perfect and upright before Him; [412] yet hear what he says of the devil: "His strength is in the loins, and his force is in the navel." [413]

The terms are chosen for decency's sake, but the reproductive organs of the two sexes are meant. Thus, the descendant of David, who, according to the promise is to sit upon his throne, is said to come from his loins. [414] And the seventy-five souls descended from Jacob who entered Egypt are said to come out of his thigh. [415] So, also, when his thigh shrank after the Lord had wrestled with him, [416] he ceased to beget children. The Israelites, again, are told to celebrate the passover with loins girded and mortified. [417] God says to Job: "Gird up thy loins as a man." [418] John wears a leathern girdle. [419] The apostles must gird their loins to carry the lamps of the Gospel. [420] When Ezekiel tells us how Jerusalem is found in the plain of wandering, covered with blood, he uses the words: "Thy navel has not been cut." [421] In his assaults on men, therefore, the devil's strength is in the loins; in his attacks on women his force is in the navel.

12. Do you wish for proof of my assertions? Take examples. Sampson was braver than a lion and tougher than a rock; alone and unprotected he pursued a thousand armed men; and yet, in Delilah's embrace, his resolution melted away. David was a man after God's own heart, and his lips had often sung of the Holy One, the future Christ; and yet as he walked upon his housetop he was fascinated by Bathsheba's nudity, and added murder to adultery. [422] Notice here how, even in his own house, a man cannot use his eyes without danger. Then repenting, he says to the Lord: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight." [423] Being a king he feared no one else. So, too, with Solomon. Wisdom used him to sing her praise, [424] and he treated of all plants "from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall;" [425] and yet he went back from God because he was a lover of women. [426] And, as if to show that near relationship is no safeguard, Amnon burned with illicit passion for his sister Tamar. [427]

13. I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the church, their mother: stars over which the proud foe sets up his throne, [428] and rocks hollowed by the serpent that he may dwell in their fissures. You may see many women widows before wedded, who try to conceal their miserable fall by a lying garb. Unless they are betrayed by swelling wombs or by the crying of their infants, they walk abroad with tripping feet and heads in the air. Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder. Yet it is these who say: "`Unto the pure all things are pure;' [429] my conscience is sufficient guide for me. A pure heart is what God looks for. Why should I abstain from meats which God has created to be received with thanksgiving?" [430] And when they wish to appear agreeable and entertaining they first drench themselves with wine, and then joining the grossest profanity to intoxication, they say "Far be it from me to abstain from the blood of Christ." And when they see another pale or sad they call her "wretch" or "manichæan;" [431] quite logically, indeed, for on their principles fasting involves heresy. When they go out they do their best to attract notice, and with nods and winks encourage troops of young fellows to follow them. Of each and all of these the prophet's words are true: "Thou hast a whore's forehead; thou refusest to be ashamed." [432] Their robes have but a narrow purple stripe, [433] it is true; and their head-dress is somewhat loose, so as to leave the hair free. From their shoulders flutters the lilac mantle which they call "ma-forte;" they have their feet in cheap slippers and their arms tucked up tight-fitting sleeves. Add to these marks of their profession an easy gait, and you have all the virginity that they possess. Such may have eulogizers of their own, and may fetch a higher price in the market of perdition, merely because they are called virgins. But to such virgins as these I prefer to be displeasing.

14. I blush to speak of it, it is so shocking; yet though sad, it is true. How comes this plague of the agapetæ [434] to be in the church? Whence come these unwedded wives, these novel concubines, these harlots, so I will call them, though they cling to a single partner? One house holds them and one chamber. They often occupy the same bed, and yet they call us suspicious if we fancy anything amiss. A brother leaves his virgin sister; a virgin, slighting her unmarried brother, seeks a brother in a stranger. Both alike profess to have but one object, to find spiritual consolation from those not of their kin; but their real aim is to indulge in sexual intercourse. It is on such that Solomon in the book of proverbs heaps his scorn. "Can a man take fire in his bosom," he says, "and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals and his feet not be burned?" [435]

15. We cast out, then, and banish from our sight those who only wish to seem and not to be virgins. Henceforward I may bring all my speech to bear upon you who, as it is your lot to be the first virgin of noble birth in Rome, have to labor the more diligently not to lose good things to come, as well as those that are present. You have at least learned from a case in your own family the troubles of wedded life and the uncertainties of marriage. Your sister, Blæsilla, before you in age but behind you in declining the vow of virginity, has become a widow but seven months after she has taken a husband. Hapless plight of us mortals who know not what is before us! She has lost, at once, the crown of virginity and the pleasures of wedlock. And, although, as a widow, the second degree of chastity is hers, still can you not imagine the continual crosses which she has to bear, daily seeing in her sister what she has lost herself; and, while she finds it hard to go without the pleasures of wedlock, having a less reward for her present continence? Still she, too, may take heart and rejoice. The fruit which is an hundredfold and that which is sixtyfold both spring from one seed, and that seed is chastity. [436]

16. Do not court the company of married ladies or visit the houses of the high-born. Do not look too often on the life which you despised to become a virgin. Women of the world, you know, plume themselves because their husbands are on the bench or in other high positions. And the wife of the emperor always has an eager throng of visitors at her door. Why do you, then, wrong your husband? Why do you, God's bride, hasten to visit the wife of a mere man? Learn in this respect a holy pride; know that you are better than they. And not only must you avoid intercourse with those who are puffed up by their husbands' honors, who are hedged in with troops of eunuchs, and who wear robes inwrought with threads of gold. You must also shun those who are widows from necessity and not from choice. Not that they ought to have desired the death of their husbands; but that they have not welcomed the opportunity of continence when it has come. As it is, they only change their garb; their old self-seeking remains unchanged. To see them in their capacious litters, with red cloaks and plump bodies, a row of eunuchs walking in front of them, you would fancy them not to have lost husbands but to be seeking them. Their houses are filled with flatterers and with guests. The very clergy, who ought to inspire them with respect by their teaching and authority, kiss these ladies on the forehead, and putting forth their hands (so that, if you knew no better, you might suppose them in the act of blessing), take wages for their visits. They, meanwhile, seeing that priests cannot do without them, are lifted up into pride; and as, having had experience of both, they prefer the license of widowhood to the restraints of marriage, they call themselves chaste livers and nuns. After an immoderate supper they retire to rest to dream of the apostles. [437]

17. Let your companions be women pale and thin with fasting, and approved by their years and conduct; such as daily sing in their hearts: "Tell me where thou feedest thy flock, where thou makest it to rest at noon," [438] and say, with true earnestness, "I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ." [439] Be subject to your parents, imitating the example of your spouse. [440] Rarely go abroad, and if you wish to seek the aid of the martyrs seek it in your own chamber. For you will never need a pretext for going out if you always go out when there is need. Take food in moderation, and never overload your stomach. For many women, while temperate as regards wine, are intemperate in the use of food. When you rise at night to pray, let your breath be that of an empty and not that of an overfull stomach. Read often, learn all that you can. Let sleep overcome you, the roll still in your hands; when your head falls, let it be on the sacred page. Let your fasts be of daily occurrence and your refreshment such as avoids satiety. It is idle to carry an empty stomach if, in two or three days' time, the fast is to be made up for by repletion. When cloyed the mind immediately grows sluggish, and when the ground is watered it puts forth the thorns of lust. If ever you feel the outward man sighing for the flower of youth, and if, as you lie on your couch after a meal, you are excited by the alluring train of sensual desires; then seize the shield of faith, for it alone can quench the fiery darts of the devil. [441] "They are all adulterers," says the prophet; "they have made ready their heart like an oven." [442] But do you keep close to the footsteps of Christ, and, intent upon His words, say: "Did not our heart burn within us by the way while Jesus opened to us the Scriptures?" [443] and again: "Thy word is tried to the uttermost, and thy servant loveth it." [444] It is hard for the human soul to avoid loving something, and our mind must of necessity give way to affection of one kind or another. The love of the flesh is overcome by the love of the spirit. Desire is quenched by desire. What is taken from the one increases the other. Therefore, as you lie on your couch, say again and again: "By night have I sought Him whom my soul loveth." [445] "Mortify, therefore," says the apostle, "your members which are upon the earth." [446] Because he himself did so, he could afterwards say with confidence: "I live, yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me." [447] He who mortifies his members, and feels that he is walking in a vain show, [448] is not afraid to say: "I am become like a bottle in the frost. [449] Whatever there was in me of the moisture of lust has been dried out of me." And again: "My knees are weak through fasting; I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin." [450]

18. Be like the grasshopper and make night musical. Nightly wash your bed and water your couch with your tears. [451] Watch and be like the sparrow alone upon the housetop. [452] Sing with the spirit, but sing with the understanding also. [453] And let your song be that of the psalmist: "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and forget not all his benefits; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction." [454] Can we, any of us, honestly make his words our own: "I have eaten ashes like bread and mingled my drink with weeping?" [455] Yet, should we not weep and groan when the serpent invites us, as he invited our first parents, to eat forbidden fruit, and when after expelling us from the paradise of virginity he desires to clothe us with mantles of skins such as that which Elijah, on his return to paradise, left behind him on earth? [456] Say to yourself: "What have I to do with the pleasures of sense that so soon come to an end? What have I to do with the song of the sirens so sweet and so fatal to those who hear it?" I would not have you subject to that sentence whereby condemnation has been passed upon mankind. When God says to Eve, "In pain and in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children," say to yourself, "That is a law for a married woman, not for me." And when He continues, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband," [457] say again: "Let her desire be to her husband who has not Christ for her spouse." And when, last of all, He says, "Thou shalt surely die," [458] once more, say, "Marriage indeed must end in death; but the life on which I have resolved is independent of sex. Let those who are wives keep the place and the time that properly belong to them. For me, virginity is consecrated in the persons of Mary and of Christ."

19. Some one may say, "Do you dare detract from wedlock, which is a state blessed by God?" I do not detract from wedlock when I set virginity before it. No one compares a bad thing with a good. Wedded women may congratulate themselves that they come next to virgins. "Be fruitful," God says, "and multiply, and replenish the earth." [459] He who desires to replenish the earth may increase and multiply if he will. But the train to which you belong is not on earth, but in heaven. The command to increase and multiply first finds fulfilment after the expulsion from paradise, after the nakedness and the fig-leaves which speak of sexual passion. Let them marry and be given in marriage who eat their bread in the sweat of their brow; whose land brings forth to them thorns and thistles, [460] and whose crops are choked with briars. My seed produces fruit a hundredfold. [461] "All men cannot receive God's saying, but they to whom it is given."

Some people may be eunuchs from necessity; I am one of free will. [462] "There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. There is a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together." [463] Now that out of the hard stones of the Gentiles God has raised up children unto Abraham, [464] they begin to be "holy stones rolling upon the earth." [465] They pass through the whirlwinds of the world, and roll on in God's chariot on rapid wheels. Let those stitch coats to themselves who have lost the coat woven from the top throughout; [466] who delight in the cries of infants which, as soon as they see the light, lament that they are born. In paradise Eve was a virgin, and it was only after the coats of skins that she began her married life. Now paradise is your home too. Keep therefore your birthright and say: "Return unto thy rest, O my soul." [467] To show that virginity is natural while wedlock only follows guilt, what is born of wedlock is virgin flesh, and it gives back in fruit what in root it has lost. "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a flower shall grow out of his roots." [468] The rod [469] is the mother of the Lord--simple, pure, unsullied; drawing no germ of life from without but fruitful in singleness like God Himself. The flower of the rod is Christ, who says of Himself: "I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys." [470] In another place He is foretold to be "a stone cut out of the mountain without hands," [471] a figure by which the prophet signifies that He is to be born a virgin of a virgin. For the hands are here a figure of wedlock as in the passage: "His left hand is under my head and his right hand doth embrace me." [472] It agrees, also, with this interpretation that the unclean animals are led into Noah's ark in pairs, while of the clean an uneven number is taken. [473] Similarly, when Moses and Joshua were bidden to remove their shoes because the ground on which they stood was holy, [474] the command had a mystical meaning. So, too, when the disciples were appointed to preach the gospel they were told to take with them neither shoe nor shoe-latchet; [475] and when the soldiers came to cast lots for the garments of Jesus [476] they found no boots that they could take away. For the Lord could not Himself possess what He had forbidden to His servants.

20. I praise wedlock, I praise marriage, but it is because they give me virgins. I gather the rose from the thorns, the gold from the earth, the pearl from the shell. "Doth the plowman plow all day to sow?" [477] Shall he not also enjoy the fruit of his labor? Wedlock is the more honored, the more what is born of it is loved. Why, mother, do you grudge your daughter her virginity? She has been reared on your milk, she has come from your womb, she has grown up in your bosom. Your watchful affection has kept her a virgin. Are you angry with her because she chooses to be a king's wife and not a soldier's? She has conferred on you a high privilege; you are now the mother-in-law of God. "Concerning virgins," says the apostle, "I have no commandment of the Lord." [478] Why was this? Because his own virginity was due, not to a command, but to his free choice. For they are not to be heard who feign him to have had a wife; for, when he is discussing continence and commending perpetual chastity, he uses the words, "I would that all men were even as I myself." And farther on, "I say, therefore, to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I." [479] And in another place, "have we not power to lead about wives even as the rest of the apostles?" [480] Why then has he no commandment from the Lord concerning virginity? Because what is freely offered is worth more than what is extorted by force, and to command virginity would have been to abrogate wedlock. It would have been a hard enactment to compel opposition to nature and to extort from men the angelic life; and not only so, it would have been to condemn what is a divine ordinance.

21. The old law had a different ideal of blessedness, for therein it is said: "Blessed is he who hath seed in Zion and a family in Jerusalem:" [481] and "Cursed is the barren who beareth not:" [482] and "Thy children shall be like olive-plants round about thy table." [483] Riches too are promised to the faithful and we are told that "there was not one feeble person among their tribes." [484] But now even to eunuchs it is said, "Say not, behold I am a dry tree," [485] for instead of sons and daughters you have a place forever in heaven. Now the poor are blessed, now Lazarus is set before Dives in his purple. [486] Now he who is weak is counted strong. But in those days the world was still unpeopled: accordingly, to pass over instances of childlessness meant only to serve as types, those only were considered happy who could boast of children. It was for this reason that Abraham in his old age married Keturah; [487] that Leah hired Jacob with her son's mandrakes, [488] and that fair Rachel--a type of the church--complained of the closing of her womb. [489] But gradually the crop grew up and then the reaper was sent forth with his sickle. Elijah lived a virgin life, so also did Elisha and many of the sons of the prophets. To Jeremiah the command came: "Thou shalt not take thee a wife." [490] He had been sanctified in his mother's womb, [491] and now he was forbidden to take a wife because the captivity was near. The apostle gives the same counsel in different words. "I think, therefore, that this is good by reason of the present distress, namely that it is good for a man to be as he is." [492] What is this distress which does away with the joys of wedlock? The apostle tells us, in a later verse: "The time is short: it remaineth that those who have wives be as though they had none." [493] Nebuchadnezzar is hard at hand. The lion is bestirring himself from his lair. What good will marriage be to me if it is to end in slavery to the haughtiest of kings? What good will little ones be to me if their lot is to be that which the prophet sadly describes: "The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his mouth for thirst; the young children ask for bread and no man breaketh it unto them"? [494] In those days, as I have said, the virtue of continence was found only in men: Eve still continued to travail with children. But now that a virgin has conceived [495] in the womb and has borne to us a child of which the prophet says that "Government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called the mighty God, the everlasting Father," [496] now the chain of the curse is broken. Death came through Eve, but life has come through Mary. And thus the gift of virginity has been bestowed most richly upon women, seeing that it has had its beginning from a woman. As soon as the Son of God set foot upon the earth, He formed for Himself a new household there; that, as He was adored by angels in heaven, angels might serve Him also on earth. Then chaste Judith once more cut off the head of Holofernes. [497] Then Haman--whose name means iniquity--was once more burned in fire of his own kindling. [498] Then James and John forsook father and net and ship and followed the Saviour: neither kinship nor the world's ties, nor the care of their home could hold them back. Then were the words heard: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." [499] For no soldier goes with a wife to battle. Even when a disciple would have buried his father, the Lord forbade him, and said: "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." [500] So you must not complain if you have but scanty house-room. In the same strain, the apostle writes: "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married careth for the things of the world how she may please her husband." [501]

22. How great inconveniences are involved in wedlock and how many anxieties encompass it I have, I think, described shortly in my treatise--published against Helvidius [502] --on the perpetual virginity of the blessed Mary. It would be tedious to go over the same ground now; and any one who pleases may draw from that fountain. But lest I should seem wholly to have passed over the matter, I will just say now that the apostle bids us pray without ceasing, [503] and that he who in the married state renders his wife her due [504] cannot so pray. Either we pray always and are virgins, or we cease to pray that we may fulfil the claims of marriage. Still he says: "If a virgin marry she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh." [505] At the outset I promised that I should say little or nothing of the embarrassments of wedlock, and now I give you notice to the same effect. If you want to know from how many vexations a virgin is free and by how many a wife is fettered you should read Tertullian "to a philosophic friend," [506] and his other treatises on virginity, the blessed Cyprian's noble volume, the writings of Pope Damasus [507] in prose and verse, and the treatises recently written for his sister by our own Ambrose. [508] In these he has poured forth his soul with such a flood of eloquence that he has sought out, set forth, and put in order all that bears on the praise of virgins.

23. We must proceed by a different path, for our purpose is not the praise of virginity but its preservation. To know that it is a good thing is not enough: when we have chosen it we must guard it with jealous care. The first only requires judgment, and we share it with many; the second calls for toil, and few compete with us in it. "He that shall endure unto the end," the Lord says, "the same shall be saved," [509] and "many are called but few are chosen." [510] Therefore I conjure you before God and Jesus Christ and His elect angels to guard that which you have received, not readily exposing to the public gaze the vessels of the Lord's temple (which only the priests are by right allowed to see), that no profane person may look upon God's sanctuary. Uzzah, when he touched the ark which it was not lawful to touch, was struck down suddenly by death. [511] And assuredly no gold or silver vessel was ever so dear to God as is the temple of a virgin's body. The shadow went before, but now the reality is come. You indeed may speak in all simplicity, and from motives of amiability may treat with courtesy the veriest strangers, but unchaste eyes see nothing aright. They fail to appreciate the beauty of the soul, and only value that of the body. Hezekiah showed God's treasure to the Assyrians, [512] who ought never to have seen what they were sure to covet. The consequence was that Judæa was torn by continual wars, and that the very first things carried away to Babylon were these vessels of the Lord. We find Belshazzar at his feast and among his concubines (vice always glories in defiling what is noble) drinking out of these sacred cups. [513]

24. Never incline your ear to words of mischief. For men often say an improper word to make trial of a virgin's steadfastness, to see if she hears it with pleasure, and if she is ready to unbend at every silly jest. Such persons applaud whatever you affirm and deny whatever you deny; they speak of you as not only holy but accomplished, and say that in you there is no guile. "Behold," say they, "a true hand-maid of Christ; behold entire singleness of heart. How different from that rough, unsightly, countrified fright, who most likely never married because she could never find a husband." Our natural weakness induces us readily to listen to such flatterers; but, though we may blush and reply that such praise is more than our due, the soul within us rejoices to hear itself praised.

Like the ark of the covenant Christ's spouse should be overlaid with gold within and without; [514] she should be the guardian of the law of the Lord. Just as the ark contained nothing but the tables of the covenant, [515] so in you there should be no thought of anything that is outside. For it pleases the Lord to sit in your mind as He once sat on the mercy-seat and the cherubims. [516] As He sent His disciples to loose Him the foal of an ass that he might ride on it, so He sends them to release you from the cares of the world, that leaving the bricks and straw of Egypt, you may follow Him, the true Moses, through the wilderness and may enter the land of promise. Let no one dare to forbid you, neither mother nor sister nor kinswoman nor brother: "The Lord hath need of you." [517] Should they seek to hinder you, let them fear the scourges that fell on Pharaoh, who, because he would not let God's people go that they might serve Him, [518] suffered the plagues described in Scripture. Jesus entering into the temple cast out those things which belonged not to the temple. For God is jealous and will not allow the father's house to be made a den of robbers. [519] Where money is counted, where doves are sold, where simplicity is stifled where, that is, a virgin's breast glows with cares of this world; straightway the veil of the temple is rent, [520] the bridegroom rises in anger, he says: "Your house is left unto you desolate." [521] Read the gospel and see how Mary sitting at the feet of the Lord is set before the zealous Martha. In her anxiety to be hospitable Martha was preparing a meal for the Lord and His disciples; yet Jesus said to her: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But few things are needful or one. [522] And Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." [523] Be then like Mary; prefer the food of the soul to that of the body. Leave it to your sisters to run to and fro and to seek how they may fitly welcome Christ. But do you, having once for all cast away the burden of the world, sit at the Lord's feet and say: "I have found him whom my soul loveth; I will hold him, I will not let him go." [524] And He will answer: "My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her." [525] Now the mother of whom this is said is the heavenly Jerusalem. [526]

25. Ever let the privacy of your chamber guard you; ever let the Bridegroom sport with you within. [527] Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you. When sleep overtakes you He will come behind and put His hand through the hole of the door, and your heart [528] shall be moved for Him; and you will awake and rise up and say: "I am sick of love." [529] Then He will reply: "A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed." [530]

Go not from home nor visit the daughters of a strange land, though you have patriarchs for brothers and Israel for a father. Dinah went out and was seduced. [531] Do not seek the Bridegroom in the streets; do not go round the corners of the city. For though you may say: "I will rise now and go about the city: in the streets and in the broad ways I will seek Him whom my soul loveth," and though you may ask the watchmen: "Saw ye Him whom my soul loveth?" [532] no one will deign to answer you. The Bridegroom cannot be found in the streets: "Strait and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life." [533] So the Song goes on: "I sought him but I could not find him: I called him but he gave me no answer." [534] And would that failure to find Him were all. You will be wounded and stripped, you will lament and say: "The watchmen that went about the city found me: they smote me, they wounded me, they took away my veil from me." [535] Now if one who could say: "I sleep but my heart waketh," [536] and "A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts"; [537] if one who could speak thus suffered so much because she went abroad, what shall become of us who are but young girls; of us who, when the bride goes in with the Bridegroom, still remain without? Jesus is jealous. He does not choose that your face should be seen of others. You may excuse yourself and say: "I have drawn close my veil, I have covered my face and I have sought Thee there and have said: `Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest Thy flock, where Thou makest it to rest at noon. For why should I be as one that is veiled beside the flocks of Thy companions?'" [538] Yet in spite of your excuses He will be wroth, He will swell with anger and say: "If thou know not thyself, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock and feed thy goats beside the shepherd's tents." [539] You may be fair, and of all faces yours may be the dearest to the Bridegroom; yet, unless you know yourself, and keep your heart with all diligence, [540] unless also you avoid the eyes of the young men, you will be turned out of My bride-chamber to feed the goats, which shall be set on the left hand. [541]

26. These things being so, my Eustochium, daughter, lady, fellow-servant, sister--these names refer the first to your age, the second to your rank, the third to your religious vocation, the last to the place which you hold in my affection--hear the words of Isaiah: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation" of the Lord "be overpast." [542] Let foolish virgins stray abroad, but for your part stay at home with the Bridegroom; for if you shut your door, and, according to the precept of the Gospel, [543] pray to your Father in secret, He will come and knock, saying: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man...open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." [544] Then straightway you will eagerly reply: "It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled." It is impossible that you should refuse, and say: "I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?" [545] Arise forthwith and open. Otherwise while you linger He may pass on and you may have mournfully to say: "I opened to my beloved, but my beloved was gone." [546] Why need the doors of your heart be closed to the Bridegroom? Let them be open to Christ but closed to the devil according to the saying: "If the spirit of him who hath power rise up against thee, leave not thy place." [547] Daniel, in that upper story to which he withdrew when he could no longer continue below, had his windows open toward Jerusalem. [548] Do you too keep your windows open, but only on the side where light may enter and whence you may see the eye of the Lord. Open not those other windows of which the prophet says: "Death is come up into our windows." [549]

27. You must also be careful to avoid the snare of a passion for vainglory. "How," Jesus says, "can ye believe which receive glory one from another?" [550] What an evil that must be the victim of which cannot believe! Let us rather say: "Thou art my glorying," [551] and "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord," [552] and "If I yet pleased men I should not be the servant of Christ," [553] and "Far be it from me to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world hath been crucified unto me and I unto the world;" [554] and once more: "In God we boast all the day long; my soul shall make her boast in the Lord." [555] When you do alms, let God alone see you. When you fast, be of a cheerful countenance. [556] Let your dress be neither too neat nor too slovenly; neither let it be so remarkable as to draw the attention of passers-by, and to make men point their fingers at you. Is a brother dead? Has the body of a sister to be carried to its burial? Take care lest in too often performing such offices you die yourself. Do not wish to seem very devout nor more humble than need be, lest you seek glory by shunning it. For many, who screen from all men's sight their poverty, charity, and fasting, desire to excite admiration by their very disdain of it, and strangely seek for praise while they profess to keep out of its way. From the other disturbing influences which make men rejoice, despond, hope, and fear I find many free; but this is a defect which few are without, and he is best whose character, like a fair skin, is disfigured by the fewest blemishes. I do not think it necessary to warn you against boasting of your riches, or against priding yourself on your birth, or against setting yourself up as superior to others. I know your humility; I know that you can say with sincerity: "Lord, my heart is not haughty nor mine eyes lofty;" [557] I know that in your breast as in that of your mother the pride through which the devil fell has no place. It would be time wasted to write to you about it; for there is no greater folly than to teach a pupil what he knows already. But now that you have despised the boastfulness of the world, do not let the fact inspire you with new boastfulness. Harbor not the secret thought that having ceased to court attention in garments of gold you may begin to do so in mean attire. And when you come into a room full of brothers and sisters, do not sit in too low a place or plead that you are unworthy of a footstool. Do not deliberately lower your voice as though worn out with fasting; nor, leaning on the shoulder of another, mimic the tottering gait of one who is faint. Some women, it is true, disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. [558] As soon as they catch sight of any one they groan, they look down; they cover up their faces, all but one eye, which they keep free to see with. Their dress is sombre, their girdles are of sackcloth, their hands and feet are dirty; only their stomachs--which cannot be seen--are hot with food. Of these the psalm is sung daily: "The Lord will scatter the bones of them that please themselves." [559] Others change their garb and assume the mien of men, being ashamed of being what they were born to be--women. They cut off their hair and are not ashamed to look like eunuchs. Some clothe themselves in goat's hair, and, putting on hoods, think to become children again by making themselves look like so many owls. [560]

28. But I will not speak only of women. Avoid men, also, when you see them loaded with chains and wearing their hair long like women, contrary to the apostle's precept, [561] not to speak of beards like those of goats, black cloaks, and bare feet braving the cold. All these things are tokens of the devil. Such an one Rome groaned over some time back in Antimus; and Sophronius is a still more recent instance. Such persons, when they have once gained admission to the houses of the high-born, and have deceived "silly women laden with sins, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth," [562] feign a sad mien and pretend to make long fasts while at night they feast in secret. Shame forbids me to say more, for my language might appear more like invective than admonition. There are others--I speak of those of my own order--who seek the presbyterate and the diaconate simply that they may be able to see women with less restraint. Such men think of nothing but their dress; they use perfumes freely, and see that there are no creases in their leather shoes. Their curling hair shows traces of the tongs; their fingers glisten with rings; they walk on tiptoe across a damp road, not to splash their feet. When you see men acting in this way, think of them rather as bridegrooms than as clergymen. Certain persons have devoted the whole of their energies and life to the single object of knowing the names, houses, and characters of married ladies. I will here briefly describe the head of the profession, that from the master's likeness you may recognize the disciples. He rises and goes forth with the sun; he has the order of his visits duly arranged; he takes the shortest road; and, troublesome old man that he is, forces his way almost into the bedchambers of ladies yet asleep. If he sees a pillow that takes his fancy or an elegant table-cover--or indeed any article of household furniture--he praises it, looks admiringly at it, takes it into his hand, and, complaining that he has nothing of the kind, begs or rather extorts it from the owner. All the women, in fact, fear to cross the news-carrier of the town. Chastity and fasting are alike distasteful to him. What he likes is a savory breakfast--say off a plump young crane such as is commonly called a cheeper. In speech he is rude and forward, and is always ready to bandy reproaches. Wherever you turn he is the first man that you see before you. Whatever news is noised abroad he is either the originator of the rumor or its magnifier. He changes his horses every hour; and they are so sleek and spirited that you would take him for a brother of the Thracian king. [563]

29. Many are the stratagems which the wily enemy employs against us. "The serpent," we are told, "was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made." [564] And the apostle says: "We are not ignorant of his devices." [565] Neither an affected shabbiness nor a stylish smartness becomes a Christian. If there is anything of which you are ignorant, if you have any doubt about Scripture, ask one whose life commends him, whose age puts him above suspicion, whose reputation does not belie him; one who may be able to say: "I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Or if there should be none such able to explain, it is better to avoid danger at the price of ignorance than to court it for the sake of learning. Remember that you walk in the midst of snares, and that many veteran virgins, of a chastity never called in question, have, on the very threshold of death, let their crowns fall from their hands.

If any of your handmaids share your vocation, do not lift up yourself against them or pride yourself because you are their mistress. You have all chosen one Bridegroom; you all sing the same psalms; together you receive the Body of Christ. Why then should your thoughts be different? [566] You must try to win others, and that you may attract the more readily you must treat the virgins in your train with the greatest respect. If you find one of them weak in the faith, be attentive to her, comfort her, caress her, and make her chastity your treasure. But if a girl pretends to have a vocation simply because she desires to escape from service, read aloud to her the words of the apostle: "It is better to marry than to burn." [567]

Idle persons and busybodies, whether virgins or widows; such as go from house to house calling on married women and displaying an unblushing effrontery greater than that of a stage parasite, cast from you as you would the plague. For "evil communications corrupt good manners," [568] and women like these care for nothing but their lowest appetites. They will often urge you, saying, "My dear creature, make the best of your advantages, and live while life is yours," and "Surely you are not laying up money for your children." Given to wine and wantonness, they instill all manner of mischief into people's minds, and induce even the most austere to indulge in enervating pleasures. And "when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ they will marry, having condemnation because they have rejected their first faith." [569]

Do not seek to appear over-eloquent, nor trifle with verse, nor make yourself gay with lyric songs. And do not, out of affectation, follow the sickly taste [570] of married ladies who, now pressing their teeth together, now keeping their lips wide apart, speak with a lisp, and purposely clip their words, because they fancy that to pronounce them naturally is a mark of country breeding. Accordingly they find pleasure in what I may call an adultery of the tongue. For "what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial?" [571] How can Horace go with the psalter, Virgil with the gospels, Cicero with the apostle? [572] Is not a brother made to stumble if he sees you sitting at meat in an idol's temple? [573] Although "unto the pure all things are pure," [574] and "nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving," [575] still we ought not to drink the cup of Christ, and, at the same time, the cup of devils. [576] Let me relate to you the story of my own miserable experience.

30. Many years ago, when for the kingdom of heaven's sake I had cut myself off from home, parents, sister, relations, and--harder still--from the dainty food to which I had been accustomed; and when I was on my way to Jerusalem to wage my warfare, I still could not bring myself to forego the library which I had formed for myself at Rome with great care and toil. And so, miserable man that I was, I would fast only that I might afterwards read Cicero. After many nights spent in vigil, after floods of tears called from my inmost heart, after the recollection of my past sins, I would once more take up Plautus. And when at times I returned to my right mind, and began to read the prophets, their style seemed rude and repellent. I failed to see the light with my blinded eyes; but I attributed the fault not to them, but to the sun. While the old serpent was thus making me his plaything, about the middle of Lent a deep-seated fever fell upon my weakened body, and while it destroyed my rest completely--the story seems hardly credible--it so wasted my unhappy frame that scarcely anything was left of me but skin and bone. Meantime preparations for my funeral went on; my body grew gradually colder, and the warmth of life lingered only in my throbbing breast. Suddenly I was caught up in the spirit and dragged before the judgment seat of the Judge; and here the light was so bright, and those who stood around were so radiant, that I cast myself upon the ground and did not dare to look up. Asked who and what I was I replied: "I am a Christian." But He who presided said: "Thou liest, thou art a follower of Cicero and not of Christ. For `where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.'" [577] Instantly I became dumb, and amid the strokes of the lash--for He had ordered me to be scourged--I was tortured more severely still by the fire of conscience, considering with myself that verse, "In the grave who shall give thee thanks?" [578] Yet for all that I began to cry and to bewail myself, saying: "Have mercy upon me, O Lord: have mercy upon me." Amid the sound of the scourges this cry still made itself heard. At last the bystanders, falling down before the knees of Him who presided, prayed that He would have pity on my youth, and that He would give me space to repent of my error. He might still, they urged, inflict torture on me, should I ever again read the works of the Gentiles. Under the stress of that awful moment I should have been ready to make even still larger promises than these. Accordingly I made oath and called upon His name, saying: "Lord, if ever again I possess worldly books, or if ever again I read such, I have denied Thee." Dismissed, then, on taking this oath, I returned to the upper world, and, to the surprise of all, I opened upon them eyes so drenched with tears that my distress served to convince even the incredulous. And that this was no sleep nor idle dream, such as those by which we are often mocked, I call to witness the tribunal before which I lay, and the terrible judgment which I feared. May it never, hereafter, be my lot to fall under such an inquisition! I profess that my shoulders were black and blue, that I felt the bruises long after I awoke from my sleep, and that thenceforth I read the books of God with a zeal greater than I had previously given to the books of men.

31. You must also avoid the sin of covetousness, and this not merely by refusing to seize upon what belongs to others, for that is punished by the laws of the state, but also by not keeping your own property, which has now become no longer yours. "If have not been faithful," the Lord says, "in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?" [579] "That which is another man's" is a quantity of gold or of silver, while "that which is our own" is the spiritual heritage of which it is elsewhere said: "The ransom of a man's life is his riches." [580] "No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." [581] Riches, that is; for in the heathen tongue of the Syrians riches are called mammon. The "thorns" which choke our faith [582] are the taking thought for our life. [583] Care for the things which the Gentiles seek after [584] is the root of covetousness.

But you will say: "I am a girl delicately reared, and I cannot labor with my hands. Suppose that I live to old age and then fall sick, who will take pity on me?" Hear Jesus speaking to the apostles: "Take no thought what ye shall eat; nor yet for your body what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them." [585] Should clothing fail you, set the lilies before your eyes. Should hunger seize you, think of the words in which the poor and hungry are blessed. Should pain afflict you, read "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities," and "There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." [586] Rejoice in all God's judgments; for does not the psalmist say: "The daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O Lord"? [587] Let the words be ever on your lips: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither;" [588] and "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." [589]

32. To-day you may see women cramming their wardrobes with dresses, changing their gowns from day to day, and for all that unable to vanquish the moths. Now and then one more scrupulous wears out a single dress; yet, while she appears in rags, her boxes are full. Parchments are dyed purple, gold is melted into lettering, manuscripts are decked with jewels, while Christ lies at the door naked and dying. When they hold out a hand to the needy they sound a trumpet; [590] when they invite to a love-feast [591] they engage a crier. I lately saw the noblest lady in Rome--I suppress her name, for I am no satirist--with a band of eunuchs before her in the basilica of the blessed Peter. She was giving money to the poor, a coin apiece; and this with her own hand, that she might be accounted more religious. Hereupon a by no means uncommon incident occurred. An old woman, "full of years and rags," [592] ran forward to get a second coin, but when her turn came she received not a penny but a blow hard enough to draw blood from her guilty veins.

"The love of money is the root of all evil," [593] and the apostle speaks of covetousness as being idolatry. [594] "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you." [595] The Lord will never allow a righteous soul to perish of hunger. "I have been young," the psalmist says, "and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread." [596] Elijah is fed by ministering ravens. [597] The widow of Zarephath, who with her sons expected to die the same night, went without food herself that she might feed the prophet. He who had come to be fed then turned feeder, for, by a miracle, he filled the empty barrel. [598] The apostle Peter says: "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ rise up and walk." [599] But now many, while they do not say it in words, by their deeds declare: "Faith and pity have I none; but such as I have, silver and gold, these I will not give thee." "Having food and raiment let us be therewith content." [600] Hear the prayer of Jacob: "If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and raiment to put on, then shall the Lord be my God." [601] He prayed only for things necessary; yet, twenty years afterwards, he returned to the land of Canaan rich in substance and richer still in children. [602] Numberless are the instances in Scripture which teach men to "Beware of covetousness." [603]

33. As I have been led to touch to the subject--it shall have a treatise to itself if Christ permit--I will relate what took place not very many years ago at Nitria. A brother, more thrifty than covetous, and ignorant that the Lord had been sold for thirty pieces of silver, [604] left behind him at his death a hundred pieces of money which he had earned by weaving linen. As there were about five thousand monks in the neighborhood, living in as many separate cells, a council was held as to what should be done. Some said that the coins should be distributed among the poor; others that they should be given to the church, while others were for sending them back to the relatives of the deceased. However, Macarius, Pambo, Isidore and the rest of those called fathers, speaking by the Spirit, decided that they should be interred with their owner, with the words: "Thy money perish with thee." [605] Nor was this too harsh a decision; for so great fear has fallen upon all throughout Egypt, that it is now a crime to leave after one a single shilling.

34. As I have mentioned the monks, and know that you like to hear about holy things, lend an ear to me for a few moments. There are in Egypt three classes of monks. First, there are the coenobites, [606] called in their Gentile language Sauses, [607] or, as we should say, men living in a community. [608] Secondly, there are the anchorites, [609] who live in the desert, each man by himself, and are so called because they have withdrawn from human society. Thirdly, there is the class called Remoboth, [610] a very inferior and little regarded type, peculiar to my own province, [611] or, at least, originating there. These live together in twos and threes, but seldom in larger numbers, and are bound by no rule; but do exactly as they choose. A portion of their earnings they contribute to a common fund, out of which food is provided for all. In most cases they reside in cities and strongholds; and, as though it were their workmanship which is holy, and not their life, all that they sell is extremely dear. They often quarrel because they are unwilling, while supplying their own food, to be subordinate to others. It is true that they compete with each other in fasting; they make what should be a private concern an occasion for a triumph. In everything they study effect: their sleeves are loose, their boots bulge, their garb is of the coarsest. They are always sighing, or visiting virgins, or sneering at the clergy; yet when a holiday comes, they make themselves sick--they eat so much.

35. Having then rid ourselves of these as of so many plagues, let us come to that more numerous class who live together, and who are, as we have said, called Coenobites. Among these the first principle of union is to obey superiors and to do whatever they command. They are divided into bodies of ten and of a hundred, so that each tenth man has authority over nine others, while the hundredth has ten of these officers under him. They live apart from each other, in separate cells. According to their rule, no monk may visit another before the ninth hour; [612] except the deans [613] above mentioned, whose office is to comfort, with soothing words, those whose thoughts disquiet them. After the ninth hour they meet together to sing psalms and read the Scriptures according to usage. Then when the prayers have ended and all have sat down, one called the father stands up among them and begins to expound the portion of the day. While he is speaking the silence is profound; no man ventures to look at his neighbor or to clear his throat. The speaker's praise is in the weeping of his hearers. [614] Silent tears roll down their cheeks, but not a sob escapes from their lips. Yet when he begins to speak of Christ's kingdom, and of future bliss, and of the glory which is to come, every one may be noticed saying to himself, with a gentle sigh and uplifted eyes: "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away and be at rest." [615] After this the meeting breaks up and each company of ten goes with its father to its own table. This they take in turns to serve each for a week at a time. No noise is made over the food; no one talks while eating. Bread, pulse and greens form their fare, and the only seasoning that they use is salt. Wine is given only to the old, who with the children often have a special meal prepared for them to repair the ravages of age and to save the young from premature decay. When the meal is over they all rise together, and, after singing a hymn, return to their dwellings. There each one talks till evening with his comrade thus: "Have you noticed so-and-so? What grace he has! How silent he is! How soberly he walks!" If any one is weak they comfort him; or if he is fervent in love to God, they encourage him to fresh earnestness. And because at night, besides the public prayers, each man keeps vigil in his own chamber, they go round all the cells one by one, and putting their ears to the doors, carefully ascertain what their occupants are doing. If they find a monk slothful, they do not scold him; but, dissembling what they know, they visit him more frequently, and at first exhort rather than compel him to pray more. Each day has its allotted task, and this being given in to the dean, is by him brought to the steward. This latter, once a month, gives a scrupulous account to their common father. He also tastes the dishes when they are cooked, and, as no one is allowed to say, "I am without a tunic or a cloak or a couch of rushes," he so arranges that no one need ask for or go without what he wants. In case a monk falls ill, he is moved to a more spacious chamber, and there so attentively nursed by the old men, that he misses neither the luxury of cities nor a mother's kindness. Every Lord's day they spend their whole time in prayer and reading; indeed, when they have finished their tasks, these are their usual occupations. Every day they learn by heart a portion of Scripture. They keep the same fasts all the year round, but in Lent they are allowed to live more strictly. After Whitsuntide they exchange their evening meal for a midday one; both to satisfy the tradition of the church and to avoid overloading their stomachs with a double supply of food.

A similar description is given of the Essenes by Philo, [616] Plato's imitator; also by Josephus, [617] the Greek Livy, in his narrative of the Jewish captivity.

36. As my present subject is virgins, I have said rather too much about monks. I will pass on, therefore, to the third class, called anchorites, who go from the monasteries into the deserts, with nothing but bread and salt. Paul [618] introduced this way of life; Antony made it famous, and--to go farther back still--John the Baptist set the first example of it. The prophet Jeremiah describes one such in the words: "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him, he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off forever." [619] The struggle of the anchorites and their life--in the flesh, yet not of the flesh--I will, if you wish, explain to you at some other time. I must now return to the subject of covetousness, which I left to speak of the monks. With them before your eyes you will despise, not only gold and silver in general, but earth itself and heaven. United to Christ, you will sing, "The Lord is my portion." [620]

37. Farther, although the apostle bids us to "pray without ceasing," [621] and although to the saints their very sleep is a supplication, we ought to have fixed hours of prayer, that if we are detained by work, the time may remind us of our duty. Prayers, as every one knows, ought to be said at the third, sixth and ninth hours, at dawn and at evening. [622] No meal should be begun without prayer, and before leaving table thanks should be returned to the Creator. We should rise two or three times in the night, and go over the parts of Scripture which we know by heart. When we leave the roof which shelters us, prayer should be our armor; and when we return from the street we should pray before we sit down, and not give the frail body rest until the soul is fed. In every act we do, in every step we take, let our hand trace the Lord's cross. Speak against nobody, and do not slander your mother's son. [623] "Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own lord he standeth or falleth; yea, he shall be made to stand, for the Lord hath power to make him stand." [624] If you have fasted two or three days, do not think yourself better than others who do not fast. You fast and are angry; another eats and wears a smiling face. You work off your irritation and hunger in quarrels. He uses food in moderation and gives God thanks. [625] Daily Isaiah cries: "Is it such a fast that I have chosen, saith the Lord?" [626] and again: "In the day of your fast ye find your own pleasure, and oppress all your laborers. Behold ye fast for strife and contention, and to smite with the fist of wickedness. How fast ye unto me?" [627] What kind of fast can his be whose wrath is such that not only does the night go down upon it, but that even the moon's changes leave it unchanged?

38. Look to yourself and glory in your own success and not in others' failure. Some women care for the flesh and reckon up their income and daily expenditure: such are no fit models for you. Judas was a traitor, but the eleven apostles did not waver. Phygellus and Alexander made shipwreck; but the rest continued to run the race of faith. [628] Say not: "So-and-so enjoys her own property, she is honored of men, her brothers and sisters come to see her. Has she then ceased to be a virgin?" In the first place, it is doubtful if she is a virgin. For "the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." [629] Again, she may be a virgin in body and not in spirit. According to the apostle, a true virgin is "holy both in body and in spirit." [630] Lastly, let her glory in her own way. Let her override Paul's opinion and live in the enjoyment of her good things. But you and I must follow better examples.

Set before you the blessed Mary, whose surpassing purity made her meet to be the mother of the Lord. When the angel Gabriel came down to her, in the form of a man, and said: "Hail, thou that art highly favored; the Lord is with thee," [631] she was terror-stricken and unable to reply, for she had never been saluted by a man before. But, on learning who he was, she spoke, and one who had been afraid of a man conversed fearlessly with an angel. Now you, too, may be the Lord's mother. "Take thee a great roll and write in it with a man's pen Maher-shalal-hash-baz." [632] And when you have gone to the prophetess, and have conceived in the womb, and have brought forth a son, [633] say: "Lord, we have been with child by thy fear, we have been in pain, we have brought forth the spirit of thy salvation, which we have wrought upon the earth." [634] Then shall your Son reply: "Behold my mother and my brethren." [635] And He whose name you have so recently inscribed upon the table of your heart, and have written with a pen upon its renewed surface [636] --He, after He has recovered the spoil from the enemy, and has spoiled principalities and powers, nailing them to His cross [637] --having been miraculously conceived, grows up to manhood; and, as He becomes older, regards you no longer as His mother, but as His bride. To be as the martyrs, or as the apostles, or as Christ, involves a hard struggle, but brings with it a great reward.

All such efforts are only of use when they are made within the church's pale; [638] we must celebrate the passover in the one house, [639] we must enter the ark with Noah, [640] we must take refuge from the fall of Jericho with the justified harlot, Rahab. [641] Such virgins as there are said to be among the heretics and among the followers of the infamous Manes [642] must be considered, not virgins, but prostitutes. For if--as they allege--the devil is the author of the body, how can they honor that which is fashioned by their foe? No; it is because they know that the name virgin brings glory with it, that they go about as wolves in sheep's clothing. [643] As antichrist pretends to be Christ, such virgins assume an honorable name, that they may the better cloak a discreditable life. Rejoice, my sister; rejoice, my daughter; rejoice, my virgin; for you have resolved to be, in reality, that which others insincerely feign.

39. The things that I have here set forth will seem hard to her who loves not Christ. But one who has come to regard all the splendor of the world as off-scourings, and to hold all things under the sun as vain, that he may win Christ; [644] one who has died with his Lord and risen again, and has crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts; [645] he will boldly cry out: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" and again: "I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord." [646]

For our salvation the Son of God is made the Son of Man. [647] Nine months He awaits His birth in the womb, undergoes the most revolting conditions, [648] and comes forth covered with blood, to be swathed in rags and covered with caresses. He who shuts up the world in His fist [649] is contained in the narrow limits of a manger. I say nothing of the thirty years during which he lives in obscurity, satisfied with the poverty of his parents. [650] When He is scourged He holds His peace; when He is crucified, He prays for His crucifiers. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." [651] The only fitting return that we can make to Him is to give blood for blood; and, as we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, gladly to lay down our lives for our Redeemer. What saint has ever won his crown without first contending for it? Righteous Abel is murdered. Abraham is in danger of losing his wife. And, as I must not enlarge my book unduly, seek for yourself: you will find that all holy men have suffered adversity. Solomon alone lived in luxury and perhaps it was for this reason that he fell. For "whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." [652] Which is best--for a short time to do battle, to carry stakes for the palisades, to bear arms, to faint under heavy bucklers, that ever afterwards we may rejoice as victors? or to become slaves forever, just because we cannot endure for a single hour? [653]

40. Love finds nothing hard; no task is difficult to the eager. Think of all that Jacob bore for Rachel, the wife who had been promised to him. "Jacob," the Scripture says, "served seven years for Rachel. And they seemed unto him but a few days for the love he had to her." [654] Afterwards he himself tells us what he had to undergo. "In the day the drought consumed me and the frost by night." [655] So we must love Christ and always seek His embraces. Then everything difficult will seem easy; all things long we shall account short; and smitten with His arrows, [656] we shall say every moment: "Woe is me that I have prolonged my pilgrimage." [657] For "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." [658] For "tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed." [659] When your lot seems hard to bear read Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians: "In labors more abundant; in stripes above measure; in prisons more frequent; in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." [660] Which of us can claim the veriest fraction of the virtues here enumerated? Yet it was these which afterwards made him bold to say: "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." [661]

But we, if our food is less appetizing than usual, get sullen, and fancy that we do God a favor by drinking watered wine. And if the water brought to us is a trifle too warm, we break the cup and overturn the table and scourge the servant in fault until blood comes. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force." [662] Still, unless you use force you will never seize the kingdom of heaven. Unless you knock importunately you will never receive the sacramental bread. [663] Is it not truly violence, think you, when the flesh desires to be as God and ascends to the place whence angels have fallen [664] to judge angels?

41. Emerge, I pray you, for a while from your prison-house, and paint before your eyes the reward of your present toil, a reward which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man." [665] What will be the glory of that day when Mary, the mother of the Lord, shall come to meet you, accompanied by her virgin choirs! When, the Red Sea past and Pharaoh drowned with his host, Miriam, Aaron's sister, her timbrel in her hand, shall chant to the answering women: "Sing ye unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." [666] Then shall Thecla [667] fly with joy to embrace you. Then shall your Spouse himself come forward and say: "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away, for lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone." [668] Then shall the angels say with wonder: "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun?" [669] "The daughters shall see you and bless you; yea, the queens shall proclaim and the concubines shall praise you." [670] And, after these, yet another company of chaste women will meet you. Sarah will come with the wedded; Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, with the widows. In the one band you will find your natural mother and in the other your spiritual. [671] The one will rejoice in having borne, the other will exult in having taught you. Then truly will the Lord ride upon his ass, [672] and thus enter the heavenly Jerusalem. Then the little ones (of whom, in Isaiah, the Saviour says: "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me" [673] ) shall lift up palms of victory and shall sing with one voice: "Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest." [674] Then shall the "hundred and forty and four thousand" hold their harps before the throne and before the elders and shall sing the new song. And no man shall have power to learn that song save those for whom it is appointed. "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." [675] As often as this life's idle show tries to charm you; as often as you see in the world some vain pomp, transport yourself in mind to Paradise, essay to be now what you will be hereafter, and you will hear your Spouse say: "Set me as a sunshade in thine heart and as a seal upon thine arm." [676] And then, strengthened in body as well as in mind, you, too, will cry aloud and say: "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." [677]


Footnotes

[331] Ps. xlv. 10, 11. [332] According to the Vulgate. [333] Gen. xi. 31; xii. 1. [334] Ps. xxvii. 13. [335] Gen. xix. 17. [336] Luke ix. 62. [337] Matt. xxiv. 17, 18. [338] Joh. viii. 44, R.V. [339] 1 Joh. iii. 8. [340] Cant. i. 5. [341] Eph. v. 31, 32. [342] Nu. xii. 1. [343] Cant. i. 4. [344] Cant. viii. 5, LXX. [345] Heb. xiii. 4. [346] Gen. xix. 26. [347] Rom. xi. 20. [348] Isa. xxxiv. 5, R.V. [349] Gen. iii. 14, 18. [350] Eph. vi. 12, R.V. [351] Joh. xiv. 30. The variant is difficult to explain and may be only a slip. [352] Ps. xci. 5-7, Vulg. [353] 2 Kings vi. 16. [354] 2 Kings ii. 11; vi. 17. [355] Ps. cxxiv. 7. [356] 2 Cor. iv. 7. [357] Gal. v. 17. [358] 1 Pet. v. 8. [359] Ps. civ. 20, 21. [360] Jer. xxix. 22. [361] An allusion to "Maher-shalal-hash-baz," Isa. viii. 1. [362] Hab. i. 16, LXX. [363] Luke xxii. 31. [364] Matt. x. 34. [365] Isa. xiv. 12. [366] Obad. 4. [367] Isa. xiv. 13, 14. [368] Gen. xxviii. 12. [369] Ps. lxxxii. 6, 7. [370] Ps. lxxxii. 1. [371] 1 Cor. iii. 3. [372] Acts ix. 15. [373] Gal. i. 15. [374] 1 Cor. ix. 27. [375] Rom. vii. 23. [376] Rom. vii. 24. [377] Am. v. 2. [378] Am. viii. 13. [379] Matt. v. 28. [380] Matt. xxv. 3, 10. [381] Isa. xlvii. 1-3. [382] Cant. v. 2, LXX. [383] Ps. xlv. 10, P.B.V. [384] Jer. xiii. 26. [385] Ezek. xvi. 25. [386] Isa. i. 21. [387] Isa. xxxiv. 15; xiii. 22, R.V. [388] Psa. cxviii. 6; lvi. 4. [389] Ps. xlii. 11. [390] Ps. cxxxvii. 9. [391] 1 Cor. x. 4. [392] Cant. i. 3, 4. [393] 1 Tim. v. 6. [394] 1 Tim. v. 23. [395] Eph. v. 18. [396] Rom. xiv. 21. [397] Gen. ix. 20, 21. [398] Ex. xxxii. 6. [399] Gen. xix. 30-38. [400] Deut. xxiii. 3: Jerome substitutes "fourteenth" for "tenth." [401] 1 Kings xix. 4-6. [402] 2 Kings iv. 38-41. [403] Exod. xv. 23-25. [404] 2 Kings vi. 18-23. [405] Dan. i. 8. [406] Bel. 33-39. [407] Dan. ix. 23, A.V. marg. [408] Ps. lxxxiv. 6, R.V. [409] Matt. iv. 2, 3. [410] 1 Cor. vi. 13. [411] Phil. iii. 19. [412] Job ii. 3. [413] Job xl. 16, of behemoth. [414] Ps. cxxxii. 11. [415] Gen. xlvi. 26. [416] Gen. xxxii. 24, 25. [417] Exod. xii. 11. [418] Job xxxviii. 3. [419] Matt. iii. 4. [420] Luke xii. 35. [421] Ezek. xvi. 4-6. [422] 2 Sam. xi. [423] Ps. li. 4. [424] Solomon was the reputed author of the Book of Wisdom. [425] 1 Kings iv. 33. [426] 1 Kings xi. 1-4. [427] 2 Sam. xiii. [428] Isa. xiv. 13. [429] Tit. i. 15. [430] 1 Tim. iv. 3. [431] The Manichæans believed evil to be inseparable from matter. Hence they inculcated a rigid asceticism. [432] Jer. iii. 3. [433] Plebeians wore a narrow stripe, patricians a broad one. [434] Beloved ones, viz., women who lived with the unmarried clergy professedly as spiritual sisters, but really (in too many cases) as mistresses. The evil custom was widely prevalent and called forth many protests. The councils of Elvira, Ancyra, and Nicæa passed canons against it. [435] Prov. vi. 27, 28. [436] Matt. xiii. 8. [437] Cena dubia. The allusion is to Terence, Phormio, 342. [438] Cant. i. 7, R.V. [439] Phil. i. 23. [440] Luke ii. 51. [441] Eph. vi. 16. [442] Hos. vii. 4, 6, R.V. [443] Luke xxiv. 32. [444] Ps. cxix. 140, P.B.V. [445] Cant. iii. 1. [446] Col. iii. 5. [447] Gal. ii. 20. [448] Ps. xxxix. 6, Vulg. That is, who knows that the world is vanity. [449] Ps. cxix. 83, Vulg. [450] Ps. cix. 24; cii. 5. [451] Ps. vi. 6, P.B.V. [452] Ps. cii. 7. [453] 1 Cor. xiv. 15. [454] Ps. ciii. 2-4. [455] Ps. cii. 9. [456] 2 Kings ii. 13. [457] Gen. iii. 16. [458] Gen. ii. 17. [459] Gen. i. 28. [460] Gen. iii. 18, 19. [461] See Letter XLVIII. §§ 2, 3. [462] Matt. xix. 11, 12. [463] Eccles. iii. 5. [464] Matt. iii. 9. [465] Zech. ix. 16, LXX. [466] Joh. xix. 23. [467] Ps. cxvi. 7. [468] Isa. xi. 1, LXX. [469] In the Latin there is a play on words here between virga and virgo. [470] Cant. ii. 1. [471] Dan. ii. 45. [472] Cant. ii. 6. [473] Gen. vii. 2. [474] Ex. iii. 5; Josh. v. 15. [475] Matt. x. 10. According to Letter XXIII. § 4, these typify dead works. [476] Joh. xix. 23, 24. [477] Isa. xxviii. 24. [478] 1 Cor. vii. 25. [479] 1 Cor. vii. 7, 8. [480] 1 Cor. ix. 5. [481] Isa. xxxi. 9, LXX. [482] Isa. liv. 1, LXX. (?) [483] Ps. cxxviii. 3. [484] Ps. cv. 37. [485] Isa. lvi. 3. [486] Cf. Luke xvi. 19 sqq. [487] Gen. xxv. 1. [488] Gen. xxx. 14-16. [489] Gen. xxx. 1, 2. [490] Jer. xvi. 2. [491] Jer. i. 5. [492] 1 Cor. vii. 26, R.V. [493] 1 Cor. vii. 29. [494] Lam. iv. 4. [495] Isa. vii. 14. [496] Isa. ix. 6. [497] Judith xiii. [498] Esther vii. 10. [499] Mark viii. 34. [500] Matt. viii. 20-22. [501] 1 Cor. vii. 32-34. [502] See the treatise "Against Helvidius," in this volume. [503] 1 Thess. v. 17. [504] 1 Cor. vii. 3, R.V. [505] 1 Cor. vii. 28. [506] Not extant. Jerome alludes to it again in his treatise against Jovinian. [507] See Migne's "Patrologia," xiii., col. 347-418. [508] Ambrose de Virg. Migne's "Patrologia," xvi., col. 187. [509] Matt. xxiv. 13. [510] Matt. xx. 16; xxii. 14. [511] 2 Sam. vi. 6, 7. [512] 2 Kings xx. 12, 13. [513] Dan. v. 1-3. [514] Ex. xxv. 11. [515] 1 Kings viii. 9. [516] Ex. xxv. 22. [517] Matt. xxi. 1-3. [518] Ex. vii. 16. [519] Matt. xxi. 12, 13, R.V. [520] Matt. xxvii. 51. [521] Matt. xxiii. 38. [522] R.V. marg. [523] Luke x. 41, 42. [524] Cant. iii. 4. [525] Cant. vi. 9. [526] Gal. iv. 26. [527] Cf. Gen. xxvi. 8. [528] R.V. [529] Cant. v. 2, 4, 8. [530] Cant. iv. 12. [531] Gen. xxxiv. [532] Cant. iii. 2, 3. [533] Matt. vii. 14. [534] Cant. iii. 2; v. 6. [535] Cant. v. 7. [536] Cant. v. 2. [537] Cant. i. 13. [538] Cant. i. 7, R.V. [539] Cant. i. 8, LXX. [540] Prov. iv. 23. [541] Matt. xxv. 33. [542] Isa. xxvi. 20. [543] Matt. vi. 6. [544] Rev. iii. 20. [545] Cant. v. 2, 3. [546] Cant. v. 6. [547] Eccles. x. 4, A.V., "the spirit of the ruler." [548] Dan. vi. 10, LXX. [549] Jer. ix. 21. [550] Joh. v. 44, R.V. [551] Jer. ix. 24. [552] 1 Cor. i. 31. [553] Gal. i. 10. [554] Gal. vi. 14, R.V. marg. [555] Psa. xliv. 8; xxxiv. 2. [556] Matt. vi. 3, 16-18. [557] Ps. cxxxi. 1. [558] Matt. vi. 16. [559] Ps. liii. 5, according to the Roman Psalter. [560] Cucullis fabrefactis, ut ad infantiam redeant, imitantur noctuas et bubones. [561] 1 Cor. xi. 14. [562] 2 Tim. iii. 6, 7. [563] Diomede. See Lucretius, v. 31, and Virgil, A. i. 752. [564] Gen. iii. 1. [565] 2 Cor. ii. 11. [566] Cur mens diversa sit. The ordinary text has "menda." [567] 1 Cor. vii. 9. [568] 1 Cor. xv. 33. [569] 1 Tim. v. 11, 12. [570] Persius i. 104. [571] 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. [572] Viz., the epistles of St. Paul. In like manner the Psalter was often called David. [573] 1 Cor. viii. 10. [574] Tit. i. 15. [575] 1 Tim. iv. 4. [576] 1 Cor. x. 21. [577] Matt. vi. 21. [578] Ps. vi. 5. [579] Luke xvi. 12. [580] Prov. xiii. 8, R.V. [581] Matt. vi. 24. [582] Matt. xiii. 7, 22. [583] Matt. vi. 25. [584] Matt. vi. 32. [585] Matt. vi. 25, 26. [586] 2 Cor. xii. 10, 7. [587] Ps. xcvii. 8. [588] Job i. 21. [589] 1 Tim. vi. 7. [590] Matt. vi. 2. [591] Terence, Eun. 236. [592] "The eucharist was at first preceded, but at a later date was more usually followed, by the agape or love-feast. The materials of this were contributed by the members of the congregation, all of whatever station sat down to it as equals, and the meal was concluded with psalmody and prayer." (Robertson, C. H., i. p. 235.) Scandals arose in connection with the practice, and it gradually fell into disuse, though even at a later date allusions to it are not infrequent. [593] 1 Tim. vi. 10. [594] Col. iii. 5. [595] Matt. vi. 33. [596] Ps. xxxvii. 25. [597] 1 Kings xvii. 4, 6. [598] 1 Kings xvii. 9-16. [599] Acts iii. 6. [600] 1 Tim. vi. 8. [601] Gen. xxviii. 20, 21. [602] Gen. xxxii. 5, 10. [603] Luke xii. 15. [604] Matt. xxvi. 15. [605] Acts viii. 20. [606] From koinos bios (koinos bios), a common life. [607] Apparently an Egyptian word. It does not occur elsewhere. [608] In commune viventes. [609] From anachorein (anachorein), to withdraw. [610] These were monks who lived under no settled rule, but collected in little groups of two and three, generally in some populous place. They seem to have practised all the arts whereby a reputation for sanctity may be won, while they disparaged those who led more regular lives. Cassian (Collat. xviii. 7) draws an unfavorable picture of them. See Bingham, Antiquities, vii. ii. 4, and Dict. Xt. Ant., s.v. Sarabaitæ. [611] Pannonia, or possibly Syria. [612] I.e. three o'clock. [613] Decani, "leaders of ten." [614] Cf. Letter LII. [615] Ps. lv. 6. [616] See Letter LXX. § 3, De Vir. Ill. xi. [617] Josephus, The Jewish War, ii. 8. [618] I.e. the hermit of that name. See his Life in vol. iii. of this series. [619] Lam. iii. 27, 28, 30, 31. [620] Lam. iii. 24 [621] 1 Thess. v. 17. [622] In Jerome's time the seven canonical hours of prayer had not yet been finally fixed. He mentions, however, six which correspond to the later, Mattins, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Nocturns. Cp. Letters CVII. § 9, CVIII. § 20, and CXXX § 15. [623] Ps. l. 20. [624] Rom. xiv. 4, R.V. [625] Rom. xiv. 6, R.V. [626] Isa. lviii. 5. [627] Isaiah lviii. 3, 4, R.V. marg. [628] 1 Tim. i. 19, 20; 2 Tim. i. 15. [629] 1 Sam. xvi. 7. [630] 1 Cor. vii. 34. [631] Luke i. 28. [632] Isa. viii. 1, i.e. "the spoil speedeth, the prey hasteth;" or, in Jerome's rendering, "quickly carry away the spoils." [633] Isa. viii. 3. Jerome should have substituted "prophet" for "prophetess." As it stands the quotation is meaningless. [634] Isa. xxvi. 18, Vulg. [635] Matt. xii. 49. [636] Prov. vii. 3; Jer. xxxi. 33. [637] Col. ii. 14, 15. [638] Cp. the maxim of Cyprian: Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, "Outside the church there is no salvation." [639] Exod. xii. 46. [640] 1 Peter iii. 20, 21. [641] James ii. 25. [642] Founder of the widely prevalent sect of Manichæans, which at one time numbered Augustine among its adherents. One of its leading tenets was that matter as such was essentially evil. [643] Matt. vii. 15. [644] Phil. iii. 8. [645] Rom. vi. 4; Gal. v. 24. [646] Rom. viii. 35, 38, 39. [647] An echo of the Nicene Creed. [648] Cp. Virgil, Ecl. iv. 61. [649] Cp. Ps. xcv. 4, 5; Isa. xl. 12. [650] Luke ii. 51, 52. [651] Ps. cxvi. 12, 13, 15. [652] Heb. xii. 6. [653] Cp. Matt. xxvi. 40. [654] Gen. xxix. 20. [655] Gen. xxxi. 40. [656] Ps. xxxviii. 2. [657] Ps. cxx. 5, Vulg. [658] Rom. viii. 18. [659] Rom. v. 3-5. [660] 2 Cor. xi. 23-27. [661] 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. [662] Matt. xi. 12. [663] Luke xi. 5-8. [664] Is. xiv. 12, 13. [665] 1 Cor. ii. 9. [666] Ex. xv. 20, 21. [667] A legendary virgin of Iconium said to have been converted by Paul. [668] Cant. ii. 10, 11. [669] Cant. vi. 10. [670] Cant. vi. 9. [671] Viz. Paula, for whom see Letter CVIII., and Marcella, for whom see Letter CXXVII. [672] Matt. xxi. 1-9, literally "she-ass." [673] Isa. viii. 18. [674] Matt. xxi. 9. [675] Rev. xiv. 1-4. [676] Cant. viii. 6; the variant is peculiar to Jerome. [677] Cant. viii. 7.

Letter XXIII. To Marcella.

Jerome writes to Marcella to console her for the loss of a friend who, like herself, was the head of a religious society at Rome. The news of Lea's death had first reached Marcella when she was engaged with Jerome in the study of the 73d psalm. Later in the day he writes this letter in which, after extolling Lea, he contrasts her end with that of the consul-elect, Vettius Agorius Prætextatus, a man of great ability and integrity, whom he declares to be now "in Tartarus." Written at Rome in 384 a.d.

1. To-day, about the third hour, just as I was beginning to read with you the seventy-second psalm [678] --the first, that is, of the third book--and to explain that its title belonged partly to the second book and partly to the third--the previous book, I mean, concluding with the words "the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended," [679] and the next commencing with the words "a psalm of Asaph" [680] --and just as I had come on the passage in which the righteous man declares: "If I say, I will speak thus; behold I should offend against the generation of thy children," [681] a verse which is differently rendered in our Latin version: [682] --suddenly the news came that our most saintly friend Lea had departed from the body. As was only natural, you turned deadly pale; for there are few persons, if any, who do not burst into tears when the earthen vessel breaks. [683] But if you wept it was not from doubt as to her future lot, but only because you had not rendered to her the last sad offices which are due to the dead. Finally, as we were still conversing together, a second message informed us that her remains had been already conveyed to Ostia.

2. You may ask what is the use of repeating all this. I will reply in the apostle's words, "much every way." [684] First, it shows that all must hail with joy the release of a soul which has trampled Satan under foot, and won for itself, at last, a crown of tranquillity. Secondly, it gives me an opportunity of briefly describing her life. Thirdly, it enables me to assure you that the consul-elect, [685] that detractor of his age, [686] is now in Tartarus. [687]

Who can sufficiently eulogize our dear Lea's mode of living? So complete was her conversion to the Lord that, becoming the head of a monastery, she showed herself a true mother [688] to the virgins in it, wore coarse sackcloth instead of soft raiment, passed sleepless nights in prayer, and instructed her companions even more by example than by precept. So great was her humility that she, who had once been the mistress of many, was accounted the servant of all; and certainly, the less she was reckoned an earthly mistress the more she became a servant of Christ. She was careless of her dress, neglected her hair, and ate only the coarsest food. Still, in all that she did, she avoided ostentation that she might not have her reward in this world. [689]

3. Now, therefore, in return for her short toil, Lea enjoys everlasting felicity; she is welcomed into the choirs of the angels; she is comforted in Abraham's bosom. And, as once the beggar Lazarus saw the rich man, for all his purple, lying in torment, so does Lea see the consul, not now in his triumphal robe but clothed in mourning, and asking for a drop of water from her little finger. [690] How great a change have we here! A few days ago the highest dignitaries of the city walked before him as he ascended the ramparts of the capitol like a general celebrating a triumph; the Roman people leapt up to welcome and applaud him, and at the news of his death the whole city was moved. Now he is desolate and naked, a prisoner in the foulest darkness, and not, as his unhappy wife [691] falsely asserts, set in the royal abode of the milky way. [692] On the other hand Lea, who was always shut up in her one closet, who seemed poor and of little worth, and whose life was accounted madness, [693] now follows Christ and sings, "Like as we have heard, so have we seen in the city of our God." [694]

4. And now for the moral of all this, which, with tears and groans, I conjure you to remember. While we run the way of this world, we must not clothe ourselves with two coats, that is, with a twofold faith, or burthen ourselves with leathern shoes, that is, with dead works; we must not allow scrips filled with money to weigh us down, or lean upon the staff of worldly power. [695] We must not seek to possess both Christ and the world. No; things eternal must take the place of things transitory; [696] and since, physically speaking, we daily anticipate death, if we wish for immortality we must realize that we are but mortal.


Footnotes

[678] In the English Version Ps. lxxiii. [679] Ps. lxxii. 20. [680] Ps. lxxiii. title. [681] Ps. lxxiii. 15. [682] I.e. the Old Latin Version superseded by Jerome's Vulgate. [683] 2 Cor. iv. 7. [684] Rom. iii. 2. [685] One of the most distinguished men of his day, Prætextatus, had filled the high position of Prefect of Rome. As such he ironically assured Damasus that, if he could hope to obtain the papacy, he would immediately embrace the Christian religion (Jerome, "Against John of Jerusalem," § 8). [686] De suis sæculis detrahentem. The text is clearly corrupt, and no satisfactory emendation has yet been suggested. [687] So the author of II. Peter speaks of God "tartartizing the angels that sinned" (ii. 4). [688] I.e. her conduct justified her official title. [689] Cf. Matt. vi. 2. [690] Luke xvi. 19-24. [691] Paulina, chief priestess of Ceres. [692] In the Roman mythology the abode of gods and heroes. Cf. Ovid, M. i. 175, 176. [693] Wisd. v. 4. [694] Ps. xlviii. 8. [695] Matt. x. 10. [696] 2 Cor. iv. 18.

Letter XXIV. To Marcella.

Concerning the virgin Asella. Dedicated to God before her birth, Marcella's sister had been made a church-virgin at the age of ten. From that time she had lived a life of the severest asceticism, first as a member and then as the head of Marcella's community upon the Aventine. Jerome, who subsequently wrote her a letter (XLV) on his departure from Rome, now holds her up as a model to be admired and imitated. Written at Rome a.d. 384.

1. Let no one blame my letters for the eulogies and censures which are contained in them. To arraign sinners is to admonish those in like case, and to praise the virtuous is to quicken the zeal of those who wish to do right. The day before yesterday I spoke to you concerning Lea of blessed memory, [697] and I had hardly done so, when I was pricked in my conscience. It would be wrong for me, I thought, to ignore a virgin after speaking of one who, as a widow, held a lower place. Accordingly, in my present letter, I mean to give you a brief sketch of the life of our dear Asella. Please do not read it to her; for she is sure to be displeased with eulogies of which she is herself the object. Show it rather to the young girls of your acquaintance, that they may guide themselves by her example, and may take her behavior as the pattern of a perfect life.

2. I pass over the facts that, before her birth, she was blessed while still in her mother's womb, and that, virgin-like, she was delivered to her father in a dream in a bowl of shining glass brighter than a mirror. And I say nothing of her consecration to the blessed life of virginity, a ceremony which took place when she was hardly more than ten years old, a mere babe still wrapped in swaddling clothes. For all that comes before works should be counted of grace; [698] although, doubtless, God foreknew the future when He sanctified Jeremiah as yet unborn, [699] when He made John to leap in his mother's womb, [700] and when, before the foundation of the world, He set apart Paul to preach the gospel of His son. [701]

3. I come now to the life which after her twelfth year she, by her own exertion, chose, laid hold of, held fast to, entered upon, and fulfilled. Shut up in her narrow cell she roamed through paradise. Fasting was her recreation and hunger her refreshment. If she took food it was not from love of eating, but because of bodily exhaustion; and the bread and salt and cold water to which she restricted herself sharpened her appetite more than they appeased it.

But I have almost forgotten to mention that of which I should have spoken first. When her resolution was still fresh she took her gold necklace made in the lamprey pattern (so called because bars of metal are linked together so as to form a flexible chain), and sold it without her parents' knowledge. Then putting on a dark dress such as her mother had never been willing that she should wear, she concluded her pious enterprise by consecrating herself forthwith to the Lord. She thus showed her relatives that they need hope to wring no farther concessions from one who, by her very dress, had condemned the world.

4. To go on with my story, her ways were quiet and she lived in great privacy. In fact, she rarely went abroad or spoke to a man. More wonderful still, much as she loved her virgin sister, [702] she did not care to see her. She worked with her own hands, for she knew that it was written: "If any will not work neither shall he eat." [703] To the Bridegroom she spoke constantly in prayer and psalmody. She hurried to the martyrs' shrines unnoticed. Such visits gave her pleasure, and the more so because she was never recognized. All the year round she observed a continual fast, remaining without food for two or three days at a time; but when Lent came she hoisted--if I may so speak--every stitch of canvas and fasted well-nigh from week's end to week's end with "a cheerful countenance." [704] What would perhaps be incredible, were it not that "with God all things are possible," [705] is that she lived this life until her fiftieth year without weakening her digestion or bringing on herself the pain of colic. Lying on the dry ground did not affect her limbs, and the rough sackcloth that she wore failed to make her skin either foul or rough. With a sound body and a still sounder soul [706] she sought all her delight in solitude, and found for herself a monkish hermitage in the centre of busy Rome.

5. You are better acquainted with all this than I am, and the few details that I have given I have learned from you. So intimate are you with Asella that you have seen, with your own eyes, her holy knees hardened like those of a camel from the frequency of her prayers. I merely set forth what I can glean from you. She is alike pleasant in her serious moods and serious in her pleasant ones: her manner, while winning, is always grave, and while grave is always winning. Her pale face indicates continence but does not betoken ostentation. Her speech is silent and her silence is speech. Her pace is neither too fast nor too slow. Her demeanor is always the same. She disregards refinement and is careless about her dress. When she does attend to it it is without attending. So entirely consistent has her life been that here in Rome, the centre of vain shows, wanton license, and idle pleasure, where to be humble is to be held spiritless, the good praise her conduct and the bad do not venture to impugn it. Let widows and virgins imitate her, let wedded wives make much of her, let sinful women fear her, and let bishops [707] look up to her.


Footnotes

[697] Vide the preceding Letter. [698] Rom. xi. 6. [699] Jer. i. 5. [700] Luke i. 41. [701] Eph. i. 4. [702] Probably Marcella before she was married. [703] 2 Thess. iii. 10. [704] Matt. vi. 17. [705] Matt. xix. 26. [706] Cf. Juvenal, Sat. x. 356. [707] Sacerdotes.


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