Writings of Augustine. Moral Treatises

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Moral Treatises of St. Augustin.

On the Good of Marriage.

[De Bono Conjugali.]

Translated by Rev. C. L. Cornish, M.A., of Exeter College, Oxford.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.


This treatise, and the following, were written against somewhat that still remained of the heresy of Jovinian. S. Aug. mentions this error in b. ii. c. 23, de Nuptiis et Conc. "Jovinianus," he says, "who a few years since tried to found a new heresy, said that the Catholics favored the Manichæans, because in opposition to him they preferred holy Virginity to Marriage." And in his book on Heresies, c. 82. "That heresy took its rise from one Jovinianus, a Monk, in our own time, when we were yet young." And he adds that it was soon overborne and extinguished, say about A.D. 390, having been condemned first at Rome, then at Milan. There are letters of Pope Siricius on the subject to the Church of Milan, and the answer sent him by the Synod of Milan, at which St. Ambrose presided. Jerome had refuted Jovinian, but was said to have attempted the defense of the excellency of the virgin state, at the expense of condemning marriage. That Augustin might not be subject to any such complaint or calumny, before speaking of the superiority of Virginity, he thought it well to write on the Good of Marriage.

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This work we learn to have been finished about the year 401, not only from the order of his Retractations, but also from his books on Genesis after the Letter, begun about that year. For in b. ix. on Genesis, c. 7, where he commends the Good of Marriage, he says: "Now this is threefold, faithfulness, offspring, and the Sacrament. For faithfulness, it is observed, that there be no lying with other man or woman, out of the bond of wedlock: for the offspring, that it be lovingly welcomed, kindly nourished, religiously brought up: for the Sacrament, that marriage be not severed, and that man or woman divorced be not joined to another even for the sake of offspring. This is as it were the rule of Marriages by which rule either fruitfulness is made seemly, or the perverseness of incontinence is brought to order. Upon which since we have sufficiently discoursed in that book, which we lately published, on the Good of Marriage, where we have also distinguished the Widow's continence and the Virgin's excellency, according to the worthiness of their degrees, our pen is not to be now longer occupied." This very work is referred to in Book I. on the Deserts and Remission of Sins, c. 29.--Bened. Ed.

NOTICE.

The Editors are, of course, aware of the danger there is in reading a treatise like the following in a spirit of idle curiosity, and they beg any reader who has not well assured himself that his aim is right and holy to abstain from perusing it. At the same time it must not be forgotten, that something far other than a mere shrinking from subjects offensive to modern delicacy is needed, in order to purify the thoughts with respect to the holy estate of Matrimony. The mind that will but seriously attend to it in that light, will certainly be strengthened against evil suggestions by seeing in the whole subject a field of Christian duty.

It seemed further requisite to bring forward a work calculated to remove the imputation so falsely cast on the holy Fathers, that they regarded Matrimony as unholy, and almost agreed with the Manichean view of it, as a defilement and degradation to the Christian. They did, it is true, prefer Virginity to Marriage, but as St. Augustin expressly states, as the "better of two good things," not as though one were good, and the other evil.

In estimating the work and the writer, the age in which it was written must be kept in view, and what that age required must not be imputed as a fault to him or to his religion. And perhaps what was written for another age may serve the more safely towards our improvement and guidance from the very circumstance that the style and manner of antiquity has become a kind of veil, which takes off somewhat from the strength and vividness of first impressions, and leaves the mind more at liberty to use what is laid before it as it will, than a more modern way of speaking would be likely to do. Let that liberty be used rightly and conscientiously, and the effect of reading will be good.--Eds. of the Oxford Library.


1. Forasmuch as each man is a part of the human race, and human nature is something social, and hath for a great and natural good, the power also of friendship; on this account God willed to create all men out of one, in order that they might be held in their society not only by likeness of kind, but also by bond of kindred. Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Nor did God create these each by himself, and join them together as alien by birth: but He created the one out of the other, setting a sign also of the power of the union in the side, whence she was drawn, was formed. [1934] For they are joined one to another side by side, who walk together, and look together whither they walk. Then follows the connexion of fellowship in children, which is the one alone worthy fruit, not of the union of male and female, but of the sexual intercourse. For it were possible that there should exist in either sex, even without such intercourse, a certain friendly and true union of the one ruling, and the other obeying.

Footnotes

[1934] Gen. ii. 21, 22


2. Nor is it now necessary that we enquire, and put forth a definite opinion on that question, whence could exist the progeny of the first men, whom God had blessed, saying, "Increase, and be ye multiplied, and fill the earth;" [1935] if they had not sinned, whereas their bodies by sinning deserved the condition of death, and there can be no sexual intercourse save of mortal bodies. For there have existed several and different opinions on this matter; and if we must examine, which of them be rather agreeable to the truth of Divine Scriptures, there is matter for a lengthened discussion. [1936] Whether, therefore, without intercourse, in some other way, had they not sinned, they would have had sons, from the gift of the Almighty Creator, Who was able to create themselves also without parents, Who was able to form the Flesh of Christ in a virgin womb, and (to speak even to unbelievers themselves) Who was able to bestow on bees a progeny without sexual intercourse; or whether many things there were spoken by way of mystery and figure, and we are to understand in another sense what is written, "Fill the earth, and rule over it;" that is, that it should come to pass by fullness and perfection of life and power, so that the very increase and multiplication, whereby it is said, "Increase, and be ye multiplied," be understood to be by advance of mind, and abundance of virtue, as it is set in the Psalm, "Thou shall multiply me in my soul by virtue;" [1937] and that succession of progeny was not given unto man, save after that, by reason of sin, there was to be hereafter departure in death: or whether the body was not made spiritual in the case of these men, but at the first animal, in order that by merit of obedience it might after become spiritual, to lay hold of immortality, not after death, which by the malice of the devil entered into the world, and was made the punishment of sin; but after that change, which the Apostle signifies, when he says, "Then we living, who remain, together with them, shall be caught up in the clouds, to meet Christ, into the air," [1938] that we may understand both that those bodies of the first pair were mortal, in the first forming, and yet that they would not have died, had they not sinned, as God had threatened: even as if He should threaten a wound, in that the body was capable of wounds; which yet would not have happened, unless what He had forbidden were done. Thus, therefore, even through sexual intercourse there might take place generations of such bodies, as up to a certain point should have increase, and yet should not pass into old age; or even into old age, and yet not into death; until the earth were filled with that multiplication of the blessing. For if to the garments of the Israelites [1939] God granted their proper state without any wearing away during forty years, how much more would He grant unto the bodies of such as obeyed His command a certain most happy temperament of sure state, until they should be changed for the better, not by death of the man, whereby the body is abandoned by the soul, but by a blessed change from mortality to immortality, from an animal to a spiritual quality. Of these opinions which be true, or whether some other or others yet may be formed out of these words, were a long matter to enquire and discuss.

Footnotes

[1935] Gen. i. 28 [1936] See De Civ. Dei, b. xiv. [1937] Ps. cxxxviii. 3. LXX. [1938] 1 Thess. iv. 17 [1939] Deut. xxix. 5


3. This we now say, that, according to this condition of being born and dying, which we know, and in which we have been created, the marriage of male and female is some good; the compact whereof divine Scripture so commends, as that neither is it allowed one put away by her husband to marry, so long as her husband lives: nor is it allowed one put away by his wife to marry another, unless she who have separated from him be dead. Therefore, concerning the good of marriage, which the Lord also confirmed in the Gospel, not only in that He forbade to put away a wife, [1940] save because of fornication, but also in that He came by invitation to a marriage, [1941] there is good ground to inquire for what reason it be a good. And this seems not to me to be merely on account of the begetting of children, but also on account of the natural society itself in a difference of sex. Otherwise it would not any longer be called marriage in the case of old persons, especially if either they had lost sons, or had given birth to none. But now in good, although aged, marriage, albeit there hath withered away the glow of full age between male and female, yet there lives in full vigor the order of charity between husband and wife: because, the better they are, the earlier they have begun by mutual consent to contain from sexual intercourse with each other: not that it should be matter of necessity afterwards not to have power to do what they would, but that it should be matter of praise to have been unwilling at the first, to do what they had power to do. If therefore there be kept good faith of honor, and of services mutually due from either sex, although the members of either be languishing and almost corpse-like, yet of souls duly joined together, the chastity [1942] continues, the purer by how much it is the more proved, the safer, by how much it is the calmer. Marriages have this good also, that carnal or youthful incontinence, although it be faulty, is brought unto an honest use in the begetting of children, in order that out of the evil of lust the marriage union may bring to pass some good. Next, in that the lust of the flesh is repressed, and rages in a way more modestly, being tempered by parental affection. For there is interposed a certain gravity of glowing pleasure, when in that wherein husband and wife cleave to one another, they have in mind that they be father and mother.

Footnotes

[1940] Matt. xix. 9 [1941] John ii. 2 [1942] Perhaps "charity."


4. There is this further, that in that very debt which married persons pay one to another, even if they demand it with somewhat too great intemperance and incontinence, yet they owe faith alike one to another. Unto which faith the Apostle allows so great right, as to call it "power," saying, "The woman hath not power of her own body, but the man; again in like manner also the man hath not power of his own body, but the woman." [1943] But the violation of this faith is called adultery, when either by instigation of one's own lust, or by consent of lust of another, there is sexual intercourse on either side with another against the marriage compact: and thus faith is broken, which, even in things that are of the body, and mean, is a great good of the soul: and therefore it is certain that it ought to be preferred even to the health of the body, wherein even this life of ours is contained. For, although a little chaff in comparison of much gold is almost nothing; yet faith, when it is kept pure in a matter of chaff, as in gold, is not therefore less because it is kept in a lesser matter. But when faith is employed to commit sin, it were strange that we should have to call it faith; however of what kind soever it be, if also the deed be done against it, it is the worse done; save when it is on this account abandoned, that there may be a return unto true and lawful faith, that is, that sin may be amended, by correction of perverseness of the will. As if any, being unable alone to rob a man, should find a partner in his iniquity, and make an agreement with him to do it together, and to divide the spoil; and, after the crime hath been committed, should take off the whole to himself alone. That other grieves and complains that faith hath not been kept with him, but in his very complaint he ought to consider, that he himself rather ought to have kept faith with human society in a good life, and not to make unjust spoil of a man, if he feels with how great injustice it hath failed to be kept with himself in a fellowship of sin. Forsooth the former, being faithless in both instances, must assuredly be judged the more wicked. But, if he had been displeased at what they had done ill, and had been on this account unwilling to divide the spoil with his partner in crime, in order that it might be restored to the man, from whom it had been taken, not even a faithless man would call him faithless. Thus a woman, if, having broken her marriage faith, she keep faith with her adulterer, is certainly evil: but, if not even with her adulterer, worse. Further, if she repent her of her sin, and returning to marriage chastity, renounce all adulterous compacts and resolutions, I count it strange if even the adulterer himself will think her one who breaks faith.

Footnotes

[1943] 1 Cor. vii. 4


5. Also the question is wont to be asked, when a male and female, neither the one the husband, nor the other the wife, of any other, come together, not for the begetting of children, but, by reason of incontinence, for the mere sexual intercourse, there being between them this faith, that neither he do it with any other woman, nor she with any other man, whether it is to be called marriage. [1944] And perhaps this may, not without reason, be called marriage, [1945] if it shall be the resolution [1946] of both parties until the death of one, and if the begetting of children, although they came not together for that cause, yet they shun not, so as either to be unwilling to have children born to them, or even by some evil work to use means that they be not born. But, if either both, or one, of these be wanting, I find not how we can call it marriage. For, if a man should take unto him any one for a time, until he find another worthy either of his honors or of his means, to marry as his compeer; in his soul itself he is an adulterer, and that not with her whom he is desirous of finding, but with her, with whom he so lies, as not to have with her the partnership of a husband. Whence she also herself, knowing and willing this, certainly acts unchastely in having intercourse with him, with whom she has not the compact of a wife. However, if she keep to him faith of bed, and after he shall have married, have no thought of marriage herself, and prepare to contain herself altogether from any such work, perhaps I should not dare lightly to call her an adulteress; but who shall say that she sins not, when he is aware that she has intercourse with a man, not being his wife? But further, if from that intercourse, so far as pertains to herself, she has no wish but for sons, and suffers unwilling whatever she suffers beyond the cause of begetting; there are many matrons to whom she is to be preferred; who, although they are not adulteresses, yet force their husbands, for the most part also wishing to exercise continence, to pay the due of the flesh, not through desire of children, but through glow of lust making an intemperate use of their very right; in whose marriages, however, this very thing, that they are married, is a good. For for this purpose are they married, that the lust being brought under a lawful bond, should not float at large without form and loose; having of itself weakness of flesh that cannot be curbed, but of marriage fellowship of faith that cannot be dissolved; of itself encroachment of immoderate intercourse, of marriage a way of chastely begetting. For, although it be shameful to wish to use a husband for purposes of lust, yet it is honorable to be unwilling to have intercourse save with an husband, and not to give birth to children save from a husband. There are also men incontinent to that degree, that they spare not their wives even when pregnant. Therefore whatever that is immodest, shameless, base, married persons do one with another, is the sin of the persons, not the fault of marriage.

Footnotes

[1944] Nuptioe [1945] Connubium [1946] Placuerit


6. Further, in the very case of the more immoderate requirement of the due of the flesh, which the Apostle enjoins not on them by way of command, but allows to them by way of leave, that they have intercourse also beside the cause of begetting children; although evil habits impel them to such intercourse, yet marriage guards them from adultery or fornication. For neither is that committed because of marriage, but is pardoned because of marriage. Therefore married persons owe one another not only the faith of their sexual intercourse itself, for the begetting of children, which is the first fellowship of the human kind in this mortal state; but also, in a way, a mutual service of sustaining [1947] one another's weakness, in order to shun unlawful intercourse: so that, although perpetual continence be pleasing to one of them, he may not, save with consent of the other. For thus far also, "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the man: in like manner also the man hath not power of his own body, but the woman." [1948] That that also, which, not for the begetting of children, but for weakness and incontinence, either he seeks of marriage, or she of her husband, they deny not the one or the other; lest by this they fall into damnable seductions, through temptation of Satan, by reason of incontinence either of both, or of whichever of them. For intercourse of marriage for the sake of begetting hath not fault; but for the satisfying of lust, but yet with husband or wife, by reason of the faith of the bed, it hath venial fault: but adultery or fornication hath deadly fault, and, through this, continence from all intercourse is indeed better even than the intercourse of marriage itself, which takes place for the sake of begetting. But because that Continence is of larger desert, but to pay the due of marriage is no crime, but to demand it beyond the necessity of begetting is a venial fault, but to commit fornication or adultery is a crime to be punished; charity of the married ought to beware, lest whilst it seek for itself occasion of larger honor, it do that for its partner which cause condemnation. "For whosoever putteth away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery." [1949] To such a degree is that marriage compact entered upon a matter of a certain sacrament, that it is not made void even by separation itself, since, so long as her husband lives, even by whom she hath been left, she commits adultery, in case she be married to another: and he who hath left her, is the cause of this evil.

Footnotes

[1947] Excipiendæ [1948] 1 Cor. vii. 4 [1949] Matt. v. 32


7. But I marvel, if, as it is allowed to put away a wife who is an adulteress, so it be allowed, having put her away, to marry another. For holy Scripture causes a hard knot in this matter, in that the Apostle says, that, by commandment of the Lord, the wife ought not to depart from her husband, but, in case she shall have departed, to remain unmarried, or to be reconciled to her husband; [1950] whereas surely she ought not to depart and remain unmarried, save from an husband that is an adulterer, lest by withdrawing from him, who is not an adulterer, she cause him to commit adultery. But perhaps she may justly be reconciled to her husband, either he being to be borne with, if she cannot contain herself, or being now corrected. But I see not how the man can have permission to marry another, in case he have left an adulteress, when a woman has not to be married to another, in case she have left an adulterer. And, this being the case, so strong is that bond of fellowship in married persons, that, although it be tied for the sake f begetting children, not even for the sake of begetting children is it loosed. For it is in a man's power to put away a wife that is barren, and marry one of whom to have children. And yet it is not allowed; and now indeed in our times, and after the usage of Rome, neither to marry in addition, so as to have more than one wife living: and, surely, in case of an adulteress or adulterer being left, it would be possible that more men should be born, if either the woman were married to another, or the man should marry another. And yet, if this be not lawful, as the Divine Rule seems to prescribe, who is there but it must make him attentive to learn, what is the meaning of this so great strength of the marriage bond? Which I by no means think could have been of so great avail, were it not that there were taken a certain sacrament of some greater matter from out this weak mortal state of men, so that, men deserting it, and seeking to dissolve it, it should remain unshaken for their punishment. Seeing that the compact of marriage is not done away by divorce intervening; so that they continue wedded persons one to another, even after separation; and commit adultery with those, with whom they shall be joined, even after their own divorce, either the woman with a man, or the man with a woman. And yet, save in the City of our God, in His Holy Mount, the case is not such with the wife. [1951] But, that the laws of the Gentiles are otherwise, who is there that knows not; where, by the interposition of divorce, without any offense of which man takes cognizance, both the woman is married to whom she will, and the man marries whom he will. And something like this custom, on account of the hardness of the Israelites, Moses seems to have allowed, concerning a bill of divorcement. [1952] In which matter there appears rather a rebuke, than an approval, of divorce. [1953]

Footnotes

[1950] 1 Cor. vii. 10, 11 [1951] Ps. xlviii. 1 [1952] Deut. xxiv. 1 [1953] Matt. xix. 8


8. "Honorable," therefore, "is marriage in all, and the bed undefiled." [1954] And this we do not so call a good, as that it is a good in comparison of fornication: otherwise there will be two evils, of which the second is worse: or fornication will also be a good, because adultery is worse: for it is worse to violate the marriage of another, than to cleave unto an harlot: and adultery will be a good, because incest is worse; for it is worse to lie with a mother than with the wife of another: and, until we arrive at those things, which, as the Apostle saith, "it is a shame even to speak of," [1955] all will be good in comparison of what are worse. But who can doubt that this is false? Therefore marriage and fornication are not two evils, whereof the second is worse: but marriage and continence are two goods, whereof the second is better, even as this temporal health and sickness are not two evils, whereof the second is worse; but that health and immortality are two goods, whereof the second is better. Also knowledge and vanity are not two evils, whereof vanity is the worse: but knowledge and charity are two goods, whereof charity is the better. For "knowledge shall be destroyed," [1956] saith the Apostle: and yet it is necessary for this time: but "charity shall never fail." Thus also this mortal begetting, on account of which marriage takes place, shall be destroyed: but freedom from all sexual intercourse is both angelic exercise [1957] here, and continueth for ever. But as the repasts of the Just are better than the fasts of the sacrilegious, so the marriage of the faithful is to be set before the virginity of the impious. However neither in that case is repast preferred to fasting, but righteousness to sacrilege; nor in this, marriage to virginity, but faith to impiety. For for this end the righteous, when need is, take their repast, that, as good masters, they may give to their slaves, i.e., their bodies, what is just and fair: but for this end the sacrilegious fast, that they may serve devils. Thus for this end the faithful are married, that they may be chastely joined unto husbands, but for this end the impious are virgins, that they may commit fornication away from the true God. As, therefore, that was good, which Martha was doing, being engaged in the ministering unto the Saints, but that better, which Mary, her sister, sitting at the feet of the Lord, and hearing His word; thus we praise the good of Susanna [1958] in married chastity, but yet we set before her the good of the widow Anna, [1959] and, much more, of the Virgin Mary. [1960] It was good that they were doing, who of their substance were ministering necessaries unto Christ and His disciples: but better, who left all their substance, that they might be freer to follow the same Lord. But in both these cases of good, whether what these, or whether what Martha and Mary were doing, the better could not be done, unless the other had been passed over or left. Whence we are to understand, that we are not, on this account, to think marriage an evil, because, unless there be abstinence from it, widowed chastity, or virgin purity, cannot be had. For neither on this account was what Martha was doing evil, because, unless her sister abstained from it, she could not do what was better: nor on this account is it evil to receive a just man or a prophet into one's house, because he, who wills to follow Christ unto perfection, ought not even to have a house, in order to do what is better.

Footnotes

[1954] Heb. xiii. 4. [See R.V.] [1955] Eph. v. 12 [1956] 1 Cor. xiii. 8 [1957] Meditatio [1958] Hist. of Susanna, 22, 23 [1959] Luke ii. 37 [1960] Luke i. 27, 28


9. Truly we must consider, that God gives us some goods, which are to be sought for their own sake, such as wisdom, health, friendship: but others, which are necessary for the sake of somewhat, such as learning, meat, drink, sleep, marriage, sexual intercourse. For of these certain are necessary for the sake of wisdom, as learning: certain for the sake of health, as meat and drink and sleep: certain for the sake of friendship, as marriage or sexual intercourse: for hence subsists the propagation of the human kind, wherein friendly fellowship is a great good. These goods, therefore, which are necessary for the sake of something else, whoso useth not for this purpose, wherefore they were instituted, sins; in some cases venially, in other cases damnably. But whoso useth them for this purpose, wherefore they were given doeth well. Therefore, to whomsoever they are not necessary, if he use them not, he doeth better. Wherefore, these goods, when we have need, we do well to wish; but we do better not to wish than to wish: because ourselves are in a better state, when we account them not necessary. And on this account it is good to marry, because it is good to beget children, to be a mother of a family: but it is better not to marry, [1961] because it is better not to stand in need of this work, in order to human fellowship itself. For such is the state of the human race now, that (others, who contain not, not only being taken up with marriage, but many also waxing wanton through unlawful concubinages, the Good Creator working what is good out of their evils) there fails not numerous progeny, and abundant succession, out of which to procure holy friendships. Whence we gather, that, in the first times of the human race, chiefly for the propagation of the People of God, through whom the Prince and Saviour of all people should both be prophesied of, and be born, it was the duty of the Saints to use this good of marriage, not as to be sought for its own sake, but necessary for the sake of something else: but now, whereas, in order to enter upon holy and pure fellowship, there is on all sides from out all nations an overflowing fullness of spiritual kindred, even they who wish to contract marriage only for the sake of children, are to be admonished, that they use rather the larger good of continence.

Footnotes

[1961] 1 Tim. v. 14


10. But I am aware of some that murmur: What, say they, if all men should abstain from all sexual intercourse, whence will the human race exist? Would that all would this, only in "charity out of a pure heart, and good conscience, and faith unfeigned;" [1962] much more speedily would the City of God be filled, and the end of the world hastened. For what else doth the Apostle, as is manifest, exhort to, when he saith, speaking on this head, "I would that all were as myself;" [1963] or in that passage, "But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remains that both they who have wives, be as though not having: and they who weep, as though not weeping: and they who rejoice, as though not rejoicing: and they who buy, as though not buying: and they who use this world as though they use it not. For the form of this world passeth by. I would have you without care." Then he adds, "Whoso is without a wife thinks of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord: but whoso is joined in marriage, thinks of the things of the world, how to please his wife: and a woman that is unmarried and a virgin is different: she that is unmarried is anxious about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit: but she that is married, is anxious about the things of the world, how to please her husband." [1964] Whence it seems to me, that at this time, those only, who contain not, ought to marry, according to that sentence of the same Apostle, "But if they contain not, let them be married: for it is better to be married than to burn." [1965]

Footnotes

[1962] 1 Tim. i. 5 [1963] 1 Cor. vii. 7 [1964] Ver. 29-34 [1965] 1 Cor. vii. 9


11. And yet not to these themselves is marriage a sin; which, if it were chosen in comparison of fornication, would be a less sin than fornication, and yet would be a sin. But now what shall we say against the most plain speech of the Apostle, saying, "Let her do what she will; she sinneth not, if she be married;" [1966] and, "If thou shalt have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned: and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not." [1967] Hence surely it is not lawful now to doubt that marriage is no sin. Therefore the Apostle alloweth not marriage as matter "of pardon:" [1968] for who can doubt that it is extremely absurd to say, that they have not sinned, unto whom "pardon" is granted. But he allows, as matter of "pardon," that sexual intercourse, which takes place through incontinence, not alone for the begetting of children, and, at times, not at all for the begetting of children; and it is not that marriage forces this to take place, but that it procures pardon for it; provided however it be not so in excess as to hinder what ought to be set aside as seasons of prayer, nor be changed into that use which is against nature, on which the Apostle could not be silent, when speaking of the excessive corruptions of unclean and impious men. For necessary sexual intercourse for begetting is free from blame, and itself is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity, no longer follows reason, but lust. [1969] And yet it pertains to the character of marriage, not to exact this, but to yield it to the partner, lest by fornication the other sin damnably. But, if both are set under such lust, they do what is plainly not matter of marriage. However, if in their intercourse they love what is honest more than what is dishonest, that is, what is matter of marriage more than what is not matter of marriage, this is allowed to them on the authority of the Apostle as matter of pardon: and for this fault, they have in their marriage, not what sets them on to commit it, but what entreats pardon for it, if they turn not away from them the mercy of God, either by not abstaining on certain days, that they may be free to pray, and through this abstinence, as through fasting, may commend their prayers; or by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife.

Footnotes

[1966] 1 Cor. vii. 36 [1967] Ver. 28 [1968] Veniam [1969] Rom. i. 26, 27


12. For, whereas that natural use, when it pass beyond the compact of marriage, that is, beyond the necessity of begetting, is pardonable in the case of a wife, damnable in the case of an harlot; that which is against nature is execrable when done in the case of an harlot, but more execrable in the case of a wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of Creation, that, in matters allowed us to use, even when the due measure is exceeded, it is far more tolerable, than, in what are not allowed, either a single, or rare excess. And, therefore, in a matter allowed, want of moderation, in a husband or wife, is to be borne with, in order that lust break not forth into a matter that is not allowed. Hence is it also that he sins far less, who is ever so unceasing in approaches to his wife, than he who approaches ever so seldom to commit fornication. But, when the man shall wish to use the member of the wife not allowed for this purpose, the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman. Therefore the ornament of marriage is chastity of begetting, and faith of yielding the due of the flesh: this is the work of marriage, this the Apostle defends from every charge, in saying, "Both if thou shall have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned: and if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not:" and, "Let her do what she will: she sinneth not if she be married." [1970] But an advance beyond moderation in demanding the due of either sex, for the reasons which I have stated above, is allowed to married persons as matter of pardon.

Footnotes

[1970] 1 Cor. vii. 28, 36


13. What therefore he says, "She, that is unmarried, thinketh of the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit;" we are not to take in such sense, as to think that a chaste Christian wife is not holy in body. Forsooth unto all the faithful it was said, "Know ye not that your bodies are a temple of the Holy Ghost within you, Whom ye have from God?" [1971] Therefore the bodies also of the married are holy, so long as they keep faith to one another and to God. And that this sanctity of either of them, even an unbelieving partner does not stand in the way of, but rather that the sanctity of the wife profits the unbelieving husband, and the sanctity of the husband profits the unbelieving wife, the same Apostle is witness, saying, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in a brother." [1972] Wherefore that was said according to the greater sanctity of the unmarried than of the married, unto which there is also due a greater reward, according as, the one being a good, the other is a greater good: inasmuch as also she has this thought only, how to please the Lord. For it is not that a female who believes, keeping married chastity, thinks not how to please the Lord; but assuredly less so, in that she thinks of the things of the world, how to please her husband. For this is what he would say of them, that they may, in a certain way, find themselves obliged by marriage to think of the things of the world, how to please their husbands.

Footnotes

[1971] 1 Cor. vi. 19 [1972] 1 Cor. vii. 14


14. And not without just cause a doubt is raised, whether he said this of all married women, or of such as so many are, as that nearly all may be thought so to be. For neither doth that, which he saith of unmarried women, "She, that is unmarried, thinkest of the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit:" [1973] pertain unto all unmarried women: whereas there are certain widows who are dead, who live in delights. However, so far as regards a certain distinction and, as it were, character of their own, of the unmarried and married; as she deserves the excess of hatred, who containing from marriage, [1974] that is, from a thing allowed, does not contain from offenses, either of luxury, or pride, or curiosity and prating; so the married woman is seldom met with, who, in the very obedience of married life, hath no thought save how to please God, by adorning herself, not with plaited hair, or gold and pearls and costly attire, [1975] but as becometh women making profession of piety, through a good conversation. Such marriages, forsooth, the Apostle Peter also describes by giving commandment. "In like manner," saith he, "wives obeying their own husbands; in order that, even if any obey not the word, they may be gained without discourse through the conversation of the wives, seeing your fear and chaste conversation: that they be not they that are adorned without with crispings of hair, or clothed with gold or with fair raiment; but that hidden man of your heart, in that unbroken continuance of a quiet and modest spirit, which before the Lord also is rich. For thus certain holy women, who hoped in the Lord, used to adorn themselves, obeying their own husbands: as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord: whose daughters ye are become, when ye do well, and fear not with any vain fear. Husbands in like manner living at peace and in chastity with your wives, both give ye honor as to the weaker and subject vessel, as with co-heirs of grace, and see that your prayers be not hindered." [1976] Is it indeed that such marriages have no thought of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord? But they are very rare: who denies this? And, being, as they are, rare, nearly all the persons who are such, were not joined together in order to be such, but being already joined together became such.

Footnotes

[1973] 1 Cor. vii. 34 [1974] 1 Tim. v. 6 [1975] 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10 [1976] 1 Peter iii. 1-7


15. For what Christian men of our time being free from the marriage bond, having power to contain from all sexual intercourse, seeing it to be now "a time," as it is written, "not of embracing, but of abstaining from embrace," [1977] would not choose rather to keep virginal or widowed continence, than (now that there is no obligation from duty to human society) to endure tribulation of the flesh, without which marriages cannot be (to pass over in silence other things from which the Apostle spares.) But when through desire reigning they shall have been joined together, if they shall after overcome it, because it is not lawful to loose, in such wise as it was lawful not to tie, the marriage bond, they become such as the form of marriage makes profession of, so as that either by mutual consent they ascend unto a higher degree of holiness, or, if both are not such, the one who is such will not be one to exact but to yield the due, observing in all things a chaste and religious concord. But in those times, wherein as yet the mystery of our salvation was veiled in prophetic sacraments, even they who were such before marriage, yet contracted marriage through the duty of begetting children, not overcome by lust, but led by piety, unto whom if there were given such choice as in the revelation of the New Testament there hath been given, the Lord saying "Whoso can receive, let him receive;" [1978] no one doubts that they would have been ready to receive it even with joy, who reads with careful attention what use they made of their wives, at a time when also it was allowed one man to have several, whom he had with more chastity, than any now has his one wife, of these, unto whom we see what the Apostle allows by way of leave. [1979] For they had them in the work of begetting children, not "in the disease of desire, as the nations which know not God." [1980] And this is so great a thing, that many at this day more easily abstain from all sexual intercourse their whole life through, than, if they are joined in marriage, observe the measure of not coming together except for the sake of children. Forsooth we have many brethren and partners in the heavenly inheritance of both sexes that are continent, whether they be such as have made trial of marriage, or such as are entirely free from all such intercourse: forsooth they are without number: yet, in our familiar discourses with them, whom have we heard, whether of those who are, or of those who have been, married, declaring to us that he has never had sexual intercourse with his wife, save with the hope of conception? What, therefore, the Apostles command the married, this is proper to marriage, but what they allow by way of pardon, or what hinders prayers, this marriage compels not, but bears with.

Footnotes

[1977] Eccles. iii. 5 [1978] Matt. xix. 12 [1979] 1 Cor. vii. 6 [1980] 1 Thess. iv. 5


16. Therefore if haply, (which whether it can take place, I know not; and rather think it cannot take place; but yet, if haply), having taken unto himself a concubine for a time, a man shall have sought sons only from this same intercourse; neither thus is that union to be preferred to the marriage even of those women, who do this, that is matter of pardon. [1981] For we must consider what belongs to marriage, not what belongs to such women as marry and use marriage with less moderation than they ought. For neither if each one so use lands entered upon unjustly and wrongly, as out of their fruits to give large alms, doth he therefore justify rapine: nor if another brood over, through avarice, an estate to which he has succeeded, or which he hath justly gained, are we on this account to blame the rule of civil law, whereby he is made a lawful owner. Nor will the wrongfulness of a tyrannical rebellion deserve praise, if the tyrant treat his subjects with royal clemency: nor will the order of royal power deserve blame, if a king rage with tyrannical cruelty. For it is one thing to wish to use well unjust power, and it is another thing to use unjustly just power. Thus neither do concubines taken for a time, if they be such in order to sons, make their concubinage lawful; nor do married women, if they live wantonly with their husbands, attach any charge to the order of marriage.

Footnotes

[1981] Veniale


17. That marriage can take place of persons first ill joined, an honest decree following after, is manifest. But a marriage once for all entered upon in the City of our God, where, even from the first union of the two, the man and the woman, marriage bears a certain sacramental character, can no way be dissolved but by the death of one of them. For the bond of marriage remains, although a family, for the sake of which it was entered upon, do not follow through manifest barrenness; so that, when now married persons know that they shall not have children, yet it is not lawful for them to separate even for the very sake of children, and to join themselves unto others. And if they shall so do, they commit adultery with those unto whom they join themselves, but themselves remain husbands and wives. Clearly with the good will of the wife to take another woman, that from her may be born sons common to both, by the sexual intercourse and seed of the one, but by the right and power of the other, was lawful among the ancient fathers: whether it be lawful now also, I would not hastily pronounce. For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there then was, when, even when wives bare children, it was allowed, in order to a more numerous posterity, to marry other wives in addition, which now is certainly not lawful. For the difference that separates times causes the due season to have so great force unto the justice and doing or not doing any thing, that now a man does better, if he marry not even one wife, unless he be unable to contain. But then they married even several without any blame, even those who could much more easily contain, were it not that piety at that time had another demand upon them. For, as the wise and just man, [1982] who now desires to be dissolved and to be with Christ, and takes more pleasure in this, the best, now not from desire of living here, but from duty of being useful [1983] , takes food that he may remain in the flesh, which is necessary for the sake of others; so to have intercourse with females in right of marriage, was to holy men at that time a matter of duty not of lust.

Footnotes

[1982] Phil. i. 23 [1983] Consulendi


18. For what food is unto the conservation of the man, this sexual intercourse is unto the conservation of the race: and both are not without carnal delight: which yet being modified, and by restraint of temperance reduced unto the use after nature, cannot be lust. [1984] But what unlawful food is in the supporting of life, this sexual intercourse of fornication or adultery is in the seeking of a family. And what unlawful food is in luxury of belly and throat, this unlawful intercourse is in lust that seeks not a family. And what the excessive appetite of some is in lawful food, this that intercourse that is matter of pardon is in husband and wife. As therefore it is better to die of hunger than to eat things offered unto idols: so it is better to die without children, than to seek a family from unlawful intercourse. But from whatever source men be born, if they follow not the vices of their parents, and worship God aright, they shall be honest and safe. For the seed of man, from out what kind of man soever, is the creation of God, and it shall fare ill with those who use it ill, yet shall not, itself at any time be evil. But as the good sons of adulterers are no defense of adulteries, so the evil sons of married persons are no charge against marriage. Wherefore as the Fathers of the time of the New Testament taking food from the duty of conservation, although they took it with natural delight of the flesh, were yet in no way compared with the delight of those who fed on what had been offered in sacrifice, or of those who, although the food was lawful, yet took it to excess: so the Fathers of the time of the Old Testament from the duty of conservation used sexual intercourse; and yet that their natural delight, by no means relaxed unto unreasonable and unlawful lust, is not to be compared either with the vileness of fornications, or with the intemperance of married persons. Forsooth through the same vein [1985] of charity, now after the spirit, then after the flesh, it was a duty to beget sons for the sake of that mother Jerusalem: but it was nought save the difference of times which made the works of the fathers different. But thus it was necessary that even Prophets, not living after the flesh, should come together after the flesh; even as it was necessary that Apostles also, not living after the flesh, should eat food after the flesh.

Footnotes

[1984] Retract. b. ii. c. xxii. 2. "it was meant that the good and right use of lust is not lust, for as it is evil will to use good things, so is it good will to use evil things." [1985] "Vena."


19. Therefore as many women as there are now, unto whom it is said, "if they contain not, let them be married, [1986]" are not to be compared to the holy women then, even when they married. Marriage itself indeed in all nations is for the same cause of begetting sons, and of what character soever these may be afterward, yet was marriage for this purpose instituted, that they may be born in due and honest order. But men, who contain not, as it were ascend unto marriage by a step of honesty: but they, who without doubt would contain, if the purpose of that time had allowed this, in a certain measure descended unto marriage by a step of piety. And, on this account, although the marriages of both, so far as they are marriages, in that they are for the sake of begetting, are equally good, yet these men when married are not to be compared with those men as married. For these have, what is allowed them by the way of leave, on account of the honesty of marriage, although it pertain not to marriage; that is, the advance which goes beyond the necessity of begetting, which they had not. But neither can these, if haply there be now any found, who neither seek, nor desire, in marriage any thing, save that wherefore marriage was instituted, be made equal to those men. For in these the very desire of sons is carnal, but in those it was spiritual, in that it was suited to the sacrament of that time. Forsooth now no one who is made perfect in piety seeks to have sons, save after a spiritual sense; but then it was the work of piety itself to beget sons even after a carnal sense: in that the begetting of that people was fraught with tidings of things to come, and pertained unto the prophetic dispensation.

Footnotes

[1986] 1 Cor. vii. 9


20. And on this account, not, so as it was allowed one man to have even several wives, was it allowed one female to have several husbands, not even for the sake of a family, in case it should happen that the woman could bear, the man could not beget. For by a secret law of nature things that stand chief love to be singular; but what are subject are set under, not only one under one, but, if the system of nature or society allow, even several under one, not without becoming beauty. For neither hath one slave so several masters, in the way that several slaves have one master. Thus we read not that any of the holy women served two or more living husbands: but we read that many females served one husband, when the social state [1987] of that nation allowed it, and the purpose of the time persuaded to it: for neither is it contrary to the nature of marriage. For several females can conceive from one man: but one female cannot from several, (such is the power of things principal:) as many souls are rightly made subject unto one God. And on this account there is no True God of souls, save One: but one soul by means of many false gods may commit fornication, but not be made fruitful.

Footnotes

[1987] Societas


21. But since out of many souls there shall be hereafter one City of such as have one soul and one heart [1988] towards God; which perfection of our unity shall be hereafter, after this sojourn in a strange land, wherein the thoughts of all shall neither be hidden one from another, nor shall be in any matter opposed one to another; on this account the Sacrament of marriage of our time hath been so reduced to one man and one wife, as that it is not lawful to ordain any as a steward of the Church, save the husband of one wife. [1989] And this they have understood more acutely who have been of opinion, that neither is he to be ordained, [1990] who as a catechumen or as a heathen [1991] had a second wife. For it is a matter of sacrament, not of sin. For in baptism all sins are put away. But he who said, "If thou shall have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not:" [1992] and, "Let her do what she will, she sinneth not, if she be married," hath made it plain enough that marriage is no sin. But on account of the sanctity of the Sacrament, as a female, although it be as a catechumen that she hath suffered violence, cannot after Baptism be consecrated among the virgins of God: so there was no absurdity in supposing of him who had exceeded the number of one wife, not that he had committed any sin, but that he had lost a certain prescript rule [1993] of a sacrament necessary not unto desert of good life, but unto the seal of ecclesiastic ordination; and thus, as the many wives of the old Fathers signified our future Churches out of all nations made subject unto one husband, Christ: so our chief-priest, [1994] the husband of one wife, signifies unity out of all nations, made subject unto one husband, Christ: which shall then be perfected, when He shall have unveiled the hidden things of darkness, [1995] and shall have made manifest the thoughts of the heart, that then each may have praise from God. But now there are manifest, there are hidden, dissensions, even where charity is safe between those, who shall be hereafter one, and in one; which shall then certainly have no existence. As therefore the Sacrament of marriage with several of that time signified the multitude that should be hereafter made subject unto God in all nations of the earth, so the Sacrament of marriage with one of our times signifies the unity of us all made subject to God, which shall be hereafter in one Heavenly City. Therefore as to serve two or more, so to pass over from a living husband into marriage with another, was neither lawful then, nor is it lawful now, nor will it ever be lawful. Forsooth to apostatise from the One God, and to go into adulterous superstition of another, is ever an evil. Therefore not even for the sake of a more numerous family did our Saints do, what the Roman Cato is said to have done, [1996] to give up his wife, during his own life, to fill even another's house with sons. Forsooth in the marriage of one woman the sanctity of the Sacrament is of more avail than the fruitfulness of the womb.

Footnotes

[1988] Acts iv. 32 [1989] 1 Tim. iii. 2 [1990] Tit. i. 6 [1991] Thus Ambrose, Verellæ, and ancient Jerome, Ep. ad Ocean. and harshly against Ep. to Ch. of general custom, speaks strongly this interpretation, and says, b. i. near the end, that Ruffinus had found fault with him for this. Ben. [1992] 1 Cor. vii. 28, 36 [1993] Normam [1994] Antistes [1995] 1 Cor. iv. 5 [1996] Cato minor, cf. Plutarch. p. 771.


22. If, therefore, even they who are united in marriage only for the purpose of begetting, for which purpose marriage was instituted, are not compared with the Fathers, seeking their very sons in a way far other than do these; forasmuch as Abraham, being bidden to slay his son, fearless and devoted, spared not his only son, whom from out of great despair he had received [1997] save that he laid down his hand, when He forbade him, at Whose command he had lifted it up; it remains that we consider, whether at least continent persons among us are to be compared to those Fathers who were married; unless haply now these are to be preferred to them, to whom we have not yet found persons to compare. For there was a greater good in their marriage, than is the proper good of marriage: to which without doubt the good of Continence is to be preferred: because they sought not sons from marriage by such duty as these are led by, from a certain sense of mortal nature requiring succession against decease. And, whoso denies this to be good he knows not God, the Creator of all things good, from things heavenly even unto things earthly, from things immortal even unto things mortal. But neither are beasts altogether without this sense of begetting, and chiefly birds, whose care of building nests meets us at once, and a certain likeness to marriages, in order to beget and nurture together. But those men, with mind far holier, surpassed this affection of mortal nature, the chastity whereof in its own kind, there being added thereto the worship of God, as some have understood, is set forth as bearing first thirty-fold; who sought sons of their marriage for the sake of Christ; in order to distinguish His race after the flesh from all nations: even as God was pleased to order, that this above the rest should avail to prophesy of Him, in that it was foretold of what race also, and of what nation, He should hereafter come in the flesh. Therefore it was a far greater good than the chaste marriages of believers among us, which father Abraham knew in his own thigh, under which he bade his servant to put his hand, that he might take an oath concerning the wife, whom his son was to marry. For putting his hand under the thigh of a man, and swearing by the God of Heaven, [1998] what else did he signify, than that in that Flesh, which derived its origin from that thigh, the God of Heaven would come? Therefore marriage is a good, wherein married persons are so much the better, in proportion as they fear God with greater chastity and faithfulness, specially if the sons, whom they desire after the flesh, they also bring up after the spirit.

Footnotes

[1997] Gen. xxii. 12 [1998] Gen. xxiv. 2-4


23. Nor, in that the Law orders a man to be purified even after intercourse with a wife, doth it show it to be sin: unless it be that which is allowed by way of pardon, which also, being in excess, hinders prayers. But, as the Law sets [1999] many things in sacraments and shadows of things to come; a certain as it were material formless state of the seed, which having received form will hereafter produce the body of man, is set to signify a life formless, and untaught: from which formless state, forasmuch as it behoves that man be cleansed by form and teaching of learning; as a sign of this, that purification was ordered after the emission of seed. For neither in sleep also doth it take place through sin. And yet there also a purification was commanded. Or, if any think this also to be sin, thinking that it comes not to pass save from some lust of this kind, which without doubt is false; what? are the ordinary menses also of women sins? And yet from these the same old Law commanded that they should be cleansed by expiation; for no other cause, save the material formless state itself, in that which, when conception hath taken place, is added as it were to build up the body, and for this reason, when it flows without form, the Law would have signified by it a soul without form of discipline, flowing and loose in an unseemly manner. And that this ought to receive form, it signifies, when it commands such flow of the body to be purified. Lastly, what? to die, is that also a sin? or, to bury a dead person, is it not also a good work of humanity? and yet a purification was commanded even on occasion of this also; because also a dead body, life abandoning it, is not sin, but signifies the sin of a soul abandoned by righteousness. [2000]

Footnotes

[1999] Infirmitas [2000] Numb. xix. 11


24. Marriage, I say, is a good, and may be, by sound reason, defended against all calumnies. But with the marriage of the holy fathers, I inquire not what marriage, but what continence, is on a level: or rather not marriage with marriage; for it is an equal gift in all cases given to the mortal nature of men; but men who use marriage, forasmuch as I find not, to compare with other men who used marriage in a far other spirit, we must require what continent persons admit of being compared with those married persons. Unless, haply, Abraham could not contain from marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, he who, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, could fearless sacrifice his only pledge of offspring, for whose sake marriage was dear!


25. Forsooth continence is a virtue, not of the body, but of the soul. But the virtues of the soul are sometimes shown in work, sometimes lie hid in habit, as the virtue of martyrdom shone forth and appeared by enduring sufferings; but how many are there of the same virtue of mind, unto whom trial is wanting, whereby what is within, in the sight of God, may go forth also into the sight of men, and not to men begin to exist, but only become known? For there was already in Job patience, which God knew, and to which He bore witness: but it became known unto men by test of trial: [2001] and what lay hid within was not produced, but shown, by the things that were brought on him from without. Timothy also certainly had the virtue of abstaining from wine, [2002] which Paul took not from him, by advising him to use a moderate portion of wine, "for the sake of his stomach and his often infirmities," otherwise he taught him a deadly lesson, that for the sake of the health of the body there should be a loss of virtue in the soul: but because what he advised could take place with safety to that virtue, the profit of drinking was so left free to the body, as that the habit of continence continued in the soul. For it is the habit itself, whereby any thing is done, when there is need; [2003] but when it is not done, it can be done, only there is no need. This habit, in the matter of that continence which is from sexual intercourse, they have not, unto whom it is said, "If they contain not, let them be married." [2004] But this they have, unto whom it is said, "Whoso can receive, let him receive." [2005] Thus have perfect souls used earthly goods, that are necessary for something else, through this habit of continence, so as, by it, not to be bound by them, and so as by it, to have power also not to use them, in case there were no need. Nor doth any use them well, save who hath power also not to use them. Many indeed with more ease practise abstinence, so as not to use, than practise temperance, so as to use well. But no one can wisely use them, save who can also continently not use them. From this habit Paul also said, "I know both to abound, and to suffer want." [2006] Forsooth to suffer want is the part of any men soever; but to know to suffer want is the part of great men. So, also, to abound, who cannot? but to know also to abound, is not, save of those, whom abundance corrupts not.

Footnotes

[2001] Job i. 8 [2002] 1 Tim. v. 23 [2003] Or "work." [2004] 1 Cor. vii. 9 [2005] Matt. xix. 12 [2006] Phil. iv. 12


26. But, in order that it may be more clearly understood, how there may be virtue in habit, although it be not in work, I speak of an example, about which no Catholic Christian can doubt. For that our Lord Jesus Christ in truth of flesh hungered and thirsted, ate and drank, no one doubts of such as out of the Gospel are believers. What, then, was there not in Him the virtue of continence from meat and drink, as great as in John Baptist? "For John came neither eating nor drinking; and they said, He hath a devil; the Son of Man came both eating and drinking; and they said, "Lo, a glutton and wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." [2007] What, are not such things said also against them of His household, our fathers, from another kind of using of things earthy, so far as pertains to sexual intercourse; "Lo, men lustful and unclean, lovers of women and lewdness?" And yet as in Him that was not true, although it were true that He abstained not, even as John, from eating and drinking, for Himself saith most plainly and truly, "John came, not eating, nor drinking; the Son of Man came eating and drinking:" so neither is this true in these Fathers; although there hath come now the Apostle of Christ, not wedded, nor begetting, so that the heathen say of him, He was a magician; but there came then the Prophet of Christ, marrying and begetting sons, so that the Manichees say of him, He was a man fond of women: "And wisdom," saith He, "hath been justified of her children." [2008] What the Lord there added, after He had thus spoken of John and of Himself; "But wisdom," saith He, "hath been justified of her children." Who see that the virtue of continence ought to exist even in the habit of the soul, but to be shown forth in deed, according to opportunity of things and times; even as the virtue of patience of holy martyrs appeared in deed; but of the rest equally holy was in habit. Wherefore, even as there is not unequal desert of patience in Peter, who suffered, and in John, who suffered not; so there is not unequal desert of continence in John who made no trial of marriage, [2009] and in Abraham, who begat sons. For both the celibate of the one, and the marriage estate of the other, did service as soldiers to Christ, as times were allotted; but John had continence in work also, but Abraham in habit alone.

Footnotes

[2007] Matt. xi. 18-19 [2008] Matt. xi. 19 [2009] S. Jerome agt. Jovinianus.


27. Therefore at that time, when the Law also, following upon the days of the Patriarchs, [2010] pronounced accursed, whoso raised not up seed in Israel, even he, who could, put it not forth, but yet possessed it. But from the period that the fullness of time hath come, [2011] that it should be said, "Whoso can receive, let him receive," [2012] from that period even unto this present, and from henceforth even unto the end, whoso hath, worketh: whoso shall be unwilling to work, let him not falsely say, that he hath. And through this means, they, who corrupt good manners by evil communications, [2013] with empty and vain craft, say to a Christian man exercising continence, and refusing marriage, What then, are you better than Abraham? But let him not, upon hearing this, be troubled; neither let him dare to say, "Better," nor let him fall away from his purpose: for the one he saith not truly, the other he doth not rightly. But let him say, I indeed am not better than Abraham, but the chastity of the unmarried is better than the chastity of marriage; whereof Abraham had one in use, both in habit. For he lived chastely in the marriage state: but it was in his power to be chaste without marriage, but at that time it behoved not. But I with more ease use not marriage, which Abraham used, than so use marriage as Abraham used it: and therefore I am better than those, who through incontinence of mind cannot do what I do; not than those, who, on account of difference of time, did not do what I do. For what I now do, they would have done better, if it had been to be done at that time; but what they did, I should not so do, although it were now to be done. Or, if he feels and knows himself to be such, as that, (the virtue of continence being preserved and continued in the habit of his mind, in case he had descended unto the use of marriage from some duty of religion,) he should be such an husband, and such a father, as Abraham was; let him dare to make plain answer to that captious questioner, and to say, I am not indeed better than Abraham, only in this kind of continence, of which he was not void, although it appeared not: but I am such, not having other than he, but doing other. Let him say this plainly: forasmuch as, even if he shall wish to glory, he will not be a fool, for he saith the truth. But if he spare, lest any think of him above what he sees him, [2014] or hears any thing of him; let him remove from his own person the knot of the question, and let him answer, not concerning the man, but concerning the thing itself, and let him say, Whoso hath so great power is such as Abraham. But it may happen that the virtue of continence is less in his mind, who uses not marriage, which Abraham used: but yet it is greater than in his mind, who on this account held chastity of marriage, in that he could not a greater. Thus also let the unmarried woman, whose thoughts are of the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit, [2015] when she shall have heard that shameless questioner saying, What, then, are you better than Sara? answer, I am better, but than those, who are void of the virtue of continence, which I believe not of Sara: she therefore together with this virtue did what was suited to that time, from which I am free, that in my body also may appear, what she kept in her mind.

Footnotes

[2010] Deut. xxv. 5, 10 [2011] Gal. iv. 4 [2012] Matt. xix. 12 [2013] 1 Cor. xv. 33 [2014] 2 Cor. xii. 6 [2015] 1 Cor. vii. 34


28. Therefore, if we compare the things themselves, we may no way doubt that the chastity of continence is better than marriage chastity, whilst yet both are good: but when we compare the persons, he is better, who hath a greater good than another. Further, he who hath a greater of the same kind, hath also that which is less; but he, who only hath what is less, assuredly hath not that which is greater. For in sixty, thirty also are contained, not sixty also in thirty. But not to work from out that which he hath, stands in the allotment of duties, not in the want of virtues: forasmuch as neither is he without the good of mercy, who finds not wretched persons such as he may mercifully assist.


29. And there is this further, that men are not rightly compared with men in regard of some one good. For it may come to pass, that one hath not what another hath, but hath another thing, which must be esteemed of more value. The good of obedience is better than of continence. For marriage is in no place condemned by authority of our Scriptures, but disobedience is in no place acquitted. If therefore there be set before us a virgin about to continue so, but yet disobedient, and a married woman who could not continue a virgin, but yet obedient, which shall we call better? shall it be (the one) less praiseworthy, than if she were a virgin, or (the other) worthy of blame, even as she is a virgin? So, if you compare a drunken virgin with a sober married woman, who can doubt to pass the same sentence? Forsooth marriage and virginity are two goods, whereof the one is greater; but sobriety and drunkenness, even as obedience and stubbornness, are, the one good, and the other evil. But it is better to have all goods even in a less degree, than great good with great evil: forasmuch as in the goods of the body also it is better to have the stature of Zacchæus with sound health, than that of Goliah with fever.


30. The right question plainly is, not whether a virgin every way disobedient is to be compared to an obedient married woman, but a less obedient to a more obedient: forasmuch as that also of marriage is chastity, and therefore a good, but less than virginal. Therefore if the one, by so much less in the good of obedience, as she is greater in the good of chastity, be compared with the other, which of them is to be preferred that person judges, who in the first place comparing chastity itself and obedience, sees that obedience is in a certain way the mother of all virtues. And therefore, for this reason, there may be obedience without virginity, because virginity is of counsel, not of precept. But I call that obedience, whereby precepts are complied with. And, therefore, there may be obedience to precepts without virginity, but not without chastity. For it pertains unto chastity, not to commit fornication, not to commit adultery, to be defiled by no unlawful intercourse: and whoso observe not these, do contrary to the precepts of God, and on this account are banished from the virtue of obedience. But there may be virginity without obedience, on this account, because it is possible for a woman, having received the counsel of virginity, and having guarded virginity, to slight precepts: even as we have known many sacred virgins, talkative, curious, drunken, litigious, covetous, proud: all which are contrary to precepts, and slay one, even as Eve herself, by the crime of disobedience. Wherefore not only is the obedient to be preferred to the disobedient, but a more obedient married woman to a less obedient virgin.


31. From this obedience that Father, who was not without a wife, was prepared to be without an only son, [2016] and that slain by himself. For I shall not without due cause call him an only son, concerning whom he heard the Lord say, "In Isaac shall there be called for thee a seed. [2017]" Therefore how much sooner would he hear it, that he should be even without a wife, if this he were bidden? Wherefore it is not without reason that we often consider, that some of both sexes, containing from all sexual intercourse, are negligent in obeying precepts, after having with so great warmth caught at the not making use of things that are allowed. Whence who doubts that we do not rightly compare unto the excellence of those holy fathers and mothers begetting sons, the men and women of our time, although free from all intercourse, yet in virtue of obedience inferior: even if there had been wanting to those men in habit of mind also, what is plain in the deed of the latter. Therefore let these follow the Lamb, boys singing the new song, as it is written in the Apocalypse, "who have not defiled themselves with women:" [2018] for no other reason than that they have continued virgins. Nor let them on this account think themselves better than the first holy fathers, who used marriage, so to speak, after the fashion of marriage. Forsooth the use of it is such, as that, if in it there hath taken place through carnal intercourse aught which exceeds necessity of begetting, although in a way that deserves pardon, there is pollution. For what doth pardon expiate, if that advance cause no pollution whatever? From which pollution it were strange if boys following the Lamb were free, unless they continued virgins.

Footnotes

[2016] Retract. b. ii. c. 22. 2. "I do not quite approve this; as one should rather believe that he believed his son would presently be restored to him by resurrection, as we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews." [2017] Gen. xxi. 12 [2018] Rev. xiv. 4


32. Therefore the good of marriage throughout all nations and all men stands in the occasion of begetting, and faith of chastity: but, so far as pertains unto the People of God, also in the sanctity of the Sacrament, by reason of which it is unlawful for one who leaves her husband, even when she has been put away, to be married to another, so long as her husband lives, no not even for the sake of bearing children: and, whereas this is the alone cause, wherefore marriage takes place, not even where that very thing, wherefore it takes place, follows not, is the marriage bond loosed, save by the death of the husband or wife. In like manner as if there take place an ordination of clergy in order to form a congregation of people, although the congregation of people follow not, yet there remains in the ordained persons the Sacrament of Ordination; and if, for any fault, any be removed from his office, he will not be without the Sacrament of the Lord once for all set upon him, albeit continuing unto condemnation. Therefore that marriage takes place for the sake of begetting children, the Apostle is a witness thus, "I will," says he, "that the younger women be married." And, as though it were said to him, For what purpose? straightway he added, "to have children, to be mothers of families." But unto the faith of chastity pertains that saying, "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." [2019] But unto the sanctity of the Sacrament that saying, "The wife not to depart from her husband, but, in case she shall have departed, to remain unmarried, or to be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." [2020] All these are goods, on account of which marriage is a good; offspring, faith, sacrament. But now, at this time, not to seek offspring after the flesh, and by this means to maintain a certain perpetual freedom from every such work, and to be made subject after a spiritual manner unto one Husband Christ, is assuredly better and holier; provided, that is, men so use that freedom, as it is written, so as to have their thoughts of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord; that is, that Continence [2021] at all times do take thought, that obedience fall not short in any matter: and this virtue, as the root-virtue, and (as it is wont to be called) the womb, and clearly universal, the holy fathers of old exercised in deed; but that Continence they possessed in habit of mind. Who assuredly, through that obedience, whereby they were just and holy, and ever prepared unto every good work, even if they were bidden to abstain from all sexual intercourse, would perform it. For how much more easily could they, at the bidding or exhortation of God, not use sexual intercourse, who, as an act of obedience, could slay the child, for the begetting of which alone they used the ministry of sexual intercourse?

Footnotes

[2019] 1 Cor. vii. 4 [2020] 1 Cor. vii. 10, 11 [2021] 1 Cor. vii. 32


33. And, the case being thus, enough and more than enough answer has been made to the heretics, whether they be Manichees, or whosoever other that bring false charges against the Fathers of the Old Testament, on the subject of their having several wives, thinking this a proof whereby to convict them of incontinence: provided, that is, that they perceive, that that is no sin, which is committed neither against nature, in that they used those women not for wantonness, but for the begetting of children: nor against custom, forasmuch as such things were usually done at those times: nor against command, forasmuch as they were forbidden by no law. But such as used women unlawfully, either the divine sentence in those Scriptures convicts them, or the reading sets them forth for us to condemn and shun, not to approve or imitate.


34. But those of ours who have wives we advise, with all our power, that they dare not to judge of those holy fathers after their own weakness, comparing, as the Apostle says, themselves with themselves; [2022] and therefore, not understanding how great strength the soul hath, doing service unto righteousness against lusts, that it acquiesce not in carnal motions of this sort, or suffer them to glide on or advance unto sexual intercourse beyond the necessity of begetting children, so far as the order of nature, so far as the use of custom, so far as the decrees of laws prescribe. Forsooth it is on this account that men have this suspicion concerning those fathers, in that they themselves have either chosen marriage through incontinence, or use their wives with intemperance. But however let such as are continent, either men, who, on the death of their wives, or, women, who, on the death of their husbands, or both, who, with mutual consent, have vowed continence unto God, know that to them indeed there is due a greater recompense than marriage chastity demands; but, (as regards) the marriages of the holy Fathers, who were joined after the manner of prophecy, who neither in sexual intercourse sought aught save children, nor in children themselves aught save what should set forward Christ coming hereafter in the flesh, not only let them not despise them in comparison of their own purpose, but let them without any doubting prefer them even to their own purpose.

Footnotes

[2022] 2 Cor. x. 12


35. Boys also and virgins dedicating unto God actual chastity we do before all things admonish, that they be aware that they must guard their life meanwhile upon earth with so great humility, by how much the more what they have vowed is heavenly. Forsooth it is written, "How great soever thou art, by so much humble thyself in all things." [2023] Therefore it is our part to say something of their greatness, it is their part to have thought of great humility. Therefore, except certain, those holy fathers and mothers who were married, than whom these although they be not married are not better, for this reason, that, if they were married, they would not be equal, let them not doubt that they surpass all the rest of this time, either married, or after trial made of marriage, exercising continence; not so far as Anna surpasses Susanna; but so far as Mary surpasses both. I am speaking of what pertains unto the holy chastity itself of the flesh; for who knows not, what other deserts Mary hath? Therefore let them add to this so high purpose conduct suitable, that they may have an assured security of the surpassing reward; knowing of a truth, that, unto themselves and unto all the faithful, beloved and chosen members of Christ, coming many from the East, and from the West, although shining with light of glory that differeth one from another, according to their deserts, there is this great gift bestowed in common, to sit down in the kingdom of God with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, [2024] who not for the sake of this world, but for the sake of Christ, were husbands, for the sake of Christ were fathers.

Footnotes

[2023] Ecclus. iii. 18 [2024] Matt. viii. 11


.

Of Holy Virginity.


[De Virginitate.]

Translated by Rev. C. I. Cornish, M.A., of Exeter College, Oxford


Retr. ii. 23. "After I had written `on the Good of Marriage,' it was expected that I should write on Holy Virginity; and I did not delay to do so: and that it is God's gift, and how great a gift, and with what humility to be guarded, so far as I was able I set forth in one volume. This book begins," &c.


1. We lately put forth a book "of the Good of Marriage," in which also we admonished and admonish the virgins of Christ, not, on account of that greater gift which they have received, to despise, in comparison of themselves, the fathers and mothers of the People of God; and not to think those men, [2025] (whom the Apostle sets forth as the olive, that the engrafted wild olive be not proud,) who did service to Christ about to come hereafter, even by the begetting of sons, on this account of less desert, because by divine right continence is preferred to wedded life, and pious virginity to marriage. Forsooth in them were being prepared and brought forth future things, which now we see fulfilled in a marvellous and effectual manner, whose married life also was prophetic: whence, not after the wonted custom of human wishes and joys, but by the very deep counsel of God, in certain of them fruitfulness obtained to be honored, in certain also barrenness to be made fruitful. But at this time, towards them unto whom it is said, "if they contain not, let them be married," [2026] we must use not consolation, but exhortation. But them, unto whom it is said, "Whoso can receive, let him receive," [2027] we must exhort, that they be not alarmed; and alarm that they be not lifted up. Wherefore virginity is not only to be set forth, that it may be loved, but also to be admonished, that it be not puffed up.

Footnotes

[2025] Rom. xi. 17, 18 [2026] 1 Cor. vii. 9 [2027] Matt. xix. 12


2. This we have undertaken in our present discourse: may Christ help us, the Son of a virgin, and the Spouse of virgins, born after the flesh of a virgin womb, and wedded after the Spirit in virgin marriage. Whereas, therefore, the whole Church itself is a virgin espoused unto one Husband Christ, [2028] as the Apostle saith, of how great honor are its members worthy, who guard this even in the flesh itself, which the whole Church guards in the faith? which imitates the mother of her husband, and her Lord. For the Church also is both a mother and a virgin. For whose virgin purity consult we for, if she is not a virgin? or whose children address we, if she is not a mother? Mary bare the Head of This Body after the flesh, the Church bears the members of that Body after the Spirit. In both virginity hinders not fruitfulness: in both fruitfulness takes not away virginity. Wherefore, whereas the whole Church is holy both in body and spirit, and yet the whole is not virgin in body but in spirit; how much more holy is it in these members, wherein it is virgin both in body and spirit?

Footnotes

[2028] 2 Cor. xi. 2


3. It is written in the Gospel, of the mother and brethren of Christ, that is, His kindred after the flesh, that, when word had been brought to Him, and they were standing without, because they could not come to Him by reason of the crowd, He made answer, "Who is My mother? or who are My brethren? and stretching forth His Hand over His disciples, He saith, These are My brethren: and whosoever shall have done the will of My Father, that man is to Me brother, and mother, and sister." [2029] What else teaching us, than to prefer to kindred after the flesh, our descent after the Spirit: and that men are not blessed for this reason, that they are united by nearness of flesh unto just and holy men, but that, by obeying and following, they cleave unto their doctrine and conduct. Therefore Mary is more blessed in receiving the faith of Christ, than in conceiving the flesh of Christ. For to a certain one who said, "Blessed is the womb, which bare Thee," [2030] He Himself made answer, "Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the Word of God, and keep it." Lastly, to His brethren, that is, His kindred after the flesh, who believed not in Him, what profit was there in that being of kin? Thus also her nearness as a Mother would have been of no profit to Mary, had she not borne Christ in her heart after a more blessed manner than in her flesh.

Footnotes

[2029] Matt. xii. 46-50 [2030] Luke xi. 27, 28


4. Her virginity also itself was on this account more pleasing and accepted, in that it was not that Christ being conceived in her, rescued it beforehand from a husband who would violate it, Himself to preserve it; but, before He was conceived, chose it, already dedicated to God, as that from which to be born. This is shown by the words which Mary spake in answer to the Angel announcing to her her conception; "How," saith she, "shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" [2031] Which assuredly she would not say, unless she had before vowed herself unto God as a virgin. But, because the habits of the Israelites as yet refused this, she was espoused to a just man, who would not take from her by violence, but rather guard against violent persons, what she had already vowed. Although, even if she had said this only, "How shall this take place?" and had not added, "seeing I know not a man," certainly she would not have asked, how, being a female, she should give birth to her promised Son, if she had married with purpose of sexual intercourse. She might have been bidden also to continue a virgin, that in her by fitting miracle the Son of God should receive the form of a servant, but, being to be a pattern to holy virgins, lest it should be thought that she alone needed to be a virgin, who had obtained to conceive a child even without sexual intercourse, she dedicated her virginity to God, when as yet she knew not what she should conceive, in order that the imitation of a heavenly life in an earthly and mortal body should take place of vow, not of command; through love of choosing, not through necessity of doing service. Thus Christ by being born of a virgin, who, before she knew Who was to be born of her, had determined to continue a virgin, chose rather to approve, than to command, holy virginity. And thus, even in the female herself, in whom He took the form of a servant, He willed that virginity should be free.

Footnotes

[2031] Luke i. 34


5. There is, therefore, no reason why the virgins of God be sad, because themselves also cannot, keeping their virginity, be mothers of the flesh. For Him alone could virginity give birth to with fitting propriety, Who in His Birth could have no peer. However, That Birth of the Holy Virgin is the ornament of all holy virgins; and themselves together with Mary are mothers of Christ, if they do the will of His Father. For Mary also is on this account the Mother of Christ in a way more full of praise and blessing, according to His sentence mentioned above. "Whosoever doeth the will of my Father Who is in heaven, that one is to Me brother, and sister, and mother." All these degrees of nearness of kin to Himself, He shows forth in a spiritual manner, in the People whom He hath redeemed: as brothers and sisters He hath holy men and holy women, forasmuch as they all are co-heirs in the heavenly inheritance. His mother is the whole Church, because she herself assuredly gives birth to His members, that is, His faithful ones. Also His mother is every pious soul, doing the will of His Father with most fruitful charity, in them of whom it travaileth, until Himself [2032] be formed in them. Mary, therefore, doing the will of God, after the flesh, is only the mother of Christ, but after the Spirit she is both His sister and mother.

Footnotes

[2032] Gal. iv. 19


6. And on this account, that one female, not only in the Spirit, but also in the flesh, is both a mother and a virgin. And a mother indeed in the Spirit, not of our Head, Which is the Saviour Himself, of Whom rather she was born after the Spirit: forasmuch as all, who have believed in Him, among whom is herself also, are rightly called "children of the Bridegroom:" [2033] but clearly the mother of His members, which are we: in that she wrought together by charity, that faithful ones should be born in the Church, who are members of That Head: but in the flesh, the mother of the Head Himself. For it behoved that our Head, on account of a notable miracle, should be born after the flesh of a virgin, that He might thereby signify that His members would be born after the Spirit, of the Church a virgin: therefore Mary alone both in Spirit and in flesh is a mother and a virgin: both the mother of Christ, and a virgin of Christ; but the Church, in the Saints who shall possess the kingdom of God, in the Spirit indeed is altogether the mother of Christ, altogether a virgin of Christ: but in the flesh not altogether, but in certain a virgin of Christ, in certain a mother, but not of Christ. Forsooth both faithful women who are married, and virgins dedicated to God, by holy manners, and charity out of a pure heart, [2034] and good conscience, and faith unfeigned, because they do the will of the Father, are after a spiritual sense mothers of Christ. But they who in married life give birth to (children) after the flesh, give birth not to Christ, but to Adam, and therefore run, that their offspring having been dyed [2035] in His Sacraments, may become members of Christ, forasmuch as they know what they have given birth to.

Footnotes

[2033] Matt. ix. 15. [See R.V.] [2034] 1 Tim. i. 5 [2035] Imbuti


7. I have said this, lest haply married fruitfulness dare to vie with virgin chastity, and to set forth Mary herself, and to say unto the virgins of God, She had in her flesh two things worthy of honor, virginity and fruitfulness; inasmuch as she both continued a virgin, and bore: this happiness, since we could not both have the whole, we have divided, that ye be virgins, we be mothers: for what is wanting to you in children, let your virginity, that hath been preserved, be a consolation: for us, let the gain of children make up for our lost virginity. This speech of faithful women married, unto holy virgins, would any how be to be endured, if they gave birth to Christians in the flesh; that in this alone, save virginity, the fruitfulness of Mary in the flesh should be more excellent, that she gave birth to the Head Himself of these members, but they to the members of That Head: but now, although by this speech there vie such as on this one account wed and have intercourse with husbands, that they may have sons, and have no other thought of their sons, than to gain them for Christ, and do this so soon as they can: yet are not Christians born of their flesh, but made so afterwards: the Church giving them birth, through this, that in a spiritual manner she is the mother of the members of Christ, of Whom also after a spiritual manner she is the virgin. And unto this holy birth mothers also who have not borne in the flesh Christians, are workers together, that they may become what they know that they could not give birth to in the flesh: yet are they workers together through this, wherein themselves also are virgins and mothers [2036] of Christ, that is to say, in "faith which worketh through love." [2037]

Footnotes

[2036] It has been proposed to omit "que," making the sense, "wherein the virgins themselves also are mothers of Christ," but the sense is good as it stands. [2037] Gal. v. 6


8. Therefore no fruitfulness of the flesh can be compared to holy virginity even of the flesh. For neither is itself also honored because it is virginity, but because it hath been dedicated to God, and, although it be kept in the flesh, yet is it kept by religion and devotion of the Spirit. And by this means even virginity of body is spiritual, which continence of piety vows and keeps. For, even as no one makes an immodest use of the body, unless the sin have been before conceived in the spirit, so no one keeps modesty in the body, unless chastity have been before implanted in the spirit. But, further, if modesty of married life, although it be guarded in the flesh, is yet attributed to the soul, not to the flesh, under the rule and guidance of which, the flesh itself hath no intercourse with any beside its own proper estate of marriage; how much more, and with how much greater honor, are we to reckon among the goods of the soul that continence, whereby the virgin purity of the flesh is vowed, consecrated, and kept, for the Creator Himself of the soul and flesh.


9. Wherefore neither are we to believe that their fruitfulness of the flesh, who at this time seek in marriage nothing else save children, to make over unto Christ, can be set against the loss of virginity. Forsooth, in former times, unto Christ about to come after the flesh, the race itself of the flesh was needful, in a certain large and prophetic nation: but now, when from out every race of men, and from out all nations, members of Christ may be gathered unto the People of God, and City of the kingdom of heaven, whoso can receive sacred virginity, let him receive it; and let her only, who contains not, be married. [2038] For what, if any rich woman were to expend much money on this good work, and to buy, from out different nations, slaves to make Christians, will she not provide for the giving birth to members of Christ in a manner more rich, and more numerous, than by any, how great soever, fruitfulness of the womb? And yet she will not therefore dare to compare her money to the offering [2039] of holy virginity. But if for the sake of making such as shall be born Christians, fruitfulness of the flesh shall with just reason be set against the loss of chastity, this matter will be more fruitful, if virginity be lost at a great price of money, whereby many more children may be purchased to be made Christians, than could be born from the womb, however fruitful, of a single person. But, if it be extreme folly to say this, let the faithful women that are married possess their own good, of which we have treated, so far as seemed fit, in another volume; and let them more highly honor, even as they are most rightly used to do, in the sacred virgins, their better good, of which we are treating in our present discourse.

Footnotes

[2038] Matt. xix. 12; 1 Cor. vii. 9 [2039] Muneri


10. For not even herein ought such as are married to compare themselves with the deserts of the continent, in that of them virgins are born: for this is not a good of marriage, but of nature: which was so ordered of God, as that of every sexual intercourse whatever of the two sexes of human kind, whether in due order and honest, or base and unlawful, there is born no female save a virgin, yet is none born a sacred virgin: so it is brought to pass that a virgin is born even of fornication, but a sacred virgin not even of marriage.


11. Nor do we ourselves set forth this in virgins, that they are virgins; but that they are virgins dedicated unto God by pious continence. For it is not at a venture that I may say, a married woman seems to me happier than a virgin about to be married: for the one hath what the other as yet desires, especially if she be not yet even the betrothed of any one. The one studies to please one, unto whom she hath been given; the other many, in doubt unto whom she is to be given: by this one thing she guards modesty of thought from the crowd, that she is seeking, not an adulterer, but a husband, in the crowd. Therefore that virgin is with good reason set before a married woman, who neither sets herself forth for the multitude to love, whereas she seeks from out the multitude the love of one; nor, having now found him, orders herself [2040] for one, taking thought of the things of the world, "how to please her husband;" [2041] but hath so loved "Him of fair beauty above the sons of men," [2042] as that, because she could not, even as Mary, conceive Him in her flesh, she hath kept her flesh also virgin for Him conceived in her heart. This kind of virgins no fruitfulness of the body hath given birth to: this is no progeny of flesh and blood. If of these the mother be sought for, it is the Church. None bears sacred virgins save a sacred virgin, she who hath been espoused to be presented chaste unto one Husband, Christ. [2043] Of her, not altogether in body, but altogether in spirit virgin, are born holy virgins both in body and in spirit.

Footnotes

[2040] Componit [2041] 1 Cor. vii. 34 [2042] Ps. xlv. 2 [2043] 2 Cor. xi. 2


12. Let marriages possess their own good, not that they beget sons, but that honestly, that lawfully, that modestly, that in a spirit of fellowship they beget them, and educate them, after they have been begotten, with cooperation, with wholesome teaching, and earnest purpose: in that they keep the faith of the couch one with another; in that they violate not the sacrament of wedlock. All these, however, are offices of human duty: but virginal chastity and freedom through pious continence from all sexual intercourse is the portion of Angels, and a practice, [2044] in corruptible flesh, of perpetual incorruption. To this let all fruitfulness of the flesh yield, all chastity of married life; the one is not in (man's) power, the other is not in eternity; free choice hath not fruitfulness of the flesh, heaven hath not chastity of married life. Assuredly they will have something great beyond others in that common immortality, who have something already not of the flesh in the flesh.

Footnotes

[2044] Meditatio


13. Whence they are marvellously void of wisdom, who think that the good of this continence is not necessary for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, but for the sake of the present world: in that, forsooth, married persons are strained different ways by earthly cares more and more straitened, from which trouble virgins and continent persons are free: as though on this account only it were better not to be married, that the straits of this present time may be escaped, not that it is of any profit unto a future life. And, that they may not seem to have put forth this vain opinion from out the vanity of their own heart, they take the Apostle to witness, where he saith, "But concerning virgins I have not command of the Lord, but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy from God to be faithful. Therefore I think that this is good on account of the present necessity, because it is good for a man so to be." [2045] Lo, say they, where the Apostle shows "that this is good on account of the present necessity," not on account of the future eternity. As though the Apostle would have regard for the present necessity, otherwise than as providing and consulting for the future; whereas all his dealing [2046] calls not save unto life eternal.

Footnotes

[2045] 1 Cor. vii. 25, 26 [2046] Dispensatio


14. It is, therefore, the present necessity that we are to avoid, but yet such as is a hindrance to somewhat of the good things to come; by which necessity the married life is forced to have thought of the things of the world, how to please, the husband the wife or the wife the husband. Not that these separate from the kingdom of God, as there are sins, which are restrained by command, not by counsel, on this account, because it is matter of condemnation not to obey the Lord when He commands: but that, which, within the kingdom of God itself, might be more largely possessed, if there were larger thoughts how they were to please God, will assuredly be less, when as this very thing is less thought of by necessity of marriage. Therefore he says, "Concerning virgins I have not command of the Lord." [2047] For whosoever obeys not a command, is guilty and liable for punishment. Wherefore, because it is not sin to marry a wife or to be married, (but if it were a sin, it would be forbidden by a "Command,") on this account there is no "Command" of the Lord concerning virgins. But since, after we have shunned or had forgiveness of sins, we must approach eternal life, wherein is a certain or more excellent glory, to be assigned not unto all who shall live for ever, but unto certain there; in order to obtain which it is not enough to have been set free from sins, unless there be vowed unto Him, Who setteth us free, something, which it is no matter of fault not to have vowed, but matter of praise to have vowed and performed; he saith, "I give counsel, as having obtained mercy from God that I should be faithful." For neither ought I to grudge faithful counsel, who not by my own merits, but by the mercy of God, am faithful. "I think therefore that this is good, by reason of the present necessity." [2048] This, saith he, on which I have not command of the Lord, but give counsel, that is concerning virgins, I think to be good by reason of the present necessity. For I know what the necessity of the present time, unto which marriages serve, compels, that the things of God be less thought of than is enough for the obtaining that glory, which shall not be of all, although they abide in eternal life and salvation: "For star differeth from star in brightness; so also the Resurrection of the dead. [2049] It is," therefore, "good for a man so to be."

Footnotes

[2047] 1 Cor. vii. 25 [2048] 1 Cor. vii. 26 [2049] 1 Cor. xv. 41, 42


15. After that the same Apostle adds, and says, "Thou art bound to a wife, seek not loosening: thou art loosed from a wife, seek not a wife." [2050] Of these two, that, which be set first, pertains unto command, against which it is not lawful to do. For it is not lawful to put away a wife, save because of fornication, [2051] as the Lord Himself saith in the Gospel. But that, which he added, "Thou art loosed from a wife, seek not a wife," is a sentence of counsel, not of command; therefore it is lawful to do, but it is better not to do. Lastly, he added straightway, "Both if thou shalt have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not." [2052] But, after that former saying of his, "Thou art bound to a wife, seek not loosening," he added not, did he, "And if thou shalt have loosed, thou hast not sinned?" For he had already said above, "But to these, who are in marriage, I command, not I, but the Lord, that the wife depart not from her husband: but, if she shall have departed, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled unto her own husband;" for it may come to pass that she depart, not through any fault of her own, but of her husband. Then he saith, "And let not the man put away his wife," which, nevertheless, he set down of command of the Lord: nor did he then add, And, if he shall have put her away, he sinneth not. For this is a command, not to obey which is sin: not a counsel, which if you shall be unwilling to use, you will obtain less good, not do any ill. On this account, after he had said, "Thou art loosed from a wife, seek not a wife;" because he was not giving command, in order that there be not evil done, but was giving counsel, in order that there be done what is better: straightway he added, "Both, if thou shall have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not."

Footnotes

[2050] 1 Cor. vii. 27 [2051] Matt. xix. 9 [2052] 1 Cor. vii. 10, 11


16. Yet he added, "But such shall have tribulation of the flesh, but I spare you:" [2053] in this manner exhorting unto virginity, and continual continence, so as some little to alarm also from marriage, with all modesty, not as from a matter evil and unlawful, but as from one burdensome and troublesome. For it is one thing to incur dishonor of the flesh, and another to have tribulation of the flesh: the one is matter of crime to do, the other of labor to suffer, which for the most part men refuse not even for the most honorable duties. But for the having of marriage, now at this time, wherein there is no service done unto Christ about to come through descent of flesh by the begetting of the family itself, to take upon one to bear that tribulation of the flesh, which the Apostle foretells to such as shall be married, would be extremely foolish, did not incontinent persons fear, lest, through the temptation of Satan, they should fall into damnable sins. But whereas he says that he spares them, who he saith will have tribulation of the flesh, there suggests itself to me in the mean while no sounder interpretation, than that he was unwilling to open, and unfold in words, this self-same tribulation of the flesh which he fore-announced to those who choose marriage, in suspicions of jealousy of married life, in the begetting and nurture of children, in fears and sorrows of childlessness. For how very few, after they have bound themselves with the bonds of marriage, are not drawn and driven to and fro by these feelings? And this we ought not to exaggerate, lest we spare not the very persons, who the Apostle thought were to be spared.

Footnotes

[2053] 1 Cor. vii. 28


17. Only by this, which I have briefly set down, the reader ought to be set on his guard against those, who, in this that is written, "but such shall have tribulation of the flesh but I spare you," falsely charge marriage, as indirectly condemned by this sentence; as though he were unwilling to utter the condemnation itself, when he saith, "But I spare you;" so that, forsooth, when he spares them, he spared not his own soul, as saying falsely, "And, if thou shalt have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not." And this, whoso believe or would have believed concerning holy Scripture, they, as it were prepare for themselves a way for liberty of lying, or for defense of their own perverse opinion, in whatever case they hold other sentiments than what sound doctrine demands. For if there shall be alleged any plain statement from the divine books, whereby to refute their errors, this they have at hand as a shield, whereby defending themselves as it were against the truth, they lay themselves bare to be wounded by the devil: to say that the author of the book did not speak the truth in this instance, at one time in order to spare the weak, at another in order to alarm despisers: just as a case shall come to hand, wherein to defend their own perverse opinion: and thus, whilst they had rather defend than amend their own opinions, they essay to break the authority of holy Scripture, whereby alone all proud and hard necks are broken.


18. Wherefore I admonish both men and women who follow after perpetual continence and holy virginity, that they so set their own good before marriage, as that they judge not marriage an evil: and that they understand that it was in no way of deceit, but of plain truth that it was said by the Apostle, "Whoso gives in marriage does well; and whoso gives not in marriage, does better; and, if thou shalt have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not;" [2054] and a little after, "But she wilt be more blessed, if she shall have continued so, according to my judgment." And, that the judgment should not be thought human, he adds, "But I think I also have the Spirit of God." This is the doctrine of the Lord, this of the Apostles, this true, this sound, so to choose greater gifts, as that the lesser be not condemned. The truth of God, in the Scripture of God, is better than virginity of man in the mind or flesh of any. Let what is chaste be so loved, as that what is true be not denied. For what evil thought may they not have even concerning their own flesh, who believe that the tongue of the Apostle, in that very place, wherein he was commending virginity of body, was not virgin from corruption of lying. In the first place, therefore, and chiefly, let such as choose the good of virginity, hold most firmly that the holy Scriptures have in nothing spoken lies; and, thus, that that also is true which is said, "And if thou shall have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not." And let them not think that the so great good of virgin chastity is made less, if marriage shall not be an evil. Yea rather, let her hence feel confident, rather, that there is prepared for her a palm of greater glory, who feared not to be condemned, in case she were married, but desired to receive a more honorable crown, in that she was not married. Whoso therefore shall be willing to abide without marriage, let them not flee from marriage as a pitfall of sin; but let them surmount it as a hill of the lesser good, in order that they may rest in the mountain of the greater, continence. It is on this condition, forsooth, that this hill is dwelt on; that one leave it not when he will. For, "a woman is bound, so long as her husband liveth." [2055] However unto widowed continence one ascends from it as from a step: but for the sake of virgin continence, one must either turn aside from it by not consenting to suitors, or overleap it by anticipating suitors.

Footnotes

[2054] 1 Cor. vii. 38, 28, 40 [2055] 1 Cor. vii. 39


19. But lest any should think that of two works, the good and the better, the rewards will be equal, on this account it was necessary to treat against those, who have so interpreted that saying of the Apostle, "But I think that this is good by reason of the present necessity," [2056] as to say that virginity is of use not in order to the kingdom of heaven, but in order to this present time: as though in that eternal life, they, who had chosen this better part, would have nothing more than the rest of men. And in this discussion when we came to that saying of the same Apostle, "But such shall have tribulation of the flesh, but I spare you;" [2057] we fell in with other disputants, who so far from making marriage equal to perpetual virginity, altogether condemned it. For whereas both are errors, either to equal marriage to holy virginity, or to condemn it: by fleeing from one another to excess, these two errors come into open collision, in that they have been unwilling to hold the mean of truth: whereby, both by sure reason and authority of holy Scriptures, we both discover that marriage is not a sin, and yet equal it not to the good either of virginal or even of widowed chastity. Some forsooth by aiming at virginity, have thought marriage hateful even as adultery: but others, by defending marriage, would have the excellence of perpetual continence to deserve nothing more than married chastity; as though either the good of Susanna be the lowering of Mary: or the greater good of Mary ought to be the condemnation of Susanna.

Footnotes

[2056] 1 Cor. vii. 26 [2057] 1 Cor. vii. 28


20. Far be it, therefore, that the Apostle so said, unto such as are married or are about to marry, "But I spare you," as if he were unwilling to say what punishment is due to the married in another life. Far be it that she, whom Daniel set free from temporal judgment, be cast by Paul into hell! Far be it that her husband's bed be unto her punishment before the judgment seat of Christ, keeping faith to which she chose, under false charge of adultery, to meet either danger, or death! To what effect that speech, "It is better for me to fall into your hands, than to sin in the sight of God:" [2058] if God had been about, not to set her free because she kept married chastity, but to condemn her because she had married? And now so often as married chastity is by truth of holy Scripture justified against such as bring calumnies and charges against marriage, so often is Susanna by the Holy Spirit defended against false witnesses, so often is she set free from a false charge, and with much greater ado. For then against one married woman, now against all; then of hidden and untrue adultery, now of true and open marriage, an accusation is laid. Then one woman, upon what the unjust elders said, now all husbands and wives, upon what the Apostle would not say, are accused. It was, forsooth, your condemnation, say they, that he was silent on, when he said, "But I spare you." Who (saith) this? Surely he, who had said above; "And, if thou shalt have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not." [2059] Why, therefore, wherein he hath been silent through modesty, suspect ye a charge against marriage; and wherein he hath spoken openly, recognize ye not a defense of marriage? What, doth he condemn by his silence them whom he acquitted by his words? Is it not now a milder charge, to charge Susanna, not with marriage, but with adultery itself, than to charge the doctrine of the Apostle with falsehood? What in so great peril could we do, were it not as sure and plain that chaste marriage ought not to be condemned, as it is sure and plain that holy Scripture cannot lie?

Footnotes

[2058] Hist. of Sus. 23 [2059] 1 Cor. vii. 28


21. Here some one will say, What has this to do with holy virginity, or perpetual continence, the setting forth of which was undertaken in this discourse? To whom I make answer in the first place, what I mentioned above, that the glory of that greater good is greater from the fact that, in order to obtain it, the good of married life is surmounted, not the sin of marriage shunned. Otherwise it would be enough for perpetual continence, not to be specially praised, but only not to be blamed: if it were maintained on this account, because it was a crime to wed. In the next place, because it is not by human judgment, but by authority of Divine Scripture, that men must be exhorted unto so excellent a gift, we must plead not in a common-place manner, or merely by the way, that divine Scripture itself seem not to any one in any matter to have lied. For they discourage rather than exhort holy virgins, who compel them to continue so by passing sentence on marriage. For whence can they feel sure that that is true, which is written, "And he, who gives her not in marriage, does better:" [2060] if they think that false, which yet is written close above, "Both he, who gives his virgin, does well?" But, if they shall without all doubt have believed Scripture speaking of the good of marriage, confirmed by the same most true authority of the divine oracle, they will hasten beyond unto their own better part with glowing and confident eagerness. Wherefore we have already spoken enough for the business which we have taken in hand, and, so far as we could, have shown, that neither that saying of the Apostle, "But I think that this is good by reason of the present necessity," [2061] is so to be understood, as though in this life holy virgins are better than faithful women married, but are equal in the kingdom of heaven, and in a future life: nor that other, where he saith of such as wed, "But such shall have tribulation of the flesh, but I spare you;" [2062] is to be so understood, as though he chose rather to be silent on, than to speak of, the sin and condemnation of marriage. Forsooth two errors, contrary the one to the other, have, through not understanding them, taken hold of each one of these two sentences. For that concerning the present necessity they interpret in their own favor, who contend to equal such as wed to such as wed not: but this, where it is said, "But I spare you," they who presume to condemn such as wed. But we, according to the faith and sound doctrine of holy Scriptures, both say that marriage is no sin, and yet set its good not only below virginal, but also below widowed continence; and say that the present necessity of married persons is an hindrance to their desert, not indeed unto life eternal, but unto an excellent glory and honor, which is reserved for perpetual continence: and that at this time marriage is not expedient save for such as contain not; and that on the tribulation of the flesh, which cometh from the affection of the flesh, without which marriages of incontinent persons cannot be, the Apostle neither wished to be silent, as forewarning what was true, nor to unfold more fully, as sparing man's weakness.

Footnotes

[2060] 1 Cor. vii. 38 [2061] 1 Cor. vii. 26 [2062] 1 Cor. vii. 28


22. And now by plainest witnesses of divine Scriptures, such as according to the small measure of our memory we shall be able to remember, let it more clearly appear, that, not on account of the present life of this world, but on account of that future life which is promised in the kingdom of heaven, we are to choose perpetual continence. But who but must observe this in that which the same Apostle says a little after, "Whoso is without a wife has thought of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord: but whoso is joined in marriage has thought of the things of the world, how to please his wife. And a woman unmarried and a virgin is divided; [2063] she that is unmarried is careful about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit: but she that is married is careful about the things of the world, how to please her husband." [2064] Certainly he saith not, hath thought of the things of a state without care in this world, to pass her time without weightier troubles; nor doth he say that a woman unmarried and a virgin is divided, that is, distinguished, and separated from her who is married, for this end, that the unmarried woman be without care in this life, in order to avoid temporal troubles, which the married woman is not free from: but, "She hath thought," saith he, "of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord; and is careful about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit." Unless to such a degree, perchance, each be foolishly contentious, as to essay to assert, that it is not on account of the kingdom of heaven, but on account of this present world, that we wish to "please the Lord," or that it is on account of this present life, not on account of life eternal, that they are "holy both in body and spirit." To believe this, what else is it, than to be more miserable than all men? For so the Apostle saith, "If in this life only we are hoping in Christ, we are more miserable than all men." [2065] What? is he who breaks his bread to the hungry, if he do it only on account of this life, a fool; and shall he be prudent, who chastens his own body even unto continence, whereby he hath no intercourse even in marriage, if it shall profit him nought in the kingdom of heaven?

Footnotes

[2063] cf. de Bon. Conj. 10. [2064] 1 Cor. vii. 32, 33, 34 [2065] 1 Cor. xv. 19


23. Lastly, let us hear the Lord Himself delivering most plain judgment on this matter. For, upon His speaking after a divine and fearful manner concerning husband and wife not separating, save on account of fornication, His disciples said to Him, "If the case be such with a wife, it is not good to marry." [2066] To whom He saith, "Not all receive this saying. For there are eunuchs who were so born: but there are others who were made by men: and there are eunuchs, who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: whoso can receive, let him receive." What could be said more true, what more clear? Christ saith, the Truth saith, the Power and Wisdom of God saith, that they, who of pious purpose have contained from marrying a wife, make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: and against this, human vanity with impious rashness contends, that they, who do so, shun only the present necessity of the troubles of married life, but in the kingdom of heaven have no more than others.

Footnotes

[2066] Matt. xix. 10, 11, 12


24. But concerning what eunuchs speaketh God by the prophet Isaiah, unto whom He saith that He will give in His house and in His wall a place by name, much better than of sons and daughters, [2067] save concerning these, who make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven? For for these, whose bodily organ is without strength, so that they cannot beget, (such as are the eunuchs of rich men and of kings,) it is surely enough, when they become Christians, and keep the commands of God, yet have this purpose, that, if they could, they would have wives, to be made equal to the rest of the faithful in the house of God, who are married, who bring up in the fear of God a family which they have lawfully and chastely gotten, teaching their sons to set their hope on God; but not to receive a better place than of sons and daughters. For it is not of virtue of the soul, but of necessity of the flesh, that they marry not wives. Let who will contend that the Prophet foretold this of those eunuchs who have suffered mutilation of body; that even also helps the cause which we have undertaken. For God hath not preferred these eunuchs to such as have no place in His house, but assuredly to those who keep the desert of married life in begetting sons. For, when He saith, "I will give unto them a place much better;" He shows that one is also given unto the married, but much inferior. Therefore, to allow that in the house of God there will be the eunuchs after the flesh spoken of above, who were not in the People of Israel: because we see that these also themselves, whereas they become not Jews, yet become Christians: and that the Prophet spake not of them, who through purpose of continence seeking not marriage, make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: is any one so madly opposed to the truth as to believe that eunuchs made so in the flesh have a better place than married persons in the house of God, and to contend that persons being of pious purpose continent, chastening the body even unto contempt of marriage, making themselves eunuchs, not in the body, but in the very root of concupiscence, practising an heavenly and angelic life in an earthly mortal state, are on a level with the deserts of the married; and, being a Christian, to gainsay Christ when He praises those who have made themselves eunuchs, not for the sake of this world, but for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, affirming that this is of use for the present life, not for a future? What else remains for these, save to assert that the kingdom of heaven itself pertains unto this temporal life, wherein we now are? For why should not blind presumption advance even to this madness? And what more full of phrensy than this assertion? For, although at times the Church, even that which is at this time, is called the kingdom of heaven; certainly it is so called for this end, because it is being gathered together for a future and eternal life. Although, therefore, it have the promise of the present, and of a future life, yet in all its good works it looks not to "the things that are seen, but to what are not seen. For what are seen are temporal; but what are not seen, are eternal." [2068]

Footnotes

[2067] Is. lvi. 4, 5. [See R.V.] [2068] 2 Cor. iv. 18; 1 Tim. iv. 8


25. Nor indeed hath the Holy Spirit failed to speak what should be of open and unshaken avail against these men, most shamelessly and madly obstinate, and should repel their assault, as of wild beasts, from His sheep-fold, by defences that may not be stormed. For, after He had said concerning eunuchs, "I will give unto them in My house and in My wall a named place, much better than of sons and daughters;" [2069] lest any too carnal should think that there was any thing temporal to be hoped for in these words, straightway He added, "An eternal name I will give unto them, nor shall it ever fail:" as though He should say, Why dost thou draw back, impious blindness? Why dost thou draw back? Why dost thou pour the clouds of thy perverseness over the clear (sky) of truth? Why in so great light of Scriptures dost thou seek after darkness from out which to lay snares? Why dost thou promise temporal advantage only to holy persons exercising continence? "An eternal name I will give unto them:" why, where persons keep from all sexual intercourse, and also in the very fact that they abstain from these, have thought of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord, do you essay to refer them unto earthly advantage? "An eternal name I will give unto them." Why contend you that the kingdom of heaven, for the sake of which holy eunuchs have made themselves eunuchs, is to be understood in this life only? "An eternal name I will give unto them." And if haply in this place you endeavor to take the word itself eternal in the sense of lasting for a long time, I add, I heap up, I tread in, "nor shall it ever fail." What more seek you? What more say you? This eternal name, whatever it be, unto the eunuchs of God, which assuredly signifies a certain peculiar and excellent glory, shall not be in common with many, although set in the same kingdom, and in the same house. For on this account also, perhaps, it is called a name, that it distinguishes those, to whom it is given, from the rest.

Footnotes

[2069] Is. lvi. 4, 5. [See R.V.]


26. What then, say they, is the meaning of that penny, which is given in payment to all alike when the work of the vineyard is ended? whether it be to those who have labored from the first hour, or to those who have labored one hour? [2070] What assuredly doth it signify, but something, which all shall have in common, such as is life eternal itself, the kingdom of heaven itself, where shall be all, whom God hath predestinated, called, justified, glorified? "For it behoveth that this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality." [2071] This is that penny, wages for all. Yet "star differeth from star in glory; so also the resurrection of the dead." [2072] These are the different merits of the Saints. For, if by that penny the heaven were signified, have not all the stars in common to be in the heaven? And yet, "There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, another of the stars." If that penny were taken for health of body, have not all the members, when we are well, health in common; and, should this health continue even unto death, is it not in all alike and equally? And yet, "God hath set the members, each one of them, in the body, as He would;" [2073] that neither the whole be an eye, nor the whole hearing, nor the whole smelling: and, whatever else there is, it hath its own property, although it have health equally with all. Thus because life eternal itself shall be alike to all, an equal penny was assigned to all; but, because in that life eternal itself the lights of merits shall shine with a distinction, there are "many mansions" in the house of the Father: [2074] and, by this means, in the penny not unlike, one lives not longer than another; but in the many mansions, one is honored with greater brightness than another.

Footnotes

[2070] Matt. xx. 9, 10 [2071] 1 Cor. xv. 53 [2072] 1 Cor. xv. 41, 42 [2073] 1 Cor. xii. 18 [2074] John xiv. 2


27. Therefore go on, Saints of God, boys and girls, males and females, unmarried men, and women; go on and persevere unto the end. Praise more sweetly the Lord, Whom ye think on more richly: hope more happily in Him, Whom ye serve more instantly: love more ardently Him, whom ye please more attentively. With loins girded, and lamps burning, wait for the Lord, when He cometh from the marriage. [2075] Ye shall bring unto the marriage of the Lamb a new song, which ye shall sing on your harps. Not surely such as the whole earth singeth, unto which it is said, "Sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, the whole earth" [2076] : but such as no one shall be able to utter but you. For thus there saw you in the Apocalypse a certain one [2077] beloved above others by the Lamb, who had been wont to lie on His breast, and who used to drink in, and burst [2078] forth, the Word of God above wonders of heaven. He saw you twelve times twelve thousand of holy harpers, of undefiled virginity in body, of inviolate truth in heart; and he wrote of you, that ye follow the Lamb whithersoever He shall go. Where think we that This Lamb goeth, where no one either dares or is able to follow save you? Where think we that He goeth? Into what glades and meadows? Where, I think, the grass are joys; not vain joys of this world, lying madnesses; nor joys such as shall be in the kingdom of God itself, for the rest that are not virgins; but distinct from the portion of joys of all the rest. Joy of the virgins of Christ, of Christ, in Christ, with Christ, after Christ, through Christ, for Christ. The joys peculiar to the virgins of Christ, are not the same as of such as are not virgins, although of Christ. For there are to different persons different joys, but to none such. Go (enter) into these, follow the Lamb, because the Flesh of the Lamb also is assuredly virgin. For this He retained in Himself when grown up, which He took not away from His Mother by His conception and birth. Follow Him, as ye deserve, [2079] in virginity of heart and flesh, wheresoever He shall have gone. For what is it to follow, but to imitate? Because "Christ hath suffered for us," [2080] leaving us an example, as saith the Apostle Peter, "that we should follow His steps." Him each one follows in that, wherein he imitates Him: not so far forth as He is the only Son of God, by Whom all things were made; but so far forth as, the Son of Man, He set forth in Himself, what behoved for us to imitate. And many things in Him are set forth for all to imitate: but virginity of the flesh not for all; for they have not what to do in order to be virgins, in whom it hath been already brought to pass that they be not virgins.

Footnotes

[2075] Luke xii. 35, 36 [2076] Ps. xcvi. 1 [2077] Rev. xiv. 1-5 [2078] "Eructuabat." cf. Ps. xlv. 1. Vulg. [2079] Merito [2080] 1 Peter ii. 21


28. Therefore let the rest of the faithful, who have lost virginity, follow the Lamb, not whithersoever He shall have gone, but so far as ever they shall have been able. But they are able every where, save when He walks in the grace of virginity. "Blessed are the poor in spirit;" [2081] imitate Him, Who, whereas "He was rich, was made poor for your sakes." [2082] "Blessed are the meek;" imitate Him, Who said, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart." [2083] "Blessed are they that mourn;" imitate Him, Who "wept over" Jerusalem. [2084] "Blessed are they, who hunger and thirst after righteousness;" imitate Him, Who said, "My meat is to do the will of Him Who sent Me." [2085] "Blessed are the merciful;" imitate Him, Who came to the help of him who was wounded by robbers, and who lay in the way half-dead and despaired of. [2086] "Blessed are the pure in heart;" imitate Him, "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." [2087] "Blessed are the peace-makers;" imitate Him, Who said on behalf of His persecutors, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." [2088] "Blessed are they, who suffer persecution for righteousness sake;" imitate Him, Who "suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye follow His steps." [2089] These things, whoso imitate, in these they follow the Lamb. But surely even married persons may go in those steps, although not setting their foot perfectly in the same print, [2090] yet walking in the same paths.

Footnotes

[2081] Matt. v. 3-10 [2082] 2 Cor. viii. 9 [2083] Matt. xi. 29 [2084] Luke xix. 41 [2085] John iv. 34 [2086] Luke x. 30-35 [2087] 1 Peter ii. 22 [2088] Luke xxiii. 34 [2089] 1 Peter ii. 21 [2090] Forma


29. But, lo, That Lamb goeth by a Virgin road, how shall they go after Him, who have lost what there is no way for them to recover? Do ye, therefore, do ye go after Him, His virgins; do ye thither also go after Him, in that on this one account whithersoever He shall have gone, ye follow Him: for unto any other gift whatsoever of holiness, whereby to follow Him, we can exhort married persons, save this which they have lost beyond power of recovery. Do ye, therefore, follow Him, by holding with perseverance what ye have vowed with ardor. Go when ye can, that the good of virginity perish not from you, unto which ye can do nothing, in order that it may return. The rest of the multitude of the faithful will see you, which cannot unto this follow the Lamb; it will see you, it will not envy you: and by rejoicing together with you, what it hath not in itself, it will have in you. For that new song also, which is your own, it will not be able to utter; but it will not be unable to hear, and to be delighted with your so excellent good: but ye, who shall both utter and hear, in that what ye shall say, this ye shall hear of yourselves, will exult with greater happiness, and reign with greater joy. But they will have no sorrow on account of your greater joy, to whom this shall be wanting. Forsooth That Lamb, Whom ye shall follow whithersoever He shall have gone, will not desert those who cannot follow Him, where you can. Almighty is the Lamb, of Whom we speak. He both will go before you, and will not depart from them, when God shall be all in all. [2091] And they, who shall have less, shall not turn away in dislike from you: for, where there is no envying, difference exists with concord. Take to you, [2092] then, have trust, be strong, continue, ye who vow and pay unto the Lord your God vows of perpetual continence, not for the sake of this present world, but for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven.

Footnotes

[2091] 1 Cor. xv. 28 [2092] "Præsumite."


30. Ye also who have not yet made this vow, who are able to receive it, receive it. [2093] Run with perseverance, that ye may obtain. [2094] Take ye each his sacrifices, and enter ye into the courts [2095] of the Lord, not of necessity, having power over your own will. [2096] For not as, "Thou shall not commit adultery, Thou shall not kill," [2097] can it so be said, Thou shalt not wed. The former are demanded, the latter are offered. If the latter are done, they are praised: unless the former are done, they are condemned. In the former the Lord commands us what is due; but in the latter, if ye shall have spent any thing more, on His return He will repay you. [2098] Think of (whatever that be) within His wall "a place named, much better than of sons and of daughters." [2099] Think of "an eternal name" there. [2100] Who unfolds of what kind that name shall be? Yet, whatever it shall be, it shall be eternal. By believing and hoping and loving this, ye have been able, not to shun marriage, as forbidden, but to fly past it, as allowed.

Footnotes

[2093] Matt. xix. 12 [2094] 1 Cor. ix. 24 [2095] Ps. xcvi. 8 [2096] 1 Cor. vii. 37 [2097] Ex. xx. 14, 13 [2098] "Supererogaveritis." [2099] Luke x. 35. See 48. [2100] Is. lvi. 5


31. Whence the greatness of this service, [2101] unto the undertaking of which we have according to our strength exhorted, the more excellent and divine it is, the more doth it warn our anxiety, to say something not only concerning most glorious chastity, but also concerning safest humility. When then such as make profession of perpetual chastity, comparing themselves with married persons, shall have discovered, that, according to the Scriptures, the others are below both in work and wages, both in vow and reward, let what is written straightway come into their mind, "By how much thou art great, by so much humble thyself in all things: and thou shalt find favor before God." [2102] The measure of humility for each hath been given from the measure of his greatness itself: unto which pride is full of danger, which layeth the greater wait against persons the greater they be. On this followeth envying, as a daughter in her train; forsooth pride straightway giveth birth to her, nor is she ever without such a daughter and companion. By which two evils, that is, pride and envying, is the devil (a devil). Therefore it is against pride, the mother of envying, that the whole Christian discipline chiefly wars. For this teaches humility, whereby both to gain and to keep charity; of which after that it had been said, "Charity envieth not;" [2103] as though we were asking the reason, how it comes to pass that it envieth not, he straightway added, "is not puffed up;" as though he should say, on this account it hath not envying, in that neither hath it pride. Therefore the Teacher of humility, Christ, first "emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, made obedient even unto death, even the death of the Cross." [2104] But His teaching itself, how carefully it suggests humility, and how earnest and instant it is in commanding this, who can easily unfold, and bring together all witnesses for proof of this matter? This let him essay to do, or do, whosoever shall wish to write a separate treatise on humility; but of this present work the end proposed is different, and it hath been undertaken on a matter so great, as that it hath chiefly to guard against pride.

Footnotes

[2101] Muneris [2102] Ecclus. iii. 18 [2103] 1 Cor. xiii. 4. [See R.V.] [2104] Phil. ii. 7, 8. [See R.V.]


32. Wherefore a few witnesses, which the Lord deigns to suggest to my mind, I proceed to mention, from out the teaching of Christ concerning humility, such as perhaps may be enough for my purpose. His discourse, the first which He delivered to His disciples at greater length, began from this. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." [2105] And these without all controversy we take to be humble. The faith of that Centurion He on this account chiefly praised, and said that He had not found in Israel so great faith, because he believed with so great humility as to say, "I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." [2106] Whence also Matthew for no other reason said that he "came" unto Jesus, (whereas Luke most plainly signifies that he came not unto Him himself, but sent his friends,) save that by his most faithful humility he himself came unto Him more than they whom he sent. Whence also is that of the Prophet, "The Lord is very high, and hath respect unto things that are lowly: but what are very high He noteth afar off;" [2107] assuredly as not coming unto Him. Whence also He saith to that woman of Canaan, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it done unto thee as thou wilt;" [2108] whom above He had called a dog, and had made answer that the bread of the sons was not to be cast to her. And this she taking with humility had said, "Even so, Lord; for the dogs also eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." And thus what by continual crying she obtained not, by humble confession she earned. [2109] Hence also those two are set forth praying in the Temple, the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican, for the sake of those who seem to themselves just and despise the rest of men, and the confession of sins is set before the reckoning up of merits. And assuredly the Pharisee was rendering thanks unto God by reason of those things wherein he was greatly self-satisfied. "I render thanks to Thee," saith he, "that I am not even as the rest of men, unjust, extortioners, adulterers, even as also this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all things whatsoever I possess. But the Publican was standing afar off, not daring to lift up his eyes to Heaven, but beating his breast, saying, God be merciful unto me a sinner." But there follows the divine judgment, "Verily I say unto you, the Publican went down from the Temple justified more than that Pharisee." [2110] Then the cause is shown, why this is just; "Forasmuch as he who exalteth himself shall be humbled, and whoso humbleth himself shall be exalted." Therefore it may come to pass, that each one both shun real evils, and reflect on real goods in himself, and render thanks for these unto "the Father of lights, from Whom cometh down every best gift, and every perfect gift," [2111] and yet be rejected by reason of the sin of haughtiness, if through pride, even in his thought alone, which is before God, he insult other sinners, and specially when confessing their sins in prayer, unto whom is due not upbraiding with arrogance, but pity without despair. What is it that, when His disciples were questioning among themselves, who of them should be greater, He set a little child before their eyes, saying, "Unless ye shall be as this child, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven?" [2112] Did He not chiefly commend humility, and set in it the desert of greatness? Or when unto the sons of Zebedee desiring to be at His side in lofty seats He so made answer, [2113] as that they should rather think of having to drink the Cup of His Passion, wherein He humbled Himself even unto death, even the death of the Cross, [2114] than with proud desire demand to be preferred to the rest; what did He show, save, that He would be a bestower of exaltation upon them, who should first follow Him as a teacher of humility? And now, in that, when about to go forth unto His Passion, He washed the feet of His disciples, and most openly taught them to do for their fellow-disciples and fellow-servants this, which He their Lord and Master had done for them; how greatly did He commend humility? [2115] And in order to commend this He chose also that time, wherein they were looking on Him, as immediately about to die, with great longing; assuredly about to retain in their memory this especially, which their Master, Whom they were to imitate, had pointed out to them as the last thing. But He did this at that time, which surely He could have done on other days also before, wherein He had been conversant with them; at which time if it were done, this same would indeed be delivered, but certainly would not be so received.

Footnotes

[2105] Matt. v. 3 [2106] Matt. viii. 5-10; Luke vii. 6, 7 [2107] Ps. cxxxviii. 6 [2108] Matt. xv. 22-28 [2109] Promeruit [2110] Luke xviii. 11-14 [2111] James i. 17 [2112] Matt. xviii. 1-3 [2113] Matt. xx. 21, 22 [2114] Phil. ii. 8 [2115] John xiii. 1-17


33. Whereas, then, all Christians have to guard humility, forasmuch as it is from Christ that they are called Christians, Whose Gospel no one considers with care, but that he discovers Him to be a Teacher of humility; specially is it becoming that they be followers and keepers of this virtue, who excel the rest of men in any great good, in order that they may have a great care of that, which I set down in the beginning, "By how much thou art great, by so much humble thyself in all things, and thou shall find grace before God." [2116] Wherefore, because perpetual Continence and specially virginity, is a great good in the Saints of God, they must with all watchfulness beware, that it be not corrupted with pride.

Footnotes

[2116] Ecclus. iii. 18


34. Paul the Apostle censures evil unmarried women, curious and prating, and says that this fault comes of idleness. "But at the same time," saith he, "being idle they learn to go about to houses: but not only idle, but curious also and prating, speaking what they ought not." [2117] Of these he had said above, "But younger widows avoid; for when they have past their time in delights, they wish to wed in Christ; having condemnation, in that they have made void their first faith:" that is, have not continued in that, which they had vowed at the first. And yet he saith not, they marry, but "they wish to marry." For many of them are recalled from marrying, not by love of a noble purpose, but by fear of open shame, which also itself comes of pride, whereby persons fear to displease men more than God. These, therefore, who wish to marry, and do not marry on this account, because they cannot with impunity, who would do better to marry than to be burned, that is, than to be laid waste in their very conscience by the hidden flame of lust, who repent of their profession, and who feel their confession irksome; unless they correct and set right their heart, and by the fear of God again overcome their lust, must be accounted among the dead; whether they pass their time in delights, whence the Apostle says, "But she who passes her time in delights, living, is dead;" [2118] or whether in labors and fastings, which are useless where there is no correction of the heart, and serve rather for display than amendment. I do not, for my part, impose on such a great regard for humility, in whom pride itself is confounded, and bloodstained by wound of conscience. Nor on such as are drunken, or covetous, or who are lying in any other kind whatever of damnable disease, at the same time that they have profession of bodily continence, and through perverse manners are at variance with their own name, do I impose this great anxiety about pious humility: unless haply in these evils they shall dare even to make a display of themselves, unto whom it is not enough, that the punishments of these are deferred. Nor am I treating of these, in whom there is a certain aim of pleasing, either by more elegant dress than the necessity of so great profession demands, or by remarkable manner of binding the head, whether by bosses of hair swelling forth, or by coverings so yielding, that the fine network below appears: unto these we must give precepts, not as yet concerning humility, but concerning chastity itself, or virgin modesty. Give me one who makes profession of perpetual continence, and who is free from these, and all such faults and spots of conduct; for this one I fear pride, for this so great good I am in alarm from the swelling of arrogance. The more there is in any one on account of which to be self-pleased, the more I fear, lest, by pleasing self, he please not Him, Who "resisteth the proud, but unto the humble giveth grace." [2119]

Footnotes

[2117] 1 Tim. v. 11, 12, 13. [See R.V.] [2118] 1 Tim. v. 6 [2119] James iv. 6


35. Certainly we are to contemplate in Christ Himself, the chief instruction and pattern of virginal purity. What further precept then concerning humility shall I give to the continent, than what He saith to all, "Learn of Me, in that I am meek and lowly of heart?" [2120] when He had made mention above of His greatness, and, wishing to show this very thing, how great He was, and how little He had been made for our sakes, saith, "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, in that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto little children. Even so, O Father, in that so it hath been pleasing before Thee. All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; and no one knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son shall have willed to reveal Him. Come unto Me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, in that I am meek and lowly of heart." [2121] He, He, unto Whom the Father hath delivered all things, and Whom no one knoweth but the Father, and Who alone, (and he, unto whom He shall have willed to reveal Him), knoweth the Father, saith not, "Learn of Me" to make the world, or to raise the dead, but, "in that I am meek and lowly of heart." O saving teaching? O Teacher and Lord of mortals, unto whom death was pledged and passed on in the cup of pride, He would not teach what Himself was not, He would not bid what Himself did not. I see Thee, O good Jesu, with the eyes of faith, which Thou hast opened for me, as in an assembly of the human race, crying out and saying, "Come unto Me, and learn of Me." What, I beseech Thee, through Whom all things were made, O Son of God, and the Same Who was made among all things, O Son of Man: to learn what of Thee, come we to Thee? "For that I am meek," saith He, "and lowly of heart." Is it to this that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Thee [2122] are brought, that we learn this of Thee as a great thing, that Thou art "meek and lowly of heart?" Is it so great a thing to be little, that it could not at all be learned unless it were brought to pass by Thee, Who art so great? So indeed it is. For by no other way is there found out rest for the soul, save when the unquiet swelling hath been dispersed, whereby it was great unto itself, when it was not sound unto Thee.

Footnotes

[2120] Matt. xi. 29 [2121] Matt. xi. 25-29 [2122] Col. ii. 3


36. Let them hear Thee, and let them come to Thee, and let them learn of Thee to be meek and lowly, who seek Thy Mercy and Truth, by living unto Thee, unto Thee, not unto themselves. Let him hear this, laboring and laden, who is weighed down by his burthen, so as not to dare to lift up his eyes to heaven, that sinner beating his breast, and drawing near from afar. [2123] Let him hear, the centurion, not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under his roof. [2124] Let him hear, Zaccheus, chief of publicans, restoring fourfold the gains of damnable sins. [2125] Let her hear, the woman in the city a sinner, by so much the more full of tears at Thy feet, the more alien she had been from Thy steps. [2126] Let them hear, the harlots and publicans, who enter into the kingdom of heaven before the Scribes and Pharisees. [2127] Let them hear, every kind of such ones, feastings with whom were cast in Thy teeth as a charge, forsooth, as though by whole persons who sought not a physician, whereas Thou camest not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. [2128] All these, when they are converted unto Thee, easily grow meek, and are humbled before Thee, mindful of their own most unrighteous life, and of Thy most indulgent mercy, in that, "where sin hath abounded, grace hath abounded more." [2129]

Footnotes

[2123] Luke xviii. 13 [2124] Matt. viii. 8 [2125] Luke xix. 2-8 [2126] Luke vii. 37, 38 [2127] Matt. xxi. 31 [2128] Matt. ix. 11-13. [See R.V.] [2129] Rom. v. 20


37. But regard the troops of virgins, holy boys and girls: this kind hath been trained up in Thy Church: there for Thee it hath been budding from its mother's breasts; for Thy Name it hath loosed its tongue to speak, Thy Name, as through the milk of its infancy, it hath had poured in and hath sucked, no one of this number can say, "I, who before was a blasphemer, and persecutor, and injurious, but I obtained mercy, in that I did in being ignorant, in unbelief." [2130] Yea more, that, which Thou commandedst not, but only didst set forth, for such as would, to seize, saying, "Whoso can receive, let him receive;" they have seized, they have vowed, and, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, not for that Thou threatenedst, but for that Thou exhortedst, they have made themselves eunuchs. [2131] To these cry out, let these hear Thee, in that Thou art "meek and lowly of heart." Let these, by how much they are great, by so much humble themselves in all things, that they may find grace before Thee. They are just: but they are not, are they, such as Thou, justifying the ungodly? They are chaste: but them in sins their mothers nurtured in their wombs. [2132] They are holy, but Thou art also Holy of Holies. They are virgins, but they are not also born of virgins. They are wholly chaste both in spirit and in flesh: but they are not the Word made flesh. [2133] And yet let them learn, not from those unto whom Thou forgivest sins, but from Thee Thyself, The Lamb of God Who takest away the sins of the world, [2134] in that Thou art "meek and lowly of heart."

Footnotes

[2130] 1 Tim. i. 13 [2131] Matt. xix. 12 [2132] Ps. li. 5 [2133] John i. 14 [2134] John i. 29


38. I send thee not, soul that art religiously chaste, that hast not given the reins to fleshly appetite even so far as to allowed marriage, that hast not indulged thy body about to depart even to the begetting one to succeed thee, that hast sustained aloft thy earthly members, afloat to accustom them to heaven; I send thee not, in order that thou mayest learn humility, unto publicans and sinners, who yet enter into the kingdom of heaven before the proud: I send thee not to these: for they, who have been set free from the gulf of uncleanness, are unworthy that undefiled virginity be sent to them to take pattern from. I send thee unto the King of Heaven, unto Him, by Whom men were created, and Who was created among men for the sake of men; unto Him, Who is fair of beauty above the sons of men, [2135] and despised by the sons of men on behalf of the sons of men: unto Him, Who, ruling the immortal angels, disdained not to do service unto mortals. Him, at any rate, not unrighteousness, but charity, made humble; "Charity, which rivalleth not, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own;" [2136] forasmuch as "Christ also pleased not Himself, but, as it is written of Him, The reproaches of such as reproached Thee have fallen upon Me." [2137] Go then, come unto Him, and learn, in that He is "meek and lowly of heart." Thou shall not go unto him, who dared not by reason of the burden of unrighteousness to lift up his eyes to heaven, but unto Him, Who by the weight of charity came down from heaven. [2138] Thou shalt not go unto her, who watered with tears the feet of her Lord, seeking forgiveness of heavy sins; but thou shalt go unto Him, Who, granting forgiveness of all sins, washed the feet of His own disciples. [2139] I know the dignity of thy virginity; I propose not to thee to imitate the Publican humbly accusing his own faults; but I fear for the Pharisee proudly boasting of his own merits. [2140] I say not, Be thou such as she, of whom it was said, "There are forgiven unto her many sins, in that she hath loved much;" [2141] but I fear lest, as thinking that thou hast little forgiven to thee, thou love little.

Footnotes

[2135] Ps. xlv. 2 [2136] 1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5 [2137] Rom. xv. 3 [2138] John vi. 38 [2139] John xiii. 5 [2140] Luke xviii. 10-14 [2141] Luke vii. 38, 47


39. I fear, I say, greatly for thee, lest, when thou boastest that thou wilt follow the Lamb wheresoever He shall have gone, thou be unable by reason of swelling pride to follow Him through strait ways. It is good for thee, O virgin soul, that thus, as thou art a virgin, thus altogether keeping in thy heart that thou hast been born again, keeping in thy flesh that thou hast been born, thou yet conceive of the fear of the Lord, and give birth to the spirit of salvation. [2142] "Fear," indeed, "there is not in charity, but perfect charity," as it is written, "casteth out fear:" [2143] but fear of men, not of God: fear of temporal evils, not of the Divine Judgment at the last. "Be not thou high-minded, but fear." [2144] Love thou the goodness of God; fear thou His severity: neither suffers thee to be proud. For by loving you fear, lest you grievously offend One Who is loved and loves. For what more grievous offense, than that by pride thou displease Him, Who for thy sake hath been displeasing to the proud? And where ought there to be more that "chaste fear abiding for ever and ever," [2145] than in thee, who hast no thought of the things of this world, how to please a wedded partner; but of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord? [2146] That other fear is not in charity, but this chaste fear quitteth not charity. If you love not, fear lest you perish; if you love, fear lest you displease. That fear charity casteth out, with this it runneth within. The Apostle Paul also says, "For we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the spirit of adoption of sons, wherein we cry, Abba, Father." [2147] I believe that he speaks of that fear, which had been given in the Old Testament, lest the temporal goods should be lost, which God had promised unto those not yet sons under grace, but as yet slaves under the law. There is also the fear of eternal fire, to serve God in order to avoid which is assuredly not yet of perfect charity. For the desire of the reward is one thing, the fear of punishment another. They are different sayings, "Whither shall I go away from Thy Spirit, and from Thy face whither shall I flee?" [2148] and, "One thing I have sought of the Lord, this I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord through all the days of my life, that I may consider the delight of the Lord, that I be protected in His temple:" [2149] and, "Turn not away Thy face from me:" [2150] and, "My soul longeth and fainteth unto the courts of the Lord." [2151] Those sayings let him have had, who dared not to lift up his eyes to heaven; and she who was watering with tears His feet, in order to obtain pardon for her grievous sins; but these do thou have, who art careful about the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit. With those sayings there companies fear which hath torment, which perfect charity casteth forth; but with these sayings there companies chaste fear of the Lord, that abideth for ever and ever. And to both kinds it must be said, "Be not thou high-minded, but fear;" [2152] that man neither of defense of his sins, nor of presumption of righteousness set himself up. For Paul also himself, who saith, "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear;" [2153] yet, fear being a companion of charity, saith, "With fear and much trembling was I towards you:" [2154] and that saying, which I have mentioned, that the engrafted wild olive tree be not proud against the broken branches of the olive tree, himself made use of, saying, "Be not thou high-minded, but fear;" himself admonishing all the members of Christ in general, saith, "With fear and trembling work out your own salvation; for it is God Who worketh in you both to will and to do, according to His good pleasure;" [2155] that it seem not to pertain unto the Old Testament what is written, "Serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling." [2156]

Footnotes

[2142] Is. xxvi. 18. See LXX. [2143] 1 John iv. 18. [See R.V.] [2144] Rom. xi. 20 [2145] Ps. xix. 9 [2146] 1 Cor. vii. 32 [2147] Rom. viii. 15 [2148] Ps. cxxxix. 7 [2149] Ps. xxvii. 4 [2150] Ps. xxvii. 9 [2151] Ps. lxxxiv. 2 [2152] Rom. xi. 20 [2153] Rom. viii. 15 [2154] 1 Cor. ii. 3 [2155] Phil. ii. 12, 13. [See R.V.] [2156] Ps. ii. 11


40. And what members of the holy body, which is the Church, ought more to take care, that upon them the holy Spirit may rest, than such as profess virginal holiness? But how doth He rest, where He findeth not His own place? what else than an humbled heart, to fill, not to leap back from; to raise up, not to weigh down? whereas it hath been most plainly said, "On whom shall rest My Spirit? On him that is humble and quiet, and trembles at My words." [2157] Already thou livest righteously, already thou livest piously, thou livest chastely, holily, with virginal purity; as yet, however, thou livest here, and art thou not humbled at hearing, "What, is not human life upon earth a trial?" [2158] Doth it not drive thee back from over-confident arrogance, "Woe unto the world because of offenses?" [2159] Dost thou not tremble, lest thou be accounted among the many, whose "love waxeth cold, because that iniquity abounds?" [2160] Dost thou not smite thy breast, when thou hearest, "Wherefore, whoso thinketh that he standeth, let him see to it lest he fall?" [2161] Amid these divine warnings and human dangers, do we yet find it so hard to persuade holy virgins to humility?

Footnotes

[2157] Is. lxvi. 2 [2158] Job. vii. 1. LXX. [2159] Matt. xviii. 7. [See R.V.] [2160] Matt. xxiv. 12 [2161] 1 Cor. x. 12


41. Or are we indeed to believe that it is for any other reason, that God suffers to be mixed up with the number of your profession, many, both men and women, about to fall, than that by the fall of these your fear may be increased, whereby to repress pride; which God so hates, as that against this one thing The Highest humbled Himself? Unless haply, in truth, thou shalt therefore fear less, and be more puffed up, so as to love little Him, Who hath loved thee so much, as to give up Himself for thee, [2162] because He hath forgiven thee little, living, forsooth from childhood, religiously, piously, with pious chastity, with inviolate virginity. As though in truth you ought not to love with much greater glow of affection Him, Who, whatsoever things He hath forgiven unto sinners upon their being turned to Him, suffered you not to fall into them. Or indeed that Pharisee, [2163] who therefore loved little, because he thought that little was forgiven him, was it for any other reason that he was blinded by this error, than because being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish his own, he had not been made subject unto the righteousness of God? [2164] But you, an elect race, and among the elect more elect, virgin choirs that follow the Lamb, even you "by grace have been saved through faith; and this not of yourselves, but it is the gift of God: not of works, lest haply any be elated. For we are His workmanship, created in Jesus Christ in good works, which God hath prepared, that in them we may walk." [2165] What therefore, by how much the more ye are adorned by His gifts, shall ye by so much the less love Him? May He Himself turn away so dreadful madness! Wherefore forasmuch as the Truth has spoken the truth, that he, unto whom little is forgiven, loveth little; do ye, in order that ye may love with full glow of affection Him, Whom ye are free to love, being loosened from ties of marriage, account as altogether forgiven unto you, whatever of evil, by His governance, ye have not committed. For "your eyes ever unto the Lord, forasmuch as He shall pluck out of the net your feet," [2166] and, "Except the Lord shall have kept the city, in vain hath he watched who keepeth it." [2167] And speaking of Continence itself the Apostle says, "But I would that all men were as I myself; but each one hath his own proper gift from God; one in this way, and another in that way." [2168] Who therefore bestoweth these gifts? Who distributeth his own proper gifts unto each as He will? [2169] Forsooth God, with Whom there is not unrighteousness, [2170] and by this means with what equity He makes some in this way, and others in that way, for man to know is either impossible or altogether hard: but that with equity He maketh, it is not lawful to doubt. "What," therefore, "hast thou, which thou hast not received?" [2171] And by what perversity dost thou less love Him, of Whom thou hast received more?

Footnotes

[2162] Gal. ii. 20 [2163] Luke vii. 36-47 [2164] Rom. x. 3 [2165] Eph. ii. 8-10. [See R.V.] [2166] Ps. xxv. 15 [2167] Ps. cxxvii. 1 [2168] 1 Cor. vii. 7 [2169] 1 Cor. xii. 11 [2170] Rom. ix. 16 [2171] 1 Cor. iv. 7


42. Wherefore let this be the first thought for the putting on of humility, that God's virgin think not that it is of herself that she is such, and not rather that this best "gift cometh down from above from the Father of Lights, with Whom is no change nor shadow of motion." [2172] For thus she will not think that little hath been forgiven her, so as for her to love little, and, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish her own, not to be made subject to the righteousness of God. In which fault was that Simon who was surpassed by the woman, unto whom many sins were forgiven, because she loved much. But she will have more cautious and true thoughts, that we are so to account all sins as though forgiven, from which God keeps us that we commit them not. Witnesses are those expressions of pious prayers in holy Scriptures, whereby it is shown, that those very things, which are commanded by God, are not done save by His Gift and help, Who commands. For there is a falsehood in the asking for them, if we could do them without the help of His grace. What is there so generally and chiefly charged, as obedience whereby the Commandments of God are kept? And yet we find this wished for. "Thou," saith he, "hast charged, that Thy commandments be greatly kept." Then it follows, "O that my ways were directed to keep Thy righteousnesses: then shall I not be confounded, whilst I look unto all Thy commandments." [2173] That which he had set down above that God had commanded, that he wished might of himself be fulfilled. This is done assuredly, that there be not sin; but, if there hath been sin, the command is that one repent; lest by defense and excuse of sin he perish through pride, who hath done it, whilst he is unwilling that what he hath done perish through repentance. This also is asked of God, so that it may be understood that it is not done, save by His grant from Whom it is asked. "Set," saith he, "O Lord, a watch to my mouth, and a door of continence around my lips: let not my heart turn away unto evil words, to make excuses in sins, with men that work unrighteousness." [2174] If, therefore, both obedience, whereby we keep His commandments, and repentance whereby we excuse not our sins, are wished for and asked, it is plain that, when it is done, it is by His gift that it is possessed, by His help that it is fulfilled, yet more openly is it said by reason of obedience, "By the Lord the steps of a man are directed, and He shall will His way:" [2175] and of repentance the Apostle says, "if haply God may grant unto them repentance." [2176]

Footnotes

[2172] James i. 17. [See R.V.] [2173] Ps. cxix. 4-6 [2174] Ps. cxli. 3, 4 [2175] Ps. xxxvii. 23 [2176] 2 Tim. ii. 25


43. Concerning continence also itself hath it not been most openly said, "And when I knew that no one can be continent unless God give it, this also itself was a part of wisdom, to know whose gift it was?" [2177] But perhaps continence is the gift of God, but wisdom man bestows upon himself, whereby to understand, that that gift is, not his own, but of God. Yea, "The Lord maketh wise the blind:" [2178] and, "The testimony of the Lord is faithful, it giveth wisdom unto little ones:" [2179] and, "If any one want wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth unto all liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given to him." [2180] But it becometh virgins to be wise, that their lamps be not extinguished. [2181] How "wise," save "not having high thoughts, but consenting unto the lowly." [2182] For Wisdom Itself hath said unto man, "Lo, piety is wisdom!" [2183] If therefore thou hast nothing, which thou hast not received, "Be not high-minded, but fear." [2184] And love not thou little, as though Him by Whom little hath been forgiven to thee; but, rather, love Him much, by Whom much hath been given to thee. For if he loves, unto whom it hath been given not to repay: how much more ought he to love, unto whom it hath been given to possess. For both, whosoever continues chaste from the beginning, is ruled by Him; and whosoever is made chaste instead of unchaste, is corrected by Him; and whosoever is unchaste even unto the end, is abandoned by Him. But this He can do by secret counsel, by unrighteous He cannot: and perhaps it is for this end that it lies hid, that there may be more fear, and less pride.

Footnotes

[2177] Wisd. viii. 21 [2178] Ps. cxlvi. 8 [2179] Ps. xix. 7 [2180] James i. 5 [2181] Matt. xxv. 4 [2182] Rom. xii. 16 [2183] Job xxviii. 28. LXX. [2184] Rom. xi. 20


44. Next let not man, now that he knoweth that by the grace of God he is what he is, fall into another snare of pride, so as by lifting up himself for the very grace of God to despise the rest. By which fault that other Pharisee both gave thanks unto God for the goods which he had, and yet vaunted himself above the Publican confessing his sins. What therefore should a virgin do, what should she think, that she vaunt not herself above those, men or women, who have not this so great gift? For she ought not to feign humility, but to set it forth: for the feigning of humility is greater pride. Wherefore Scripture wishing to show that humility ought to be true, after having said, "By how much thou art great, by so much humble thyself in all things," added soon after, "And thou shalt find grace before God:" [2185] assuredly where one could not humble one's self deceitfully.

Footnotes

[2185] Ecclus. iii. 18


45. Wherefore what shall we say? is there any thought which a virgin of God may truly have, by reason of which she dare not to set herself before a faithful woman, not only a widow, but even married? I say not a reprobate virgin; for who knows not that an obedient woman is to be set before a disobedient virgin? But where both are obedient unto the commands of God, shall she so tremble to prefer holy virginity even to chaste marriage, and continence to wedded life, the fruit an hundred-fold to go before the thirty-fold? Nay, let her not doubt to prefer this thing to that thing; yet let not this or that virgin, obeying and fearing God, dare to set herself before this or that woman, obeying and fearing God; otherwise she will not be humble, and "God resisteth the proud!" [2186] What, therefore, shall she have in her thoughts? Forsooth the hidden gifts of God, which nought save the questioning of trial makes known to each, even in himself. For, to pass over the rest, whence doth a virgin know, although careful of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord [2187] but that haply, by reason of some weakness of mind unknown to herself, she be not as yet ripe for martyrdom, whereas that woman, whom she rejoiced to set herself before, may already be able to drink the Cup of the Lord's humiliation, [2188] which He set before His disciples, to drink first, when enamored of high place? Whence, I say, doth she know but that she herself be not as yet Thecla, that other be already Crispina. [2189] Certainly unless there be present trial, there takes place no proof of this gift.

Footnotes

[2186] James iv. 6 [2187] 1 Cor. vii. 32 [2188] Matt. xx. 22 [2189] A married woman, who was beheaded in the persecution under Diocletian and Maximian at Thebeste in Africa. See Ser. 354, ad Continentes, n. 5. where he says, "bethink you that in the time of persecution not only Agnes the Virgin was crowned, but likewise Crispina, the wife; and perchance, as there is no doubt, some of the continent then failed, and many of the wedded fought and conquered." Ben. ed.


46. But this is so great, that certain understand it to be the fruit an hundred-fold. [2190] For the authority of the Church bears a very conspicuous witness, in which it is known to the faithful in what place the Martyrs, in what place the holy nuns deceased, are rehearsed at the Sacraments of the Altar. [2191] But what the meaning is of that difference of fruitfulness, let them see to it, who understand these things better than we; whether the virginal life be in fruit an hundred-fold, in sixty-fold the widowed, in thirty-fold the married; or whether the hundred-fold fruitfulness be ascribed unto martyrdom, the sixty-fold unto continence, the thirty-fold unto marriage; or whether virginity, by the addition of martyrdom, fill up the hundred-fold, but when alone be in sixty-fold, but married persons bearing thirty-fold arrive at sixty-fold, in case they shall be martyrs: or whether, what seems to me more probable, forasmuch as the gifts of Divine grace are many, and one is greater and better than another, whence the Apostle says, "But emulate ye the better gifts;" [2192] we are to understand that they are more in number than to allow of being distributed under those different kinds. In the first place, that we set not widowed continence either as bearing no fruit, or set it but level with the desert of married charity, or equal it unto virgin glory; or think that the Crown of Martyrdom, either established in habit of mind, although proof of trial be wanting, or in actual making trial of suffering, be added unto either one of those these chastities, without any increase of fruitfulness. Next, when we set it down that many men and women so keep virginal chastity, as that yet they do not the things which the Lord saith, "If thou willest to be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast, and give unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come, follow me;" [2193] and dare not unite themselves to those dwelling together, among whom no one saith that any thing is his own, but all things are unto them common; [2194] do we think that there is no addition of fruitfulness unto the virgins of God, when they do this? or that the virgins of God are without any fruit, although they do not this? Therefore there are many gifts, and some brighter and higher than others, each than each. And at times one is fruitful in fewer gifts, but better; another in lower gifts, but more. And in what manner they be either made equal one to another, or distinguished one from another, in receiving eternal honors, who of men would dare to pronounce? whereas yet it is plain both that those differences are many, and that the better are profitable not for the present time, but for eternity. But I judge that the Lord willed to make mention of three differences of fruitfulness, the rest He left to such as understand. [2195] For also another Evangelist hath made mention only of the hundred-fold: [2196] we are not, therefore, are we, to think that he either rejected, or knew not of, the other two, but rather that he left them to be understood?

Footnotes

[2190] St. Jerome mentions this interpretation; but b. 1. agt. Jovinian, and on Matt. 18, takes that which assigns the hundred-fold to virginity. Ben. ed. [2191] Ser. 159, he says, "Martyrs are in such place rehearsed at the Altar of God as that prayer is not made for them; but for the other deceased that are mentioned prayer is made." Ben. ed. [2192] 1 Cor. xii. 31 [2193] Matt. xix. 21 [2194] Acts ii. 44, 4, 32 [2195] Matt. xiii. 8 [2196] Luke viii. 8


47. But, as I had begun to say, whether the fruit an hundred-fold be virginity dedicated to God, or whether we are to understand that interval of fruitfulness in some other way, either such as we have made mention of, or such as we have not made mention of; yet no one, as I suppose, will have dared to prefer virginity to martyrdom, and no one will have doubted that this latter gift is hidden, if trial to test it be wanting. A virgin, therefore, hath a subject for thought, such as may be of profit to her for the keeping of humility, that she violate not that charity, which is above all gifts, without which assuredly whatever other gifts she shall have had, whether few or many, whether great or small, she is nothing. She hath, I say, a subject for thought, that she be not puffed up, that she rival not; forsooth that she so make profession that the virginal good is much greater and better than the married good, as that yet she know not whether this or that married woman be not already able to suffer for Christ, but herself as yet unable, and she herein spared, that her weakness is not put to the question by trial. "For God," saith the Apostle, "is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tried above what ye are able but will make with the trial a way out, that ye may be able to bear it." [2197] Perhaps, therefore, those men or women keeping a way of married life praiseworthy in its kind, are already able, against an enemy forcing to unrighteousness, to contend even by tearing in pieces of bowels, and shedding of blood; but these men or women, continent from childhood, and making themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, still are not as yet able to endure such, either for righteousness, or for chastity itself. For it is one thing, for truth and an holy purpose, not to consent unto one who would persuade and flatter, but another thing not to yield even to one who tortures and strikes. These lie hid in the powers and strength of souls, by trial they are unfolded, by actual essay they come forth. In order, therefore, that each be not puffed up by reason of that, which he sees clearly that he can do, let him humbly consider that he knows not that there is perchance something more excellent which he cannot do, but that some, who neither have nor profess that of which he is lawfully self-conscious, are able to do this, which he himself cannot do. Thus will be kept, not by feigned but by true humility, "In honor preventing one another," [2198] and, "esteeming each the other higher than himself." [2199]

Footnotes

[2197] 1 Cor. x. 13 [2198] Rom. xii. 10. [See R.V.] [2199] Phil. ii. 3


48. What now shall I say concerning the very carefulness and watchfulness against sin? "Who shall boast that he hath a chaste heart? or who shall boast that he is clean from sin?" [2200] Holy virginity is indeed inviolate from the mother's womb; but "no one," saith he, "is clean in Thy sight, not even the infant whose life is of one day upon the earth." [2201] There is kept also in faith inviolate a certain virginal chastity, whereby the Church is joined as a chaste virgin unto One Husband: but That One Husband hath taught, not only the faithful who are virgin in mind and body, but all Christians altogether, from spiritual even unto carnal, from Apostles even unto the last penitents, as though from the height of heaven even unto the bounds of it, [2202] to pray, and in the prayer itself hath admonished them to say, "And forgive us our debts, even as we also forgive our debtors:" [2203] where, by this which we seek, He shews what also we should remember that we are. For neither on behalf of those debts, which for our whole past life we trust have been forgiven unto us in Baptism through His peace, hath He charged us to pray, saying, "And forgive us our debts, even as we also forgive our debtors:" otherwise this were a prayer which Catechumens rather ought to pray up to the time of Baptism; but whereas it is what baptized persons pray, rulers and people, pastors and flocks; it is sufficiently shown that in this life, the whole of which is a trial, no one ought to boast himself as though free from all sins. [2204]

Footnotes

[2200] Prov. xx. 9 [2201] Job xxv. 4 [2202] Matt. xxiv. 31. [See R.V.] [2203] Matt. vi. 12 [2204] Job vii. 1


49. Wherefore also the virgins of God without blame indeed, "follow the Lamb whithersoever He shall have gone," both the cleansing of sins being perfected, and virginity being kept, which, were it lost, could not return: but, because that same Apocalypse itself, wherein such unto one such were revealed, in this also praises them, that "in their mouth there was not found a lie:" [2205] let them remember in this also to be true, that they dare not say that they have not sin. Forsooth the same John, who saw that, hath said this, "If we shall have said that we have not sin, we deceive our own selves, and the truth is not in us; but if we shall have confessed our faults, He is faithful and just, so as to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But if we shall have said that we have not sinned, we shall make Him a liar, and His word shall not be in us." [2206] This surely is not said unto these or those, but unto all Christians, wherein virgins also ought to recognize themselves. For thus they shall be without a lie, such as in the Apocalypse they appeared. And by this means so long as there is not as yet perfection in heavenly height, confession in lowliness maketh them without blame.

Footnotes

[2205] Rev. xiv. 4, 5 [2206] 1 John i. 8-10. [See R.V.]


50. But, again, lest by occasion of this sentence, any one should sin with deadly security, and should allow himself to be carried away, as though his sins were soon by easy confession to be blotted out, he straightway added, "My little children, these things have I written unto you, that ye sin not; and, if one shall have sinned, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and Himself is a propitiation of our sins." [2207] Let no one therefore depart from sin as though about to return to it, nor bind himself as it were by compact of alliance of this kind with unrighteousness, so as to take delight rather to confess it than to shun it. But, forasmuch as even upon such as are busy and on the watch not to sin, there creep by stealth, in a certain way, from human weakness, sins, however small, however few, yet not none; these same themselves become great and grievous, in case pride shall have added to them increase and weight: but by the Priest, Whom we have in the heavens, if by pious humility they be destroyed, they are with all ease cleansed.

Footnotes

[2207] 1 John ii. 1, 2


51. But I contend not with those, who assert that a man can in this life live without any sin: I contend not, I gainsay not. For perhaps we take measure of the great from out our own misery, and, comparing ourselves with ourselves, understand not. [2208] One thing I know, that those great ones, such as we are not, such as we have not as yet made proof of, by how much they are great, by so much humble themselves in all things, that they may find grace before God. For, let them be how great soever they will, "there is no servant greater than his Lord, nor disciple greater than his master." [2209] And assuredly He is the Lord, Who saith, "All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father;" [2210] and He is the Master, Who saith, "Come unto Me, all ye who labor, and learn of Me;" and yet what learn we? "In that I am meek," saith He, "and lowly of heart."

Footnotes

[2208] 2 Cor. x. 12 [2209] John xiii. 16 [2210] Matt. xi. 27, 28


52. Here some one will say, This is now not to write of virginity, but of humility. As though truly it were any kind of virginity, and not that which is after God, which we had undertaken to set forth. And this good, by how much I see it to be great, by so much I fear for it, lest it be lost, the thief pride. Therefore there is none that guardeth the virginal good, save God Himself Who gave it: and God is Charity. [2211] The Guardian therefore of virginity is Charity: but the place of this Guardian is humility. There forsooth He dwelleth, Who said, that on the lowly and quiet, and that trembleth at His words, His Spirit resteth. [2212] What, therefore, have I done foreign from my purpose, if wishing the good, which I have praised, to be more securely guarded, I have taken care also to prepare a place for the Guardian? For I speak with confidence, nor have I any fear lest they be angry with me, whom I admonish with care to fear for themselves together with me. More easily do follow the Lamb, although not whithersoever He shall have gone, yet so far as they shall have had power, married persons who are humble, than virgins who are proud. For how doth one follow Him, unto Whom one wills not to approach or how doth one approach Him, unto Whom one comes not to learn, "in that I am meek and lowly of heart?" Wherefore those the Lamb leadeth following whithersoever He shall have gone, in whom first Himself shall have found where to lay His Head. For also a certain proud and crafty person had said to Him, "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou shalt have gone;" [2213] to whom He made answer, "Foxes have dens, and fowls of heaven nests: but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head." By the term of foxes He reproved wily craftiness, and by the name of birds puffed-up arrogance, wherein He found not pious humility to rest in. And by this no where at all did he follow the Lord, who had promised that he would follow Him, not unto a certain point of progress, but altogether whithersoever He should have gone.

Footnotes

[2211] 1 John iv. 8 [2212] Is. lxvi. 2 [2213] Matt. viii. 19, 20


53. Wherefore this do ye, virgins of God, this do ye: follow ye the Lamb, whithersoever He shall have gone. But first come unto Him, Whom ye are to follow, and learn, in that He is meek and lowly of heart. Come ye in lowly wise unto the Lowly, if ye love: and depart not from Him, lest ye fall. For whoso fears to depart from Him asks and says, "Let there not come to me foot of pride." [2214] Go on in the way of loftiness with the foot of lowliness; Himself lifteth up such as follow in lowly wise, Who thought it not a trouble to come down unto such as lay low. Commit ye His gifts unto Him to keep, "guard ye your strength unto Him." [2215] Whatever of evil through His guardianship ye commit not, account as forgiven unto you by Him: lest, thinking that you have little forgiven unto you, ye love little, and with ruinous boasting despise the publicans beating their breasts. Concealing that strength of yours which hath been tried beware, that ye be not puffed up, because ye have been able to bear something: but concerning that which hath been untried pray, that ye be not tempted above that ye are able to bear. Think that some are superior to you in secret, than whom ye are openly better. When the good things of others, haply unknown to you, are kindly believed by you, your own that are known to you are not lessened by comparison, but strengthened by love: and what haply as yet are wanting, are by so much the more easily given, by how much they are the more humbly desired. Let such among your number as persevere, afford to you an example: but let such as fall increase your fear. Love the one that ye may imitate it; mourn over the other, that ye be not puffed up. Do not ye establish your own righteousness; submit yourselves unto God Who justifies you. Pardon the sins of others, pray for your own: future sins shun by watching, past sins blot out by confessing.

Footnotes

[2214] Ps. xxxvi. 11 [2215] Ps. lix. 9. [See R.V.]


54. Lo, already ye are such, as that in the rest of your conduct also ye correspond with the virginity which ye have professed and kept. Lo, already not only do ye abstain from murders, devilish sacrifices and abominations, thefts, rapines, frauds, perjuries, drunkennesses, and all luxury and avarice, hatreds, emulations, impieties, cruelties; but even those things, which either are, or are thought, lighter, are not found nor arise among you: not bold face, not wandering eyes, not unbridled tongue, not petulant laugh, not scurrilous jest, not unbecoming mien, not swelling or loose gait; already ye render not evil for evil, nor curse for curse; [2216] already, lastly, ye fulfill that measure of love, that ye lay down your lives for your brethren. [2217] Lo, already ye are such, because also such ye ought to be. These, being added to virginity, set forth an angelic life unto men, and the ways of heaven unto the earth. But, by how much ye are great, whosoever of you are so great, "by so much humble yourselves in all things, that ye may find grace before God," that He resist you not as proud, that He humble you not as lifting up yourselves, that He lead you not through straits as being puffed up: although anxiety be unnecessary, that, where Charity glows, humility be not wanting.

Footnotes

[2216] 1 Pet. iii. 9. [See R.V.] [2217] 1 John iii. 16


55. If, therefore, ye despise marriages of sons of men, from which to beget sons of men, love ye with your whole heart Him, Who is fair of form above the sons of men; ye have leisure; your heart is free from marriage bonds. Gaze on the Beauty of your Lover: think of Him equal to the Father, made subject also to His Mother: ruling even in the heavens, and serving upon the earth: creating all things, created among all things. That very thing, which in Him the proud mock at, gaze on, how fair it is: with inward eyes gaze on the wounds of Him hanging, the scars of Him rising again, the blood of Him dying, the price of him that believes, the gain of Him that redeems. Consider of how great value these are, weigh them in the scales of Charity; and whatever of love ye had to expend upon your marriages, pay back to Him.


56. It is well that He seeks your beauty within, where He hath given unto you power to become daughters of God: [2218] He seeks not of you a fair flesh, but fair conduct, whereby to bridle also the flesh. He is not one unto Whom any one can lie concerning you, and make him rage through jealousy. See with how great security ye love Him, Whom ye fear not to offend by false suspicions. Husband and wife love each other, in that they see each other: and what they see not, that they fear between themselves: nor have they sure delight in what is visible, while in what is concealed they usually suspect what is not. Ye in Him, Whom ye see not with the eyes, and behold by faith, neither have what is real to blame, nor fear lest haply ye offend Him by what is false. If therefore ye should owe great love to husbands, Him, for Whose sake ye would not have husbands, how greatly ought ye to love? Let Him be fixed in your whole heart, Who for you was fixed on the Cross: let Him possess in your soul all that, whatever it be, that ye would not have occupied by marriage. It is not lawful for you to love little Him, for Whose sake ye have not loved even what were lawful. So loving Him Who is meek and lowly of heart, I have no fear for you of pride.

Footnotes

[2218] John i. 12


57. Thus, after our small measure, we have spoken enough both of sanctity, whereby ye are properly called "sanctimoniales," and of humility, whereby whatever great name ye bear is kept. But more worthily let those Three Children, unto whom He, Whom they loved with full glow of heart, afforded refreshing in the fire, admonish you concerning this our little work, much more shortly indeed in number of words, but much more greatly in weight of authority, in the Hymn wherein God is honored by them. For joining humility unto holiness in such as praise God, they have most plainly taught, that each, by how much he make any more holy profession, by so much do beware that he be not deceived by pride. Wherefore do ye also praise Him, Who grants unto you, that in the midst of the flames of this world, although ye be not joined in marriage, yet ye be not burned: and praying also for us, "Bless ye the Lord, ye holy and humble men of heart; utter an hymn, and exalt Him above all forever." [2219]

Footnotes

[2219] Song of Three Children 65.
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