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A. Cleveland Coxe, Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 4: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Part First and Second [1885]

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A. Cleveland Coxe, Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 4: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Part First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised and Chronologically arranged with brief prefaces and occasional notes by A. Cleveland Coxe (New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885).

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About this Title:

Volume 4 of a 10 volume compilation of dozens of lesser known religious works from the early centuries of the Christian church.

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The text is in the public domain.

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Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
The Writings of the Fathers Down to ad 325
Volume 4
Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D. & James Donaldson, LL.D.
revised and chronologically arranged, with brief prefaces and occasional notes by A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D.
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

P. O. Box 3473

Peabody, Massachusetts 01961-3473

ISBN 1-56563-086-6

Printed in the United States of America

First printing 1994

This is a reprint edition of the American Edition of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 4, Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second, originally published in the United States by the Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885.

Volume 10 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, Bibliography and General Index, contains a newly prepared Annotated Index of Authors and Works of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers, First and Second Series © 1994 Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher.

Edition: current; Page: [iii]





Τὰ ἀρχαι̑α ἔθη κρατείτω.

The Nicene Council.
Edition: current; Page: [iv] Edition: current; Page: [v]


[ad 200-250.] This fourth volume of our series is an exceptional one. It presents, under one cover, specimens of two of the noblest of the Christian Fathers; both of them exceptionally great in their influence upon the ages; both of them justly censurable for pitiable faults; each of them, in spite of such failings, endeared to the heart of Christendom by their great services to the Church; both of them geographically of Africa, but the one essentially Greek and the other a Latin; the one a builder upon the great Clementine foundations, the other himself a founder, the brilliant pioneer of Latin Christianity. The contrasts and the concurrences of such minds, and in them of the Alexandrian and Carthaginian schools, are most suggestive, and should be edifying.

The works of both, as here given, are fractional. Tertullian overflows into this volume, after filling one before; the vast proportions of Origen’s labours forced the Edinburgh publishers to give specimens only.

Minucius Felix and Commodian are thrown in as a sort of appendix to Tertullian, and illustrate the school and the Church of the same country. The Italian type does not yet appear. Latin Christianity is essentially North-African, and is destined to continue such, conspicuously, till it has culminated in the genius of Augustine. From the first, the Orientals speculate concerning God; the Westerns deal with man. Both schools “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” And, once for all, it may be said, that if their language necessarily lacks the precision of technical theology, and enables those who have little sympathy with them to set them one against another on some points, and so to impair their value as witnesses, it is quite as easy, and far more just, to show the harmony of their ideas, even when they differ in their forms of speech. This has been triumphantly done by Bull, just as the same writer harmonizes St. James and St. Paul, working down to their common base in the Rock of Ages. The test of Ante-Nicene unity is the Nicene Symbol, in which the primitive writings find their ultimate expression. That Clement and Tertullian alike would have recognised as the faith; for the earlier Fathers were, in fact, its authors. The Nicene Fathers were compilers only, and professed only to embody in the Symbol what their predecessors had established and maintained.

Let it be borne in mind that there is only one Œcumenical Symbol. The Creed called the Apostles’ is unknown to the East save as an orthodox confession of their Western brethren. The “Athanasian Creed” is only a Western hymn, like the Te Deum, and has no œcumenical warrant as a symbol, though it embodies the common doctrine. The Filioque, wherever it appears, is apocryphal, and has no œcumenical force; while it is heretical (in Catholic theology) if it be held in a sense which destroys the One Source of divinity in the Father, its fons et origo. Surely, it is a noble exercise of mind and heart to see, in the splendid result of the Ante-Nicene conflicts with error, and in the enduring truth and perennial freshness of the Nicene Creed, the fulfilment of the promise of the Great Head of the Church, that the Spirit should abide with them for ever, and guide them into all truth.

Edition: current; Page: [vi]

The editor-in-chief, who has been forced to labour unassisted in the preceding volumes, has been so happy as to find a valued collaborator in editing the works of Origen, who has also relieved him of the task of proof-reading almost entirely throughout this volume, excepting on his own pages of prefaces or annotations. In spite of the fact that a necessity for despatch requires the printing to be done from single proofs, it is believed that this volume excels its predecessors in typographical accuracy,—a merit largely due to the eminent skill of the Boston press from which it proceeds, but primarily to the pains of the Rev. Dr. Spencer, an expert in such operations.

For the favour and generous spirit with which his Christian brethren have welcomed and encouraged this undertaking, the editor is grateful to them, and to the common Lord and Master of us all.

Edition: current; Page: [1]

Contents of Volume IV.

  • I. TERTULLIAN. On the Pallium . . . . . . . . . . . page 5
    • On the Apparel of Women . . . . . . . . . . . 14
    • On the Veiling of Virgins . . . . . . . . . . . 27
    • To his Wife . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
    • On Exhortation to Chastity . . . . . . . . . . . 50
    • On Monogamy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
    • On Modesty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
    • On Fasting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
    • De Fuga in Persecutione . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
    • Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
  • II. MINUCIUS FELIX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
  • III. COMMODIANUS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
  • IV. ORIGEN. Introductory Note . . . . . . . . . . . 221
    • Prologue of Rufinus . . . . . . . . . . . . 237
    • Origen De Principiis . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239
    • Africanus to Origen . . . . . . . . . . . . 385
    • Origen to Africanus . . . . . . . . . . . . . 386
    • Origen to Gregory . . . . . . . . . . . . . 393
    • Origen Against Celsus . . . . . . . . . . . . 395
Edition: current; Page: [2] Edition: current; Page: [3]


Edition: current; Page: [4] Edition: current; Page: [5]



Men of Carthage, ever princes of Africa, ennobled by ancient memories, blest with modern felicities, I rejoice that times are so prosperous with you that you have leisure to spend and pleasure to find in criticising dress. These are the “piping times of peace” and plenty. Blessings rain from the empire and from the sky. Still, you too of old time wore your garments—your tunics—of another shape; and indeed they were in repute for the skill of the weft, and the harmony of the hue, and the due proportion of the size, in that they were neither prodigally long across the shins, nor immodestly scanty between the knees, nor niggardly to the arms, nor tight to the hands, but, without being shadowed by even a girdle arranged to divide the folds, they stood on men’s backs with quadrate symmetry. The garment of the mantle extrinsically—itself too quadrangular—thrown back on either shoulder, and meeting closely round the neck in the gripe of the buckle, used to repose on the shoulders.2 Its counterpart is now the priestly dress, sacred to Æsculapius, whom you now call your own. So, too, in your immediate vicinity, the sister State3 used to clothe (her citizens); and wherever else in Africa Tyre (has settled).4 But when the urn of worldly5 lots varied, and God favoured the Romans, the sister State, indeed, of her own choice hastened to effect a change; in order that when Scipio put in at her ports she might already beforehand have greeted him in the way of dress, precocious in her Romanizing. To you, however, after the benefit in which your injury resulted, as exempting you from the infirmity of age, not (deposing you) from your height of eminence,—after Gracchus and his foul omens, after Lepidus and his rough jests, after Pompeius and his triple altars, and Cæsar and his long delays, when Statilius Taurus reared your ramparts, and Sentius Saturninus pronounced the solemn form of your inauguration,—while concord lends her aid, the gown is offered. Well! what a circuit has it taken! from Pelasgians to Lydians;6 from Lydians to Romans: in order that from the shoulders of the sublimer people it should descend to embrace Carthaginians! Henceforth, finding your tunic too long, you suspend it on a dividing cincture; and the redundancy of your now smooth toga7 you support by gathering it together fold upon fold; and, with whatever other garment social condition or dignity or season clothes you, the mantle, at any rate, which used to be worn by all ranks and conditions among you, you not only are unmindful of, but even deride. For my own part, I wonder not (thereat), in the face of a more ancient evidence (of your forgetfulness). For the ram withal—not that which Laberius8 (calls)

“Back-twisted-horned, wool-skinned, stones-dragging,”

but a beam-like engine it is, which does military service in battering walls—never before poised by any, the redoubted Carthage,

“Keenest in pursuits of war,”9

is said to have been the first of all to have equipped for the oscillatory work of pendulous impetus;10 modelling the power of her engine after the choleric fury of the head-avenging beast.11 When, however, their country’s fortunes are at the last gasp, and the ram, now turned Edition: current; Page: [6] Roman, is doing his deeds of daring against the ramparts which erst were his own, forthwith the Carthaginians stood dumbfounded as at a “novel” and “strange” ingenuity:

“So much doth Time’s long age avail to change!”1

Thus, in short, it is that the mantle, too, is not recognised.


Draw we now our material from some other source, lest Punichood either blush or else grieve in the midst of Romans. To change her habit is, at all events, the stated function of entire nature. The very world2 itself (this which we inhabit) meantime discharges it. See to it Anaximander, if he thinks there are more (worlds): see to it, whoever else (thinks there exists another) anywhere at the region of the Meropes, as Silenus prates in the ears of Midas,3 apt (as those ears are4), it must be admitted, for even huger fables. Nay, even if Plato thinks there exists one of which this of ours is the image, that likewise must necessarily have similarly to undergo mutation; inasmuch as, if it is a “world,”5 it will consist of diverse substances and offices, answerable to the form of that which is here the “world:”5 for “world” it will not be if it be not just as the “world” is. Things which, in diversity, tend to unity, are diverse by demutation. In short, it is their vicissitudes which federate the discord of their diversity. Thus it will be by mutation that every “world”5 will exist whose corporate structure is the result of diversities, and whose attemperation is the result of vicissitudes. At all events, this hostelry of ours6 is versiform,—a fact which is patent to eyes that are closed, or utterly Homeric.7 Day and night revolve in turn. The sun varies by annual stations, the moon by monthly phases. The stars—distinct in their confusion—sometimes drop, sometimes resuscitate, somewhat. The circuit of the heaven is now resplendent with serenity, now dismal with cloud; or else rain-showers come rushing down, and whatever missiles (mingle) with them: thereafter (follows) a slight sprinkling, and then again brilliance. So, too, the sea has an ill repute for honesty; while at one time, the breezes equably swaying it, tranquillity gives it the semblance of probity, calm gives it the semblance of even temper; and then all of a sudden it heaves restlessly with mountain-waves. Thus, too, if you survey the earth, loving to clothe herself seasonably, you would nearly be ready to deny her identity, when, remembering her green, you behold her yellow, and will ere long see her hoary too. Of the rest of her adornment also, what is there which is not subject to interchanging mutation—the higher ridges of her mountains by decursion, the veins of her fountains by disappearance, and the pathways of her streams by alluvial formation? There was a time when her whole orb, withal, underwent mutation, overrun by all waters. To this day marine conchs and tritons’ horns sojourn as foreigners on the mountains, eager to prove to Plato that even the heights have undulated. But withal, by ebbing out, her orb again underwent a formal mutation; another, but the same. Even now her shape undergoes local mutations, when (some particular) spot is damaged; when among her islands Delos is now no more, Samos a heap of sand, and the Sibyl (is thus proved) no liar;8 when in the Atlantic (the isle) that was equal in size to Libya or Asia is sought in vain;9 when formerly a side of Italy, severed to the centre by the shivering shock of the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian seas, leaves Sicily as its relics; when that total swoop of discission, whirling backwards the contentious encounters of the mains, invested the sea with a novel vice, the vice not of spuing out wrecks, but of devouring them! The continent as well suffers from heavenly or else from inherent forces. Glance at Palestine. Where Jordan’s river is the arbiter of boundaries, (behold) a vast waste, and a bereaved region, and bootless land! And once (there were there) cities, and flourishing peoples, and the soil yielded its fruits.10 Afterwards, since God is a Judge, impiety earned showers of fire: Sodom’s day is over, and Gomorrah is no more; and all is ashes; and the neighbour sea no less than the soil experiences a living death! Such a cloud overcast Etruria, burning down her ancient Volsinii, to teach Campania (all the more by the ereption of her Pompeii) to look expectantly upon her own mountains. But far be (the repetition of such catastrophes)! Would that Asia, withal, were by this time without cause for anxiety about the soil’s voracity! Would, too, that Africa had once for all quailed before the devouring chasm, expiated by the treacherous absorption of one single camp!11 Many other such detriments besides have made innovations upon Edition: current; Page: [7] the fashion of our orb, and moved (particular) spots (in it). Very great also has been the licence of wars. But it is no less irksome to recount sad details than (to recount) the vicissitudes of kingdoms, (and to show) how frequent have been their mutations, from Ninus, the progeny of Belus, onwards; if indeed Ninus was the first to have a kingdom, as the ancient profane authorities assert. Beyond his time the pen is not wont (to travel), in general, among you (heathens). From the Assyrians, it may be, the histories of “recorded time”1 begin to open. We, however, who are habitual readers of divine histories, are masters of the subject from the nativity of the universe2 itself. But I prefer, at the present time, joyous details, inasmuch as things joyous withal are subject to mutation. In short, whatever the sea has washed away, the heaven burned down, the earth undermined, the sword shorn down, reappears at some other time by the turn of compensation.3 For in primitive days not only was the earth, for the greater part of her circuit, empty and uninhabited; but if any particular race had seized upon any part, it existed for itself alone. And so, understanding at last that all things worshipped themselves, (the earth) consulted to weed and scrape her copiousness (of inhabitants), in one place densely packed, in another abandoning their posts; in order that thence (as it were from grafts and settings) peoples from peoples, cities from cities, might be planted throughout every region of her orb.4 Transmigrations were made by the swarms of redundant races. The exuberance of the Scythians fertilizes the Persians; the Phœnicians gush out into Africa; the Phrygians give birth to the Romans; the seed of the Chaldeans is led out into Egypt; subsequently, when transferred thence, it becomes the Jewish race.5 So, too, the posterity of Hercules, in like wise, proceed to occupy the Peloponnesus for the behoof of Temenus. So, again, the Ionian comrades of Neleus furnish Asia with new cities: so, again, the Corinthians, with Archias, fortify Syracuse. But antiquity is by this time a vain thing (to refer to), when our own careers are before our eyes. How large a portion of our orb has the present age6 re-formed! how many cities has the triple power of our existing empire either produced, or else augmented, or else restored! While God favours so many Augusti unitedly, how many populations have been transferred to other localities! how many peoples reduced! how many orders restored to their ancient splendour! how many barbarians baffled! In truth, our orb is the admirably cultivated estate of this empire; every aconite of hostility eradicated; and the cactus and bramble of clandestinely crafty familiarity7 wholly uptorn; and (the orb itself) delightsome beyond the orchard of Alcinoüs and the rosary of Midas. Praising, therefore, our orb in its mutations, why do you point the finger of scorn at a man?


Beasts, too, instead of a garment, change their form. And yet the peacock withal has plumage for a garment, and a garment indeed of the choicest; nay, in the bloom of his neck richer than any purple, and in the effulgence of his back more gilded than any edging, and in the sweep of his tail more flowing than any train; many-coloured, diverse-coloured, and versi-coloured; never itself, ever another, albeit ever itself when other; in a word, mutable as oft as moveable. The serpent, too, deserves to be mentioned, albeit not in the same breath as the peacock; for he too wholly changes what has been allotted him—his hide and his age: if it is true, (as it is,) that when he has felt the creeping of old age throughout him, he squeezes himself into confinement; crawls into a cave and out of his skin simultaneously; and, clean shorn on the spot, immediately on crossing the threshold leaves his slough behind him then and there, and uncoils himself in a new youth: with his scales his years, too, are repudiated. The hyena, if you observe, is of an annual sex, alternately masculine and feminine. I say nothing of the stag, because himself withal, the witness of his own age, feeding on the serpent, languishes—from the effect of the poison—into youth. There is, withal,

  • “A tardigrade field-haunting quadruped,
  • Humble and rough.”

The tortoise of Pacuvius, you think? No. There is another beastling which the versicle fits; in size, one of the moderate exceedingly, but a grand name. If, without previously knowing him, you hear tell of a chameleon, you will at once apprehend something yet more huge united with a lion. But when you stumble upon him, generally in a vineyard, his whole bulk sheltered beneath a vine leaf, you will forthwith laugh at the egregious audacity of the name, inasmuch Edition: current; Page: [8] as there is no moisture even in his body, though in far more minute creatures the body is liquefied. The chameleon is a living pellicle. His headkin begins straight from his spine, for neck he has none: and thus reflection1 is hard for him; but, in circumspection, his eyes are outdarting, nay, they are revolving points of light. Dull and weary, he scarce raises from the ground, but drags, his footstep amazedly, and moves forward,—he rather demonstrates, than takes, a step: ever fasting, to boot, yet never fainting; agape he feeds; heaving, bellowslike, he ruminates; his food wind. Yet withal the chameleon is able to effect a total self-mutation, and that is all. For, whereas his colour is properly one, yet, whenever anything has approached him, then he blushes. To the chameleon alone has been granted—as our common saying has it—to sport with his own hide.

Much had to be said in order that, after due preparation, we might arrive at man. From whatever beginning you admit him as springing, naked at all events and ungarmented he came from his fashioner’s hand: afterwards, at length, without waiting for permission, he possesses himself, by a premature grasp, of wisdom. Then and there hastening to forecover what, in his newly made body, it was not yet due to modesty (to forecover), he surrounds himself meantime with fig-leaves: subsequently, on being driven from the confines of his birthplace because he had sinned, he went, skinclad, to the world2 as to a mine.3

But these are secrets, nor does their knowledge appertain to all. Come, let us hear from your own store—(a store) which the Egyptians narrate, and Alexander4 digests, and his mother reads—touching the time of Osiris,5 when Ammon, rich in sheep, comes to him out of Libya. In short, they tell us that Mercury, when among them, delighted with the softness of a ram which he had chanced to stroke, flayed a little ewe; and, while he persistently tries and (as the pliancy of the material invited him) thins out the thread by assiduous traction, wove it into the shape of the pristine net which he had joined with strips of linen. But you have preferred to assign all the management of wool-work and structure of the loom to Minerva; whereas a more diligent workshop was presided over by Arachne. Thenceforth material (was abundant). Nor do I speak of the sheep of Miletus, and Selge, and Altinum, or of those for which Tarentum or Bætica is famous, with nature for their dyer: but (I speak of the fact) that shrubs afford you clothing, and the grassy parts of flax, losing their greenness, turn white by washing. Nor was it enough to plant and sow your tunic, unless it had likewise fallen to your lot to fish for raiment. For the sea withal yields fleeces, inasmuch as the more brilliant shells of a mossy wooliness furnish a hairy stuff. Further: it is no secret that the silkworm—a species of wormling it is—presently reproduces safe and sound (the fleecy threads) which, by drawing them through the air, she distends more skilfully than the dial-like webs of spiders, and then devours. In like manner, if you kill it, the threads which you coil are forthwith instinct with vivid colour.

The ingenuities, therefore, of the tailoring art, superadded to, and following up, so abundant a store of materials—first with a view to covering humanity, where Necessity led the way; and subsequently with a view to adorning withal, ay, and inflating it, where Ambition followed in the wake—have promulgated the various forms of garments. Of which forms, part are worn by particular nations, without being common to the rest; part, on the other hand, universally, as being useful to all: as, for instance, this Mantle, albeit it is more Greek (than Latin), has yet by this time found, in speech, a home in Latium. With the word the garment entered. And accordingly the very man who used to sentence Greeks to extrusion from the city, but learned (when he was now advanced in years) their alphabet and speech—the self-same Cato, by baring his shoulder at the time of his prætorship, showed no less favour to the Greeks by his mantle-like garb.


Why, now, if the Roman fashion is (social) salvation to every one, are you nevertheless Greek to a degree, even in points not honourable? Or else, if it is not so, whence in the world is it that provinces which have had a better training, provinces which nature adapted rather for surmounting by hard struggling the difficulties of the soil, derive the pursuits of the wrestling-ground—pursuits which fall into a sad old age6 and labour in vain—and the unction with mud,7 and the rolling in sand, and the dry dietary? Whence comes it that some of our Numidians, with their long locks made longer by horsetail plumes, learn to bid the barber shave their skin close, and to exempt their crown alone from the knife? Whence comes it that Edition: current; Page: [9] men shaggy and hirsute learn to teach the resin1 to feed on their arms with such rapacity, the tweezers to weed their chin so thievishly? A prodigy it is, that all this should be done without the Mantle! To the Mantle appertains this whole Asiatic practice! What hast thou, Libya, and thou, Europe, to do with athletic refinements, which thou knowest not how to dress? For, in sooth, what kind of thing is it to practise Greekish depilation more than Greekish attire?

The transfer of dress approximates to culpability just in so far as it is not custom, but nature, which suffers the change. There is a wide enough difference between the honour due to time, and religion. Let Custom show fidelity to Time, Nature to God. To Nature, accordingly, the Larissæan hero2 gave a shock by turning into a virgin; he who had been reared on the marrows of wild beasts (whence, too, was derived the composition of his name, because he had been a stranger with his lips to the maternal breast3); he who had been reared by a rocky and wood-haunting and monstrous trainer4 in a stony school. You would bear patiently, if it were in a boy’s case, his mother’s solicitude; but he at all events was already be-haired, he at all events had already secretly given proof of his manhood to some one,5 when he consents to wear the flowing stole,6 to dress his hair, to cultivate his skin, to consult the mirror, to bedizen his neck; effeminated even as to his ear by boring, whereof his bust at Sigeum still retains the trace. Plainly afterwards he turned soldier: for necessity restored him his sex. The clarion had sounded of battle: nor were arms far to seek. “The steel’s self,” says (Homer), “attracteth the hero.”7 Else if, after that incentive as well as before, he had persevered in his maidenhood, he might withal have been married! Behold, accordingly, mutation! A monster, I call him,—a double monster: from man to woman; by and by from woman to man: whereas neither ought the truth to have been belied, nor the deception confessed. Each fashion of changing was evil: the one opposed to nature, the other contrary to safety.

Still more disgraceful was the case when lust transfigured a man in his dress, than when some maternal dread did so: and yet adoration is offered by you to me, whom you ought to blush at,—that Clubshaftandhidebearer, who exchanged for womanly attire the whole proud heritage of his name! Such licence was granted to the secret haunts of Lydia,8 that Hercules was prostituted in the person of Omphale, and Omphale in that of Hercules. Where were Diomed and his gory mangers? where Busiris and his funereal altars? where Geryon, triply one? The club preferred still to reek with their brains when it was being pestered with unguents! The now veteran (stain of the) Hydra’s and of the Centaurs’ blood upon the shafts was gradually eradicated by the pumice-stone, familiar to the hair-pin! while voluptuousness insulted over the fact that, after transfixing monsters, they should perchance sew a coronet! No sober woman even, or heroine9 of any note, would have adventured her shoulders beneath the hide of such a beast, unless after long softening and smoothening down and deodorization (which in Omphale’s house, I hope, was effected by balsam and fenugreek-salve: I suppose the mane, too, submitted to the comb) for fear of getting her tender neck imbued with lionly toughness. The yawning mouth stuffed with hair, the jaw-teeth overshadowed amid the forelocks, the whole outraged visage, would have roared had it been able. Nemea, at all events (if the spot has any presiding genius), groaned: for then she looked around, and saw that she had lost her lion. What sort of being the said Hercules was in Omphale’s silk, the description of Omphale in Hercules’ hide has inferentially depicted.

But, again, he who had formerly rivalled the Tirynthian10—the pugilist Cleomachus—subsequently, at Olympia, after losing by efflux his masculine sex by an incredible mutation—bruised within his skin and without, worthy to be wreathed among the “Fullers” even of Novius,11 and deservedly commemorated by the mimographer Lentulus in his Catinensians—did, of course, not only cover with bracelets the traces left by (the bands of) the cestus, but likewise supplanted the coarse ruggedness of his athlete’s cloak with some superfinely wrought tissue.

Of Physco and Sardanapalus I must be silent, whom, but for their eminence in lusts, no one would recognise as kings. But I must be silent, for fear lest even they set up a muttering concerning some of your Cæsars, equally lost to shame; for fear lest a mandate have been given to canine12 constancy to point to a Cæsar impurer than Physco, softer than Sardanapalus, and indeed a second Nero.13

Nor less warmly does the force of vainglory Edition: current; Page: [10] also work for the mutation of clothing, even while manhood is preserved. Every affection is a heat: when, however, it is blown to (the flame of) affectation, forthwith, by the blaze of glory, it is an ardour. From this fuel, therefore, you see a great king1—inferior only to his glory—seething. He had conquered the Median race, and was conquered by Median garb. Doffing the triumphal mail, he degraded himself into the captive trousers! The breast dissculptured with scaly bosses, by covering it with a transparent texture he bared; panting still after the work of war, and (as it were) softening, he extinguished it with the ventilating silk! Not sufficiently swelling of spirit was the Macedonian, unless he had likewise found delight in a highly inflated garb: only that philosophers withal (I believe) themselves affect somewhat of that kind; for I hear that there has been (such a thing as) philosophizing in purple. If a philosopher (appears) in purple, why not in gilded slippers2 too? For a Tyrian3 to be shod in anything but gold, is by no means consonant with Greek habits. Some one will say, “Well, but there was another4 who wore silk indeed, and shod himself in brazen sandals.” Worthily, indeed, in order that at the bottom of his Bacchantian raiment he might make some tinkling sound, did he walk in cymbals! But if, at that moment, Diogenes had been barking from his tub, he would not (have trodden on him5) with muddy feet—as the Platonic couches testify—but would have carried Empedocles down bodily to the secret recesses of the Cloacinæ;6 in order that he who had madly thought himself a celestial being might, as a god, salute first his sisters,7 and afterwards men. Such garments, therefore, as alienate from nature and modesty, let it be allowed to be just to eye fixedly and point at with the finger and expose to ridicule by a nod. Just so, if a man were to wear a dainty robe trailing on the ground with Menander-like effeminacy, he would hear applied to himself that which the comedian says, “What sort of a cloak is that maniac wasting?” For, now that the contracted brow of censorial vigilance is long since smoothed down, so far as reprehension is concerned, promiscuous usage offers to our gaze freedmen in equestrian garb, branded slaves in that of gentlemen, the notoriously infamous in that of the freeborn, clowns in that of city-folk, buffoons in that of lawyers, rustics in regimentals; the corpse-bearer, the pimp, the gladiator trainer, clothe themselves as you do. Turn, again, to women. You have to behold what Cæcina Severus pressed upon the grave attention of the senate—matrons stoleless in public. In fact, the penalty inflicted by the decrees of the augur Lentulus upon any matron who had thus cashiered herself was the same as for fornication; inasmuch as certain matrons had sedulously promoted the disuse of garments which were the evidences and guardians of dignity, as being impediments to the practising of prostitution. But now, in their self-prostitution, in order that they may the more readily be approached, they have abjured stole, and chemise, and bonnet, and cap; yes, and even the very litters and sedans in which they used to be kept in privacy and secrecy even in public. But while one extinguishes her proper adornments, another blazes forth such as are not hers. Look at the streetwalkers, the shambles of popular lusts; also at the female self-abusers with their sex; and, if it is better to withdraw your eyes from such shameful spectacles of publicly slaughtered chastity, yet do but look with eyes askance, (and) you will at once see (them to be) matrons! And, while the overseer of brothels airs her swelling silk, and consoles her neck—more impure than her haunt—with necklaces, and inserts in the armlets (which even matrons themselves would, of the guerdons bestowed upon brave men, without hesitation have appropriated) hands privy to all that is shameful, (while) she fits on her impure leg the pure white or pink shoe; why do you not stare at such garbs? or, again, at those which falsely plead religion as the supporter of their novelty? while for the sake of an all-white dress, and the distinction of a fillet, and the privilege of a helmet, some are initiated into (the mysteries of) Ceres; while, on account of an opposite hankering after sombre raiment, and a gloomy woollen covering upon the head, others run mad in Bellona’s temple; while the attraction of surrounding themselves with a tunic more broadly striped with purple, and casting over their shoulders a cloak of Galatian scarlet, commends Saturn (to the affections of others). When this Mantle itself, arranged with more rigorous care, and sandals after the Greek model, serve to flatter Æsculapius,8 how much more should you then accuse and assail it with your eyes, as being guilty of superstition—albeit superstition simple and unaffected? Certainly, when first it clothes this wisdom9 which renounces superstitions with all their vanities, then most assuredly is the Mantle, above all the garments in which you array your gods and goddesses, an august robe; and, above all the caps Edition: current; Page: [11] and tufts of your Salii and Flamines, a sacerdotal attire. Lower your eyes, I advise you, (and) reverence the garb, on the one ground, meantime, (without waiting for others,) of being a renouncer of your error.


“Still,” say you, “must we thus change from gown1 to Mantle?” Why, what if from diadem and sceptre? Did Anacharsis change otherwise, when to the royalty of Scythia he preferred philosophy? Grant that there be no (miraculous) signs in proof of your transformation for the better: there is somewhat which this your garb can do. For, to begin with the simplicity of its uptaking: it needs no tedious arrangement. Accordingly, there is no necessity for any artist formally to dispose its wrinkled folds from the beginning a day beforehand, and then to reduce them to a more finished elegance, and to assign to the guardianship of the stretchers2 the whole figment of the massed boss; subsequently, at daybreak, first gathering up by the aid of a girdle the tunic which it were better to have woven of more moderate length (in the first instance), and, again scrutinizing the boss, and rearranging any disarrangement, to make one part prominent on the left, but (making now an end of the folds) to draw backwards from the shoulders the circuit of it whence the hollow is formed, and, leaving the right shoulder free, heap it still upon the left, with another similar set of folds reserved for the back, and thus clothe the man with a burden! In short, I will persistently ask your own conscience, What is your first sensation in wearing your gown? Do you feel yourself clad, or laded? wearing a garment, or carrying it? If you shall answer negatively, I will follow you home; I will see what you hasten to do immediately after crossing your threshold. There is really no garment the doffing whereof congratulates a man more than the gown’s does.3 Of shoes we say nothing—implements as they are of torture proper to the gown, most uncleanly protection to the feet, yes, and false too. For who would not find it expedient, in cold and heat, to stiffen with feet bare rather than in a shoe with feet bound? A mighty munition for the tread have the Venetian shoe-factories provided in the shape of effeminate boots! Well, but, than the Mantle nothing is more expedite, even if it be double, like that of Crates.4 Nowhere is there a compulsory waste of time in dressing yourself (in it), seeing that its whole art consists in loosely covering. That can be effected by a single circumjection, and one in no case inelegant:5 thus it wholly covers every part of the man at once. The shoulder it either exposes or encloses:6 in other respects it adheres to the shoulder; it has no surrounding support; it has no surrounding tie; it has no anxiety as to the fidelity with which its folds keep their place; easily it manages, easily readjusts itself: even in the doffing it is consigned to no cross until the morrow. If any shirt is worn beneath it, the torment of a girdle is superfluous: if anything in the way of shoeing is worn, it is a most cleanly work;7 or else the feet are rather bare,—more manly, at all events, (if bare,) than in shoes. These (pleas I advance) for the Mantle in the meantime, in so far as you have defamed it by name. Now, however, it challenges you on the score of its function withal. “I,” it says, “owe no duty to the forum, the election-ground, or the senate-house; I keep no obsequious vigil, preoccupy no platforms, hover about no prætorian residences; I am not odorant of the canals, am not adorant of the lattices, am no constant wearer out of benches, no wholesale router of laws, no barking pleader, no judge, no soldier, no king: I have withdrawn from the populace. My only business is with myself: except that other care I have none, save not to care. The better life you would more enjoy in seclusion than in publicity. But you will decry me as indolent. Forsooth, ‘we are to live for our country, and empire, and estate.’ Such used,8 of old, to be the sentiment. None is born for another, being destined to die for himself. At all events, when we come to the Epicuri and Zenones, you give the epithet of ‘sages’ to the whole teacherhood of Quietude, who have consecrated that Quietude with the name of ‘supreme’ and ‘unique’ pleasure. Still, to some extent it will be allowed, even to me, to confer benefit on the public. From any and every boundary-stone or altar it is my wont to prescribe medicines to morals—medicines which will be more felicitous in conferring good health upon public affairs, and states, and empires, than your works are. Indeed, if I proceed to encounter you with naked foils, gowns have done the commonwealth more hurt than cuirasses. Moreover, I flatter no vices; I give quarter to no lethargy, no slothful encrustation. I apply Edition: current; Page: [12] the cauterizing iron to the ambition which led M. Tullius to buy a circular table of citron-wood for more than £4000,1 and Asinius Gallus to pay twice as much for an ordinary table of the same Moorish wood (Hem! at what fortunes did they value woody dapplings!), or, again, Sulla to frame dishes of an hundred pounds’ weight. I fear lest that balance be small, when a Drusillanus (and he withal a slave of Claudius!) constructs a tray2 of the weight of 500 lbs.!—a tray indispensable, perchance, to the aforesaid tables, for which, if a workshop was erected,3 there ought to have been erected a dining-room too. Equally do I plunge the scalpel into the inhumanity which led Vedius Pollio to expose slaves to fill the bellies of sea-eels. Delighted, forsooth, with his novel savagery, he kept land-monsters, toothless, clawless, hornless: it was his pleasure to turn perforce into wild beasts his fish, which (of course) were to be forthwith cooked, that in their entrails he himself withal might taste some savour of the bodies of his own slaves. I will forelop the gluttony which led Hortensius the orator to be the first to have the heart to slay a peacock for the sake of food; which led Aufidius Lurco to be the first to vitiate meat with stuffing, and by the aid of forcemeats to raise them to an adulterous4 flavour; which led Asinius Celer to purchase the viand of a single mullet at nearly £50;5 which led Æsopus the actor to preserve in his pantry a dish of the value of nearly £800, made up of birds of the selfsame costliness (as the mullet aforesaid), consisting of all the songsters and talkers; which led his son, after such a titbit, to have the hardihood to hunger after somewhat yet more sumptuous: for he swallowed down pearls—costly even on the ground of their name—I suppose for fear he should have supped more beggarly than his father. I am silent as to the Neros and Apicii and Rufi. I will give a cathartic to the impurity of a Scaurus, and the gambling of a Curius, and the intemperance of an Antony. And remember that these, out of the many (whom I have named), were men of the toga—such as among the men of the pallium you would not easily find. These purulencies of a state who will eliminate and exsuppurate, save a bemantled speech?


“ ‘With speech,’ says (my antagonist), ‘you have tried to persuade me,—a most sage medicament.’ But, albeit utterance be mute—impeded by infancy or else checked by bashfulness, for life is content with an even tongueless philosophy—my very cut is eloquent. A philosopher, in fact, is heard so long as he is seen. My very sight puts vices to the blush. Who suffers not, when he sees his own rival? Who can bear to gaze ocularly at him at whom mentally he cannot? Grand is the benefit conferred by the Mantle, at the thought whereof moral improbity absolutely blushes. Let philosophy now see to the question of her own profitableness; for she is not the only associate whom I boast. Other scientific arts of public utility I boast. From my store are clothed the first teacher of the forms of letters, the first explainer of their sounds, the first trainer in the rudiments of arithmetic, the grammarian, the rhetorician, the sophist, the medical man, the poet, the musical timebeater, the astrologer, and the birdgazer. All that is liberal in studies is covered by my four angles. ‘True; but all these rank lower than Roman knights.’ Well; but your gladiatorial trainers, and all their ignominious following, are conducted into the arena in togas. This, no doubt, will be the indignity implied in ‘From gown to Mantle!’ ” Well, so speaks the Mantle. But I confer on it likewise a fellowship with a divine sect and discipline. Joy, Mantle, and exult! A better philosophy has now deigned to honour thee, ever since thou hast begun to be a Christian’s vesture!

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(The garment . . . too quadrangular, p. 5.)

Speaking of the Greek priests of Korfou, the erudite Bishop of Lincoln, lately deceased, has remarked, “There is something very picturesque in the appearance of these persons, with their black caps resembling the modius seen on the heads of the ancient statues of Serapis and Osiris, their long beards and pale complexions, and their black flowing cloak,—a relic, no doubt, of the old ecclesiastical garment of which Tertullian wrote.” These remarks1 are illustrated by an engraving on the same page.

He thus identifies the pallium with the gown of Justin Martyr;2 nor can there be any reasonable doubt that the pallium of the West was the counterpart of the Greek ϕελόνιον and of the ϕαιλόνη, which St. Paul left at Troas. Endearing associations have clung to it from the mention of this apostolic cloak in Holy Scripture. It doubtless influenced Justin in giving his philosopher’s gown a new significance, and the modern Greeks insist that such was the apparel of the apostles. The seamless robe of Christ Himself belongs to Him only.

Tertullian rarely acknowledges his obligations to other Doctors; but Justin’s example and St. Paul’s cloak must have been in his thoughts when he rejected the toga, and claimed the pallium, as a Christian’s attire. Our Edinburgh translator has assumed that it was the “ascetics’ mantle,” and perhaps it was.3 Our author wished to make all Christians ascetics, like himself, and hence his enthusiasm for a distinctive costume. Anyhow, “the Doctor’s gown” of the English universities, which is also used among the Gallicans and in Savoy, is one of the most ancient as well as dignified vestments in ecclesiastical use; and for the prophetic or preaching function of the clergy it is singularly appropriate.4

“The pallium,” says a learned author,5 the late Wharton B. Marriott of Oxford, “is the Greek ἱματιον, the outer garment or wrapper worn occasionally by persons of all conditions of life. It corresponded in general use to the Roman toga, but in the earlier Roman language, that of republican times, was as distinctively suggestive of a Greek costume as the toga of that of Rome.” To Tertullian, therefore, his preference for the pallium was doubtless commended by all these considerations; and the distinctively Greek character of Christian theology was indicated also by his choice. He loved the learning of Alexandria, and reflected the spirit of the East.


(Superstition, p. 10, near note 9.)

The pall afterwards imposed upon Anglican and other primates by the Court of Rome was at first a mere complimentary present from the patriarchal see of the West. It became a badge of dependence and of bondage (obsta principiis). Only the ornamental bordering was sent, “made of lamb’s-wool and superstition,” says old Fuller, for whose amusing remarks see his Church Hist., vol. i. p. 179, ed. 1845. Rome gives primitive names to middle-age corruptions: needless to say the “pall” of her court is nothing like the pallium of our author.

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Book I.


If there dwelt upon earth a faith as great as is the reward of faith which is expected in the heavens, no one of you at all, best beloved sisters, from the time that she had first “known the Lord,”2 and learned (the truth) concerning her own (that is, woman’s) condition, would have desired too gladsome (not to say too ostentatious) a style of dress; so as not rather to go about in humble garb, and rather to affect meanness of appearance, walking about as Eve mourning and repentant, in order that by every garb of penitence3 she might the more fully expiate that which she derives from Eve,—the ignominy, I mean, of the first sin, and the odium (attaching to her as the cause) of human perdition. “In pains and in anxieties dost thou bear (children), woman; and toward thine husband (is) thy inclination, and he lords it over thee.”4 And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age:5 the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer6 of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded7 him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert—that is, death—even the Son of God had to die. And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins?8 Come, now; if from the beginning of the world9 the Milesians sheared sheep, and the Serians10 spun trees, and the Tyrians dyed, and the Phrygians embroidered with the needle, and the Babylonians with the loom, and pearls gleamed, and onyx-stones flashed; if gold itself also had already issued, with the cupidity (which accompanies it), from the ground; if the mirror, too, already had licence to lie so largely, Eve, expelled from paradise, (Eve) already dead, would also have coveted these things, I imagine! No more, then, ought she now to crave, or be acquainted with (if she desires to live again), what, when she was living, she had neither had nor known. Accordingly these things are all the baggage of woman in her condemned and dead state, instituted as if to swell the pomp of her funeral.


For they, withal, who instituted them are assigned, under condemnation, to the penalty of death,—those angels, to wit, who rushed from heaven on the daughters of men; so that this ignominy also attaches to woman. For when to an age12 much more ignorant (than ours) they had disclosed certain well-concealed material substances, and several not well-revealed scientific arts—if it is true that they had laid bare Edition: current; Page: [15] the operations of metallurgy, and had divulged the natural properties of herbs, and had promulgated the powers of enchantments, and had traced out every curious art,1 even to the interpretation of the stars—they conferred properly and as it were peculiarly upon women that instrumental mean of womanly ostentation, the radiances of jewels wherewith necklaces are variegated, and the circlets of gold wherewith the arms are compressed, and the medicaments of orchil with which wools are coloured, and that black powder itself wherewith the eyelids and eyelashes are made prominent.2 What is the quality of these things may be declared meantime, even at this point,3 from the quality and condition of their teachers: in that sinners could never have either shown or supplied anything conducive to integrity, unlawful lovers anything conducive to chastity, renegade spirits anything conducive to the fear of God. If (these things) are to be called teachings, ill masters must of necessity have taught ill; if as wages of lust, there is nothing base of which the wages are honourable. But why was it of so much importance to show these things as well as4 to confer them? Was it that women, without material causes of splendour, and without ingenious contrivances of grace, could not please men, who, while still unadorned, and uncouth, and—so to say—crude and rude, had moved (the mind of) angels? or was it that the lovers5 would appear sordid and—through gratuitous use—contumelious, if they had conferred no (compensating) gift on the women who had been enticed into connubial connection with them? But these questions admit of no calculation. Women who possessed angels (as husbands) could desire nothing more; they had, forsooth, made a grand match! Assuredly they who, of course, did sometimes think whence they had fallen,6 and, after the heated impulses of their lusts, looked up toward heaven, thus requited that very excellence of women, natural beauty, as (having proved) a cause of evil, in order that their good fortune might profit them nothing; but that, being turned from simplicity and sincerity, they, together with (the angels) themselves, might become offensive to God. Sure they were that all ostentation, and ambition, and love of pleasing by carnal means, was displeasing to God. And these are the angels whom we are destined to judge:7 these are the angels whom in baptism we renounce:8 these, of course, are the reasons why they have deserved to be judged by man. What business, then, have their things with their judges? What commerce have they who are to condemn with them who are to be condemned? The same, I take it, as Christ has with Belial.9 With what consistency do we mount that (future) judgment-seat to pronounce sentence against those whose gifts we (now) seek after? For you too, (women as you are,) have the self-same angelic nature promised10 as your reward, the self-same sex as men: the self-same advancement to the dignity of judging, does (the Lord) promise you. Unless, then, we begin even here to pre-judge, by pre-condemning their things, which we are hereafter to condemn in themselves, they will rather judge and condemn us.


I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch,12 which has assigned this order (of action) to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either. I suppose they did not think that, having been published before the deluge, it could have safely survived that world-wide calamity, the abolisher of all things. If that is the reason (for rejecting it), let them recall to their memory that Noah, the survivor of the deluge, was the great-grandson of Enoch himself;13 and he, of course, had heard and remembered, from domestic renown14 and hereditary tradition, concerning his own great-grandfather’s “grace in the sight of God,”15 and concerning all his preachings;16 since Enoch had given no other charge to Methuselah than that he should hand on the knowledge of them to his posterity. Noah therefore, no doubt, might have succeeded in the trusteeship of (his) preaching; or, had the case been otherwise, he would not have been silent alike concerning the disposition (of things) made by God, his Preserver, and concerning the particular glory of his own house.

If (Noah) had not had this (conservative power) by so short a route, there would (still) be this (consideration) to warrant17 our assertion of (the genuineness of) this Scripture: he could equally have renewed it, under the Spirit’s inspiration,18 after it had been destroyed by the violence of the deluge, as, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian storming of it, Edition: current; Page: [16] every document1 of the Jewish literature is generally agreed to have been restored through Ezra.

But since Enoch in the same Scripture has preached likewise concerning the Lord, nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that “every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired.”2 By the Jews it may now seem to have been rejected for that (very) reason, just like all the other (portions) nearly which tell of Christ. Nor, of course, is this fact wonderful, that they did not receive some Scriptures which spake of Him whom even in person, speaking in their presence, they were not to receive. To these consideration is added the fact that Enoch possesses a testimony in the Apostle Jude.3


Grant now that no mark of pre-condemnation has been branded on womanly pomp by the (fact of the) fate4 of its authors; let nothing be imputed to those angels besides their repudiation of heaven and (their) carnal marriage:5 let us examine the qualities of the things themselves, in order that we may detect the purposes also for which they are eagerly desired.

Female habit carries with it a twofold idea—dress and ornament. By “dress” we mean what they call “womanly gracing;”6 by “ornament,” what it is suitable should be called “womanly disgracing.”7 The former is accounted (to consist) in gold, and silver, and gems, and garments; the latter in care of the hair, and of the skin, and of those parts of the body which attract the eye. Against the one we lay the charge of ambition, against the other of prostitution; so that even from this early stage8 (of our discussion) you may look forward and see what, out of (all) these, is suitable, handmaid of God, to your discipline, inasmuch as you are assessed on different principles (from other women),—those, namely, of humility and chastity.


Gold and silver, the principal material causes of worldly9 splendour, must necessarily be identical (in nature) with that out of which they have their being: (they must be) earth, that is; (which earth itself is) plainly more glorious (than they), inasmuch as it is only after it has been tearfully wrought by penal labour in the deadly laboratories of accursed mines, and there left its name of “earth” in the fire behind it, that, as a fugitive from the mine, it passes from torments to ornaments, from punishments to embellishments, from ignominies to honours. But iron, and brass, and other the vilest material substances, enjoy a parity of condition (with silver and gold), both as to earthly origin and metallurgic operation; in order that, in the estimation of nature, the substance of gold and of silver may be judged not a whit more noble (than theirs). But if it is from the quality of utility that gold and silver derive their glory, why, iron and brass excel them; whose usefulness is so disposed (by the Creator), that they not only discharge functions of their own more numerous and more necessary to human affairs, but do also none the less serve the turn of gold and silver, by dint of their own powers,10 in the service of juster causes. For not only are rings made of iron, but the memory of antiquity still preserves (the fame of) certain vessels for eating and drinking made out of brass. Let the insane plenteousness of gold and silver look to it, if it serves to make utensils even for foul purposes. At all events, neither is the field tilled by means of gold, nor the ship fastened together by the strength of silver. No mattock plunges a golden edge into the ground; no nail drives a silver point into planks. I leave unnoticed the fact that the needs of our whole life are dependent upon iron and brass; whereas those rich materials themselves, requiring both to be dug up out of mines, and needing a forging process in every use (to which they are put), are helpless without the laborious vigour of iron and brass. Already, therefore, we must judge whence it is that so high dignity accrues to gold and silver, since they get precedence over material substances which are not only cousin-german to them in point of origin, but more powerful in point of usefulness.


But, in the next place, what am I to interpret those jewels to be which vie with gold in haughtiness, except little pebbles and stones and paltry particles of the self-same earth; but yet not necessary either for laying down foundations, or rearing party-walls, or supporting pediments, or giving density to roofs? The only edifice which they know how to rear is this silly pride of women: because they require slow rubbing that they may shine, and artful underlaying that they may show to advantage, and careful piercing that they may hang; and (because they) render to gold a mutual assistance in meretricious allurement. Edition: current; Page: [17] But whatever it is that ambition fishes up from the British or the Indian sea, it is a kind of conch not more pleasing in savour than—I do not say the oyster and the sea-snail, but—even the giant muscle.1 For let me add that I know conchs (which are) sweet fruits of the sea. But if that (foreign) conch suffers from some internal pustule, that ought to be regarded rather as its defect than as its glory; and although it be called “pearl,” still something else must be understood than some hard, round excrescence of the fish. Some say, too, that gems are culled from the foreheads of dragons, just as in the brains of fishes there is a certain stony substance. This also was wanting to the Christian woman, that she may add a grace to herself from the serpent! Is it thus that she will set her heel on the devil’s head,”2 while she heaps ornaments (taken) from his head on her own neck, or on her very head?


It is only from their rarity and outlandishness that all these things possess their grace; in short, within their own native limits they are not held of so high worth. Abundance is always contumelious toward itself. There are some barbarians with whom, because gold is indigenous and plentiful, it is customary to keep (the criminals) in their convict establishments chained with gold, and to lade the wicked with riches—the more guilty, the more wealthy. At last there has really been found a way to prevent even gold from being loved! We have also seen at Rome the nobility of gems blushing in the presence of our matrons at the contemptuous usage of the Parthians and Medes, and the rest of their own fellow-countrymen, only that (their gems) are not generally worn with a view to ostentation. Emeralds3 lurk in their belts; and the sword (that hangs) below their bosom alone is witness to the cylindrical stones that decorate its hilt; and the massive single pearls on their boots are fain to get lifted out of the mud! In short, they carry nothing so richly gemmed as that which ought not to be gemmed if it is (either) not conspicuous, or else is conspicuous only that it may be shown to be also neglected.


Similarly, too, do even the servants4 of those barbarians cause the glory to fade from the colours of our garments (by wearing the like), nay, even their party-walls use slightingly, to supply the place of painting, the Tyrian and the violetcoloured and the grand royal hangings, which you laboriously undo and metamorphose. Purple with them is more paltry than red ochre; (and justly,) for what legitimate honour can garments derive from adulteration with illegitimate colours? That which He Himself has not produced is not pleasing to God, unless He was unable to order sheep to be born with purple and sky-blue fleeces! If He was able, then plainly He was unwilling: what God willed not, of course ought not to be fashioned. Those things, then, are not the best by nature which are not from God, the Author of nature. Thus they are understood to be from the devil, from the corrupter of nature: for there is no other whose they can be, if they are not God’s; because what are not God’s must necessarily be His rival’s.5 But, beside the devil and his angels, other rival of God there is none. Again, if the material substances are of God, it does not immediately follow that such ways of enjoying them among men (are so too). It is matter for inquiry not only whence come conchs,6 but what sphere of embellishment is assigned them, and where it is that they exhibit their beauty. For all those profane pleasures of worldly7 shows—as we have already published a volume of their own about them8—(ay, and) even idolatry itself, derive their material causes from the creatures9 of God. Yet a Christian ought not to attach himself10 to the frenzies of the racecourse, or the atrocities of the arena, or the turpitudes of the stage, simply because God has given to man the horse, and the panther, and the power of speech: just as a Christian cannot commit idolatry with impunity either, because the incense, and the wine, and the fire which feeds11 (thereon), and the animals which are made the victims, are God’s workmanship;12 since even the material thing which is adored is God’s (creature). Thus then, too, with regard to their active use, does the origin of the material substances, which descends from God, excuse (that use) as foreign to God, as guilty forsooth of worldly13 glory!


For, as some particular things distributed by God over certain individual lands, and some one Edition: current; Page: [18] particular tract of sea, are mutually foreign one to the other, they are reciprocally either neglected or desired: (desired) among foreigners, as being rarities; neglected (rightly), if anywhere, among their own compatriots, because in them there is no such fervid longing for a glory which, among its own home-folk, is frigid. But, however, the rareness and outlandishness which arise out of that distribution of possessions which God has ordered as He willed, ever finding favour in the eyes of strangers, excites, from the simple fact of not having what God has made native to other places, the concupiscence of having it. Hence is educed another vice—that of immoderate having; because although, perhaps, having may be permissible, still a limit1 is bound (to be observed). This (second vice) will be ambition; and hence, too, its name is to be interpreted, in that from concupiscence ambient in the mind it is born, with a view to the desire of glory,—a grand desire, forsooth, which (as we have said) is recommended neither by nature nor by truth, but by a vicious passion of the mind,—(namely,) concupiscence. And there are other vices connected with ambition and glory. Thus they have withal enhanced the cost of things, in order that (thereby) they might add fuel to themselves also; for concupiscence becomes proportionably greater as it has set a higher value upon the thing which it has eagerly desired. From the smallest caskets is produced an ample patrimony. On a single thread is suspended a million of sesterces. One delicate neck carries about it forests and islands.2 The slender lobes of the ears exhaust a fortune; and the left hand, with its every finger, sports with a several money-bag. Such is the strength of ambition—(equal) to bearing on one small body, and that a woman’s, the product of so copious wealth.



Handmaids of the living God, my fellow-servants and sisters, the right which I enjoy with you—I, the most meanest1 in that right of fellow-servantship and brotherhood—emboldens me to address to you a discourse, not, of course, of affection, but paving the way for affection in the cause of your salvation. That salvation—and not (the salvation) of women only, but likewise of men—consists in the exhibition principally of modesty. For since, by the introduction into an appropriation2 (in) us of the Holy Spirit, we are all “the temple of God,”3 Modesty is the sacristan and priestess of that temple, who is to suffer nothing unclean or profane to be introduced (into it), for fear that the God who inhabits it should be offended, and quite forsake the polluted abode. But on the present occasion we (are to speak) not about modesty, for the enjoining and exacting of which the divine precepts which press (upon us) on every side are sufficient; but about the matters which pertain to it, that is, the manner in which it behoves you to walk. For most women (which very thing I trust God may permit me, with a view, of course, to my own personal censure, to censure in all), either from simple ignorance or else from dissimulation, have the hardihood so to walk as if modesty consisted only4 in the (bare) integrity of the flesh, and in turning away from (actual) fornication; and there were no need for anything extrinsic to boot—in the matter (I mean) of the arrangement of dress and ornament,5 the studied graces of form and brilliance:—wearing in their gait the self-same appearance as the women of the nations, from whom the sense of true modesty is absent, because in those who know not God, the Guardian and Master of truth, there is nothing true.6 For if any modesty can be believed (to exist) in Gentiles, it is plain that it must be imperfect and undisciplined to such a degree that, although it be actively tenacious of itself in the mind up to a certain point, it yet allows itself to relax into licentious extravagances of attire; just in accordance with Gentile perversity, in craving after that of which it carefully shuns the effect.7 How many a one, in short, is there who does not earnestly desire even to look pleasing to strangers? who does not on that very account take care to have herself painted out, and denies that she has (ever) been Edition: current; Page: [19] an object of (carnal) appetite? And yet, granting that even this is a practice familiar to Gentile modesty—(namely,) not actually to commit the sin, but still to be willing to do so; or even not to be willing, yet still not quite to refuse—what wonder? for all things which are not God’s are perverse. Let those women therefore look to it, who, by not holding fast the whole good, easily mingle with evil even what they do hold fast. Necessary it is that you turn aside from them, as in all other things, so also in your gait; since you ought to be “perfect, as (is) your Father who is in the heavens.”1


You must know that in the eye of perfect, that is, Christian, modesty, (carnal) desire of one’s self (on the part of others) is not only not to be desired, but even execrated, by you: first, because the study of making personal grace (which we know to be naturally the inviter of lust) a mean of pleasing does not spring from a sound conscience: why therefore excite toward yourself that evil (passion)? why invite (that) to which you profess yourself a stranger? secondly, because we ought not to open a way to temptations, which, by their instancy, sometimes achieve (a wickedness) which God expels from them who are His; (or,) at all events, put the spirit into a thorough tumult by (presenting) a stumbling-block (to it). We ought indeed to walk so holily, and with so entire substantiality2 of faith, as to be confident and secure in regard of our own conscience, desiring that that (gift) may abide in us to the end, yet not presuming (that it will). For he who presumes feels less apprehension; he who feels less apprehension takes less precaution; he who takes less precaution runs more risk. Fear3 is the foundation of salvation; presumption is an impediment to fear. More useful, then, is it to apprehend that we may possibly fail, than to presume that we cannot; for apprehending will lead us to fear, fearing to caution, and caution to salvation. On the other hand, if we presume, there will be neither fear nor caution to save us. He who acts securely, and not at the same time warily, possesses no safe and firm security; whereas he who is wary will be truly able to be secure. For His own servants, may the Lord by His mercy take care that to them it may be lawful even to presume on His goodness! But why are we a (source of) danger to our neighbour? why do we import concupiscence into our neighbour? which concupiscence, if God, in “amplifying the law,”4 do not5 dissociate in (the way of) penalty from the actual commission of fornication,6 I know not whether He allows impunity to him who7 has been the cause of perdition to some other. For that other, as soon as he has felt concupiscence after your beauty, and has mentally already committed (the deed) which his concupiscence pointed to,8 perishes; and you have been made9 the sword which destroys him: so that, albeit you be free from the (actual) crime, you are not free from the odium (attaching to it); as, when a robbery has been committed on some man’s estate, the (actual) crime indeed will not be laid to the owner’s charge, while yet the domain is branded with ignominy, (and) the owner himself aspersed with the infamy. Are we to paint ourselves out that our neighbours may perish? Where, then, is (the command), “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself?”10 “Care not merely about your own (things), but (about your) neighbour’s?”11 No enunciation of the Holy Spirit ought to be (confined) to the subject immediately in hand merely, and not applied and carried out with a view to every occasion to which its application is useful.12 Since, therefore, both our own interest and that of others is implicated in the studious pursuit of most perilous (outward) comeliness, it is time for you to know13 that not merely must the pageantry of fictitious and elaborate beauty be rejected by you; but that of even natural grace must be obliterated by concealment and negligence, as equally dangerous to the glances of (the beholder’s) eyes. For, albeit comeliness is not to be censured,14 as being a bodily happiness, as being an additional outlay of the divine plastic art, as being a kind of goodly garment15 of the soul; yet it is to be feared, just on account of the injuriousness and violence of suitors:16 which (injuriousness and violence) even the father of the faith,17 Abraham,18 greatly feared in regard of his own wife’s grace; and Isaac,19 by Edition: current; Page: [20] falsely representing Rebecca as his sister, purchased safety by insult!1


Let it now be granted that excellence of form be not be feared, as neither troublesome to its possessors, nor destructive to its desirers, nor perilous to its compartners;2 let it be thought (to be) not exposed to temptations, not surrounded by stumbling-blocks: it is enough that to angels of God3 it is not necessary. For, where modesty is, there beauty is idle; because properly the use and fruit of beauty is voluptuousness, unless any one thinks that there is some other harvest for bodily grace to reap.4 Are women who think that, in furnishing to their neighbour that which is demanded of beauty, they are furnishing it to themselves also, to augment that (beauty) when (naturally) given them, and to strive after it when not (thus) given? Some one will say, “Why, then, if voluptuousness be shut out and chastity let in, may (we) not enjoy the praise of beauty alone, and glory in a bodily good?” Let whoever finds pleasure in “glorying in the flesh”5 see to that. To us, in the first place, there is no studious pursuit of “glory,” because “glory” is the essence of exaltation. Now exaltation is incongruous for professors of humility according to God’s precepts. Secondly, if all “glory” is “vain” and insensate,6 how much more (glory) in the flesh, especially to us? For even if “glorying” is (allowable), we ought to wish our sphere of pleasing to lie in the graces7 of the Spirit, not in the flesh; because we are “suitors”8 of things spiritual. In those things wherein our sphere of labour lies, let our joy lie. From the sources whence we hope for salvation, let us cull our “glory.” Plainly, a Christian will “glory” even in the flesh; but (it will be) when it has endured laceration for Christ’s sake,9 in order that the spirit may be crowned in it, not in order that it may draw the eyes and sighs of youths after it. Thus (a thing) which, from whatever point you look at it, is in your case superfluous, you may justly disdain if you have it not, and neglect it you have. Let a holy woman, if naturally beautiful, give none so great occasion (for carnal appetite). Certainly, if even she be so, she ought not to set off (her beauty), but even to obscure it.10


As if I were speaking to Gentiles, addressing you with a Gentile precept, and (one which is) common to all, (I would say,) “You are bound to please your husbands only.”11 But you will please them in proportion as you take no care to please others. Be ye without carefulness,12 blessed (sisters): no wife is “ugly” to her own husband. She “pleased” him enough when she was selected (by him as his wife); whether commended by form or by character. Let none of you think that, if she abstain from the care of her person,13 she will incur the hatred and aversion of husbands. Every husband is the exactor of chastity; but beauty a believing (husband) does not require, because we are not captivated by the same graces14 which the Gentiles think (to be) graces:15 an unbelieving one, on the other hand, even regards with suspicion, just from that infamous opinion of us which the Gentiles have. For whom, then, is it that you cherish your beauty? If for a believer, he does not exact it: if for an unbeliever, he does not believe in it unless it be artless.16 Why are you eager to please either one who is suspicious, or else one who desires it not?


These suggestions are not made to you, of course, to be developed into an entire crudity and wildness of appearance; nor are we seeking to persuade you of the good of squalor and slovenliness; but of the limit and norm and just measure of cultivation of the person. There must be no overstepping of that line to which simple and sufficient refinements limit their desires—that line which is pleasing to God. For they who rub17 their skin with medicaments, stain their cheeks with rouge, make their eyes prominent with antimony,18 sin against Him. To them, I suppose, the plastic skill19 of God is displeasing! In their own persons, I suppose, they convict, they censure, the Artificer of all things! For censure they do when they amend, when Edition: current; Page: [21] they add to, (His work;) taking these their additions, of course, from the adversary artificer. That adversary artificer is the devil.1 For who would show the way to change the body, but he who by wickedness transfigured man’s spirit? He it is, undoubtedly, who adapted ingenious devices of this kind; that in your persons it may be apparent that you, in a certain sense, do violence to God. Whatever is born is the work of God. Whatever, then, is plastered on2 (that), is the devil’s work. To superinduce on a divine work Satan’s ingenuities, how criminal is it! Our servants borrow nothing from our personal enemies: soldiers eagerly desire nothing from the foes of their own general; for, to demand for (your own) use anything from the adversary of Him in whose hand3 you are, is a transgression. Shall a Christian be assisted in anything by that evil one? (If he do,) I know not whether this name (of “Christian”) will continue (to belong) to him; for he will be his in whose lore he eagerly desires to be instructed. But how alien from your schoolings4 and professions are (these things)! How unworthy the Christian name, to wear a fictitious face, (you,) on whom simplicity in every form is enjoined!—to lie in your appearance, (you,) to whom (lying) with the tongue is not lawful!—to seek after what is another’s, (you,) to whom is delivered (the precept of) abstinence from what is another’s!—to practise adultery in your mien,5 (you,) who make modesty your study! Think,6 blessed (sisters), how will you keep God’s precepts if you shall not keep in your own persons His lineaments?


I see some (women) turn (the colour of) their hair with saffron. They are ashamed even of their own nation, (ashamed) that their procreation did not assign them to Germany and to Gaul: thus, as it is, they transfer their hair7 (thither)! Ill, ay, most ill, do they augur for themselves with their flame-coloured head,8 and think that graceful which (in fact) they are polluting! Nay, moreover, the force of the cosmetics burns ruin into the hair; and the constant application of even any undrugged moisture, lays up a store of harm for the head; while the sun’s warmth, too, so desirable for imparting to the hair at once growth and dryness, is hurtful. What “grace” is compatible with “injury?” What “beauty” with “impurities?” Shall a Christian woman heap saffron on her head, as upon an altar?9 For, whatever is wont to be burned to the honour of the unclean spirit, that—unless it is applied for honest, and necessary, and salutary uses, for which God’s creature was provided—may seem to be a sacrifice. But, however, God saith, “Which of you can make a white hair black, or out of a black a white?”10 And so they refute the Lord! “Behold!” say they, “instead of white or black, we make it yellow,—more winning in grace.”11 And yet such as repent of having lived to old age do attempt to change it even from white to black! O temerity! The age which is the object of our wishes and prayers blushes (for itself)! a theft is effected! youth, wherein we have sinned,12 is sighed after! the opportunity of sobriety is spoiled! Far from Wisdom’s daughters be folly so great! The more old age tries to conceal itself, the more will it be detected. Here is a veritable eternity, in the (perennial) youth of your head! Here we have an “incorruptibility” to “put on,”13 with a view to the new house of the Lord14 which the divine monarchy promises! Well do you speed toward the Lord; well do you hasten to be quit of this most iniquitous world,15 to whom it is unsightly to approach (your own) end!


What service, again, does all the labour spent in arranging the hair render to salvation? Why is no rest allowed to your hair, which must now be bound, now loosed, now cultivated, now thinned out? Some are anxious to force their hair into curls, some to let it hang loose and flying; not with good simplicity: beside which, you affix I know not what enormities of subtle and textile perukes; now, after the manner of a helmet of undressed hide, as it were a sheath for the head and a covering for the crown; now, a mass (drawn) backward toward the neck. The wonder is, that there is no (open) contending against the Lord’s prescripts! It has been pronounced that no one can add to his own stature.16 You, however, do add to your weight some kind of rolls, or shield-bosses, to be piled upon your necks! If you feel no shame at the enormity, feel some at the pollution; for fear you may be fitting on a holy and Christian head the slough17 Edition: current; Page: [22] of some one else’s1 head, unclean perchance, guilty perchance and destined to hell.2 Nay, rather banish quite away from your “free”3 head all this slavery of ornamentation. In vain do you labour to seem adorned: in vain do you call in the aid of all the most skilful manufacturers of false hair. God bids you “be veiled.”4 I believe (He does so) for fear the heads of some should be seen! And oh that in “that day”5 of Christian exultation, I, most miserable (as I am), may elevate my head, even though below (the level of) your heels! I shall (then) see whether you will rise with (your) ceruse and rouge and saffron, and in all that parade of headgear:6 whether it will be women thus tricked out whom the angels carry up to meet Christ in the air!7 If these (decorations) are now good, and of God, they will then also present themselves to the rising bodies, and will recognise their several places. But nothing can rise except flesh and spirit sole and pure.8 Whatever, therefore, does not rise in (the form of)9 spirit and flesh is condemned, because it is not of God. From things which are condemned abstain, even at the present day. At the present day let God see you such as He will see you then.


Of course, now, I, a man, as being envious10 of women, am banishing them quite from their own (domains). Are there, in our case too, some things which, in respect of the sobriety11 we are to maintain on account of the fear12 due to God, are disallowed?13 If it is true, (as it is,) that in men, for the sake of women (just as in women for the sake of men), there is implanted, by a defect of nature, the will to please; and if this sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of form peculiarly its own,—(such as) to cut the beard too sharply; to pluck it out here and there; to shave round about (the mouth); to arrange the hair, and disguise its hoariness by dyes; to remove all the incipient down all over the body; to fix (each particular hair) in its place with (some) womanly pigment; to smooth all the rest of the body by the aid of some rough powder or other: then, further, to take every opportunity for consulting the mirror; to gaze anxiously into it:—while yet, when (once) the knowledge of God has put an end to all wish to please by means of voluptuous attraction, all these things are rejected as frivolous, as hostile to modesty. For where God is, there modesty is; there is sobriety,14 her assistant and ally. How, then, shall we practise modesty without her instrumental mean,15 that is, without sobriety?16 How, moreover, shall we bring sobriety17 to bear on the discharge of (the functions of) modesty, unless seriousness in appearance and in countenance, and in the general aspect18 of the entire man, mark our carriage?


Wherefore, with regard to clothing also, and all the remaining lumber of your self-elaboration,19 the like pruning off and retrenchment of too redundant splendour must be the object of your care. For what boots it to exhibit in your face temperance an unaffectedness, and a simplicity altogether worthy of the divine discipline, but to invest all the other parts of the body with the luxurious absurdities of pomps and delicacies? How intimate is the connection which these pomps have with the business of voluptuousness, and how they interfere with modesty, is easily discernible from the fact that it is by the allied aid of dress that they prostitute the grace of personal comeliness: so plain is it that if (the pomps) be wanting, they render (that grace) bootless and thankless, as if it were disarmed and wrecked. On the other hand, if natural beauty fails, the supporting aid of outward embellishment supplies a grace, as it were, from its own inherent power.20 Those times of life, in fact, which are at last blest with quiet and withdrawn into the harbour of modesty, the splendour and dignity of dress lure away (from that rest and that harbour), and disquiet seriousness by seductions of appetite, which compensate for the chill of age by the provocative charms of apparel. First, then, blessed (sisters), (take heed) that you admit not to your use meretricious and prostitutionary garbs and garments: and, in the next place, if there are any of you whom the exigencies of riches, or birth, or past dignities, compel to appear in public so gorgeously arrayed as not to appear to have attained wisdom, take heed to temper an evil of this kind; lest, under the pretext of necessity, you give the rein without stint to the indulgence of Edition: current; Page: [23] licence. For how will you be able to fulfil (the requirements of) humility, which our (school) profess,1 if you do not keep within bounds2 the enjoyment of your riches and elegancies, which tend so much to “glory?” Now it has ever been the wont of glory to exalt, not to humble. “Why, shall we not use what is our own?” Who prohibits your using it? Yet (it must be) in accordance with the apostle, who warns us “to use this world3 as if we abuse it not; for the fashion4 of this world5 is passing away.” And “they who buy are so to act as if they possessed not.”6 Why so? Because he had laid down the premiss, saying, “The time is wound up.”7 If, then, he shows plainly that even wives themselves are so to be had as if they be not had,8 on account of the straits of the times, what would be his sentiments about these vain appliances of theirs? Why, are there not many, withal, who so do, and seal themselves up to eunuchhood for the sake of the kingdom of God,9 spontaneously relinquishing a pleasure so honourable,10 and (as we know) permitted? Are there not some who prohibit to themselves (the use of) the very “creature of God,”11 abstaining from wine and animal food, the enjoyments of which border upon no peril or solicitude; but they sacrifice to God the humility of their soul even in the chastened use of food? Sufficiently, therefore, have you, too, used your riches and your delicacies; sufficiently have you cut down the fruits of your dowries, before (receiving) the knowledge of saving disciplines. We are they “upon whom the ends of the ages have met, having ended their course.”12 We have been predestined by God, before the world13 was, (to arise) in the extreme end of the times.14 And so we are trained by God for the purpose of chastising, and (so to say) emasculating, the world.15 We are the circumcision16—spiritual and carnal—of all things; for both in the spirit and in the flesh we circumcise worldly17 principles.


It was God, no doubt, who showed the way to dye wools with the juices of herbs and the humours of conchs! It had escaped Him, when He was bidding the universe to come into being,19 to issue a command for (the production of) purple and scarlet sheep! It was God, too, who devised by careful thought the manufactures of those very garments which, light and thin (in themselves), were to be heavy in price alone; God who produced such grand implements of gold for confining or parting the hair; God who introduced (the fashion of) finely-cut wounds for the ears, and set so high a value upon the tormenting of His own work and the tortures of innocent infancy, learning to suffer with its earliest breath, in order that from those scars of the body—born for the steel!—should hang I know not what (precious) grains, which, as we may plainly see, the Parthians insert, in place of studs, upon their very shoes! And yet even the gold itself, the “glory” of which carries you away, serves a certain race (so Gentile literature tells us) for chains! So true is it that it is not intrinsic worth,20 but rarity, which constitutes the goodness (of these things): the excessive labour, moreover, of working them with arts introduced by the means of the sinful angels, who were the revealers withal of the material substances themselves, joined with their rarity, excited their costliness, and hence a lust on the part of women to possess (that) costliness. But, if the self-same angels who disclosed both the material substances of this kind and their charms—of gold, I mean, and lustrous21 stones—and taught men how to work them, and by and by instructed them, among their other (instructions), in (the virtues of) eyelid-powder and the dyeings of fleeces, have been condemned by God, as Enoch tells us, how shall we please God while we joy in the things of those (angels) who, on these accounts, have provoked the anger and the vengeance of God?

Now, granting that God did foresee these things; that God permitted them; that Esaias finds fault with no garment of purple,22 represses no coif,23 reprobates no crescent-shaped neck ornaments;24 still let us not, as the Gentiles do, flatter ourselves with thinking that God is merely a Creator, not likewise a Downlooker on His own creatures. For how far more usefully and cautiously shall we act, if we hazard the presumption that all these things were indeed provided25 at the beginning and placed in the world26 by God, in order that there should now be means of putting to the proof the discipline of His servants, in order that the licence of using should Edition: current; Page: [24] be the means whereby the experimental trials of continence should be conducted? Do not wise heads of families purposely offer and permit some things to their servants1 in order to try whether and how they will use the things thus permitted; whether (they will do so) with honesty, or with moderation? But how far more praiseworthy (the servant) who abstains entirely; who has a wholesome fear2 even of his lord’s indulgence! Thus, therefore, the apostle too: “All things,” says he, “are lawful, but not all are expedient.”3 How much more easily will he fear4 what is unlawful who has a reverent dread5 of what is lawful?


Moreover, what causes have you for appearing in public in excessive grandeur, removed as you are from the occasions which call for such exhibitions? For you neither make the circuit of the temples, nor demand (to be present at) public shows, nor have any acquaintance with the holy days of the Gentiles. Now it is for the sake of all these public gatherings, and of much seeing and being seen, that all pomps (of dress) are exhibited before the public eye; either for the purpose of transacting the trade of voluptuousness, or else of inflating “glory.” You, however, have no cause of appearing in public, except such as is serious. Either some brother who is sick is visited, or else the sacrifice is offered, or else the word of God is dispensed. Whichever of these you like to name is a business of sobriety6 and sanctity, requiring no extraordinary attire, with (studious) arrangement and (wanton) negligence.7 And if the requirements of Gentile friendships and of kindly offices call you, why not go forth clad in your own armour; (and) all the more, in that (you have to go) to such as are strangers to the faith? so that between the handmaids of God and of the devil there may be a difference; so that you may be an example to them, and they may be edified in you; so that (as the apostle says) “God may be magnified in your body.”8 But magnified He is in the body through modesty: of course, too, through attire suitable to modesty. Well, but it is urged by some, “Let not the Name be blasphemed in us,9 if we make any derogatory change from our old style and dress.” Let us, then, not abolish our old vices! let us maintain the same character, if we must maintain the same appearance (as before); and then truly the nations will not blaspheme! A grand blasphemy is that by which it is said, “Ever since she became a Christian, she walks in poorer garb!” Will you fear to appear poorer, from the time that you have been made more wealthy; and fouler,10 from the time when you have been made more clean? Is it according to the decree11 of Gentiles, or according to the decree of God, that it becomes Christians to walk?


Let us only wish that we may be no cause for just blasphemy! But how much more provocative of blasphemy is it that you, who are called modesty’s priestesses, should appear in public decked and painted out after the manner of the immodest? Else, (if you so do,) what inferiority would the poor unhappy victims of the public lusts have (beneath you)? whom, albeit some laws were (formerly) wont to restrain them from (the use of) matrimonial and matronly decorations, now, at all events, the daily increasing depravity of the age12 has raised so nearly to an equality with all the most honourable women, that the difficulty is to distinguish them. And yet, even the Scriptures suggest (to us the reflection), that meretricious attractivenesses of form are invariably conjoined with and appropriate13 to bodily prostitution. That powerful state14 which presides over15 the seven mountains and very many waters, has merited from the Lord the appellation of a prostitute.16 But what kind of garb is the instrumental mean of her comparison with that appellation? She sits, to be sure, “in purple, and scarlet, and gold, and precious stone.” How accursed are the things without (the aid of) which an accursed prostitute could not have been described! It was the fact that Thamar “had painted out and adorned herself” that led Judah to regard her as a harlot,17 and thus, because she was hidden beneath her “veil,”—the quality of her garb belying her as if she had been a harlot,—he judged (her to be one), and addressed and bargained with (her as such). Whence we gather an additional confirmation of the lesson, that provision must be made in every Edition: current; Page: [25] way against all immodest associations1 and suspicions. For why is the integrity of a chaste mind defiled by its neighbour’s suspicion? Why is a thing from which I am averse hoped for in me? Why does not my garb pre-announce my character, to prevent my spirit from being wounded by shamelessness through (the channel of) my ears? Grant that it be lawful to assume the appearance of a modest woman:2 to assume that of an immodest is, at all events, not lawful.


Perhaps some (woman) will say: “To me it is not necessary to be approved by men; for I do not require the testimony of men:3 God is the inspector of the heart.”4 (That) we all know; provided, however, we remember what the same (God) has said through the apostle: “Let your probity appear before men.”5 For what purpose, except that malice may have no access at all to you, or that you may be an example and testimony to the evil? Else, what is (that): “Let your works shine?”6 Why, moreover, does the Lord call us the light of the world; why has He compared us to a city built upon a mountain;7 if we do not shine in (the midst of) darkness, and stand eminent amid them who are sunk down? If you hide your lamp beneath a bushel,8 you must necessarily be left quite in darkness, and be run against by many. The things which make us luminaries of the world are these—our good works. What is good, moreover, provided it be true and full, loves not darkness: it joys in being seen,9 and exults over the very pointings which are made at it. To Christian modesty it is not enough to be so, but to seem so too. For so great ought its plenitude to be, that it may flow out from the mind to the garb, and burst out from the conscience to the outward appearance; so that even from the outside it may gaze, as it were, upon its own furniture,10—(a furniture) such as to be suited to retain faith as its inmate perpetually. For such delicacies as tend by their softness and effeminacy to unman the manliness11 of faith are to be discarded. Otherwise, I know not whether the wrist that has been wont to be surrounded with the palmleaf-like bracelet will endure till it grow into the numb hardness of its own chain! I know not whether the leg that has rejoiced in the anklet will suffer itself to be squeezed into the gyve! I fear the neck, beset with pearl and emerald nooses, will give no room to the broadsword! Wherefore, blessed (sisters), let us meditate on hardships, and we shall not feel them; let us abandon luxuries, and we shall not regret them. Let us stand ready to endure every violence, having nothing which we may fear to leave behind. It is these things which are the bonds which retard our hope. Let us cast away earthly ornaments if we desire heavenly. Love not gold; in which (one substance) are branded all the sins of the people of Israel. You ought to hate what ruined your fathers; what was adored by them who were forsaking God.12 Even then (we find) gold is food for the fire.13 But Christians always, and now more than ever, pass their times not in gold but in iron: the stoles of martyrdom are (now) preparing: the angels who are to carry us are (now) being awaited! Do you go forth (to meet them) already arrayed in the cosmetics and ornaments of prophets and apostles; drawing your whiteness from simplicity, your ruddy hue from modesty; painting your eyes with bashfulness, and your mouth with silence; implanting in your ears the words of God; fitting on your necks the yoke of Christ. Submit your head to your husbands, and you will be enough adorned. Busy your hands with spinning; keep your feet at home; and you will “please” better than (by arraying yourselves) in gold. Clothe yourselves with the silk of uprightness, the fine linen of holiness, the purple of modesty. Thus painted, you will have God as your Lover!

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(The Prophecy of Enoch, p. 15.)

Dr. Davidson is the author of a useful article on “Apocalyptic Literature,” from which we extract all that is requisite to inform the reader of the freshest opinion as seen from his well-known point of view. He notes Archbishop Lawrence’s translation into English, and that it has been rendered back again into German by Dillman (1853), as before, less accurately, by Hoffmann. Ewald, Lücke, Koestlin, and Hilgenfeld are referred to, and an article of his own in Kitto’s Cyclopædia. We owe its re-appearance, after long neglect, to Archbishop Lawrence (1838), and its preservation to the Abyssinians. It was rescued by Bruce, the explorer, in an Æthiopic version; and the first detailed announcement of its discovery was made by De Sacy, 1800. Davidson ascribes its authorship to pre-Messianic times, but thinks it has been interpolated by a Jewish Christian. Tertullian’s negative testimony points the other way: he evidently relies upon its “Christology” as genuine; and, if interpolated in his day, he could hardly have been deceived.

Its five parts are: I. The rape of women by fallen angels, and the giants that were begotten of them. The visions of Enoch begun. II. The visions continued, with views of the Messiah’s kingdom. III. The physical and astronomical mysteries treated of. IV. Man’s mystery revealed in dreams from the beginning to the end of the Messianic kingdom. V. The warnings of Enoch to his own family and to mankind, with appendices, which complete the book. The article in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible is accessible, and need only be referred to as well worth perusal; and, as it abounds in references to the entire literature of criticism respecting it, it is truly valuable. It seems to have been written by Westcott.1

The fact that St. Jude refers to Enoch’s prophesyings no more proves that this book is other than apocryphal than St. Paul’s reference to Jannes and Jambres makes Scripture of the Targum. The apostle Jude does, indeed, authenticate that particular saying by inspiration of God, and doubtless it was traditional among the Jews. St. Jerome’s references to this quotation may be found textually in Lardner.2 Although the book is referred to frequently in the Patrologia, Tertullian only, of the Fathers, pays it the respect due to Scripture.

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Having already undergone the trouble peculiar to my opinion, I will show in Latin also that it behoves our virgins to be veiled from the time that they have passed the turning-point of their age: that this observance is exacted by truth, on which no one can impose prescription—no space of times, no influence of persons, no privilege of regions. For these, for the most part, are the sources whence, from some ignorance or simplicity, custom finds its beginning; and then it is successionally confirmed into an usage, and thus is maintained in opposition to truth. But our Lord Christ has surnamed Himself Truth,2 not Custom. If Christ is always, and prior to all, equally truth is a thing sempiternal and ancient. Let those therefore look to themselves, to whom that is new which is intrinsically old. It is not so much novelty as truth which convicts heresies. Whatever savours of opposition to truth, this will be heresy, even (if it be an) ancient custom. On the other hand, if any is ignorant of anything, the ignorance proceeds from his own defect. Moreover, whatever is matter of ignorance ought to have been as carefully inquired into as whatever is matter of acknowledgment received. The rule of faith, indeed, is altogether one, alone immoveable and irreformable; the rule, to wit, of believing in one only God omnipotent, the Creator of the universe, and His Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised again the third day from the dead, received in the heavens, sitting now at the right (hand) of the Father, destined to come to judge quick and dead through the resurrection of the flesh as well (as of the spirit). This law of faith being constant, the other succeeding points of discipline and conversation admit the “novelty” of correction; the grace of God, to wit, operating and advancing even to the end. For what kind of (supposition) is it, that, while the devil is always operating and adding daily to the ingenuities of iniquity, the work of God should either have ceased, or else have desisted from advancing? whereas the reason why the Lord sent the Paraclete was, that, since human mediocrity was unable to take in all things at once, discipline should, little by little, be directed, and ordained, and carried on to perfection, by that Vicar of the Lord, the Holy Spirit. “Still,” He said, “I have many things to say to you, but ye are not yet able to bear them: when that Spirit of truth shall have come, He will conduct you into all truth, and will report to you the supervening (things).”3 But above, withal, He made a declaration concerning this His work.4 What, then, is the Paraclete’s administrative office but this: the direction of discipline, the revelation of the Scriptures, the re-formation of the intellect, the advancement toward the “better things?”5 Nothing is without stages of growth: all things await their season. In short, the preacher says, “A time to everything.”6 Look how creation itself advances little by little to fructification. First comes the grain, and from the grain arises the shoot, and from the shoot struggles out the shrub: thereafter boughs and leaves gather strength, and the whole that we call a tree expands: then follows the swelling of the germen, and from the germen bursts the flower, and from the flower the fruit opens: that fruit itself, rude for a while, and unshapely, little by little, Edition: current; Page: [28] keeping the straight course of its development, is trained to the mellowness of its flavour.1 So, too, righteousness—for the God of righteousness and of creation is the same—was first in a rudimentary state, having a natural fear of God: from that stage it advanced, through the Law and the Prophets, to infancy; from that stage it passed, through the Gospel, to the fervour of youth: now, through the Paraclete, it is settling into maturity. He will be, after Christ, the only one to be called and revered as Master;2 for He speaks not from Himself, but what is commanded by Christ.3 He is the only prelate, because He alone succeeds Christ. They who have received Him set truth before custom. They who have heard Him prophesying even to the present time, not of old, bid virgins be wholly covered.


But I will not, meantime, attribute this usage to Truth. Be it, for a while, custom: that to custom I may likewise oppose custom.

Throughout Greece, and certain of its barbaric provinces, the majority of Churches keep their virgins covered. There are places, too, beneath this (African) sky, where this practice obtains; lest any ascribe the custom to Greek or barbarian Gentilehood. But I have proposed (as models) those Churches which were founded by apostles or apostolic men; and antecedently, I think, to certain (founders, who shall be nameless). Those Churches therefore, as well (as others), have the self-same authority of custom (to appeal to); in opposing phalanx they range “times” and “teachers,” more than these later (Churches do). What shall we observe? What shall we choose? We cannot contemptuously reject a custom which we cannot condemn, inasmuch as it is not “strange,” since it is not among “strangers” that we find it, but among those, to wit, with whom we share the law of peace and the name of brotherhood. They and we have one faith, one God, the same Christ, the same hope, the same baptismal sacraments; let me say it once for all, we are one Church.4 Thus, whatever belongs to our brethren is ours: only, the body divides us.

Still, here (as generally happens in all cases of various practice, of doubt, and of uncertainty), examination ought to have been made to see which of two so diverse customs were the more compatible with the discipline of God. And, of course, that ought to have been chosen which keeps virgins veiled, as being known to God alone; who (besides that glory must be sought from God, not from men5) ought to blush even at their own privilege. You put a virgin to the blush more by praising than by blaming her; because the front of sin is more hard, learning shamelessness from and in the sin itself. For that custom which belies virgins while it exhibits them, would never have been approved by any except by some men who must have been similar in character to the virgins themselves. Such eyes will wish that a virgin be seen as has the virgin who shall wish to be seen. The same kinds of eyes reciprocally crave after each other. Seeing and being seen belong to the self-same lust. To blush if he see a virgin is as much a mark of a chaste6 man, as of a chaste7 virgin if seen by a man.


But not even between customs have those most chaste8 teachers chosen to examine. Still, until very recently, among us, either custom was, with comparative indifference, admitted to communion. The matter had been left to choice, for each virgin to veil herself or expose herself, as she might have chosen, just as (she had equal liberty) as to marrying, which itself withal is neither enforced nor prohibited. Truth had been content to make an agreement with custom, in order that under the name of custom it might enjoy itself even partially. But when the power of discerning began to advance, so that the licence granted to either fashion was becoming the mean whereby the indication of the better part emerged; immediately the great adversary of good things—and much more of good institutions—set to his own work. The virgins of men go about, in opposition to the virgins of God, with front quite bare, excited to a rash audacity; and the semblance of virgins is exhibited by women who have the power of asking somewhat from husbands,9 not to say such a request as that (forsooth) their rivals—all the more “free” in that they are the “handmaids” of Christ alone10—may be surrendered to them. “We are scandalized,” they say, “because others walk otherwise (than we do);” and they prefer being “scandalized” to being provoked (to modesty). A “scandal,” if I mistake not, is an example not of a good thing, but of a bad, tending to sinful edification. Good things scandalize none but an evil mind. If modesty, if bashfulness, if contempt of glory, anxious to please God alone, are good things, Edition: current; Page: [29] let women who are “scandalized” by such good learn to acknowledge their own evil. For what if the incontinent withal say they are “scandalized” by the continent? Is continence to be recalled? And, for fear the multinubists be “scandalized,” is monogamy to be rejected? Why may not these latter rather complain that the petulance, the impudence, of ostentatious virginity is a “scandal” to them? Are therefore chaste virgins to be, for the sake of these marketable creatures, dragged into the church, blushing at being recognised in public, quaking at being unveiled, as if they had been invited as it were to rape? For they are no less unwilling to suffer even this. Every public exposure of an honourable virgin is (to her) a suffering of rape: and yet the suffering of carnal violence is the less (evil), because it comes of natural office. But when the very spirit itself is violated in a virgin by the abstraction of her covering, she has learnt to lose what she used to keep. O sacrilegious hands, which have had the hardihood to drag off a dress dedicated to God! What worse could any persecutor have done, if he had known that this (garb) had been chosen by a virgin? You have denuded a maiden in regard of her head, and forthwith she wholly ceases to be a virgin to herself; she has undergone a change! Arise, therefore, Truth; arise, and as it were burst forth from Thy patience! No custom do I wish Thee to defend; for by this time even that custom under which Thou didst enjoy thy own liberty is being stormed! Demonstrate that it is Thyself who art the coverer of virgins. Interpret in person Thine own Scriptures, which Custom understandeth not; for, if she had, she never would have had an existence.


But in so far as it is the custom to argue even from the Scriptures in opposition to truth, there is immediately urged against us the fact that “no mention of virgins is made by the apostle where he is prescribing about the veil, but that ‘women’ only are named; whereas, if he had willed virgins as well to be covered, he would have pronounced concerning ‘virgins’ also together with the ‘women’ named; just as,” says (our opponent), “in that passage where he is treating of marriage,1 he declares likewise with regard to ‘virgins’ what observance is to be followed.” And accordingly (it is urged) that “they are not comprised in the law of veiling the head, as not being named in this law; nay rather, that this is the origin of their being unveiled, inasmuch as they who are not named are not bidden.

But we withal retort the self-same line of argument. For he who knew elsewhere how to make mention of each sex—of virgin I mean, and woman, that is, not-virgin—for distinction’s sake; in these (passages), in which he does not name a virgin, points out (by not making the distinction) community of condition. Otherwise he could here also have marked the difference between virgin and woman, just as elsewhere he says, “Divided is the woman and the virgin.2 Therefore those whom, by passing them over in silence, he has not divided, he has included in the other species.

Nor yet, because in that case “divided is both woman and virgin,” will this division exert its patronizing influence in the present case as well, as some will have it. For how many sayings, uttered on another occasion, have no weight—in cases, to wit, where they are not uttered—unless the subject-matter be the same as on the other occasion, so that the one utterance may suffice! But the former case of virgin and woman is widely “divided” from the present question. “Divided,” he says, “is the woman and the virgin.” Why? Inasmuch as “the unmarried,” that is, the virgin, “is anxious about those (things) which are the Lord’s, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit; but the married,” that is, the not-virgin, “is anxious how she may please her husband.” This will be the interpretation of that “division,” having no place in this passage (now under consideration); in which pronouncement is made neither about marriage, nor about the mind and the thought of woman and of virgin, but about the veiling of the head. Of which (veiling) the Holy Spirit, willing that there should be no distinction, willed that by the one name of woman should likewise be understood the virgin; whom, by not specially naming, He has not separated from the woman, and, by not separating, has conjoined to her from whom He has not separated her.

Is it now, then, a “novelty” to use the primary word, and nevertheless to have the other (subordinate divisions) understood in that word, in cases where there is no necessity for individually distinguishing the (various parts of the) universal whole? Naturally, a compendious style of speech is both pleasing and necessary; inasmuch as diffuse speech is both tiresome and vain. So, too, we are content with general words, which comprehend in themselves the understanding of the specialties. Proceed we, then, to the word itself. The word (expressing the) natural (distinction) is female. Of the natural word, the general word is woman. Of the general, again, the special is virgin, or wife, or widow, or whatever other names, even of the Edition: current; Page: [30] successive stages of life, are added hereto. Subject, therefore, the special is to the general (because the general is prior); and the succedent to the antecedent, and the partial to the universal: (each) is implied in the word itself to which it is subject; and is signified in it, because contained in it. Thus neither hand, nor foot, nor any one of the members, requires to be signified when the body is named. And if you say the universe, therein will be both the heaven and the things that are in it,—sun and moon, and constellations and stars,—and the earth and the seas, and everything that goes to make up the list of elements. You will have named all, when you have named that which is made up of all. So, too, by naming woman, he has named whatever is woman’s.


But since they use the name of woman in such a way as to think it inapplicable save to her alone who has known a man, the pertinence of the propriety of this word to the sex itself, not to a grade of the sex, must be proved by us; that virgins as well (as others) may be commonly comprised in it.

When this kind of second human being was made by God for man’s assistance, that female was forthwith named woman; still happy, still worthy of paradise, still virgin. “She shall be called,” said (Adam), “Woman.” And accordingly you have the name,—I say, not already common to a virgin, but—proper (to her; a name) which from the beginning was allotted to a virgin. But some ingeniously will have it that it was said of the future, “She shall be called woman,” as if she were destined to be so when she had resigned her virginity; since he added withal: “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and be conglutinated to his own woman; and the two shall be one flesh.” Let them therefore among whom that subtlety obtains show us first, if she were surnamed woman with a future reference, what name she meantime received. For without a name expressive of her present quality she cannot have been. But what kind of (hypothesis) is it that one who, with an eye to the future, was called by a definite name, at the present time should have nothing for a surname? On all animals Adam imposed names; and on none on the ground of future condition, but on the ground of the present purpose which each particular nature served;1 called (as each nature was) by that to which from the beginning it showed a propensity. What, then, was she at that time called? Why, as often as she is named in the Scripture, she has the appellation woman before she was wedded, and never virgin while she was a virgin.

This name was at that time the only one she had, and (that) when nothing was (as yet) said prophetically. For when the Scripture records that “the two were naked, Adam and his woman,” neither does this savour of the future, as if it said “his woman” as a presage of “wife;” but because his woman2 was withal unwedded, as being (formed) from his own substance. “This bone,” he says, “out of my bones, and flesh out of my flesh, shall be called woman.” Hence, then, it is from the tacit consciousness of nature that the actual divinity of the soul has educed into the ordinary usage of common speech, unawares to men, (just as it has thus educed many other things too which we shall elsewhere be able to show to derive from the Scriptures the origin of their doing and saying,) our fashion of calling our wives our women, however improperly withal we may in some instances speak. For the Greeks, too, who use the name of woman more (than we do) in the sense of wife, have other names appropriate to wife. But I prefer to assign this usage as a testimony to Scripture. For when two are made into one flesh through the marriage-tie, the “flesh of flesh and bone of bones” is called the woman of him of whose substance she begins to be accounted by being made his wife. Thus woman is not by nature a name of wife, but wife by condition is a name of woman. In fine, womanhood is predicable apart from wifehood; but wifehood apart from womanhood is not, because it cannot even exist. Having therefore settled the name of the newly-made female—which (name) is woman—and having explained what she formerly was, that is, having sealed the name to her, he immediately turned to the prophetic reason, so as to say, “On this account shall a man leave father and mother.” The name is so truly separate from the prophecy, as far as (the prophecy) from the individual person herself, that of course it is not with reference to Eve herself that (Adam) has uttered (the prophecy), but with a view to those future females whom he has named in the maternal fount of the feminine race. Besides, Adam was not to leave “father and mother”—whom he had not—for the sake of Eve. Therefore that which was prophetically said does not apply to Eve, because it does not to Adam either. For it was predicted with regard to the condition of husbands, who were destined to leave their parents for a woman’s sake; which could not chance to Eve, because it could not to Adam either.

If the case is so, it is apparent that she was not surnamed woman on account of a future Edition: current; Page: [31] (circumstance), to whom (that) future (circumstance) did not apply.

To this is added, that (Adam) himself published the reason of the name. For, after saying, “She shall be called woman,” he said, “inasmuch as she hath been taken out of man”—the man himself withal being still a virgin. But we will speak, too, about the name of man1 in its own place. Accordingly, let none interpret with a prophetic reference a name which was deduced from another signification; especially since it is apparent when she did receive a name founded upon a future (circumstance)—there, namely, where she is surnamed “Eve,” with a personal name now, because the natural one had gone before.2 For if “Eve” means “the mother of the living,” behold, she is surnamed from a future (circumstance)! behold, she is pre-announced to be a wife, and not a virgin! This will be the name of one who is about to wed; for of the bride (comes) the mother.

Thus in this case too it is shown, that it was not from a future (circumstance) that she was at that time named woman, who was shortly after to receive the name which would be proper to her future condition.

Sufficient answer has been made to this part (of the question).


Let us now see whether the apostle withal observes the norm of this name in accordance with Genesis, attributing it to the sex; calling the virgin Mary a woman, just as Genesis (does) Eve. For, writing to the Galatians, “God,” he says, “sent His own Son, made of a woman,3 who, of course, is admitted to have been a virgin, albeit Hebion4 resist (that doctrine). I recognise, too, the angel Gabriel as having been sent to “a virgin.5 But when he is blessing her, it is “among women,” not among virgins, that he ranks her: “Blessed (be) thou among women.” The angel withal knew that even a virgin is called a woman.

But to these two (arguments), again, there is one who appears to himself to have made an ingenious answer; (to the effect that) inasmuch as Mary was “betrothed,” therefore it is that both by angel and apostle she is pronounced a woman; for a “betrothed” is in some sense a “bride.” Still, between “in some sense” and “truth” there is difference enough, at all events in the present place: for elsewhere, we grant, we must thus hold. Now, however, it is not as being already wedded that they have pronounced Mary a woman, but as being none the less a female even if she had not been espoused; as having been called by this (name) from the beginning: for that must necessarily have a prejudicating force from which the normal type has descended. Else, as far as relates to the present passage, if Mary is here put on a level with a “betrothed,” so that she is called a woman not on the ground of being a female, but on the ground of being assigned to a husband, it immediately follows that Christ was not born of a virgin, because (born) of one “betrothed,” who by this fact will have ceased to be a virgin. Whereas, if He was born of a virgin—albeit withal “betrothed,” yet intact—acknowledge that even a virgin, even an intact one, is called a woman. Here, at all events, there can be no semblance of speaking prophetically, as if the apostle should have named a future woman, that is, bride, in saying “made of a woman.” For he could not be naming a posterior woman, from whom Christ had not to be born—that is, one who had known a man; but she who was then present, who was a virgin, was withal called a woman in consequence of the propriety of this name,—vindicated, in accordance with the primordial norm, (as belonging) to a virgin, and thus to the universal class of women.


Turn we next to the examination of the reasons themselves which lead the apostle to teach that the female ought to be veiled, (to see) whether the self-same (reasons) apply to virgins likewise; so that hence also the community of the name between virgins and not-virgins may be established, while the self-same causes which necessitate the veil are found to exist in each case.

If “the man is head of the woman,6 of course (he is) of the virgin too, from whom comes the woman who has married; unless the virgin is a third generic class, some monstrosity with a head of its own. If “it is shameful for a woman to be shaven or shorn,” of course it is so for a virgin. (Hence let the world, the rival of God, see to it, if it asserts that close-cut hair is graceful to a virgin in like manner as that flowing hair is to a boy.) To her, then, to whom it is equally unbecoming to be shaven or shorn, it is equally becoming to be covered. If “the woman is the glory of the man,” how much more the virgin, who is a glory withal to herself! If “the woman is of the man,” and “for the sake of the man,” that rib of Adam7 was first a virgin. If “the woman ought to have Edition: current; Page: [32] power upon the head,”1 all the more justly ought the virgin, to whom pertains the essence of the cause (assigned for this assertion). For if (it is) on account of the angels—those, to wit, whom we read of as having fallen from God and heaven on account of concupiscence after females—who can presume that it was bodies already defiled, and relics of human lust, which such angels yearned after, so as not rather to have been inflamed for virgins, whose bloom pleads an excuse for human lust likewise? For thus does Scripture withal suggest: “And it came to pass,” it says, “when men had begun to grow more numerous upon the earth, there were withal daughters born them; but the sons of God, having descried the daughters of men, that they were fair, took to themselves wives of all whom they elected.”2 For here the Greek name of women does seem to have the sense “wives,” inasmuch as mention is made of marriage. When, then, it says “the daughters of men,” it manifestly purports virgins, who would be still reckoned as belonging to their parents—for wedded women are called their husbands’—whereas it could have said “the wives of men:” in like manner not naming the angels adulterers, but husbands, while they take unwedded “daughters of men,” who it has above said were “born,” thus also signifying their virginity: first, “born;” but here, wedded to angels. Anything else I know not that they were except “born” and subsequently wedded. So perilous a face, then, ought to be shaded, which has cast stumbling-stones even so far as heaven: that, when standing in the presence of God, at whose bar it stands accused of the driving of the angels from their (native) confines, it may blush before the other angels as well; and may repress that former evil liberty of its head,—(a liberty) now to be exhibited not even before human eyes. But even if they were females already contaminated whom those angels had desired, so much the more “on account of the angels” would it have been the duty of virgins to be veiled, as it would have been the more possible for virgins to have been the cause of the angels’ sinning. If, moreover, the apostle further adds the prejudgment of “nature,” that redundancy of locks is an honour to a woman, because hair serves for a covering,3 of course it is most of all to a virgin that this is a distinction; for their very adornment properly consists in this, that, by being massed together upon the crown, it wholly covers the very citadel of the head with an encirclement of hair.


The contraries, at all events, of all these (considerations) effect that a man is not to cover his head: to wit, because he has not by nature been gifted with excess of hair; because to be shaven or shorn is not shameful to him; because it was not on his account that the angels transgressed; because his Head is Christ.4 Accordingly, since the apostle is treating of man and woman—why the latter ought to be veiled, but the former not—it is apparent why he has been silent as to the virgin; allowing, to wit, the virgin to be understood in the woman by the self-same reason by which he forbore to name the boy as implied in the man; embracing the whole order of either sex in the names proper (to each) of woman and man. So likewise Adam, while still intact, is surnamed in Genesis man:5 “She shall be called,” says he, “woman, because she hath been taken from her own man.” Thus was Adam a man before nuptial intercourse, in like manner as Eve a woman. On either side the apostle has made his sentence apply with sufficient plainness to the universal species of each sex; and briefly and fully, with so well-appointed a definition, he says, “Every woman.” What is “every,” but of every class, of every order, of every condition, of every dignity, of every age?—if, (as is the case), “every” means total and entire, and in none of its parts defective. But the virgin is withal a part of the woman. Equally, too, with regard to not veiling the man, he says “every.” Behold two diverse names, Man and Woman—“every one” in each case: two laws, mutually distinctive; on the one hand (a law) of veiling, on the other (a law) of baring. Therefore, if the fact that it is said “every man” makes it plain that the name of man is common even to him who is not yet a man, a stripling male; (if), moreover, since the name is common according to nature, the law of not veiling him who among men is a virgin is common too according to discipline: why is it that it is not consequently prejudged that, woman being named, every woman-virgin is similarly comprised in the fellowship of the name, so as to be comprised too in the community of the law? If a virgin is not a woman, neither is a stripling a man. If the virgin is not covered on the plea that she is not a woman, let the stripling be covered on the plea that he is not a man. Let identity of virginity share equality of indulgence. As virgins are not compelled to be veiled, so let boys not be bidden to be unveiled. Why do we partly acknowledge the definition of the apostle, as absolute with regard to “every man,” without entering upon disquisitions as to why he has not withal named the boy; but partly prevaricate, though it is equally absolute with regard to “every woman?” “If any,” he says, “is contentious, we have not such a custom, nor Edition: current; Page: [33] (has) the Church of God.”1 He shows that there had been some contention about this point; for the extinction whereof he uses the whole compendiousness (of language): not naming the virgin, on the one hand, in order to show that there is to be no doubt about her veiling; and, on the other hand, naming “every woman,” whereas he would have named the virgin (had the question been confined to her). So, too, did the Corinthians themselves understand him. In fact, at this day the Corinthians do veil their virgins. What the apostles taught, their disciples approve.


Let us now see whether, as we have shown the arguments drawn from nature and the matter itself to be applicable to the virgin as well (as to other females), so likewise the precepts of ecclesiastical discipline concerning women have an eye to the virgin.

It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the church;2 but neither (is it permitted her) to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to say (in any) sacerdotal office. Let us inquire whether any of these be lawful to a virgin. If it is not lawful to a virgin, but she is subjected on the self-same terms (as the woman), and the necessity for humility is assigned her together with the woman, whence will this one thing be lawful to her which is not lawful to any and every female? If any is a virgin, and has proposed to sanctify her flesh, what prerogative does she (thereby) earn adverse to her own condition? Is the reason why it is granted her to dispense with the veil, that she may be notable and marked as she enters the church? that she may display the honour of sanctity in the liberty of her head? More worthy distinction could have been conferred on her by according her some prerogative of manly rank or office! I know plainly, that in a certain place a virgin of less than twenty years of age has been placed in the order of widows! whereas if the bishop had been bound to accord her any relief, he might, of course, have done it in some other way without detriment to the respect due to discipline; that such a miracle, not to say monster, should not be pointed at in the church, a virgin-widow! the more portentous indeed, that not even as a widow did she veil her head; denying herself either way; both as virgin, in that she is counted a widow, and as widow, in that she is styled a virgin. But the authority which licenses her sitting in that seat uncovered is the same which allows her to sit there as a virgin: a seat to which (besides the “sixty years”3) not merely “single-husbanded” (women)—that is, married women—are at length elected, but “mothers” to boot, yes, and “educators of children,” in order, forsooth, that their experimental training in all the affections may, on the one hand, have rendered them capable of readily aiding all others with counsel and comfort, and that, on the other, they may none the less have travelled down the whole course of probation whereby a female can be tested. So true is it, that, on the ground of her position, nothing in the way of public honour is permitted to a virgin.


Nor, similarly, (is it permitted) on the ground of any distinctions whatever. Otherwise, it were sufficiently discourteous, that while females, subjected as they are throughout to men, bear in their front an honourable mark of their virginity, whereby they may be looked up to and gazed at on all sides and magnified by the brethren, so many men-virgins, so many voluntary eunuchs, should carry their glory in secret, carrying no token to make them, too, illustrious. For they, too, will be bound to claim some distinctions for themselves—either the feathers of the Garamantes, or else the fillets of the barbarians, or else the cicadas of the Athenians, or else the curls of the Germans, or else the tattoo-marks of the Britons; or else let the opposite course be taken, and let them lurk in the churches with head veiled. Sure we are that the Holy Spirit could rather have made some such concession to males, if He had made it to females; forasmuch as, besides the authority of sex, it would have been more becoming that males should have been honoured on the ground of continency itself likewise. The more their sex is eager and warm toward females, so much the more toil does the continence of (this) greater ardour involve; and therefore the worthier is it of all ostentation, if ostentation of virginity is dignity. For is not continence withal superior to virginity, whether it be the continence of the widowed, or of those who, by consent, have already renounced the common disgrace (which matrimony involves)?4 For constancy of virginity is maintained by grace; of continence, by virtue. For great is the struggle to overcome concupiscence when you have become accustomed to such concupiscence; whereas a concupiscence Edition: current; Page: [34] the enjoyment whereof you have never known you will subdue easily, not having an adversary (in the shape of) the concupiscence of enjoyment.1 How, then, would God have failed to make any such concession to men more (than to women), whether on the ground of nearer intimacy, as being “His own image,” or on the ground of harder toil? But if nothing (has been thus conceded) to the male, much more to the female.


But what we intermitted above for the sake of the subsequent discussion—not to dissipate its coherence—we will now discharge by an answer. For when we joined issue about the apostle’s absolute definition, that “every woman” must be understood (as meaning woman) of even every age, it might be replied by the opposite side, that in that case it behoved the virgin to be veiled from her nativity, and from the first entry of her age (upon the roll of time).

But it is not so; but from the time when she begins to be self-conscious, and to awake to the sense of her own nature, and to emerge from the virgin’s (sense), and to experience that novel (sensation) which belongs to the succeeding age. For withal the founders of the race, Adam and Eve, so long as they were without intelligence, went “naked;” but after they tasted of “the tree of recognition,” they were first sensible of nothing more than of their cause for shame. Thus they each marked their intelligence of their own sex by a covering.2 But even if it is “on account of the angels” that she is to be veiled,3 doubtless the age from which the law of the veil will come into operation will be that from which “the daughters of men” were able to invite concupiscence of their persons, and to experience marriage. For a virgin ceases to be a virgin from the time that it becomes possible for her not to be one. And accordingly, among Israel, it is unlawful to deliver one to a husband except after the attestation by blood of her maturity;4 thus, before this indication, the nature is unripe. Therefore if she is a virgin so long as she is unripe, she ceases to be a virgin when she is perceived to be ripe; and, as not-virgin, is now subject to the law, just as she is to marriage. And the betrothed indeed have the example of Rebecca, who, when she was being conducted—herself still unknown—to an unknown betrothed, as soon as she learned that he whom she had sighted from afar was the man, awaited not the grasp of the hand, nor the meeting of the kiss, nor the interchange of salutation; but confessing what she had felt—namely, that she had been (already) wedded in spirit—denied herself to be a virgin by then and there veiling herself.5 Oh woman already belonging to Christ’s discipline! For she showed that marriage likewise, as fornication is, is transacted by gaze and mind; only that a Rebecca likewise some do still veil. With regard to the rest, however (that is, those who are not betrothed), let the procrastination of their parents, arising from straitened means or scrupulosity, look (to them); let the vow of continence itself look (to them). In no respect does (such procrastination) pertain to an age which is already running its own assigned course, and paying its own dues to maturity. Another secret mother, Nature, and another hidden father, Time, have wedded their daughter to their own laws. Behold that virgin-daughter of yours already wedded—her soul by expectancy, her flesh by transformation—for whom you are preparing a second husband! Already her voice is changed, her limbs fully formed, her “shame” everywhere clothing itself, the months paying their tributes; and do you deny her to be a woman whom you assert to be undergoing womanly experiences? If the contact of a man makes a woman, let there be no covering except after actual experience of marriage. Nay, but even among the heathens (the betrothed) are led veiled to the husband. But if it is at betrothal that they are veiled, because (then) both in body and in spirit they have mingled with a male, through the kiss and the right hands, through which means they first in spirit unsealed their modesty, through the common pledge of conscience whereby they mutually plighted their whole confusion; how much more will time veil them?—(time) without which espoused they cannot be; and by whose urgency, without espousals, they cease to be virgins. Time even the heathens observe, that, in obedience to the law of nature, they may render their own rights to the (different) ages. For their females they despatch to their businesses from (the age of) twelve years, but the male from two years later; decreeing puberty (to consist) in years, not in espousals or nuptials. “Housewife” one is called, albeit a virgin, and “housefather,” albeit a stripling. By us not even natural laws are observed; as if the God of nature were some other than ours!


Recognise the woman, ay, recognise the wedded woman, by the testimonies both of body Edition: current; Page: [35] and of spirit, which she experiences both in conscience and in flesh. These are the earlier tablets of natural espousals and nuptials. Impose a veil externally upon her who has (already) a covering internally. Let her whose lower parts are not bare have her upper likewise covered. Would you know what is the authority which age carries? Set before yourself each (of these two); one prematurely1 compressed in woman’s garb, and one who, though advanced in maturity, persists in virginity with its appropriate garb: the former will more easily be denied to be a woman than the latter believed a virgin. Such is, then, the honesty of age, that there is no over-powering it even by garb. What of the fact that these (virgins) of ours confess their change of age even by their garb; and, as soon as they have understood themselves to be women, withdraw themselves from virgins, laying aside (beginning with their head itself) their former selves: dye2 their hair; and fasten their hair with more wanton pin; professing manifest womanhood with their hair parted from the front. The next thing is, they consult the looking-glass to aid their beauty, and thin down their over-exacting face with washing, perhaps withal vamp it up with cosmetics, toss their mantle about them with an air, fit tightly the multiform shoe, carry down more ample appliances to the baths. Why should I pursue particulars? But their manifest appliances alone3 exhibit their perfect womanhood: yet they wish to play the virgin by the sole fact of leaving their head bare—denying by one single feature what they profess by their entire deportment.


If on account of men4 they adopt a false garb, let them carry out that garb fully even for that end;5 and as they veil their head in presence of heathens, let them at all events in the church conceal their virginity, which they do veil outside the church. They fear strangers: let them stand in awe of the brethren too; or else let them have the consistent hardihood to appear as virgins in the streets as well, as they have the hardihood to do in the churches. I will praise their vigour, if they succeed in selling aught of virginity among the heathens withal.6 Identity of nature abroad as at home, identity of custom in the presence of men as of the Lord, consists in identity of liberty. To what purpose, then, do they thrust their glory out of sight abroad, but expose it in the church? I demand a reason. Is it to please the brethren, or God Himself? If God Himself, He is as capable of beholding whatever is done in secret, as He is just to remunerate what is done for His sole honour. In fine, He enjoins us not to trumpet forth7 any one of those things which will merit reward in His sight, nor get compensation for them from men. But if we are prohibited from letting “our left hand know” when we bestow the gift of a single halfpenny, or any eleemosynary bounty whatever, how deep should be the darkness in which we ought to enshroud ourselves when we are offering God so great an oblation of our very body and our very spirit—when we are consecrating to Him our very nature! It follows, therefore, that what cannot appear to be done for God’s sake (because God wills not that it be done in such a way) is done for the sake of men,—a thing, of course, primarily unlawful, as betraying a lust of glory. For glory is a thing unlawful to those whose probation consists in humiliation of every kind. And if it is by God that the virtue of continence is conferred, “why gloriest thou, as if thou have not received?”8 If, however, you have not received it, “what hast thou which has not been given thee?” But by this very fact it is plain that it has not been given you by God—that it is not to God alone that you offer it. Let us see, then, whether what is human be firm and true.


They report a saying uttered at one time by some one when first this question was mooted, “And how shall we invite the other (virgins) to similar conduct?” Forsooth, it is their numbers that will make us happy, and not the grace of God and the merits of each individual! Is it virgins who (adorn or commend) the Church in the sight of God, or the Church which adorns or commends virgins? (Our objector) has therefore confessed that “glory” lies at the root of the matter. Well, where glory is, there is solicitation; where solicitation, there compulsion; where compulsion, there necessity; where necessity, there infirmity. Deservedly, therefore, while they do not cover their head, in order that they may be solicited for the sake of glory, they are forced to cover their bellies by the ruin resulting from infirmity. For it is emulation, not religion, which impels them. Sometimes it is that god—their Edition: current; Page: [36] belly1—himself; because the brotherhood readily undertakes the maintenance of virgins. But, moreover, it is not merely that they are ruined, but they draw after them “a long rope of sins.”2 For, after being brought forth into the midst (of the church), and elated by the public appropriation of their property,3 and laden by the brethren with every honour and charitable bounty, so long as they do not fall,—when any sin has been committed, they meditate a deed as disgraceful as the honour was high which they had. (It is this.) If an uncovered head is a recognised mark of virginity, (then) if any virgin falls from the grace of virginity, she remains permanently with head uncovered, for fear of discovery, and walks about in a garb which then indeed is another’s. Conscious of a now undoubted womanhood, they have the audacity to draw near to God with head bare. But the “jealous God and Lord,” who has said, “Nothing covered which shall not be revealed,”4 brings such in general before the public gaze; for confess they will not, unless betrayed by the cries of their infants themselves. But, in so far as they are “more numerous,” will you not just have them suspected of the more crimes? I will say (albeit I would rather not) it is a difficult thing for one to turn woman once for all who fears to do so, and who, when already so turned (in secret), has the power of (still) falsely pretending to be a virgin under the eye of God. What audacities, again, will (such an one) venture on with regard to her womb, for fear of being detected in being a mother as well! God knows how many infants He has helped to perfection and through gestation till they were born sound and whole, after being long fought against by their mothers! Such virgins ever conceive with the readiest facility, and have the happiest deliveries, and children indeed most like to their fathers!

These crimes does a forced and unwilling virginity incur. The very concupiscence of non-concealment is not modest: it experiences somewhat which is no mark of a virgin,—the study of pleasing, of course, ay, and (of pleasing) men. Let her strive as much as you please with an honest mind; she must necessarily be imperilled by the public exhibition5 of herself, while she is penetrated by the gaze of untrustworthy eyes, while she is tickled by pointing fingers, while she is too well loved, while she feels a warmth creep over her amid assiduous embraces and kisses. Thus the forehead hardens; thus the sense of shame wears away; thus it relaxes; thus is learned the desire of pleasing in another way!


Nay, but true and absolute and pure virginity fears nothing more than itself. Even female eyes it shrinks from encountering. Other eyes itself has. It betakes itself for refuge to the veil of the head as to a helmet, as to a shield, to protect its glory against the blows of temptations, against the darts of scandals, against suspicions and whispers and emulation; (against) envy also itself. For there is a something even among the heathens to be apprehended, which they call Fascination, the too unhappy result of excessive praise and glory. This we sometimes interpretatively ascribe to the devil, for of him comes hatred of good; sometimes we attribute it to God, for of Him comes judgment upon haughtiness, exalting, as He does, the humble, and depressing the elated.6 The more holy virgin, accordingly, will fear, even under the name of fascination, on the one hand the adversary, on the other God,—the envious disposition of the former, the censorial light of the latter; and will joy in being known to herself alone and to God. But even if she has been recognized by any other, she is wise to have blocked up the pathway against temptations. For who will have the audacity to intrude with his eyes upon a shrouded face? a face without feeling? a face, so to say, morose? Any evil cogitation whatsoever will be broken by the very severity. She who conceals her virginity, by that fact denies even her womanhood.


Herein consists the defence of our opinion, in accordance with Scripture, in accordance with Nature, in accordance with Discipline. Scripture founds the law; Nature joins to attest it; Discipline exacts it. Which of these (three) does a custom founded on (mere) opinion appear in behalf of? or what is the colour of the opposite view? God’s is Scripture; God’s is Nature; God’s is Discipline. Whatever is contrary to these is not God’s. If Scripture is uncertain, Nature is manifest; and concerning Nature’s testimony Scripture cannot be uncertain.7 If there is a doubt about Nature, Discipline points out what is more sanctioned by God. For nothing Edition: current; Page: [37] is to Him dearer than humility; nothing more acceptable than modesty; nothing more offensive than “glory” and the study of menpleasing. Let that, accordingly, be to you Scripture, and Nature, and Discipline, which you shall find to have been sanctioned by God; just as you are biddeu to “examine all things, and diligently follow whatever is better.”1

It remains likewise that we turn to (the virgins) themselves, to induce them to accept these (suggestions) the more willingly. I pray you, be you mother, or sister, or virgin-daughter—let me address you according to the names proper to your years—veil your head: if a mother, for your sons’ sakes; if a sister, for your brethren’s sakes; if a daughter for your fathers’ sakes. All ages are perilled in your person. Put on the panoply of modesty; surround yourself with the stockade of bashfulness; rear a rampart for your sex, which must neither allow your own eyes egress nor ingress to other people’s. Wear the full garb of woman, to preserve the standing of virgin. Belie somewhat of your inward consciousness, in order to exhibit the truth to God alone. And yet you do not belie yourself in appearing as a bride. For wedded you are to Christ: to Him you have surrendered your flesh; to Him you have espoused your maturity. Walk in accordance with the will of your Espoused. Christ is He who bids the espoused and wives of others veil themselves;2 (and,) of course, much more His own.


But we admonish you, too, women of the second (degree of) modesty, who have fallen into wedlock, not to outgrow so far the discipline of the veil, not even in a moment of an hour, as, because you cannot refuse it, to take some other means to nullify it, by going neither covered nor bare. For some, with their turbans and woollen bands, do not veil their head, but bind it up; protected, indeed, in front, but, where the head properly lies, bare. Others are to a certain extent covered over the region of the brain with linen coifs of small dimensions—I suppose for fear of pressing the head—and not reaching quite to the ears. If they are so weak in their hearing as not to be able to hear through a covering, I pity them. Let them know that the whole head constitutes “the woman.3 Its limits and boundaries reach as far as the place where the robe begins. The region of the veil is co-extensive with the space covered by the hair when unbound; in order that the necks too may be encircled. For it is they which must be subjected, for the sake of which “power” ought to be “had on the head:” the veil is their yoke. Arabia’s heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also, so entirely, that they are content, with one eye free, to enjoy rather half the light than to prostitute the entire face. A female would rather see than be seen. And for this reason a certain Roman queen said that they were most unhappy, in that they could more easily fall in love than be fallen in love with; whereas thay are rather happy in their immunity from that second (and indeed more frequent) infelicity, that females are more apt to be fallen in love with than to fall in love. And the modesty of heathen discipline, indeed, is more simple, and, so to say, more barbaric. To us the Lord has, even by revelations, measured the space for the veil to extend over. For a certain sister of ours was thus addressed by an angel, beating her neck, as if in applause: “Elegant neck, and deservedly bare! it is well for thee to unveil thyself from the head right down to the loins, lest withal this freedom of thy neck profit thee not!” And, of course, what you have said to one you have said to all. But how severe a chastisement will they likewise deserve, who, amid (the recital of) the Psalms, and at any mention of (the name of) God, continue uncovered; (who) even when about to spend time in prayer itself, with the utmost readiness place a fringe, or a tuft, or any thread whatever, on the crown of their heads, and suppose themselves to be covered? Of so small extent do they falsely imagine their head to be! Others, who think the palm of their hand plainly greater than any fringe or thread, misuse their head no less; like a certain (creature), more beast than bird, albeit winged, with small head, long legs, and moreover of erect carriage. She, they say, when she has to hide, thrusts away into a thicket her head alone—plainly the whole of it, (though)—leaving all the rest of herself exposed. Thus, while she is secure in head, (but) bare in her larger parts, she is taken wholly, head and all. Such will be their plight withal, covered as they are less than is useful.

It is incumbent, then, at all times and in every place, to walk mindful of the law, prepared and equipped in readiness to meet every mention of God; who, if He be in the heart, will be recognised as well in the head of females. To such as read these (exhortations) with good will, to such as prefer Utility to Custom, may peace and grace from our Lord Jesus Christ redound: as likewise to Septimius Tertullianus, whose this tractate is.

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(Vicar of the Lord, p. 27.)

The recurrence of this emphatic expression in our author is worthy of special note. He knew of no other “Vicar of Christ” than the promised Paraclete, who should bring all Christ’s words to remembrance, and be “another Comforter.” Let me quote from Dr. Scott1 a very striking passage in illustration: “The Holy Ghost, after Christ’s departure from the world, acted immediately under Christ as the supreme vicegerent of his kingdom; for next, and immediately under Christ, He authorized the bishops and governors of the Church, and constituted them overseers of the flock (Acts xx. 28). It was He that chose their persons, and appointed their work, and gave them their several orders and directions: in all which, it is evident that He acted under Christ as His supreme substitute. Accordingly, by Tertullian he is styled ‘the Vicarious Virtue, or Power,’ as He was the Supreme Vicar and substitute of Christ in mediating for God with men.”


(She shall be called woman, p. 31.)

The Vulgate reads, preserving something of the original epigrammatic force, “Vocabitur Vir-ago, quoniam de Vir-o sumpta est.” The late revised English gives us, in the margin, Isshah and Ish, which marks the play upon words in the Hebrew,—“She shall be called Isshah because she was taken out of Ish.” This Epithalamium is the earliest poem, and Adam was the first poet.

As to the argument of our author, it is quite enough to say, that, whatever we may think of his refinements upon St. Paul, he sticks to the inspired text, and enforces God’s Law in the Gospel. Let us reflect, moreover, upon the awful immodesty of heathen manners (see Martial, passim), and the necessity of enforcing a radical reform. All that adorns the sex among Christians has sprung out of these severe and caustic criticisms of the Gentile world and its customs. And let us reflect that there is a growing licence in our age, which makes it important to revert to first principles, and to renew the apostolic injunctions, if not as Tertullian did, still as best we may, in our own times and ways.


(These crimes, p. 36.)

The iniquity here pointed at has become of frightful magnitude in the United States of America. We shall hear of it again when we come to Hippolytus.2 May the American editor be pardoned for referring to his own commonitory to his countrywomen on this awful form of murder, in Moral Reforms,3 a little book upon practical subjects, addressed to his own diocese.

Hippolytus speaks of the crime which had shocked Tertullian as assuming terrible proportions at Rome in the time of Callistus4 and under his patronage, circa ad 220. But in this case it was not so much the novelty of the evil which attracted the rebuke of the Christian moralist, but the fact that it was licensed by a bishop.

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I have thought it meet, my best beloved fellow-servant in the Lord, even from this early period,2 to provide for the course which you must pursue after my departure from the world,3 if I shall be called before you; (and) to entrust to your honour4 the observance of the provision. For in things worldly5 we are active enough, and we wish the good of each of us to be consulted. If we draw up wills for such matters, why ought we not much more to take forethought for our posterity6 in things divine and heavenly, and in a sense to bequeath a legacy to be received before the inheritance be divided,—(the legacy, I mean, of) admonition and demonstration touching those (bequests) which are allotted7 out of (our) immortal goods, and from the heritage of the heavens? Only, that you may be able to receive in its entirety8 this feoffment in trust9 of my admonition, may God grant; to whom be honour, glory, renown, dignity, and power, now and to the ages of the ages!

The precept, therefore, which I give you is, that, with all the constancy you may, you do, after our departure, renounce nuptials; not that you will on that score confer any benefit on me, except in that you will profit yourself. But to Christians, after their departure from the world,10 no restoration of marriage is promised in the day of the resurrection, translated as they will be into the condition and sanctity of angels.11 Therefore no solicitude arising from carnal jealousy will, in the day of the resurrection, even in the case of her whom they chose to represent as having been married to seven brothers successively, wound any one12 of her so many husbands; nor is any (husband) awaiting her to put her to confusion.13 The question raised by the Sadducees has yielded to the Lord’s sentence. Think not that it is for the sake of preserving to the end for myself the entire devotion of your flesh, that I, suspicious of the pain of (anticipated) slight, am even at this early period14 instilling into you the counsel of (perpetual) widowhood. There will at that day be no resumption of voluptuous disgrace between us. No such frivolities, no such impurities, does God promise to His (servants). But whether to you, or to any other woman whatever who pertains to God, the advice which we are giving shall be profitable, we take leave to treat of at large.


We do not indeed forbid the union of man and woman, blest by God as the seminary of the human race, and devised for the replenishment of the earth15 and the furnishing of the world,16 and therefore permitted, yet singly. For Adam was the one husband of Eve, and Eve his one wife, one woman, one rib.17 We grant18 that Edition: current; Page: [40] among our ancestors, and the patriarchs themselves, it was lawful1 not only to marry, but even to multiply wives.2 There were concubines, too, (in those days.) But although the Church did come in figuratively in the synagogue, yet (to interpret simply) it was necessary to institute (certain things) which should afterward deserve to be either lopped off or modified. For the Law was (in due time) to supervene. (Nor was that enough:) for it was meet that causes for making up the deficiencies of the Law should have forerun (Him who was to supply those deficiencies). And so to the Law presently had to succeed the Word3 of God introducing the spiritual circumcision.4 Therefore, by means of the wide licence of those days, materials for subsequent emendations were furnished before-hand, of which materials the Lord by His Gospel, and then the apostle in the last days of the (Jewish) age,5 either cut off the redundancies or regulated the disorders.


But let it not be thought that my reason for premising thus much concerning the liberty granted to the old, and the restraint imposed on the later time, is that I may lay a foundation for teaching that Christ’s advent was intended to dissolve wedlock, (and) to abolish marriage unions; as if from this period onward.6 I were prescribing an end to marrying. Let them see to that, who, among the rest of their perversities, teach the disjoining of the “one flesh in twain;”7 denying Him who, after borrowing the female from the male, re-combined between themselves, in the matrimonial computation, the two bodies taken out of the consortship of the self-same material substance. In short, there is no place at all where we read that nuptials are prohibited; of course on the ground that they are “a good thing.” What, however, is better than this “good,” we learn from the apostle, who permits marrying indeed, but prefers abstinence; the former on account of the insidiousnesses of temptations, the latter on account of the straits of the times.8 Now, by looking into the reason thus given for each proposition, it is easily discerned that the ground on which the power of marrying is conceded is necessity; but whatever necessity grants, she by her very nature depreciates. In fact, in that it is written, “To marry is better than to burn,” what, pray, is the nature of this “good” which is (only) commended by comparison with “evil,” so that the reason why “marrying” is more good is (merely) that “burning” is less? Nay, but how far better is it neither to marry nor to burn? Why, even in persecutions it is better to take advantage of the permission granted, and “flee from town to town,”9 than, when apprehended and racked, to deny (the faith).10 And therefore more blessed are they who have strength to depart (this life) in blessed confession of their testimony.11 I may say, What is permitted is not good. For how stands the case? I must of necessity die (if I be apprehended and confess my faith.) If I think (that fate) deplorable, (then flight) is good; but if I have a fear of the thing which is permitted, (the permitted thing) has some suspicion attaching to the cause of its permission. But that which is “better” no one (ever) “permitted,” as being undoubted, and manifest by its own inherent purity. There are some things which are not to be desired merely because they are not forbidden, albeit they are in a certain sense forbidden when other things are preferred to them; for the preference given to the higher things is a dissuasion from the lowest. A thing is not “good” merely because it is not “evil,” nor is it “evil” merely because it is not “harmful.”12 Further: that which is fully “good” excels on this ground, that it is not only not harmful, but profitable into the bargain. For you are bound to prefer what is profitable to what is (merely) not harmful. For the first place is what every struggle aims at; the second has consolation attaching to it, but not victory. But if we listen to the apostle, forgetting what is behind, let us both strain after what is before,13 and be followers after the better rewards. Thus, albeit he does not “cast a snare14 upon us,” he points out what tends to utility when he says, “The unmarried woman thinks on the things of the Lord, that both in body and spirit she may be holy; but the married is solicitous how to please her husband.”15 But he nowhere permits marriage in such a way as not rather to wish us to do our utmost in imitation of his own example. Happy the man who shall prove like Paul!

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But we read “that the flesh is weak;”1 and hence we soothe2 ourselves in some cases. Yet we read, too, that “the spirit is strong;”3 for each clause occurs in one and the same sentence. Flesh is an earthly, spirit a heavenly, material. Why, then, do we, too prone to self-excuse, put forward (in our defence) the weak part of us, but not look at4 the strong? Why should not the earthly yield to the heavenly? If the spirit is stronger than the flesh, because it is withal of nobler origin, it is our own fault if we follow the weaker. Now there are two phases5 of human weakness which make marriages6 necessary to such as are disjoined from matrimony. The first and most powerful is that which arises from fleshly concupiscence; the second, from worldly concupiscence. But by us, who are servants of God, who renounce both voluptuousness and ambition, each is to be repudiated. Fleshly concupiscence claims the functions of adult age, craves after beauty’s harvest, rejoices in its own shame, pleads the necessity of a husband to the female sex, as a source of authority and of comfort, or to render it safe from evil rumours. To meet these its counsels, do you apply the examples of sisters of ours whose names are with the Lord,7—who, when their husbands have preceded them (to glory), give to no opportunity of beauty or of age the precedence over holiness. They prefer to be wedded to God. To God their beauty, to God their youth (is dedicated). With Him they live; with Him they converse; Him they “handle”8 by day and by night; to the Lord they assign their prayers as dowries, from Him, as oft as they desire it, they receive His approbation9 as dotal gifts. Thus they have laid hold for themselves of an eternal gift of the Lord; and while on earth, by abstaining from marriage, are already counted as belonging to the angelic family. Training yourself to an emulation of (their) constancy by the examples of such women, you will by spiritual affection bury that fleshly concupiscence, in abolishing the temporal10 and fleeting desires of beauty and youth by the compensating gain of immortal blessings.

On the other hand, this worldly concupiscence (to which I referred) has, as its causes, glory, cupidity, ambition, want of sufficiency; through which causes it trumps up the “necessity” for marrying,—promising itself, forsooth, heavenly things in return—to lord it, (namely,) in another’s family; to roost11 on another’s wealth; to extort splendour from another’s store; to lavish expenditure12 which you do not feel! Far be all this from believers, who have no care about maintenance, unless it be that we distrust the promises of God, and (His) care and providence, who clothes with such grace the lilies of the field;13 who, without any labour on their part, feeds the fowls of the heaven,14 who prohibits care to be taken about to-morrow’s food and clothing,15 promising that He knows what is needful for each of His servants—not indeed ponderous necklaces, not burdensome garments, not Gallic mules nor German bearers, which all add lustre to the glory of nuptials; but “sufficiency,”16 which is suitable to moderation and modesty. Presume, I pray you, that you have need of nothing if you “attend upon the Lord;”17 nay, that you have all things, if you have the Lord, whose are all things. Think often18 on things heavenly, and you will despise things earthly. To widowhood signed and sealed before the Lord nought is necessary but perseverance.


Further reasons for marriage which men allege for themselves arise from anxiety for posterity, and the bitter, bitter pleasure of children. To us this is idle. For why should we be eager to bear children, whom, when we have them, we desire to send before us (to glory)19 (in respect, I mean, of the distresses that are now imminent); desirous as we are ourselves, too, to be taken out of this most wicked world,20 and received into the Lord’s presence, which was the desire even of an apostle?21 To the servant of God, forsooth, offspring is necessary! For of our own salvation we are secure enough, so that we have leisure for children! Burdens must be sought by us for ourselves which are avoided even by the majority of the Gentiles, who are compelled by laws,22 who are decimated23 by Edition: current; Page: [42] abortions;1 burdens which, finally, are to us most of all unsuitable, as being perilous to faith! For why did the Lord foretell a “woe to them that are with child, and them that give suck,”2 except because He testifies that in that day of disencumbrance the encumbrances of children will be an inconvenience? It is to marriage, of course, that those encumbrances appertain; but that (“woe”) will not pertain to widows. (They) at the first trump of the angel will spring forth disencumbered—will freely bear to the end whatsoever pressure and persecution, with no burdensome fruit of marriage heaving in the womb, none in the bosom.

Therefore, whether it be for the sake of the flesh, or of the world,3 or of posterity, that marriage is undertaken, nothing of all these “necessities” affects the servants of God, so as to prevent my deeming it enough to have once for all yielded to some one of them, and by one marriage appeased4 all concupiscence of this kind. Let us marry daily, and in the midst of our marrying let us be overtaken, like Sodom and Gomorrah, by that day of fear!5 For there it was not only, of course, that they were dealing in marriage and merchandise; but when He says, “They were marrying and buying,” He sets a brand6 upon the very leading vices of the flesh and of the world,7 which call men off the most from divine disciplines—the one through the pleasure of rioting, the other though the greed of acquiring. And yet that “blindness” then was felt long before “the ends of the world.”8 What, then, will the case be if God now keep us from the vices which of old were detestable before Him? “The time,” says (the apostle), “is compressed.9 It remaineth that they who have wives10 act as if they had them not.”


But if they who have (wives) are (thus) bound to consign to oblivion what they have, how much more are they who have not, prohibited from seeking a second time what they no longer have; so that she whose husband has departed from the world should thenceforward impose rest on her sex by abstinence from marriage—abstinence which numbers of Gentile women devote to the memory of beloved husbands! When anything seems difficult, let us survey others who cope with still greater difficulties. How many are there who from the moment of their baptism set the seal (of virginity) upon their flesh? How many, again, who by equal mutual consent cancel the debt of matrimony—voluntary eunuchs11 for the sake of their desire after the celestial kingdom! But if, while the marriage-tie is still intact, abstinence is endured, how much more when it has been undone! For I believe it to be harder for what is intact to be quite forsaken, than for what has been lost not to be yearned after. A hard and arduous thing enough, surely, is the continence for God’s sake of a holy woman after her husband’s decease, when Gentiles,12 in honour of their own Satan, endure sacerdotal offices which involve both virginity and widowhood!13 At Rome, for instance, they who have to do with the type of that “inextinguishable fire,”14 keeping watch over the omens of their own (future) penalty, in company with the (old) dragon15 himself, are appointed on the ground of virginity. To the Achæan Juno, at the town Ægium, a virgin is allotted; and the (priestesses) who rave at Delphi know not marriage. Moreover, we know that widows minister to the African Ceres; enticed away, indeed, from matrimony by a most stern oblivion: for not only do they withdraw from their still living husbands, but they even introduce other wives to them in their own room—the husbands, of course, smiling on it—all contact (with males), even as far as the kiss of their sons, being forbidden them; and yet, with enduring practice, they persevere in such a discipline of widowhood, which excludes the solace even of holy affection.16 These precepts has the devil given to his servants, and he is heard! He challenges, forsooth, God’s servants, by the continence of his own, as if on equal terms! Continent are even the priests of hell!17 For he has found a way to ruin men even in good pursuits; and with him it makes no difference to slay some by voluptuousness, some by continence.


To us continence has been pointed out by the Lord of salvation as an instrument for attaining Edition: current; Page: [43] eternity,1 and as a testimony of (our) faith; as a commendation of this flesh of ours, which is to be sustained for the “garment of immortality,”2 which is one day to supervene; for enduring, in fine, the will of God. Besides, reflect, I advise you, that there is no one who is taken out of the world3 but by the will of God, if, (as is the case,) not even a leaf falls from off a tree without it. The same who brings us into the world,4 must of necessity take us out of it too. Therefore when, through the will of God, the husband is deceased, the marriage likewise, by the will of God, deceases. Why should you restore what God has put an end to? Why do you, by repeating the servitude of matrimony, spurn the liberty which is offered you? “You have been bound to a wife,”5 says the apostle; “seek not loosing. You have been loosed from a wife;5 seek not binding.” For even if you do not “sin” in re-marrying, still he says “pressure of the flesh ensues.”6 Wherefore, so far as we can, let us love the opportunity of continence; as soon as it offers itself, let us resolve to accept it, that what we have not had strength7 (to follow) in matrimony we may follow in widowhood. The occasion must be embraced which puts an end to that which necessity8 commanded. How detrimental to faith, how obstructive to holiness, second marriages are, the discipline of the Church and the prescription of the apostle declare, when he suffers not men twice married to preside (over a Church9), when he would not grant a widow admittance into the order unless she had been “the wife of one man;”10 for it behoves God’s altar11 to be set forth pure. That whole halo12 which encircles the Church is represented (as consisting) of holiness. Priesthood is (a function) of widowhood and of celibacies among the nations. Of course (this is) in conformity with the devil’s principle of rivalry. For the king of heathendom,13 the chief pontiff,14 to marry a second time is unlawful. How pleasing must holiness be to God, when even His enemy affects it!—not, of course, as having any affinity with anything good, but as contumeliously affecting what is pleasing to15 God the Lord.


For, concerning the honours which widowhood enjoys in the sight of God, there is a brief summary in one saying of His through the prophet: “Do thou16 justly to the widow and to the orphan; and come ye,16 let us reason, saith the Lord.” These two names, left to the care of the divine mercy, in proportion as they are destitute of human aid, the Father of all undertakes to defend. Look how the widow’s benefactor is put on a level with the widow herself, whose champion shall “reason with the Lord!” Not to virgins, I take it, is so great a gift given. Although in their case perfect integrity and entire sanctity shall have the nearest vision of the face of God, yet the widow has a task more toilsome, because it is easy not to crave after that which you know not, and to turn away from what you have never had to regret.17 More glorious is the continence which is aware of its own right, which knows what it has seen. The virgin may possibly be held the happier, but the widow the more hardly tasked; the former in that she has always kept “the good,”18 the latter in that she has found “the good for herself.” In the former it is grace, in the latter virtue, that is crowned. For some things there are which are of the divine liberality, some of our own working. The indulgences granted by the Lord are regulated by their own grace; the things which are objects of man’s striving are attained by earnest pursuit. Pursue earnestly, therefore, the virtue of continence, which is modesty’s agent; industry, which allows not women to be “wanderers;”19 frugality, which scorns the world.20 Follow companies and conversations worthy of God, mindful of that short verse, sanctified by the apostle’s quotation of it, “Ill interviews good morals do corrupt.”21 Talkative, idle, winebibbing, curious tent-fellows,22 do the very greatest hurt to the purpose of widowhood. Through talkativeness there creep in words unfriendly to modesty; through idleness they seduce one from strictness; through winebibbing they insinuate any and every evil; through curiosity they convey a spirit of rivalry in lust. Not one of such women knows how to speak of the good of single-husbandhood; for their “god,” as the apostle says, “is their belly;”23 and so, too, what is neighbour to the belly.

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These considerations, dearest fellow-servant, I commend to you thus early,1 handled throughout superfluously indeed, after the apostle, but likely to prove a solace to you, in that (if so it shall turn out2) you will cherish my memory in them.



Very lately, best beloved fellow-servant in the Lord, I, as my ability permitted, entered for your benefit at some length into the question what course is to be followed by a holy woman when her marriage has (in whatever way) been brought to an end. Let us now turn our attention to the next best advice, in regard of human infirmity; admonished hereto by the examples of certain, who, when an opportunity for the practice of continence has been offered them, by divorce, or by the decease of the husband, have not only thrown away the opportunity of attaining so great a good, but not even in their remarriage have chosen to be mindful of the rule that “above all1 they marry in the Lord.” And thus my mind has been thrown into confusion, in the fear that, having exhorted you myself to perseverance in single husbandhood and widowhood, I may now, by the mention of precipitate2 marriages, put “an occasion of falling”3 in your way. But if you are perfect in wisdom, you know, of course, that the course which is the more useful is the course which you must keep. But, inasmuch as that course is difficult, and not without its embarrassments,4 and on this account is the highest aim of (widowed) life, I have paused somewhat (in my urging you to it); nor would there have been any causes for my recurring to that point also in addressing you, had I not by this time taken up a still graver solicitude. For the nobler is the continence of the flesh which ministers to widowhood, the more pardonable a thing it seems if it be not persevered in. For it is then when things are difficult that their pardon is easy. But in as far as marrying “in the Lord” is permissible, as being within our power, so far more culpable is it not to observe that which you can observe. Add to this the fact that the apostle, with regard to widows and the unmarried, advises them to remain permanently in that state, when he says, “But I desire all to persevere in (imitation of) my example:”5 but touching marrying “in the Lord,” he no longer advises, but plainly6 bids.7 Therefore in this case especially, if we do not obey, we run a risk, because one may with more impunity neglect an “advice” than an “order;” in that the former springs from counsel, and is proposed to the will (for acceptance or rejection): the other descends from authority, and is bound to necessity. In the former case, to disregard appears liberty, in the latter, contumacy.


Therefore, when in these days a certain woman removed her marriage from the pale of the Church, and united herself to a Gentile, and when I remembered that this had in days gone by been done by others: wondering at either their own waywardness or else the double-dealing8 of their advisers, in that there is no scripture which holds forth a licence of this deed,—“I wonder,” said I, “whether they flatter themselves on the ground of that passage of the first (Epistle) to the Corinthians, where it is written: ‘If any of the brethren has an unbelieving wife, and she consents to the matrimony, let him not dismiss her; similarly, let not a believing woman, married to an unbeliever, if she finds her husband agreeable (to their continued union), dismiss him: for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband; else were your children unclean.’ ”9 It may be that, by understanding generally this monition regarding married believers, they think that licence is granted (thereby) to marry even unbelievers. God forbid that he who thus interprets (the passage) be wittingly ensnaring himself! But it is manifest that this scripture points to those believers who may have Edition: current; Page: [45] been found by the grace of God in (the state of) Gentile matrimony; according to the words themselves: “If,” it says, “any believer has an unbelieving wife;” it does not say, “takes an unbelieving wife.” It shows that it is the duty of one who, already living in marriage with an unbelieving woman,1 has presently been by the grace of God converted, to continue with his wife; for this reason, to be sure, in order that no one, after attaining to faith, should think that he must turn away from a woman2 who is now in some sense an “alien” and “stranger.”3 Accordingly he subjoins withal a reason, that “we are called in peace unto the Lord God;” and that “the unbeliever may, through the use of matrimony, be gained by the believer.”4 The very closing sentence of the period confirms (the supposition) that this is thus to be understood. “As each,” it says, “is called by the Lord, so let him persevere.”5 But it is Gentiles who “are called,” I take it, not believers. But if he had been pronouncing absolutely, (in the words under discussion,) touching the marriage of believers merely, (then) had he (virtually) given to saints a permission to marry promiscuously. If, however, he had given such a permission, he would never have subjoined a declaration so diverse from and contrary to his own permission, saying: “The woman, when her husband is dead, is free: let her marry whom she wishes, only in the Lord.6 Here, at all events, there is no need for reconsidering; for what there might have been reconsideration about, the Spirit has oracularly declared. For fear we should make an ill use of what he says, “Let her marry whom she wishes,” he has added, “only in the Lord,” that is, in the name of the Lord, which is, undoubtedly, “to a Christian.” That “Holy Spirit,”7 therefore, who prefers that widows and unmarried women should persevere in their integrity, who exhorts us to a copy8 of himself, prescribes no other manner of repeating marriage except “in the Lord:” to this condition alone does he concede the foregoing9 of continence. “Only,” he says, “in the Lord:” he has added to his law a weight—“only.” Utter that word with what tone and manner you may, it is weighty: it both bids and advises; both enjoins and exhorts; both asks and threatens. It is a concise,10 brief sentence; and by its own very brevity, eloquent. Thus is the divine voice wont (to speak), that you may instantly understand, instantly observe. For who but could understand that the apostle foresaw many dangers and wounds to faith in marriages of this kind, which he prohibits? and that he took precaution, in the first place, against the defilement of holy flesh in Gentile flesh? At this point some one says, “What, then, is the difference between him who is chosen by the Lord to Himself in (the state of) Gentile marriage, and him who was of old (that is, before marriage) a believer, that they should not be equally cautious for their flesh?—whereas the one is kept from marriage with an unbeliever, the other bidden to continue in it. Why, if we are defiled by a Gentile, is not the one disjoined, just as the other is not bound?” I will answer, if the Spirit give (me ability); alleging, before all (other arguments), that the Lord holds it more pleasing that matrimony should not be contracted, than that it should at all be dissolved: in short, divorce He prohibits, except for the cause of fornication; but continence He commends. Let the one, therefore, have the necessity of continuing; the other, further, even the power of not marrying. Secondly, if, according to the Scripture, they who shall be “apprehended”11 by the faith in (the state of) Gentile marriage are not defiled (thereby) for this reason, that, together with themselves, others12 also are sanctified: without doubt, they who have been sanctified before marriage, if they commingle themselves with “strange flesh,”13 cannot sanctify that (flesh) in (union with) which they were not “apprehended.” The grace of God, moreover, sanctifies that which it finds. Thus, what has not been able to be sanctified is unclean; what is unclean has no part with the holy, unless to defile and slay it by its own (nature).


If these things are so, it is certain that believers contracting marriages with Gentiles are guilty of fornication,14 and are to be excluded from all communication with the brotherhood, in accordance with the letter of the apostle, who says that “with persons of that kind there is to be no taking of food even.”15 Or shall we “in that day”16 produce (our) marriage certificates before the Lord’s tribunal, and allege that a marriage such as He Himself has forbidden has been duly contracted? What is prohibited (in the passage Edition: current; Page: [46] just referred to) is not “adultery;” it is not “fornication.” The admission of a strange man (to your couch) less violates “the temple of God,”1 less commingles “the members of Christ” with the members of an adulteress.2 So far as I know, “we are not our own, but bought with a price;”3 and what kind of price? The blood of God.4 In hurting this flesh of ours, therefore, we hurt Him directly.5 What did that man mean who said that “to wed a ‘stranger’ was indeed a sin, but a very small one?” whereas in other cases (setting aside the injury done to the flesh which pertains to the Lord) every voluntary sin against the Lord is great. For, in as far as there was a power of avoiding it, in so far is it burdened with the charge of contumacy.

Let us now recount the other dangers or wounds (as I have said) to faith, foreseen by the apostle; most grievous not to the flesh merely, but likewise to the spirit too. For who would doubt that faith undergoes a daily process of obliteration by unbelieving intercourse? “Evil confabulations corrupt good morals;”6 how much more fellowship of life, and indivisible intimacy! Any and every believing woman must of necessity obey God. And how can she serve two lords7—the Lord, and her husband—a Gentile to boot? For in obeying a Gentile she will carry out Gentile practices,—personal attractiveness, dressing of the head, worldly8 elegancies, baser blandishments, the very secrets even of matrimony tainted: not, as among the saints, where the duties of the sex are discharged with honour (shown) to the very necessity (which makes them incumbent), with modesty and temperance, as beneath the eyes of God.


But let her see to (the question) how she discharges her duties to her husband. To the Lord, at all events, she is unable to give satisfaction according to the requirements of discipline; having at her side a servant of the devil, his lord’s agent for hindering the pursuits and duties of believers: so that if a station9 is to be kept, the husband at daybreak makes an appointment with his wife to meet him at the baths; if there are fasts to be observed, the husband that same day holds a convivial banquet; if a charitable expedition has to be made, never is family business more urgent. For who would suffer his wife, for the sake of visiting the brethren, to go round from street to street to other men’s, and indeed to all the poorer, cottages? Who will willingly bear her being taken from his side by nocturnal convocations, if need so be? Who, finally, will without anxiety endure her absence all the night long at the paschal solemnities? Who will, without some suspicion of his own, dismiss her to attend that Lord’s Supper which they defame? Who will suffer her to creep into prison to kiss a martyr’s bonds? nay, truly, to meet any one of the brethren to exchange the kiss? to offer water for the saints’ feet?10 to snatch (somewhat for them) from her food, from her cup? to yearn (after them)? to have (them) in her mind? If a pilgrim brother arrive, what hospitality for him in an alien home? If bounty is to be distributed to any, the granaries, the storehouses, are foreclosed.


“But some husband does endure our (practices), and not annoy us.” Here, therefore, there is a sin; in that Gentiles know our (practices); in that we are subject to the privity of the unjust; in that it is thanks to them that we do any (good) work. He who “endures” (a thing) cannot be ignorant of it; or else, if he is kept in ignorance because he does not endure (it), he is feared. But since Scripture commands each of two things—namely, that we work for the Lord without the privity of any second person,11 and without pressure upon ourselves, it matters not in which quarter you sin; whether in regard to your husband’s privity, if he be tolerant, or else in regard of your own affliction in avoiding his intolerance. “Cast not,” saith He, “your pearls to swine, lest they trample them to pieces, and turn round and overturn you also.”12 “Your pearls” are the distinctive marks13 of even your daily conversation. The more care you take to conceal them, the more liable to suspicion you will make them, and the more exposed to the grasp of Gentile curiosity. Shall you escape notice when you sign your bed, (or) your body; when you blow away some impurity;14 when even by night you rise to pray? Will you not be thought to be engaged in some work of magic? Will not your husband know what it is which you secretly Edition: current; Page: [47] taste before (taking) any food? and if he knows it to be bread, does he not believe it to be that (bread) which it is said to be? And will every (husband), ignorant of the reason of these things, simply endure them, without murmuring, without suspicion whether it be bread or poison? Some, (it is true,) do endure (them); but it is that they may trample on, that they may make sport of such women; whose secrets they keep in reserve against the danger which they believe in, in case they ever chance to be hurt: they do endure (wives), whose dowries, by casting in their teeth their (Christian) name, they make the wages of silence; while they threaten them, forsooth, with a suit before some spy1 as arbitrator! which most women, not foreseeing, have been wont to discover either by the extortion of their property, or else by the loss of their faith.


The handmaid of God2 dwells amid alien labours; and among these (labours), on all the memorial days3 of demons, at all solemnities of kings, at the beginning of the year, at the beginning of the month, she will be agitated by the odour of incense. And she will have to go forth (from her house) by a gate wreathed with laurel, and hung with lanterns, as from some new consistory of public lusts; she will have to sit with her husband ofttimes in club meetings, ofttimes in taverns; and, wont as she was formerly to minister to the “saints,” will sometimes have to minister to the “unjust.”4 And will she not hence recognise a prejudgment of her own damnation, in that she tends them whom (formerly) she was expecting to judge?5 whose hand will she yearn after? of whose cup will she partake? What will her husband sing6 to her, or she to her husband? From the tavern, I suppose, she who sups upon God7 will hear somewhat! From hell what mention of God (arises)? what invocation of Christ? Where are the fosterings of faith by the interspersion of the Scriptures (in conversation)? Where the Spirit? where refreshment? where the divine benediction? All things are strange, all inimical, all condemned; aimed by the Evil One for the attrition of salvation!


If these things may happen to those women also who, having attained the faith while in (the state of) Gentile matrimony, continue in that state, still they are excused, as having been “apprehended by God”8 in these very circumstances; and they are bidden to persevere in their married state, and are sanctified, and have hope of “making a gain”9 held out to them. “If, then, a marriage of this kind (contracted before conversion) stands ratified before God, why should not (one contracted after conversion) too go prosperously forward, so as not to be thus harassed by pressures, and straits, and hindrances, and defilements, having already (as it has) the partial sanction of divine grace?” Because, on the one hand, the wife10 in the former case, called from among the Gentiles to the exercise of some eminent heavenly virtue, is, by the visible proofs of some marked (divine) regard, a terror to her Gentile husband, so as to make him less ready to annoy her, less active in laying snares for her, less diligent in playing the spy over her. He has felt “mighty works;”11 he has seen experimental evidences; he knows her changed for the better: thus even he himself is, by his fear,12 a candidate for God.13 Thus men of this kind, with regard to whom the grace of God has established a familiar intimacy, are more easily “gained.” But, on the other hand, to descend into forbidden ground unsolicited and spontaneously, is (quite) another thing. Things which are not pleasing to the Lord, of course offend the Lord, are of course introduced by the Evil One. A sign hereof is this fact, that it is wooers only who find the Christian name pleasing; and, accordingly, some heathen men are found not to shrink in horror from Christian women, just in order to exterminate them, to wrest them away, to exclude them from the faith. So long as marriage of this kind is procured by the Evil One, but condemned by God, you have a reason why you need not doubt that it can in no case be carried to a prosperous end.


Let us further inquire, as if we were in very deed inquisitors of divine sentences, whether Edition: current; Page: [48] they be lawfully (thus condemned). Even among the nations, do not all the strictest lords and most tenacious of discipline interdict their own slaves from marrying out of their own house?—in order, of course, that they may not run into lascivious excess, desert their duties, purvey their lords’ goods to strangers. Yet, further, have not (the nations) decided that such women as have, after their lords’1 formal warning, persisted in intercourse with other men’s slaves, may be claimed as slaves? Shall earthly disciplines be held more strict than heavenly prescripts; so that Gentile women, if united to strangers, lose their liberty; ours conjoin to themselves the devil’s slaves, and continue in their (former) position? Forsooth, they will deny that any formal warning has been given them by the Lord through His own apostle!2

What am I to fasten on as the cause of this madness, except the weakness of faith, ever prone to the concupiscences of worldly3 joys?—which, indeed, is chiefly found among the wealthier; for the more any is rich, and inflated with the name of “matron,” the more capacious house does she require for her burdens, as it were a field wherein ambition may run its course. To such the churches look paltry. A rich man is a difficult thing (to find) in the house of God;4 and if such an one is (found there), difficult (is it to find such) unmarried. What, then, are they to do? Whence but from the devil are they to seek a husband apt for maintaining their sedan, and their mules, and their hair-curlers of outlandish stature? A Christian, even although rich, would perhaps not afford (all) these. Set before yourself, I beg of you, the examples of Gentiles. Most Gentile women, noble in extraction and wealthy in property, unite themselves indiscriminately with the ignoble and the mean, sought out for themselves for luxurious, or mutilated for licentious, purposes. Some take up with their own freedmen and slaves, despising public opinion, provided they may but have (husbands) from whom to fear no impediment to their own liberty. To a Christian believer it is irksome to wed a believer inferior to herself in estate, destined as she will be to have her wealth augmented in the person of a poor husband! For if it is “the poor,” not the rich, “whose are the kingdoms of the heavens,”5 the rich will find more in the poor (than she brings him, or than she would in the rich). She will be dowered with an ampler dowry from the goods of him who is rich in God. Let her be on an equality with him on earth, who in the heavens will perhaps not be so. Is there need for doubt, and inquiry, and repeated deliberation, whether he whom God has entrusted with His own property6 is fit for dotal endowments?7 Whence are we to find (words) enough fully to tell the happiness of that marriage which the Church cements, and the oblation confirms, and the benediction signs and seals; (which) angels carry back the news of (to heaven), (which) the Father holds for ratified? For even on earth children8 do not rightly and lawfully wed without their fathers’ consent. What kind of yoke is that of two believers, (partakers) of one hope, one desire,9 one discipline, one and the same service? Both (are) brethren, both fellow servants, no difference of spirit or of flesh; nay, (they are) truly “two in one flesh.”10 Where the flesh is one, one is the spirit too. Together they pray, together prostrate themselves, together perform their fasts; mutually teaching, mutually exhorting,11 mutually sustaining. Equally (are they) both (found) in the Church of God; equally at the banquet of God; equally in straits, in persecutions, in refreshments. Neither hides (ought) from the other; neither shuns the other; neither is troublesome to the other. The sick is visited, the indigent relieved, with freedom. Alms (are given) without (danger of ensuing) torment; sacrifices (attended) without scruple; daily diligence (discharged) without impediment: (there is) no stealthy signing, no trembling greeting, no mute benediction. Between the two echo psalms and hymns;12 and they mutually challenge each other which shall better chant to their Lord. Such things when Christ sees and hears, He joys. To these He sends His own peace.13 Where two (are), there withal (is) He Himself.14 Where He (is), there the Evil One is not.

These are the things which that utterance of Edition: current; Page: [49] the apostle has, beneath its brevity, left to be understood by us. These things, if need shall be, suggest to your own mind. By these turn yourself away from the examples of some. To marry otherwise is, to believers, not “lawful;” is not “expedient.”1


(Marriage lawful, p. 39.)

St. Peter was a married apostle, and the traditions of his wife which connect her married life with Rome itself render it most surprising that those who claim to be St. Peter’s successors should denounce the marriage of the clergy as if it were crime. The touching story, borrowed from Clement of Alexandria, is related by Eusebius. “And will they,” says Clement, “reject even the apostles? Peter and Philip, indeed, had children; Philip also gave his daughters in marriage to husbands; and Paul does not demur, in a certain Epistle, to mention his own wife, whom he did not take about with him, in order to expedite his ministry the better.” Of St. Peter and his wife, Eusebius subjoins, “Such was the marriage of these blessed ones, and such was their perfect affection.”1

The Easterns to this day perpetuate the marriage of the clergy, and enjoin it; but unmarried men only are chosen to be bishops. Even Rome relaxes her discipline for the Uniats, and hundreds of her priesthood, therefore, live in honourable marriage. Thousands live in secret marriage, but their wives are dishonoured as “concubines.” It was not till the eleventh century that the celibate was enforced. In England it was never successfully imposed; and, though the “priest’s leman” was not called his wife (to the disgrace of the whole system), she was yet honoured (see Chaucer), and often carried herself too proudly.

The enormous evils of an enforced celibacy need not here be remarked upon. The history of Sacerdotal Celibacy, by Henry C. Lea2 of Philadelphia, is compendious, and can be readily procured by all who wish to understand what it is that this treatise of Tertullian’s orthodoxy may best be used to teach; viz., that we must not be wiser than God, even in our zeal for His service.

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I doubt not, brother, that after the premission in peace of your wife, you, being wholly bent upon the composing of your mind (to a right frame), are seriously thinking about the end of your lone life, and of course are standing in need of counsel. Although, in cases of this kind, each individual ought to hold colloquy with his own faith, and consult its strength; still, inasmuch as, in this (particular) species (of trial), the necessity of the flesh (which generally is faith’s antagonist at the bar of the same inner consciousness, to which I have alluded) sets cogitation astir, faith has need of counsel from without, as an advocate, as it were, to oppose the necessities of the flesh: which necessity, indeed, may very easily be circumscribed, if the will rather than the indulgence of God be considered. No one deserves (favour) by availing himself of the indulgence, but by rendering a prompt obedience to the will, (of his master).2 The will of God is our sanctification,3 for He wishes His “image”—us—to become likewise His “likeness;”4 that we may be “holy” just as Himself is “holy.”5 That good—sanctification, I mean—I distribute into several species, that in some one of those species we may be found. The first species is, virginity from one’s birth: the second, virginity from one’s second birth, that is, from the font; which (second virginity) either in the marriage state keeps (its subject) pure by mutual compact,6 or else perseveres in widowhood from choice: a third grade remains, monogamy, when, after the interception of a marriage once contracted, there is thereafter a renunciation of sexual connection. The first virginity is (the virginity) of happiness, (and consists in) total ignorance of that from which you will afterwards wish to be freed: the second, of virtue, (and consists in) contemning that the power of which you know full well: the remaining species, (that) of marrying no more after the disjunction of matrimony by death, besides being the glory of virtue, is (the glory) of moderation likewise;7 for moderation is the not regretting a thing which has been taken away, and taken away by the Lord God,8 without whose will neither does a leaf glide down from a tree, nor a sparrow of one farthing’s worth fall to the earth.9


What moderation, in short, is there in that utterance, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; as seemed (good) to the Lord, so hath it been done!”10 And accordingly, if we renew nuptials which have been taken away, doubtless we strive against the will of God, willing to have over again a thing which He has not willed us to have. For had He willed (that we should), He would not have taken it away; unless we interpret this, too, to be the will of God, as if He again willed us to have what He just now did not will. It is not the part of good and solid faith to refer all things to the will of God in such a manner as that; and that each individual should so flatter11 himself by saying that “nothing is done without His permission,” as to make us fail to understand that there is a something Edition: current; Page: [51] in our own power. Else every sin will be excused if we persist in contending that nothing is done by us without the will of God; and that definition will go to the destruction of (our) whole discipline, (nay), even of God Himself; if either He produce by1 His own will things which He wills not, or else (if) there is nothing which God wills not. But as there are some things which He forbids, against which He denounces even eternal punishment—for, of course, things which He forbids, and by which withal He is offended, He does not will—so, too, on the contrary, what He does will, He enjoins and sets down as acceptable, and repays with the reward of eternity.2 And so, when we have learnt from His precepts each (class of actions), what He does not will and what He does, we still have a volition and an arbitrating power of electing the one; just as it is written, “Behold, I have set before thee good and evil: for thou hast tasted of the tree of knowledge.” And accordingly we ought not to lay to the account of the Lord’s will that which lies subject to our own choice; (on the hypothesis) that He does not will, or else (positively) nills what is good, who does nill what is evil. Thus, it is a volition of our own when we will what is evil, in antagonism to God’s will, who wills what is good. Further, if you inquire whence comes that volition whereby we will anything in antagonism to the will of God, I shall say, It has its source in ourselves. And I shall not make the assertion rashly—for you must needs correspond to the seed whence you spring—if indeed it be true, (as it is), that the originator of our race and our sin, Adam,3 willed the sin which he committed. For the devil did not impose upon him the volition to sin, but subministered material to the volition. On the other hand, the will of God had come to be a question of obedience.4 In like manner you, too, if you fail to obey God, who has trained you by setting before you the precept of free action, will, through the liberty of your will, willingly turn into the downward course of doing what God nills: and thus you think yourself to have been subverted by the devil; who, albeit he does will that you should will something which God nills, still does not make you will it, inasmuch as he did not reduce those our protoplasts to the volition of sin; nay, nor (did reduce them at all) against their will, or in ignorance as to what God nilled. For, of course, He nilled (a thing) to be done when He made death the destined consequence of its commission. Thus the work of the devil is one: to make trial whether you do will that which it rests with you to will. But when you have willed, it follows that he subjects you to himself; not by having wrought volition in you, but by having found a favourable opportunity in your volition. Therefore, since the only thing which is in our power is volition—and it is herein that our mind toward God is put to proof, whether we will the things which coincide with His will—deeply and anxiously must the will of God be pondered again and again, I say, (to see) what even in secret He may will.


For what things are manifest we all know; and in what sense these very things are manifest must be thoroughly examined. For, albeit some things seem to savour of “the will of God,” seeing that they are allowed by Him, it does not forthwith follow that everything which is permitted proceeds out of the mere and absolute will of him who permits. Indulgence is the source of all permission. And albeit indulgence is not independent of volition, still, inasmuch as it has its cause in him to whom the indulgence is granted, it comes (as it were) from unwilling volition, having experienced a producing cause of itself which constrains volition. See what is the nature of a volition of which some second party is the cause. There is, again, a second species of pure volition to be considered. God wills us to do some acts pleasing to6 Himself, in which it is not indulgence which patronizes, but discipline which lords it. If, however, He has given a preference over these to some other acts—(acts), of course, which He more wills—is there a doubt that the acts which we are to pursue are those which He more wills; since those which He less wills (because He wills others more) are to be similarly regarded as if He did not will them? For, by showing what He more wills, He has effaced the lesser volition by the greater. And in as far as He has proposed each (volition) to your knowledge, in so far has He defined it to be your duty to pursue that which He has declared that He more wills. Then, if the object of His declaring has been that you may pursue that which He more wills; doubtless, unless you do so, you savour of contrariety to His volition, by savouring of contrariety to His superior volition; and you rather offend than merit reward, by doing what He wills indeed, and rejecting what He more wills. Partly, you sin; partly, if you sin not, still you deserve no reward. Moreover, is not even the unwillingness to deserve reward a sin?

If, therefore, second marriage finds the source of its allowance in that “will of God” which is Edition: current; Page: [52] called indulgence, we shall deny that that which has indulgence for its cause is volition pure; if in that to which some other—that, namely, which regards continence as more desirable—is preferred as superior, we shall have learned (by what has been argued above), that the not-superior is rescinded by the superior.

Suffer me to have touched upon these considerations, in order that I may now follow the course of the apostle’s words. But, in the first place, I shall not be thought irreligious if I remark on what he himself professes; (namely), that he has introduced all indulgence in regard to marriage from his own (judgment)—that is, from human sense, not from divine prescript. For, withal, when he has laid down the definitive rule with reference to “the widowed and the unwedded,” that they are to “marry if they cannot contain,” because “better it is to marry than to burn,”1 he turns round to the other class, and says: “But to the wedded I make official declaration—not indeed I, but the Lord.” Thus he shows, by the transfer of his own personality to the Lord, that what he had said above he had pronounced not in the Lord’s person, but in his own: “Better it is to marry than to burn.” Now, although that expression pertain to such as areapprehendedby the faith in an unwedded or widowed condition, still, inasmuch as all cling to it with a view to licence in the way of marrying, I should wish to give a thorough treatment to the inquiry what kind of good he is pointing out which is “better than” a penalty; which cannot seem good but by comparison with something very bad; so that the reason why “marrying” is good, is that “burning” is worse. “Good” is worthy of the name if it continue to keep that name without comparison, I say not with evil, but even with some second good; so that, even if it is compared to some other good, and is by some other cast into the shade, it do nevertheless remain in possession of the name “good.” If, however, it is the nature of an evil which is the means which compels the predicating “good,” it is not so much “good” as a species of inferior evil, which by being obscured by a superior evil is driven to the name of good. Take away, in short, the condition of comparison, so as not to say, “Better it is to marry than to burn;” and I question whether you will have the hardihood to say, “Better it is to marry,” not adding what that is which is better. Therefore what is not better, of course is not good either; inasmuch as you have taken away and removed the condition of comparison, which, while it makes the thing “better,” so compels it to be regarded as “good.” “Better it is to marry than to burn” is to be understood in the same way as, “Better it is to lack one eye than two:” if, however, you withdraw from the comparison, it will not be “better” to have one eye, inasmuch as it is not “good” either. Let none therefore catch at a defence (of marriage) from this paragraph, which properly refers to “the unmarried and widows,” for whom no (matrimonial) conjunction is yet reckoned: although I hope I have shown that even such must understand the nature of the permission.


However, touching second marriage, we know plainly that the apostle has pronounced: “Thou hast been loosed from a wife; seek not a wife. But if thou shalt marry, thou wilt not sin.”2 Still, as in the former case, he has introduced the order of this discourse too from his personal suggestion, not from a divine precept. But there is a wide difference between a precept of God and a suggestion of man. “Precept of the Lord,” says he, “I have not; but I give advice, as having obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.”3 In fact, neither in the Gospel nor in Paul’s own Epistles will you find a precept of God as the source whence repetition of marriage is permitted. Whence the doctrine that unity (of marriage) must be observed derives confirmation; inasmuch as that which is not found to be permitted by the Lord is acknowledged to be forbidden. Add (to this consideration) the fact, that even this very introduction of human advice, as if already beginning to reflect upon its own extravagance, immediately restrains and recalls itself, while it subjoins, “However, such shall have pressure of the flesh;” while he says that he “spares them;” while he adds that “the time is wound up,” so that “it behoves even such as have wives to act as if they had not;” while he compares the solicitude of the wedded and of the unwedded: for, in teaching, by means of these considerations, the reasons why marrying is not expedient, he dissuades from that to which he had above granted indulgence. And this is the case with regard to first marriage: how much more with regard to second! When, however, he exhorts us to the imitation of his own example, of course, in showing what he does wish us to be; that is, continent; he equally declares what he does not wish us to be, that is, incontinent. Thus he, too, while he wills one thing, gives no spontaneous or true permission to that which he nills. For had he willed, he would not have permitted; nay, rather, he would have commanded. “But see again: a woman when her husband is dead, he says, can marry, if she wish Edition: current; Page: [53] to marry any one, only ‘in the Lord.’ ” Ah! but “happier will she be,” he says, “if she shall remain permanently as she is, according to my opinion. I think, moreover, I too have the Spirit of God.” We see two advices: that whereby, above, he grants the indulgence of marrying; and that whereby, just afterwards, he teaches continence with regard to marrying. “To which, then,” you say, “shall we assent?” Look at them carefully, and choose. In granting indulgence, he alleges the advice of a prudent man; in enjoining continence, he affirms the advice of the Holy Spirit. Follow the admonition which has divinity for its patron. It is true that believers likewise “have the Spirit of God;” but not all believers are apostles. When, then, he who had called himself a “believer,” added thereafter that he “had the Spirit of God,” which no one would doubt even in the case of an (ordinary) believer; his reason for saying so was, that he might re-assert for himself apostolic dignity. For apostles have the Holy Spirit properly, who have Him fully, in the operations of prophecy, and the efficacy of (healing) virtues, and the evidences of tongues; not partially, as all others have. Thus he attached the Holy Spirit’s authority to that form (of advice) to which he willed us rather to attend; and forthwith it became not an advice of the Holy Spirit, but, in consideration of His majesty, a precept.


For the laying down1 of the law of once marrying, the very origin of the human race is our authority; witnessing as it emphatically does what God constituted in the beginning for a type to be examined with care by posterity. For when He had moulded man, and had foreseen that a peer was necessary for him, He borrowed from his ribs one, and fashioned for him one woman;2 whereas, of course, neither the Artificer nor the material would have been insufficient (for the creation of more). There were more ribs in Adam, and hands that knew no weariness in God; but not more wives3 in the eye of God.4 And accordingly the man of God, Adam, and the woman of God, Eve, discharging mutually (the duties of) one marriage, sanctioned for mankind a type by (the considerations of) the authoritative precedent of their origin and the primal will of God. Finally, “there shall be,” said He, “two in one flesh,”5 not three nor four. On any other hypothesis, there would no longer be “one flesh,” nor “two (joined) into one flesh.” These will be so, if the conjunction and the growing together in unity take place once for all. If, however, (it take place) a second time, or oftener, immediately (the flesh) ceases to be “one,” and there will not be “two (joined) into one flesh,” but plainly one rib (divided) into more. But when the apostle interprets, “The two shall be (joined) into one flesh,”6 of the Church and Christ, according to the spiritual nuptials of the Church and Christ (for Christ is one, and one is His Church), we are bound to recognise a duplication and additional enforcement for us of the law of unity of marriage, not only in accordance with the foundation of our race, but in accordance with the sacrament of Christ. From one marriage do we derive our origin in each case; carnally in Adam, spiritually in Christ. The two births combine in laying down one prescriptive rule of monogamy. In regard of each of the two, is he degenerate who transgresses the limit of monogamy. Plurality of marriage began with an accursed man. Lamech was the first who, by marrying himself to two women, caused three to be (joined) “into one flesh.”7


“But withal the blessed patriarchs,” you say, “made mingled alliances not only with more wives (than one), but with concubines likewise.” Shall that, then, make it lawful for us also to marry without limit? I grant that it will, if there still remain types—sacraments of something future—for your nuptials to figure; or if even now there is room for that command, “Grow and multiply;”8 that is, if no other command has yet supervened: “The time is already wound up; it remains that both they who have wives act as if they had not:” for, of course, by enjoining continence, and restraining concubitance, the seminary of our race, (this latter command) has abolished that “Grow and multiply.” As I think, moreover, each pronouncement and arrangement is (the act) of one and the same God; who did then indeed, in the beginning, send forth a sowing of the race by an indulgent laxity granted to the reins of connubial alliances, until the world should be replenished, until the material of the new discipline should attain to forwardness: now, however, at the extreme boundaries of the times, has checked (the command) which He had sent out, and recalled the indulgence which He had granted; not without a reasonable ground Edition: current; Page: [54] for the extension (of that indulgence) in the beginning, and the limitation1 of it in the end. Laxity is always allowed to the beginning (of things). The reason why any one plants a wood and lets it grow, is that at his own time he may cut it. The wood was the old order, which is being pruned down by the new Gospel, in which withal “the axe has been laid at the roots.”2 So, too, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,”3 has now grown old, ever since “Let none render evil for evil”4 grew young. I think, moreover, that even with a view to human institutions and decrees, things later prevail over things primitive.


Why, moreover, should we not rather recognise, from among (the store of) primitive precedents, those which communicate with the later (order of things) in respect of discipline, and transmit to novelty the typical form of antiquity? For look, in the old law I find the pruning-knife applied to the licence of repeated marriage. There is a caution in Leviticus: “My priests shall not pluralize marriages.”5 I may affirm even that that is plural which is not once for all. That which is not unity is number. In short, after unity begins number. Unity, moreover, is everything which is once for all. But for Christ was reserved, as in all other points so in this also, the “fulfilling of the law.”6 Thence, therefore, among us the prescript is more fully and more carefully laid down, that they who are chosen into the sacerdotal order must be men of one marriage;7 which rule is so rigidly observed, that I remember some removed from their office for digamy. But you will say, “Then all others may (marry more than once), whom he excepts.” Vain shall we be if we think that what is not lawful for priests8 is lawful for laics. Are not even we laics priests? It is written: “A kingdom also, and priests to His God and Father, hath He made us.”9 It is the authority of the Church, and the honour which has acquired sanctity through the joint session of the Order, which has established the difference between the Order and the laity. Accordingly, where there is no joint session of the ecclesiastical Order, you offer, and baptize, and are priest, alone for yourself. But where three are, a church is, albeit they be laics. For each individual lives by his own faith,10 nor is there exception of persons with God; since it is not hearers of the law who are justified by the Lord, but doers, according to what the apostle withal says.11 Therefore, if you have the right of a priest in your own person, in cases of necessity, it behoves you to have likewise the discipline of a priest whenever it may be necessary to have the right of a priest. If you are a digamist, do you baptize? If you are a digamist, do you offer? How much more capital (a crime) is it for a digamist laic to act as a priest, when the priest himself, if he turn digamist, is deprived of the power of acting the priest! “But to necessity,” you say, “indulgence is granted.” No necessity is excusable which is avoidable. In a word, shun to be found guilty of digamy, and you do not expose yourself to the necessity of administering what a digamist may not lawfully administer. God wills us all to be so conditioned, as to be ready at all times and places to undertake (the duties of) His sacraments. There is “one God, one faith,”12 one discipline too. So truly is this the case, that unless the laics as well observe the rules which are to guide the choice of presbyters, how will there be presbyters at all, who are chosen to that office from among the laics? Hence we are bound to contend that the command to abstain from second marriage relates first to the laic; so long as no other can be a presbyter than a laic, provided he have been once for all a husband.


Let it now be granted that repetition of marriage is lawful, if everything which is lawful is good. The same apostle exclaims. “All things are lawful, but all are not profitable.”13 Pray, can what is “not profitable” be called good? If even things which do not make for salvation are “lawful,” it follows that even things which are not good are “lawful.” But what will it be your duty rather to choose; that which is good because it is “lawful,” or that which is so because it is “profitable?” A wide difference I take to exist between “licence” and salvation. Concerning the “good” it is not said “it is lawful;” inasmuch as “good” does not expect to be permitted, but to be assumed. But that is “permitted” about which a doubt exists whether it be “good;” which may likewise not be permitted, Edition: current; Page: [55] if it have not some first (extrinsic) cause of its being:—inasmuch as it is on account of the danger of incontinence that second marriage, (for instance), is permitted:—because, unless the “licence” of some not (absolutely) good thing were subject (to our choice), there were no means of proving who rendered a willing obedience to the Divine will, and who to his own power; which of us follows presentiality, and which embraces the opportunity of licence. “Licence,” for the most part, is a trial of discipline; since it is through trial that discipline is proved, and through “licence” that trial operates. Thus it comes to pass that “all things are lawful, but not all are expedient,” so long as (it remains true that) whoever has a “permission” granted is (thereby) tried, and is (consequently) judged during the process of trial in (the case of the particular) “permission.” Apostles, withal, had a “licence” to marry, and lead wives about (with them1). They had a “licence,” too, to “live by the Gospel.”2 But he who, when occasion required,3 “did not use this right,” provokes us to imitate his own example; teaching us that our probation consists in that wherein “licence” has laid the groundwork for the experimental proof of abstinence.


If we look deeply into his meanings, and interpret them, second marriage will have to be termed no other than a species of fornication. For, since he says that married persons make this their solicitude, “how to please one another”4 (not, of course, morally, for a good solicitude he would not impugn); and (since), he wishes them to be understood to be solicitous about dress, and ornament, and every kind of personal attraction, with a view to increasing their power of allurement; (since), moreover, to please by personal beauty and dress is the genius of carnal concupiscence, which again is the cause of fornication: pray, does second marriage seem to you to border upon fornication, since in it are detected those ingredients which are appropriate to fornication? The Lord Himself said, “Whoever has seen a woman with a view to concupiscence has already violated her in his heart.”5 But has he who has seen her with a view to marriage done so less or more? What if he have even married her?—which he would not do had he not desired her with a view to marriage, and seen her with a view to concupiscence; unless it is possible for a wife to be married whom you have not seen or desired. I grant it makes a wide difference whether a married man or an unmarried desire another woman. Every woman, (however), even to an unmarried man, is “another,” so long as she belongs to some one else; nor yet is the mean through which she becomes a married woman any other than that through which withal (she becomes) an adulteress. It is laws which seem to make the difference between marriage and fornication; through diversity of illicitness, not through the nature of the thing itself. Besides, what is the thing which takes place in all men and women to produce marriage and fornication? Commixture of the flesh, of course; the concupiscence whereof the Lord put on the same footing with fornication. “Then,” says (some one), “are you by this time destroying first—that is, single—marriage too?” And (if so) not without reason; inasmuch as it, too, consists of that which is the essence of fornication.6 Accordingly, the best thing for a man is not to touch a woman; and accordingly the virgin’s is the principal sanctity,7 because it is free from affinity with fornication. And since these considerations may be advanced, even in the case of first and single marriage, to forward the cause of continence, how much more will they afford a prejudgment for refusing second marriage? Be thankful if God has once for all granted you indulgence to marry. Thankful, moreover, you will be if you know not that He has granted you that indulgence a second time. But you abuse indulgence if you avail yourself of it without moderation. Moderation is understood (to be derived) from modus, a limit. It does not suffice you to have fallen back, by marrying, from that highest grade of immaculate virginity; but you roll yourself down into yet a third, and into a fourth, and perhaps into more, after you have failed to be continent in the second stage; inasmuch as he who has treated about contracting second marriages has not willed to prohibit even more. Marry we, therefore, daily.8 And marrying, let us be overtaken by the last day, like Sodom and Gomorrah; that day when the “woe” pronounced over “such as are with child and giving suck” shall be fulfilled, that is, over the married and the incontinent: for from marriage result wombs, and breasts, and infants. And when an end of marrying? I believe after the end of living!


Renounce we things carnal, that we may at length bear fruits spiritual. Seize the opportunity—albeit Edition: current; Page: [56] not earnestly desired, yet favourable—of not having any one to whom to pay a debt, and by whom to be (yourself) repaid! You have ceased to be a debtor. Happy man! You have released1 your debtor; sustain the loss. What if you come to feel that what we have called a loss is a gain? For continence will be a mean whereby you will traffic in2 a mighty substance of sanctity: by parsimony of the flesh you will gain the Spirit. For let us ponder over our conscience itself, (to see) how different a man feels himself when he chances to be deprived of his wife. He savours spiritually. If he is making prayer to the Lord, he is near heaven. If he is bending over the Scriptures, he is “wholly in them.”3 If he is singing a psalm, he satisfies himself.4 If he is adjuring a demon, he is confident in himself. Accordingly, the apostle added (the recommendation of) a temporary abstinence for the sake of adding an efficacy to prayers,5 that we might know that what is profitable “for a time” should be always practised by us, that it may be always profitable. Daily, every moment, prayer is necessary to men; of course continence (is so) too, since prayer is necessary. Prayer proceeds from conscience. If the conscience blush, prayer blushes. It is the spirit which conducts prayer to God. If the spirit be self-accused of a blushing6 conscience, how will it have the hardihood to conduct prayer to the altar; seeing that, if prayer blush, the holy minister (of prayer) itself is suffused too? For there is a prophetic utterance of the Old Testament: “Holy shall ye be, because God is holy;”7 and again: “With the holy thou shalt be sanctified; and with the innocent man thou shalt be innocent; and with the elect, elect.”8 For it is our duty so to walk in the Lord’s discipline as is “worthy,”9 not according to the filthy concupiscences of the flesh. For so, too, does the apostle say, that “to savour according to the flesh is death, but to savour according to the spirit is life eternal in Jesus Christ our Lord.”10 Again, through the holy prophetess Prisca11 the Gospel is thus preached: that “the holy minister knows how to minister sanctity.” “For purity,” says she, “is harmonious, and they see visions; and, turning their face downward, they even hear manifest voices, as salutary as they are withal secret.” If this dulling (of the spiritual faculties), even when the carnal nature is allowed room for exercise in first marriage, averts the Holy Spirit; how much more when it is brought into play in second marriage!


For (in that case) the shame is double; inasmuch as, in second marriage, two wives beset the same husband—one in spirit, one in flesh. For the first wife you cannot hate, for whom you retain an even more religious affection, as being already received into the Lord’s presence; for whose spirit you make request; for whom you render annual oblations. Will you stand, then, before the Lord with as many wives as you commemorate in prayer; and will you offer for two; and will you commend those two (to God) by the ministry of a priest ordained (to his sacred office) on the score of monogamy, or else consecrated (thereto) on the score even of virginity, surrounded by widows married but to one husband? And will your sacrifice ascend with unabashed front, and—among all the other (graces) of a good mind—will you request for yourself and for your wife chastity?


I am aware of the excuses by which we colour our insatiable carnal appetite.12 Our pretexts are: the necessities of props to lean on; a house to be managed; a family to be governed; chests13 and keys to be guarded; the wool-spinning to be dispensed; food to be attended to; cares to be generally lessened. Of course the houses of none but married men fare well! The families of celibates, the estates of eunuchs, the fortunes of military men, or of such as travel without wives, have gone to rack and ruin! For are not we, too, soldiers? Soldiers, indeed, subject to all the stricter discipline, that we are subject to so great a General?14 Are not we, too, travellers in this world?15 Why moreover, Christian, are you so conditioned, that you cannot (so travel) without a wife? “In my present (widowed) state, too, a consort in domestic works is necessary.” (Then) take some spiritual wife. Take to yourself from among the widows one fair in faith, dowered with poverty, sealed with age. You will (thus) make a good marriage. A plurality of such wives is pleasing to God. “But Christians concern themselves about posterity”—to whom there is no to-morrow!16 Shall the servant of God yearn after heirs, who has disinherited himself from the Edition: current; Page: [57] world? And is it to be a reason for a man to repeat marriage, if from his first (marriage) he have no children? And shall he thus have, as the first benefit (resulting therefrom), this, that he should desire longer life, when the apostle himself is in haste to be “with the Lord?”1 Assuredly, most free will he be from encumbrance in persecutions, most constant in martyrdoms, most prompt in distributions of his goods, most temperate in acquisitions; lastly, undistracted by cares will he die, when he has left children behind him—perhaps to perform the last rites over his grave! Is it then, perchance, in forecast for the commonwealth that such (marriages) are contracted? for fear the states fail, if no rising generations be trained up? for fear the rights of law, for fear the branches of commerce, sink quite into decay? for fear the temples be quite forsaken? for fear there be none to raise the acclaim, “The lion for the Christians?”—for these are the acclaims which they desire to hear who go in quest of offspring! Let the well-known burdensomeness of children—especially in our case—suffice to counsel widowhood: (children) whom men are compelled by laws to undertake (the charge of); because no wise man would ever willingly have desired sons! What, then, will you do if you succeed in filling your new wife with your own conscientious scruples? Are you to dissolve the conception by aid of drugs? I think to us it is no more lawful to hurt (a child) in process of birth, than one (already) born. But perhaps at that time of your wife’s pregnancy you will have the hardihood to beg from God a remedy for so grave a solicitude, which, when it lay in your own power, you refused? Some (naturally) barren woman, I suppose, or (some woman) of an age already feeling the chill of years, will be the object of your forecasting search. A course prudent enough, and, above all, worthy of a believer! For there is no woman whom we have believed to have borne (a child) when barren or old, when God so willed! which he is all the more likely to do if any one, by the presumption of this foresight of his own, provoke emulation on the part of God. In fine, we know a case among our brethren, in which one of them took a barren woman in second marriage for his daughter’s sake, and became as well for the second time a father as for the second time a husband.


To this my exhortation, best beloved brother, there are added even heathenish examples; which have often been set by ourselves as well (as by others) in evidence, when anything good and pleasing to God is, even among “strangers,” recognised and honoured with a testimony. In short, monogamy among the heathen is so held in highest honour, that even virgins, when legitimately marrying, have a woman never married but once appointed them as brideswoman; and if you say that “this is for the sake of the omen,” of course it is for the sake of a good omen; again, that in some solemnities and official functions, single-husbandhood takes the precedence: at all events, the wife of a Flamen must be but once married, which is the law of the Flamen (himself) too. For the fact that the chief pontiff himself must not iterate marriage is, of course, a glory to monogamy. When, however, Satan affects God’s sacraments, it is a challenge to us; nay, rather, a cause for blushing, if we are slow to exhibit to God a continence which some render to the devil, by perpetuity sometimes of virginity, sometimes of widowhood. We have heard of Vesta’s virgins, and Juno’s at the town2 of Achaia, and Apollo’s among the Delphians, and Minerva’s and Diana’s in some places. We have heard, too, of continent men, and (among others) the priests of the famous Egyptian bull: women, moreover, (dedicated) to the African Ceres, in whose honour they even spontaneously abdicate matrimony, and so live to old age, shunning thenceforward all contact with males, even so much as the kisses of their sons. The devil, forsooth, has discovered, after voluptuousness, even a chastity which shall work perdition; that the guilt may be all the deeper of the Christian who refuses the chastity which helps to salvation! A testimony to us shall be, too, some of heathendom’s women, who have won renown for their obstinate persistence in single-husbandhood: some Dido,3 (for instance), who, refugee as she was on alien soil, when she ought rather to have desired, without any external solicitation, marriage with a king, did yet, for fear of experiencing a second union, prefer, contrariwise, to “burn” rather than to “marry;” or the famous Lucretia, who, albeit it was but once, by force, and against her will, that she had suffered a strange man, washed her stained flesh in her own blood, lest she should live, when no longer single-husbanded in her own esteem! A little more care will furnish you with more examples from our own (sisters); and those indeed, superior to the others, inasmuch as it is a greater thing to live in chastity than to die for it. Easier it is to lay down your life because you have lost a blessing, than to Edition: current; Page: [58] keep by living that for which you would rather die outright. How many men, therefore, and how many women, in Ecclesiastical Orders, owe their position to continence, who have preferred to be wedded to God; who have restored the honour of their flesh, and who have already dedicated themselves as sons of that (future) age, by slaying in themselves the concupiscence of lust, and that whole (propensity) which could not be admitted within Paradise!1 Whence it is presumable that such as shall wish to be received within Paradise, ought at last to begin to cease from that thing from which Paradise is intact.


(Albeit they be laics, p. 54.)

In the tract on Baptism1 Tertullian uses language implying that three persons compose a Church. But here we find it much more strongly pronounced,—Ubi tres, Ecclesia est, licet Laici. The question of lay-baptism we may leave till we come to Cyprian, only noting here, that, while Cyprian abjures his “master” on this point, his adversary, the Bishop of Rome, adopts Tertullian’s principle in so far. But, in view of Matt. xviii. 20, surely we may all allow that three are a quorum when so “gathered together in Christ’s name,” albeit not for all purposes. Three women may claim the Saviour’s promise when lawfully met together for social devotions, nor can it be denied that they have a share in the priesthood of the “peculiar people.” So, too, even of three pious children. But it does not follow that they are a church for all purposes,—preaching, celebrating sacraments, ordaining, and the like. The late Dean Stanley was fond of this passage of Tertullian, but obviously it might be abused to encourage a state of things which all orderly and organized systems of religion must necessarily discard.2 On p. 58 there is a reference, apparently, to deaconesses as “women in Ecclesiastical Orders.”

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Heretics do away with marriages; Psychics accumulate them. The former marry not even once; the latter not only once. What dost thou, Law of the Creator? Between alien eunuchs and thine own grooms, thou complainest as much of the over-obedience of thine own household as of the contempt of strangers. They who abuse thee, do thee equal hurt with them who use thee not. In fact, neither is such continence laudable because it is heretical, nor such licence defensible because it is psychical. The former is blasphemous, the latter wanton; the former destroys the God of marriages, the latter puts Him to the blush. Among us, however, whom the recognition of spiritual gifts entitles to be deservedly called Spiritual, continence is as religious as licence is modest; since both the one and the other are in harmony with the Creator. Continence honours the law of marriage, licence tempers it; the former is not forced, the latter is regulated; the former recognises the power of free choice, the latter recognises a limit. We admit one marriage, just as we do one God. The law of marriage reaps an accession of honour where it is associated with shamefastness. But to the Psychics, since they receive not the Spirit, the things which are the Spirit’s are not pleasing. Thus, so long as the things which are the Spirit’s please them not, the things which are of the flesh will please, as being the contraries of the Spirit. “The flesh,” saith (the apostle), “lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”2 But what will the flesh “lust” after, except what is more of the flesh? For which reason withal, in the beginning, it became estranged from the Spirit. “My Spirit,” saith (God), “shall not permanently abide in these men eternally,3 for that they are flesh.”4


And so they upbraid the discipline of monogamy with being a heresy; nor is there any other cause whence they find themselves compelled to deny the Paraclete more than the fact that they esteem Him to be the institutor of a novel discipline, and a discipline which they find most harsh: so that this is already the first ground on which we must join issue in a general handling (of the subject), whether there is room for maintaining that the Paraclete has taught any such thing as can either be charged with novelty, in opposition to catholic tradition,5 or with burdensomeness, in opposition to the “light burden”6 of the Lord.

Now concerning each point the Lord Himself has pronounced. For in saying, “I still have many things to say unto you, but ye are not yet able to bear them: when the Holy Spirit shall be come, He will lead you into all truth,”7 He sufficiently, of course, sets before us that He will bring such (teachings) as may be esteemed alike novel, as having never before been published, and finally burdensome, as if that were the reason why they were not published. “It follows,” you say, “that by this line of argument, anything you please which is novel and burdensome may be ascribed to the Paraclete, even if it have come from the adversary spirit.” No, of course. For the adversary spirit would be apparent from the diversity of his preaching, beginning by adulterating Edition: current; Page: [60] the rule of faith, and so (going on to) adulterating the order of discipline; because the corruption of that which holds the first grade, (that is, of faith, which is prior to discipline,) comes first. A man must of necessity hold heretical views of God first, and then of His institution. But the Paraclete, having many things to teach fully which the Lord deferred till He came, (according to the pre-definition,) will begin by bearing emphatic witness to Christ, (as being) such as we believe (Him to be), together with the whole order of God the Creator, and will glorify Him,1 and will “bring to remembrance” concerning Him. And when He has thus been recognised (as the promised Comforter), on the ground of the cardinal rule, He will reveal those “many things” which appertain to disciplines; while the integrity of His preaching commands credit for these (revelations), albeit they be “novel,” inasmuch as they are now in course of revelation, albeit they be “burdensome,” inasmuch as not even now are they found bearable: (revelations), however, of none other Christ than (the One) who said that He had withal “other many things” which were to be fully taught by the Paraclete, no less burdensome to men of our own day than to them, by whom they were then “not yet able to be borne.”


But (as for the question) whether monogamy be “burdensome,” let the still shameless “infirmity of the flesh” look to that: let us meantime come to an agreement as to whether it be “novel.” This (even) broader assertion we make: that even if the Paraclete had in this our day definitely prescribed a virginity or continence total and absolute, so as not to permit the heat of the flesh to foam itself down even in single marriage, even thus He would seem to be introducing nothing of “novelty;” seeing that the Lord Himself opens “the kingdoms of the heavens” to “eunuchs,”2 as being Himself, withal, a virgin; to whom looking, the apostle also—himself too for this reason abstinent—gives the preference to continence.3 (“Yes”), you say, “but saving the law of marriage.” Saving it, plainly, and we will see under what limitations; nevertheless already destroying it, in so far as he gives the preference to continence. “Good,” he says, “(it is) for a man not to have contact with a woman.” It follows that it is evil to have contact with her; for nothing is contrary to good except evil. And accordingly (he says), “It remains, that both they who have wives so be as if they have not,”4 that it may be the more binding on them who have not to abstain from having them. He renders reasons, likewise, for so advising: that the unmarried think about God, but the married about how, in (their) marriage, each may please his (partner).5 And I may contend, that what is permitted is not absolutely good.6 For what is absolutely good is not permitted, but needs no asking to make it lawful. Permission has its cause sometimes even in necessity. Finally, in this case, there is no volition on the part of him who permits marriage. For his volition points another way. “I will,” he says, “that you all so be as I too (am).”7 And when he shows that (so to abide) is “better,” what, pray, does he demonstrate himself to “will,” but what he has premised is “better?” And thus, if he permits something other than what he has “willed”—permitted not voluntarily, but of necessity—he shows that what he has unwillingly granted as an indulgence is not absolutely good. Finally, when he says, “Better it is to marry than to burn,” what sort of good must that be understood to be which is better than a penalty? which cannot seem “better” except when compared to a thing very bad? “Good” is that which keeps this name per se; without comparison—I say not with an evil, but even—with some other good: so that, even if it be compared to and overshadowed by another good, it nevertheless remains in (possession of) the name of good. If, on the other hand, comparison with evil is the mean which obliges it to be called good; it is not so much “good” as a species of inferior evil, which, when obscured by a higher evil, is driven to the name of good. Take away, in short, the condition, so as not to say, “Better it is to marry than to burn;” and I question whether you will have the hardihood to say, “Better (it is) to marry,” not adding than what it is better. This done, then, it becomes not “better;” and while not “better,” not “good” either, the condition being taken away which, while making it “better” than another thing, in that sense obliges it to be considered “good.” Better it is to lose one eye than two. If, however, you withdraw from the comparison of either evil, it will not be better to have one eye, because it is not even good.

What, now, if he accommodatingly grants all indulgence to marry on the ground of his own (that is, of human) sense, out of the necessity which we have mentioned, inasmuch as “better it is to marry than to burn?” In fact, when he Edition: current; Page: [61] turns to the second case, by saying, “But to the married I officially announce—not I, but the Lord”—he shows that those things which he had said above had not been (the dictates) of the Lord’s authority, but of human judgment. When, however, he turns their minds back to continence, (“But I will you all so to be,”) “I think, moreover,” he says, “I too have the Spirit of God;” in order that, if he had granted any indulgence out of necessity, that, by the Holy Spirit’s authority, he might recall. But John, too, when advising us that “we ought so to walk as the Lord withal did,”1 of course admonished us to walk as well in accordance with sanctity of the flesh (as in accordance with His example in other respects). Accordingly he says more manifestly: “And every (man) who hath this hope in Him maketh himself chaste, just as Himself withal is chaste.”2 For elsewhere, again, (we read): “Be ye holy, just as He withal was holy”3—in the flesh, namely. For of the Spirit he would not have said (that), inasmuch as the Spirit is without any external influence recognised as “holy;” nor does He wait to be admonished to sanctity, which is His proper nature. But the flesh is taught sanctity; and that withal, in Christ, was holy.

Therefore, if all these (considerations) obliterate the licence of marrying, whether we look into the condition on which the licence is granted, or the preference of continence which is imposed, why, after the apostles, could not the same Spirit, supervening for the purpose of conducting disciplehood4 into “all truth” through the gradations of the times (according to what the preacher says, “A time to everything”5), impose by this time a final bridle upon the flesh, no longer obliquely calling us away from marriage, but openly; since now more (than ever) “the time is become wound up,”6—about 160 years having elapsed since then? Would you not spontaneously ponder (thus) in your own mind: “This discipline is old, shown beforehand, even at that early date, in the Lord’s flesh and will, (and) successively thereafter in both the counsels and the examples of His apostles? Of old we were destined to this sanctity. Nothing of novelty is the Paraclete introducing. What He premonished, He is (now) definitively appointing; what He deferred, He is (now) exacting.” And presently, by revolving these thoughts, you will easily persuade yourself that it was much more competent to the Paraclete to preach unity of marriage, who could withal have preached its annulling; and that it is more credible that He should have tempered what it would have become Him even to have abolished, if you understand what Christ’s “will” is. Herein also you ought to recognise the Paraclete in His character of Comforter, in that He excuses your infirmity7 from (the stringency of) an absolute continence.


Waiving, now, the mention of the Paraclete, as of some authority of our own, evolve we the common instruments of the primitive Scriptures. This very thing is demonstrable by us: that the rule of monogamy is neither novel nor strange, nay rather, is both ancient, and proper to Christians; so that you may be sensible that the Paraclete is rather its restitutor than institutor. As for what pertains to antiquity, what more ancient formal type can be brought forward, than the very original fount of the human race? One female did God fashion for the male, culling one rib of his, and (of course) (one) out of a plurality. But, moreover, in the introductory speech which preceded the work itself, He said, “It is not good for the man that he be alone; let us make an help-meet for him.” For He would have said “helpers” if He had destined him to have more wives (than one). He added, too, a law concerning the future; if, that is, (the words) “And two shall be (made) into one flesh”—not three, nor more; else they would be no more “two” if (there were) more—were prophetically uttered. The law stood (firm). In short, the unity of marriage lasted to the very end in the case of the authors of our race; not because there were no other women, but because the reason why there were none was that the first-fruits of the race might not be contaminated by a double marriage. Otherwise, had God (so) willed, there could withal have been (others); at all events, he might have taken from the abundance of his own daughters—having no less an Eve (taken) out of his own bones and flesh—if piety had allowed it to be done. But where the first crime (is found)—homicide, inaugurated in fratricide—no crime was so worthy of the second place as a double marriage. For it makes no difference whether a man have had two wives singly, or whether individuals (taken) at the same time have made two. The number of (the individuals) conjoined and separate is the same. Still, God’s institution, after once for all suffering violence through Lamech, remained firm to the very end of that race. Second Lamech there arose none, in the Edition: current; Page: [62] way of being husband to two wives. What Scripture does not note, it denies. Other iniquities provoke the deluge: (iniquities) once for all avenged, whatever was their nature; not, however, “seventy-seven times,”1 which (is the vengeance which) double marriages have deserved.

But again: the re-formation of the second human race is traced from monogamy as its mother. Once more, “two (joined) into one flesh” undertake (the duty of) “growing and multiplying,”—Noah, (namely), and his wife, and their sons, in single marriage.2 Even in the very animals monogamy is recognised, for fear that even beasts should be born of adultery. “Out of all beasts,” said (God),3 “out of all flesh, two shalt thou lead into the ark, that they may live with thee, male and female: they shall be (taken) from all flying animals according to (their) kind, and from all creepers of the earth according to their kind; two out of all shall enter unto thee, male and female.” In the same formula, too, He orders sets of sevens, made up of pairs, to be gathered to him, consisting of male and female—one male and one female.4 What more shall I say? Even unclean birds were not allowed to enter with two females each.


Thus far for the testimony of things primordial, and the sanction of our origin, and the pre-judgment of the divine institution, which of course is a law, not (merely) a memorial; inasmuch as, if it was “so done from the beginning,” we find ourselves directed to the beginning by Christ: just as, in the question of divorce, by saying that that had been permitted by Moses on account of their hard-heartedness, but from the beginning it had not been so, He doubtless recalls to “the beginning” the (law of) the individuity of marriage. And accordingly, those whom God “from the beginning” conjoined, “two into one flesh,” man shall not at the present day separate.5 The apostle, too, writing to the Ephesians, says that God “had proposed in Himself, at the dispensation of the fulfilment of the times, to recall to the head” (that is, to the beginning) “things universal in Christ, which are above the heavens and above the earth in Him.”6 So, too, the two letters of Greece, the first and the last, the Lord assumes to Himself, as figures of the beginning and end which concur in Himself: so that, just as Alpha rolls on till it reaches Omega, and again Omega rolls back till it reaches Alpha, in the same way He might show that in Himself is both the downward course of the beginning on to the end, and the backward course of the end up to the beginning; so that every economy, ending in Him through whom it began,—through the Word of God, that is, who was made flesh,7—may have an end correspondent to its beginning. And so truly in Christ are all things recalled to “the beginning,” that even faith returns from circumcision to the integrity of that (original) flesh, as “it was from the beginning;” and freedom of meats and abstinence from blood alone, as “it was from the beginning;” and the individuality of marriage, as “it was from the beginning;” and the restriction of divorce, which was not “from the beginning;” and lastly, the whole man into Paradise, where he was “from the beginning.” Why, then, ought He not to restore Adam thither at least as a monogamist, who cannot present him in so entire perfection as he was when dismissed thence? Accordingly, so far as pertains to the restitution of the beginning, the logic both of the dispensation you live under, and of your hope, exact this from you, that what was “from the beginning” (should be) in accordance with “the beginning;” which (beginning) you find counted in Adam, and recounted in Noah. Make your election, in which of the twain you account your “beginning.” In both, the censorial power of monogamy claims you for itself. But again: if the beginning passes on to the end (as Alpha to Omega), as the end passes back to the beginning (as Omega to Alpha), and thus our origin is transferred to Christ, the animal to the spiritual—inasmuch as “(that was) not first which is spiritual, but (that) which (is) animal; then what (is) spiritual,”8—let us, in like manner (as before), see whether you owe this very (same) thing to this second origin also: whether the last Adam also meet you in the selfsame form as the first; since the last Adam (that is, Christ) was entirely unwedded, as was even the first Adam before his exile. But, presenting to your weakness the gift of the example of His own flesh, the more perfect Adam—that is, Christ, more perfect on this account as well (as on others), that He was more entirely pure—stands before you, if you are willing (to copy Him), as a voluntary celibate in the flesh. If, however, you are unequal (to that perfection), He stands before you a monogamist in spirit, having one Church as His spouse, according to the figure of Adam and of Eve, which (figure) the apostle interprets of that great sacrament of Christ and the Church, (teaching that), through the spiritual, it was analogous to the carnal Edition: current; Page: [63] monogamy. You see, therefore, after what manner, renewing your origin even in Christ, you cannot trace down that (origin) without the profession of monogamy; unless, (that is), you be in flesh what He is in spirit; albeit withal, what He was in flesh, you equally ought to have been.


But let us proceed with our inquiry into some eminent chief fathers of our origin: for there are some to whom our monogamist parents Adam and Noah are not pleasing, nor perhaps Christ either. To Abraham, in fine, they appeal; prohibited though they are to acknowledge any other father than God.1 Grant, now, that Abraham is our father; grant, too, that Paul is. “In the Gospel,” says he, “I have begotten you.”2 Show yourself a son even of Abraham. For your origin in him, you must know, is not referable to every period of his life: there is a definite time at which he is your father. For if “faith” is the source whence we are reckoned to Abraham as his “sons” (as the apostle teaches, saying to the Galatians, “You know, consequently, that (they) who are of faith, these are sons of Abraham”3), when did Abraham “believe God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness?” I suppose when still in monogamy, since (he was) not yet in circumcision. But if afterwards he changed to either (opposite)—to digamy through cohabitation with his handmaid, and to circumcision through the seal of the testament—you cannot acknowledge him as your father except at that time when he “believed God,” if it is true that it is according to faith that you are his son, not according to flesh. Else, if it be the later Abraham whom you follow as your father—that is, the digamist (Abraham)—receive him withal in his circumcision. If you reject his circumcision, it follows that you will refuse his digamy too. Two characters of his, mutually diverse in two several ways, you will not be able to blend. His digamy began with circumcision, his monogamy with uncircumcision.4 You receive digamy; admit circumcision too. You retain uncircumcision; you are bound to monogamy too. Moreover, so true is it that it is of the monogamist Abraham that you are the son, just as of the uncircumcised, that if you be circumcised you immediately cease to be his son, inasmuch as you will not be “of faith,” but of the seal of a faith which had been justified in uncircumcision. You have the apostle learn (of him), together with the Galatians.5 In like manner, too, if you have involved yourself in digamy, you are not the son of that Abraham whose “faith” preceded in monogamy. For albeit it is subsequently that he is called “a father of many nations,”6 still it is of those (nations) who, as the fruit of the “faith” which precedes digamy, had to be accounted “sons of Abraham.”7

Thenceforward let matters see to themselves. Figures are one thing; laws another. Images are one thing; statutes another. Images pass away when fulfilled: statutes remain permanently to be fulfilled. Images prophesy: statutes govern. What that digamy of Abraham portends, the same apostle fully teaches,8 the interpreter of each testament, just as he likewise lays it down that our “seed” is called in Isaac.9 If you are “of the free woman,” and belong to Isaac, he, at all events, maintained unity of marriage to the last.

These accordingly, I suppose, are they in whom my origin is counted. All others I ignore. And if I glance around at their examples—(examples) of some David heaping up marriages for himself even through sanguinary means, of some Solomon rich in wives as well as in other riches—you are bidden to “follow the better things,”10 and you have withal Joseph but once wedded, and on this score I venture to say better than his father; you have Moses, the intimate eyewitness of God;11 you have Aaron the chief priest. The second Moses, also, of the second People, who led our representatives into the (possession of) the promise of God, in whom the Name (of Jesus) was first inaugurated, was no digamist.


After the ancient examples of the patriarchs, let us equally pass on to the ancient documents of the legal Scriptures, that we may treat in order of all our canon. And since there are some who sometimes assert that they have nothing to do with the law (which Christ has not dissolved, but fulfilled),12 sometimes catch at such parts of the law as they choose; plainly do we too assert that the law has deceased in this sense, that its burdens—according to the sentence of the apostles—which not even the fathers were able to sustain,13 have wholly ceased: such (parts), however, as relate to righteousness not only permanently remain reserved, but Edition: current; Page: [64] even amplified; in order, to be sure, that our righteousness may be able to redound above the righteousness of the scribes and of the Pharisees.1 If “righteousness” must, of course chastity must too. If, then, forasmuch as there is in the law a precept that a man is to take in marriage the wife of his brother if he have died without children,2 for the purpose of raising up seed to his brother; and this may happen repeatedly to the same person, according to that crafty question of the Sadducees;3 men for that reason think that frequency of marriage is permitted in other cases as well: it will be their duty to understand first the reason of the precept itself; and thus they will come to know that that reason, now ceasing, is among those parts of the law which have been cancelled. Necessary it was that there should be a succession to the marriage of a brother if he died childless: first, because that ancient benediction, “Grow and multiply,”4 had still to run its course; secondly, because the sins of the fathers used to be exacted even from the sons;5 thirdly, because eunuchs and barren persons used to be regarded as ignominious. And thus, for fear that such as had died childless, not from natural inability, but from being prematurely overtaken by death, should be judged equally accursed (with the other class); for this reason a vicarious and (so to say) posthumous offspring used to be supplied them. But (now), when the “extremity of the times” has cancelled (the command) “Grow and multiply,” since the apostle superinduces (another command), “It remaineth, that both they who have wives so be as if they have not,” because “the time is compressed;6 and “the sour grape” chewed by “the fathers” has ceased “to set the sons’ teeth on edge,”7 for, “each one shall die in his own sin;” and “eunuchs” not only have lost ignominy, but have even deserved grace, being invited into “the kingdoms of the heavens:”8 the law of succeeding to the wife of a brother being buried, its contrary has obtained—that of not succeeding to the wife of a brother. And thus, as we have said before, what has ceased to be valid, on the cessation of its reason, cannot furnish a ground of argument to another. Therefore a wife, when her husband is dead, will not marry; for if she marry, she will of course be marrying (his) brother: for “all we are brethren.”9 Again, the woman, if intending to marry, has to marry “in the Lord;”10 that is, not to an heathen, but to a brother, inasmuch as even the ancient law forbids11 marriage with members of another tribe. Since, moreover, even in Leviticus there is a caution, “Whoever shall have taken (his) brother’s wife, (it) is uncleanness—turpitude; without children shall (he) die;”12 beyond doubt, while the man is prohibited from marrying a second time, the woman is prohibited too, having no one to marry except a brother. In what way, then, an agreement shall be established between the apostle and the Law (which he is not impugning in its entirety), shall be shown when we shall have come to his own epistle. Meantime, so far as pertains to the law, the lines of argument drawn from it are more suitable for us (than for our opponents). In short, the same (law) prohibits priests from marrying a second time. The daughter also of a priest it bids, if widowed or repudiated, if she have had no seed, to return into her father’s home and be nourished from his bread.13 The reason why (it is said), “If she have had no seed,” is not that if she have she may marry again—for how much more will she abstain from marrying if she have sons?—but that, if she have, she may be “nourished” by her son rather than by her father; in order that the son, too, may carry out the precept of God, “Honour father and mother.”14 Us, moreover, Jesus, the Father’s Highest and Great Priest,15 clothing us from His own store16—inasmuch as they “who are baptized in Christ17 have put on Christ”—has made “priests to God His Father,”18 according to John. For the reason why He recalls that young man who was hastening to his father’s obsequies,19 is that He may show that we are called priests by Him; (priests) whom the Law used to forbid to be present at the sepulture of parents:20 “Over every dead soul,” it says, “the priest shall not enter, and over his own father and over his own mother he shall not be contaminated.” “Does it follow that we too are bound to observe this prohibition?” No, of course. For our one Father, God, lives, and our mother, the Church; and neither are we dead who live to God, nor do we bury our dead, inasmuch as they too are living in Christ. At all Edition: current; Page: [65] events, priests we are called by Christ; debtors to monogamy, in accordance with the pristine Law of God, which prophesied at that time of us in its own priests.


Turning now to the law, which is properly ours—that is, to the Gospel—by what kind of examples are we met, until we come to definite dogmas? Behold, there immediately present themselves to us, on the threshold as it were, the two priestesses of Christian sanctity, Monogamy and Continence: one modest, in Zechariah the priest; one absolute, in John the forerunner: one appeasing God; one preaching Christ: one proclaiming a perfect priest; one exhibiting “more than a prophet,”1—him, namely, who has not only preached or personally pointed out, but even baptized Christ. For who was more worthily to perform the initiatory rite on the body of the Lord, than flesh similar in kind to that which conceived and gave birth to that (body)? And indeed it was a virgin, about to marry once for all after her delivery, who gave birth to Christ, in order that each title of sanctity might be fulfilled in Christ’s parentage, by means of a mother who was both virgin, and wife of one husband. Again, when He is presented as an infant in the temple, who is it who receives Him into his hands? who is the first to recognise Him in spirit? A man “just and circumspect,” and of course no digamist, (which is plain) even (from this consideration), lest (otherwise) Christ should presently be more worthily preached by a woman, an aged widow, and “the wife of one man;” who, living devoted to the temple, was (already) giving in her own person a sufficient token what sort of persons ought to be the adherents to the spiritual temple,—that is, the Church. Such eye-witnesses the Lord in infancy found; no different ones had He in adult age. Peter alone do I find—through (the mention of) his “mother-in-law”2—to have been married. Monogamist I am led to presume him by consideration of the Church, which, built upon him,3 was destined to appoint every grade of her Order from monogamists. The rest, while I do not find them married, I must of necessity understand to have been either eunuchs or continent. Nor indeed, if, among the Greeks, in accordance with the carelessness of custom, women and wives are classed under a common name—however, there is a name proper to wives—shall we therefore so interpret Paul as if he demonstrates the apostles to have had wives?4 For if he were disputing about marriages, as he does in the sequel, where the apostle could better have named some particular example, it would appear right for him to say, “For have we not the power of leading about wives, like the other apostles and Cephas?” But when he subjoins those (expressions) which show his abstinence from (insisting on) the supply of maintenance, saying, “For have we not the power of eating and drinking?” he does not demonstrate that “wives” were led about by the apostles, whom even such as have not still have the power of eating and drinking; but simply “women,” who used to minister to them in the same way (as they did) when accompanying the Lord.5 But further, if Christ reproves the scribes and Pharisees, sitting in the official chair of Moses, but not doing what they taught,6 what kind of (supposition) is it that He Himself withal should set upon His own official chair men who were mindful rather to enjoin—(but) not likewise to practise—sanctity of the flesh, which (sanctity) He had in all ways recommended to their teaching and practising?—first by His own example, then by all other arguments; while He tells (them) that “the kingdom of heavens” is “children’s;”7 while He associates with these (children) others who, after marriage, remained (or became) virgins;”8 while He calls (them) to (copy) the simplicity of the dove, a bird not merely innocuous, but modest too, and whereof one male knows one female; while He denies the Samaritan woman’s (partner to be) a husband, that He may show that manifold husbandry is adultery;9 while, in the revelation of His own glory, He prefers, from among so many saints and prophets, to have with him Moses and Elias10—the one a monogamist, the other a voluntary celibate (for Elias was nothing else than John, who came “in the power and spirit of Elias”11); while that “man gluttonous and toping,” the “frequenter of luncheons and suppers, in the company of publicans and sinners,”12 sups once for all at a single marriage,13 though, of course, many were marrying (around Him); for He willed to attend (marriages) only so often as (He willed) them to be.


But grant that these argumentations may be thought to be forced and founded on conjectures, Edition: current; Page: [66] if no dogmatic teachings have stood parallel with them which the Lord uttered in treating of divorce, which, permitted formerly, He now prohibits, first because “from the beginning it was not so,” like plurality of marriage; secondly, because “What God hath conjoined, man shall not separate,”1—for fear, namely, that he contravene the Lord: for He alone shall “separate” who has “conjoined” (separate, moreover, not through the harshness of divorce, which (harshness) He censures and restrains, but through the debt of death) if, indeed, “one of two sparrows falleth not on the ground without the Father’s will.”2 Therefore, if those whom God has conjoined man shall not separate by divorce, it is equally congruous that those whom God has separated by death man is not to conjoin by marriage; the joining of the separation will be just as contrary to God’s will as would have been the separation of the conjunction.

So far as regards the non-destruction of the will of God, and the restruction of the law of “the beginning.” But another reason, too, conspires; nay, not another, but (one) which imposed the law of “the beginning,” and moved the will of God to prohibit divorce: the fact that (he) who shall have dismissed his wife, except on the ground of adultery, makes her commit adultery; and (he) who shall have married a (woman) dismissed by her husband, of course commits adultery.3 A divorced woman cannot even marry legitimately: and if she commit any such act without the name of marriage, does it not fall under the category of adultery, in that adultery is crime in the way of marriage? Such is God’s verdict, within straiter limits than men’s, that universally, whether through marriage or promiscuously, the admission of a second man (to intercourse) is pronounced adultery by Him. For let us see what marriage is in the eye of God; and thus we shall learn what adultery equally is. Marriage is (this): when God joins “two into one flesh;” or else, finding (them already) joined in the same flesh, has given His seal to the conjunction. Adultery is (this): when, the two having been—in whatsoever way—disjoined, other—nay, rather alien—flesh is mingled (with either): flesh concerning which it cannot be affirmed, “This is flesh out of my flesh, and this bone out of my bones.”4 For this, once for all done and pronounced, as from the beginning, so now too, cannot apply to “other” flesh. Accordingly, it will be without cause that you will say that God wills not a divorced woman to be joined to another man “while her husband liveth,” as if He do will it “when he is dead;”5 whereas if she is not bound to him when dead, no more is she when living. “Alike when divorce dissevers marriage as when death does, she will not be bound to him by whom the binding medium has been broken off.” To whom, then, will she be bound? In the eye of God, it matters nought whether she marry during her husband’s life or after his death. For it is not against him that she sins, but against herself. “Any sin which a man may have committed is external to the body; but (he) who commits adultery sins against his own body.” But—as we have previously laid down above—whoever shall intermingle with himself “other” flesh, over and above that pristine flesh which God either conjoined into two or else found (already) conjoined, commits adultery. And the reason why He has abolished divorce, which “was not from the beginning,” is, that He may strengthen that which “was from the beginning”—the permanent conjunction, (namely), of “two into one flesh:” for fear that necessity or opportunity for a third union of flesh may make an irruption (into His dominion); permitting divorce to no cause but one—if, (that is), the (evil) against which precaution is taken chance to have occurred beforehand. So true, moreover, is it that divorce “was not from the beginning,” that among the Romans it is not till after the six hundredth year from the building of the city that this kind of “hard-heartedness”6 is set down as having been committed. But they indulge in promiscuous adulteries, even without divorcing (their partners): to us, even if we do divorce them, even marriage will not be lawful.


From this point I see that we are challenged by an appeal to the apostle; for the more easy apprehension of whose meaning we must all the more earnestly inculcate (the assertion), that a woman is more bound when her husband is dead not to admit (to marriage) another husband. For let us reflect that divorce either is caused by discord, or else causes discord; whereas death is an event resulting from the law of God, not from an offence of man; and that it is a debt which all owe, even the unmarried. Therefore, if a divorced woman, who has been separated (from her husband) in soul as well as body, through discord, anger, hatred, and the causes of these—injury, or contumely, or whatsoever cause of complaint—is bound to a personal enemy, not to say a husband, how much more will one who, neither by her own nor her husband’s Edition: current; Page: [67] fault, but by an event resulting from the Lord’s law, has been—not separated from, but left behind by—her consort, be his, even when dead, to whom, even when dead, she owes (the debt of) concord? From him from whom she has heard no (word of) divorce she does not turn away; with him she is, to whom she has written no (document of) divorce; him whom she was unwilling to have lost, she retains. She has within her the licence of the mind, which represents to a man, in imaginary enjoyment, all things which he has not. In short, I ask the woman herself, “Tell me, sister, have you sent your husband before you (to his rest) in peace?” What will she answer? (Will she say), “In discord?” In that case she is the more bound to him with whom she has a cause (to plead) at the bar of God. She who is bound (to another) has not departed (from him). But (will she say), “In peace?” In that case, she must necessarily persevere in that (peace) with him whom she will no longer have the power to divorce; not that she would, even if she had been able to divorce him, have been marriageable. Indeed, she prays for his soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship (with him) in the first resurrection; and she offers (her sacrifice) on the anniversaries of his falling asleep. For, unless she does these deeds, she has in the true sense divorced him, so far as in her lies; and indeed the more iniquitously—inasmuch as (she did it) as far as was in her power—because she had no power (to do it); and with the more indignity, inasmuch as it is with more indignity if (her reason for doing it is) because he did not deserve it. Or else shall we, pray, cease to be after death, according to (the teaching of) some Epicurus, and not according to (that of) Christ? But if we believe the resurrection of the dead, of course we shall be bound to them with whom we are destined to rise, to render an account the one of the other. “But if ‘in that age they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be equal to angels,’1 is not the fact that there will be no restitution of the conjugal relation a reason why we shall not be bound to our departed consorts?” Nay, but the more shall we be bound (to them), because we are destined to a better estate—destined (as we are) to rise to a spiritual consortship, to recognise as well our own selves as them who are ours. Else how shall we sing thanks to God to eternity, if there shall remain in us no sense and memory of this debt; if we shall be re-formed in substance, not in consciousness? Consequently, we who shall be with God shall be together; since we shall all be with the one God—albeit the wages be various,2 albeit there be “many mansions” in the house of the same Father3—having laboured for the “one penny”4 of the self-same hire, that is, of eternal life; in which (eternal life) God will still less separate them whom He has conjoined, than in this lesser life He forbids them to be separated.

Since this is so, how will a woman have room for another husband, who is, even to futurity, in the possession of her own? (Moreover, we speak to each sex, even if our discourse address itself but to the one; inasmuch as one discipline is incumbent [on both].) She will have one in spirit, one in flesh. This will be adultery, the conscious affection of one woman for two men. If the one has been disjoined from her flesh, but remains in her heart—in that place where even cogitation without carnal contact achieves beforehand both adultery by concupiscence, and matrimony by volition—he is to this hour her husband, possessing the very thing which is the mean whereby he became so—her mind, namely, in which withal, if another shall find a habitation, this will be a crime. Besides, excluded he is not, if he has withdrawn from viler carnal commerce. A more honourable husband is he, in proportion as he is become more pure.


Grant, now, that you marry “in the Lord,” in accordance with the law and the apostle—if, notwithstanding, you care even about this—with what face do you request (the solemnizing of) a matrimony which is unlawful to those of whom you request it; of a monogamist bishop, of presbyters and deacons bound by the same solemn engagement, of widows whose Order you have in your own person refused? And they, plainly, will give husbands and wives as they would morsels of bread; for this is their rendering of “To every one who asketh thee thou shalt give!”5 And they will join you together in a virgin church, the one betrothed of the one Christ! And you will pray for your husbands, the new and the old. Make your election, to which of the twain you will play the adulteress. I think, to both. But if you have any wisdom, be silent on behalf of the dead one. Let your silence be to him a divorce, already endorsed in the dotal gifts of another. In this way you will earn the new husband’s favour, if you forget the old. You ought to take more pains to please him for whose sake you have not preferred to please God! Such (conduct) the Psychics will have it the apostle approved, or else totally failed to think about, when he wrote: “The woman is Edition: current; Page: [68] bound for such length of time as her husband liveth; but if he shall have died, she is free; whom she will let her marry, only in the Lord.”1 For it is out of this passage that they draw their defence of the licence of second marriage; nay, even of (marriages) to any amount, if of second (marriage): for that which has ceased to be once for all, is open to any and every number. But the sense in which the apostle did write will be apparent, if first an agreement be come to that he did not write it in the sense of which the Psychics avail themselves. Such an agreement, moreover, will be come to if one first recall to mind those (passages) which are diverse from the passage in question, when tried by the standard of doctrine, of volition, and of Paul’s own discipline. For, if he permits second nuptials, which were not “from the beginning,” how does he affirm that all things are being re-collected to the beginning in Christ?2 If he wills us to iterate conjugal connections, how does he maintain that “our seed is called” in the but once married Isaac as its author? How does he make monogamy the base of his disposition of the whole Ecclesiastical Order, if this rule does not antecedently hold good in the case of laics, from whose ranks the Ecclesiastical Order proceeds?3 How does he call away from the enjoyment of marriage such as are still in the married position, saying that “the time is wound up,” if he calls back again into marriage such as through death had escaped from marriage? If these (passages) are diverse from that one about which the present question is, it will be agreed (as we have said) that he did not write in that sense of which the Psychics avail themselves; inasmuch as it is easier (of belief) that that one passage should have some explanation agreeable with the others, than that an apostle should seem to have taught (principles) mutually diverse. That explanation we shall be able to discover in the subject-matter itself. What was the subject-matter which led the apostle to write such (words)? The inexperience of a new and just rising Church, which he was rearing, to wit, “with milk,” not yet with the “solid food”4 of stronger doctrine; inexperience so great, that that infancy of faith prevented them from yet knowing what they were to do in regard of carnal and sexual necessity. The very phases themselves of this (inexperience) are intelligible from (the apostle’s) rescripts, when he says:5 “But concerning these (things) which ye write; good it is for a man not to touch a woman; but, on account of fornications, let each one have his own wife.” He shows that there were who, having been “apprehended by the faith” in (the state of) marriage, were apprehensive that it might not be lawful for them thenceforward to enjoy their marriage, because they had believed on the holy flesh of Christ. And yet it is “by way of allowance” that he makes the concession, “not by way of command;” that is, indulging, not enjoining, the practice. On the other hand, he “willed rather” that all should be what he himself was. Similarly, too, in sending a rescript on (the subject of) divorce, he demonstrates that some had been thinking over that also, chiefly because withal they did not suppose that they were to persevere, after faith, in heathen marriages. They sought counsel, further, “concerning virgins”—for “precept of the Lord” there was none—(and were told) that “it is good for a man if he so remain permanently;” (“so”), of course, as he may have been found by the faith. “Thou hast been bound to a wife, seek not loosing; thou hast been loosed from a wife, seek not a wife.” “But if thou shalt have taken to (thyself) a wife, thou hast not sinned;” because to one who, before believing, had been “loosed from a wife,” she will not be counted a second wife who, subsequently to believing, is the first: for it is from (the time of our) believing that our life itself dates its origin. But here he says that he “is sparing them;” else “pressure of the flesh” would shortly follow, in consequence of the straits of the times, which shunned the encumbrances of marriage: yea, rather solicitude must be felt about earning the Lord’s favour than a husband’s. And thus he recalls his permission. So, then, in the very same passage in which he definitely rules that “each one ought permanently to remain in that calling in which he shall be called;” adding, “A woman is bound so long as her husband liveth; but if he shall have fallen asleep, she is free: whom she shall wish let her marry, only in the Lord,” he hence also demonstrates that such a woman is to be understood as has withal herself been “found” (by the faith) “loosed from a husband,” similarly as the husband “loosed from a wife”—the “loosing” having taken place through death, of course, not through divorce; inasmuch as to the divorced he would grant no permission to marry, in the teeth of the primary precept. And so “a woman, if she shall have married, will not sin;” because he will not be reckoned a second husband who is, subsequently to her believing, the first, any more (than a wife thus taken will be counted a second wife). And so truly is this the case, that he therefore adds, “only in the Lord;” because the question in agitation was about her who had had a heathen (husband), and had believed subsequently to losing him: for fear, to wit, that she might presume herself able to marry a heathen even after believing; Edition: current; Page: [69] albeit not even this is an object of care to the Psychics. Let us plainly know that, in the Greek original, it does not stand in the form which (through the either crafty or simple alteration of two syllables) has gone out into common use, “But if her husband shall have fallen asleep,” as if it were speaking of the future, and thereby seemed to pertain to her who has lost her husband when already in a believing state. If this indeed had been so, licence let loose without limit would have granted a (fresh) husband as often as one had been lost, without any such modesty in marrying as is congruous even to heathens. But even if it had been so, as if referring to future time, “If any (woman’s) husband shall have died,” even the future would just as much pertain to her whose husband shall die before she believed. Take it which way you will, provided you do not overturn the rest. For since these (other passages) agree to the sense (given above): “Thou hast been called (as) a slave; care not:” “Thou hast been called in uncircumcision; be not circumcised.” “Thou hast been called in circumcision; become not uncircumcised:” with which concurs, “Thou hast been bound to a wife; seek not loosing: thou hast been loosed from a wife; seek not a wife,”—manifest enough it is that these passages pertain to such as, finding themselves in a new and recent “calling,” were consulting (the apostle) on the subject of those (circumstantial conditions) in which they had been “apprehended” by the faith.

This will be the interpretation of that passage, to be examined as to whether it be congruous with the time and the occasion, and with the examples and arguments preceding as well as with the sentences and senses succeeding, and primarily with the individual advice and practice of the apostle himself: for nothing is so much to be guarded as (the care) that no one be found self-contradictory.


Listen, withal, to the very subtle argumentation on the contrary side. “So true is it,” say (our opponents), “that the apostle has permitted the iteration of marriage, that it is only such as are in the Clerical Order that he has stringently bound to the yoke of monogamy. For that which he prescribes to certain (individuals) he does not prescribe to all.” Does it then follow, too, that to bishops alone he does not prescribe what he does enjoin upon all; if what he does prescribe to bishops he does not enjoin upon all? or is it therefore to all because to bishops? and therefore to bishops because to all? For whence is it that the bishops and clergy come? Is it not from all? If all are not bound to monogamy, whence are monogamists (to he taken) into the clerical rank? Will some separate order of monogamists have to be instituted, from which to make selection for the clerical body? (No); but when we are extolling and inflating ourselves in opposition to the clergy, then “we are all one:” then “we are all priests, because He hath made us priests to (His) God and Father.” When we are challenged to a thorough equalization with the sacerdotal discipline, we lay down the (priestly) fillets, and (still) are on a par! The question in hand (when the apostle was writing), was with reference to Ecclesiastical Orders—what sort of men ought to be ordained. It was therefore fitting that all the form of the common discipline should be set forth on its fore-front, as an edict to be in a certain sense universally and carefully attended to, that the laity might the better know that they must themselves observe that order which was indispensable to their overseers; and that even the office of honour itself might not flatter itself in anything tending to licence, as if on the ground of privilege of position. The Holy Spirit foresaw that some would say, “All things are lawful to bishops;” just as that bishop of Utina of yours feared not even the Scantinian law. Why, how many digamists, too, preside in your churches; insulting the apostle, of course: at all events, not blushing when these passages are read under their presidency!

Come, now, you who think that an exceptional law of monogamy is made with reference to bishops, abandon withal your remaining disciplinary titles, which, together with monogamy, are ascribed to bishops.1 Refuse to be “irreprehensible, sober, of good morals, orderly, hospitable, easy to be taught;” nay, indeed, (be) “given to wine, prompt with the hand to strike, combative, money-loving, not ruling your house, nor caring for your children’s discipline,”—no, nor “courting good renown even from strangers.” For if bishops have a law of their own teaching monogamy, the other (characteristics) likewise, which will be the fitting concomitants of monogamy, will have been written (exclusively) for bishops. With laics, however, to whom monogamy is not suitable, the other (characteristics) also have nothing to do. (Thus), Psychic, you have (if you please) evaded the bonds of discipline in its entirety! Be consistent in prescribing, that “what is enjoined upon certain (individuals) is not enjoined upon all;” or else, if the other (characteristics) indeed are common, but monogamy is imposed upon bishops alone, (tell me), pray, whether they alone are to be pronounced Christians upon whom is conferred the entirety of discipline?

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“But again, writing to Timotheus, he ‘wills the very young (women) to marry, bear children, act the housewife.’ ”1 He is (here) directing (his speech) to such as he denotes above—“very young widows,” who, after being “apprehended” in widowhood, and (subsequently) wooed for some length of time, after they have had Christ in their affections, “wish to marry, having judgment, because they have rescinded the first faith,”—that (faith), to wit, by which they were “found” in widowhood, and, after professing it, do not persevere. For which reason he “wills” them to “marry,” for fear of their subsequently rescinding the first faith of professed widowhood; not to sanction their marrying as often as ever they may refuse to persevere in a widowhood plied with temptation—nay, rather, spent in indulgence.

“We read him withal writing to the Romans: ‘But the woman who is under an husband, is bound to her husband (while) living; but if he shall have died, she has been emancipated from the law of the husband.’ Doubtless, then, the husband living, she will be thought to commit adultery if she shall have been joined to a second husband. If, however, the husband shall have died, she has been freed from (his) law, (so) that she is not an adulteress if made (wife) to another husband.”2 But read the sequel as well, in order that this sense, which flatters you, may evade (your grasp). “And so,” he says, “my brethren, be ye too made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that ye may be made (subject) to a second,—to Him, namely, who hath risen from the dead, that we may bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin, which (passions) used to be efficiently caused through the law, (wrought) in our members unto the bearing of fruit to death; but now we have been emancipated from the law, being dead (to that) in which we used to be held,3 unto the serving of God in newness of spirit, and not in oldness of letter.” Therefore, if he bids us “be made dead to the law through the body of Christ,” (which is the Church,4 which consists in the spirit of newness,) not “through the letter of oldness,” (that is, of the law,)—taking you away from the law, which does not keep a wife, when her husband is dead, from becoming (wife) to another husband—he reduces you to (subjection to) the contrary condition, that you are not to marry when you have lost your husband; and in as far as you would not be accounted an adulteress if you became (wife) to a second husband after the death of your (first) husband, if you were still bound to act in (subjection to) the law, in so far as a result of the diversity of (your) condition, he does prejudge you (guilty) of adultery if, after the death of your husband, you do marry another: inasmuch as you have now been made dead to the law, it cannot be lawful for you, now that you have withdrawn from that (law) in the eye of which it was lawful for you.


Now, if the apostle had even absolutely permitted marriage when one’s partner has been lost subsequently to (conversion to) the faith, he would have done (it), just as (he did) the other (actions) which he did adversely to the (strict) letter of his own rule, to suit the circumstances of the times: circumcising Timotheus5 on account of “supposititious false brethren;” and leading certain “shaven men” into the temple6 on account of the observant watchfulness of the Jews—he who chastises the Galatians when they desire to live in (observance of) the law.7 But so did circumstances require him to “become all things to all, in order to gain all;”8 “travailing in birth with them until Christ should be formed in them;”9 and “cherishing, as it were a nurse,” the little ones of faith, by teaching them some things “by way of indulgence, not by way of command”—for it is one thing to indulge, another to bid—permitting a temporary licence of re-marriage on account of the “weakness of the flesh,” just as Moses of divorcing on account of “the hardness of the heart.”

And here, accordingly, we will render the supplement of this (his) meaning. For if Christ abrogated what Moses enjoined, because “from the beginning (it) was not so;” and (if)—this being so—Christ will not therefore be reputed to have come from some other Power; why may not the Paraclete, too, have abrogated an indulgence which Paul granted—because second marriage withal “was not from the beginning”—without deserving on this account to be regarded with suspicion, as if he were an alien spirit, provided only that the superinduction be worthy of God and of Christ? If it was worthy of God and of Christ to check “hard-heartedness” when the time (for its indulgence) was Edition: current; Page: [71] fully expired, why should it not be more worthy both of God and of Christ to shake off “infirmity of the flesh” when “the time” is already more “wound up?” If it is just that marriage be not severed, it is, of course, honourable too that it be not iterated. In short, in the estimation of the world, each is accounted a mark of good discipline: one under the name of concord; one, of modesty. “Hardness of heart” reigned till Christ’s time; let “infirmity of the flesh” (be content to) have reigned till the time of the Paraclete. The New Law abrogated divorce—it had (somewhat) to abrogate; the New Prophecy (abrogates) second marriage, (which is) no less a divorce of the former (marriage). But the “hardness of heart” yielded to Christ more readily than the “infirmity of the flesh.” The latter claims Paul in its own support more than the former Moses; if, indeed, it is claiming him in its support when it catches at his indulgence, (but) refuses his prescript—eluding his more deliberate opinions and his constant “wills,” not suffering us to render to the apostle the (obedience) which he “prefers.”

And how long will this most shameless “infirmity” persevere in waging a war of extermination against the “better things?” The time for its indulgence was (the interval) until the Paraclete began His operations, to whose coming were deferred by the Lord (the things) which in His day “could not be endured;” which it is now no longer competent for any one to be unable to endure, seeing that He through whom the power of enduring is granted is not wanting. How long shall we allege “the flesh,” because the Lord said, “the flesh is weak?”1 But He has withal premised that “the Spirit is prompt,” in order that the Spirit may vanquish the flesh—that the weak may yield to the stronger. For again He says, “Let him who is able to receive, receive (it);”2 that is, let him who is not able go his way. That rich man did go his way who had not “received” the precept of dividing his substance to the needy, and was abandoned by the Lord to his own opinion.3 Nor will “harshness” be on this account imputed to Christ, on the ground of the vicious action of each individual free-will. “Behold,” saith He, “I have set before thee good and evil.”4 Choose that which is good: if you cannot, because you will not—for that you can if you will He has shown, because He has proposed each to your free-will—you ought to depart from Him whose will you do not.


What harshness, therefore, is here on our part, if we renounce (communion with) such as do not the will of God? What heresy, if we judge second marriage, as being unlawful, akin to adultery? For what is adultery but unlawful marriage? The apostle sets a brand upon those who were wont entirely to forbid marriage, who were wont at the same time to lay an interdict on meats which God has created.5 We, however, no more do away with marriage if we abjure its repetition, than we reprobate meats if we fast oftener (than others). It is one thing to do away with, another to regulate; it is one thing to lay down a law of not marrying, it is another to fix a limit to marrying. To speak plainly, if they who reproach us with harshness, or esteem heresy (to exist) in this (our) cause, foster the “infirmity of the flesh” to such a degree as to think it must have support accorded to it in frequency of marriage; why do they in another case neither accord it support nor foster it with indulgence—when, (namely), torments have reduced it to a denial (of the faith)? For, of course, that (infirmity) is more capable of excuse which has fallen in battle, than (that) which (has fallen) in the bed-chamber; (that) which has succumbed on the rack, than (that) which (has succumbed) on the bridal bed; (that) which has yielded to cruelty, than (that) which (has yielded) to appetite; that which has been overcome groaning, than (that) which (has been overcome) in heat. But the former they excommunicate, because it has not “endured unto the end:”6 the latter they prop up, as if withal it has “endured unto the end.” Propose (the question) why each has not “endured unto the end;” and you will find the cause of that (infirmity) to be more honourable which has been unable to sustain savagery, than (of that) which (has been unable to sustain) modesty. And yet not even a bloodwrung—not to say an immodest—defection does the “infirmity of the flesh” excuse!


But I smile when (the plea of) “infirmity of the flesh” is advanced in opposition (to us: infirmity) which is (rather) to be called the height of strength. Iteration of marriage is an affair of strength: to rise again from the ease of continence to the works of the flesh, is (a thing requiring) substantial reins. Such “infirmity” is Edition: current; Page: [72] equal to a third, and a fourth, and even (perhaps) a seventh marriage; as (being a thing) which increases its strength as often as its weakness; which will no longer have (the support of) an apostle’s authority, but of some Hermogenes—wont to marry more women than he paints. For in him matter is abundant: whence he presumes that even the soul is material; and therefore much more (than other men) he has not the Spirit from God, being no longer even a Psychic, because even his psychic element is not derived from God’s afflatus! What if a man allege “indigence,” so as to profess that his flesh is openly prostituted, and given in marriage for the sake of maintenance; forgetting that there is to be no careful thought about food and clothing?1 He has God (to look to), the Foster-father even of ravens, the Rearer even of flowers. What if he plead the loneliness of his home? as if one woman afforded company to a man ever on the eve of flight! He has, of course, a widow (at hand), whom it will be lawful for him to take. Not one such wife, but even a plurality, it is permitted to have. What if a man thinks on posterity, with thoughts like the eyes of Lot’s wife; so that a man is to make the fact that from his former marriage he has had no children a reason for repeating marriage? A Christian, forsooth, will seek heirs, disinherited as he is from the entire world! He has “brethren;” he has the Church as his mother. The case is different if men believe that, at the bar of Christ as well (as of Rome), action is taken on the principle of the Julian laws; and imagine that the unmarried and childless cannot receive their portion in full, in accordance with the testament of God. Let such (as thus think), then, marry to the very end; that in this confusion of flesh they, like Sodom and Gomorrah, and the day of the deluge, may be overtaken by the fated final end of the world. A third saying let them add, “Let us eat, and drink, and marry, for tomorrow we shall die;”2 not reflecting that the “woe” (denounced) “on such as are with child, and are giving suck,”3 will fall far more heavily and bitterly in the “universal shaking”4 of the entire world5 than it did in the devastation of one fraction of Judæa. Let them accumulate by their iterated marriages fruits right seasonable for the last times—breasts heaving, and wombs qualmish, and infants whimpering. Let them prepare for Antichrist (children) upon whom he may more passionately (than Pharaoh) spend his savagery. He will lead to them murderous midwives.6


They will have plainly a specious privilege to plead before Christ—the everlasting “infirmity of the flesh!” But upon this (infirmity) will sit in judgment no longer an Isaac, our monogamist father; or a John, a noted voluntary celibate8 of Christ’s; or a Judith, daughter of Merari; or so many other examples of saints. Heathens are wont to be destined our judges. There will arise a queen of Carthage, and give sentence upon the Christians, who, refugee as she was, living on alien soil, and at that very time the originator of so mighty a state, whereas she ought unasked to have craved royal nuptials, yet, for fear she should experience a second marriage, preferred on the contrary rather to “burn” than to “marry.” Her assessor will be the Roman matron who, having—albeit it was through noctural violence, nevertheless—known another man, washed away with blood the stain of her flesh, that she might avenge upon her own person (the honour of) monogamy. There have been, too, who preferred to die for their husbands rather than marry after their husbands’ death. To idols, at all events, both monogamy and widowhood serve as apparitors. On Fortuna Muliebris, as on Mother Matuta, none but a once wedded woman hangs the wreath. Once for all do the Pontifex Maximus and the wife of a Flamen marry. The priestesses of Ceres, even during the lifetime and with the consent of their husbands, are widowed by amicable separation. There are, too, who may judge us on the ground of absolute continence: the virgins of Vesta, and of the Achaian Juno, and of the Scythian Diana, and of the Pythian Apollo. On the ground of continence the priests likewise of the famous Egyptian bull will judge the “infirmity” of Christians. Blush, O flesh, who hast “put on”9 Christ! Suffice it thee once for all to marry, whereto “from the beginning” thou wast created, whereto by “the end” thou art being recalled! Return at least to the former Adam, if to the last thou canst not! Once for all did he taste of the tree; once for all felt concupiscence; once for all veiled his shame; once for all blushed in the presence of God; once for all concealed his guilty hue; once for all was exiled from the paradise of holiness;10 once for all thenceforward married. If you were “in him,”11 you have your norm; if you have passed over “into Christ,”12 you will be bound to be (yet) better. Exhibit (to us) a third Adam, and him a digamist; and then you will be able to be what, between the two, you cannot.

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(About 160 years having elapsed, pp. 59, 61.)

If the First Epistle to the Corinthians was written ad 57, and if our author speaks with designed precision, and not in round numbers, the date of this treatise should be ad 217,—a date which I should prefer to accept. Bishop Kaye,1 however, instances capp. 7 and 9 in the Ad Nationes as proving his disposition to give his numbers in loose rhetoric, and not with arithmetical accuracy. Pamelius, on the other hand, gives ad 213.

On the general subject Kaye bids us read cap. 3, with cap. 14, to grasp the argument of our enthusiast.2 In few words, our author holds that St. Paul condescends to human infirmity in permitting any marriage whatever, pointing to a better way.3 The apostle himself says, “The time is short;” but a hundred and sixty years have passed since then, and why may not the Spirit of truth and righteousness now, after so long a time, be given to animate the adult Church to that which is pronounced the better way in Scripture itself?

Our author seems struggling here, according to my view, with his own rule of prescription. He would free the doctrine from the charge of novelty by pointing it out in the Scripture of a hundred and sixty years before. But how instinctively the Church ruled against this sophistry, condemning in advance that whole system of “development” which a modern Tertullian defends on grounds quite as specious, under a Montanistic subjection that makes a Priscilla of the Roman pontiff. Let me commend the reader to the remarks upon Tertullian of the “judicious Hooker,” in book ii. capp. v. 5, 6; also book iv. cap. vii. 4, 5, and elsewhere.


(Abrogated indulgence (comp. capp. 2 and 3), p. 70.)

Poor Tertullian is at war with himself in all the works which he indites against Catholic orthodoxy. In the tract De Exhort. Castitatis he gives one construction to 1 Cor. ix. 5, which in this he explains away;4 and now he patches up his conclusion by referring to his Montanistic “Paraclete.” In fighting Marcion, how thoroughly he agrees with Clement of Alexandria as to the sanctity of marriage. In the second epistle to his wife, how beautiful his tribute to the married state, blessed by the Church, and enjoyed in chastity. But here5 how fanatically he would make out that marriage is but tolerated adultery! From Tertullian himself we may prove the marriage of the clergy, and that (de Exhort. Cast., last chapter) abstinence was voluntary and exceptional, however praiseworthy. Also, if he here urges that (cap. 12) even laymen should abstain from second marriages, he allows the liberty of the clergy to marry once. He admits St. Peter’s marriage. Eusebius proves the marriage of St. Jude. Concerning “the grave dignity” of a single marriage, we may concede that Tertullian proves his point, but no further.

In England the principles of the Monogamia were revived by the eccentric Whiston (circa ad 1750), and attracted considerable attention among the orthodox,—a fact pleasantly satirized by Goldsmith in his Vicar of Wakefield.

On the general subject comp. Chrysost., tom. iii. p. 226: “Laus Maximi, et quales ducendæ sint uxores.”

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Modesty, the flower of manners, the honour of our bodies, the grace of the sexes, the integrity of the blood, the guarantee of our race, the basis of sanctity, the pre-indication of every good disposition; rare though it is, and not easily perfected, and scarce ever retained in perpetuity, will yet up to a certain point linger in the world, if nature shall have laid the preliminary groundwork of it, discipline persuaded to it, censorial rigour curbed its excesses—on the hypothesis, that is, that every mental good quality is the result either of birth, or else of training, or else of external compulsion.

But as the conquering power of things evil is on the increase—which is the characteristic of the last times2—things good are now not allowed either to be born, so corrupted are the seminal principles; or to be trained, so deserted are studies; nor to be enforced, so disarmed are the laws. In fact, (the modesty) of which we are now beginning (to treat) is by this time grown so obsolete, that it is not the abjuration but the moderation of the appetites which modesty is believed to be; and he is held to be chaste enough who has not been too chaste. But let the world’s3 modesty see to itself, together with the world4 itself: together with its inherent nature, if it was wont to originate in birth; its study, if in training; its servitude, if in compulsion: except that it had been even more unhappy if it had remained only to prove fruitless, in that it had not been in God’s household that its activities had been exercised. I should prefer no good to a vain good: what profits it that that should exist whose existence profits not? It is our own good things whose position is now sinking; it is the system of Christian modesty which is being shaken to its foundation—(Christian modesty), which derives its all from heaven; its nature, “through the laver of regeneration;”5 its discipline, through the instrumentality of preaching; its censorial rigour, through the judgments which each Testament exhibits; and is subject to a more constant external compulsion, arising from the apprehension or the desire of the eternal fire or kingdom.6

In opposition to this (modesty), could I not have acted the dissembler? I hear that there has even been an edict set forth, and a peremptory one too. The Pontifex Maximus7—that is, the bishop of bishops8—issues an edict: “I remit, to such as have discharged (the requirements of) repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication.” O edict, on which cannot be inscribed, “Good deed!” And where shall this liberality be posted up? On the very spot, I suppose, on the very gates of the sensual appetites, beneath the very titles of the sensual appetites. There is the place for promulgating such repentance, where the delinquency itself shall haunt. There is the place to read the pardon, where entrance shall be made under the hope thereof. But it is in the church that this (edict) is read, and in the church that it is pronounced; and (the church) is a virgin! Far, far from Christ’s betrothed be such a proclamation! She, the true, the modest, the saintly, shall be free from stain even of her ears. She has none to whom to make such a promise; and if she have had, she does not make it; since Edition: current; Page: [75] even the earthly temple of God can sooner have been called by the Lord a “den of robbers,”1 than of adulterers and fornicators.

This too, therefore, shall be a count in my indictment against the Psychics; against the fellowship of sentiment also which I myself formerly maintained with them; in order that they may the more cast this in my teeth for a mark of fickleness. Repudiation of fellowship is never a pre-indication of sin. As if it were not easier to err with the majority, when it is in the company of the few that truth is loved! But, however, a profitable fickleness shall no more be a disgrace to me, than I should wish a hurtful one to be an ornament. I blush not at an error which I have ceased to hold, because I am delighted at having ceased to hold it, because I recognise myself to be better and more modest. No one blushes at his own improvement. Even in Christ, knowledge had its stages of growth;2 through which stages the apostle, too, passed. “When I was a child,” he says, “as a child I spake, as a child I understood; but when I became a man, those (things) which had been the child’s I abandoned:”3 so truly did he turn away from his early opinions: nor did he sin by becoming an emulator not of ancestral but of Christian traditions,4 wishing even the præ-cision of them who advised the retention of circumcision.5 And would that the same fate might befall those, too, who obtruncate the pure and true integrity of the flesh; amputating not the extremest superficies, but the inmost image of modesty itself, while they promise pardon to adulterers and fornicators, in the teeth of the primary discipline of the Christian Name; a discipline to which heathendom itself bears such emphatic witness, that it strives to punish that discipline in the persons of our females rather by defilements of the flesh than tortures; wishing to wrest from them that which they hold dearer than life! But now this glory is being extinguished, and that by means of those who ought with all the more constancy to refuse concession of any pardon to defilements of this kind, that they make the fear of succumbing to adultery and fornication their reason for marrying as often as they please—since “better it is to marry than to burn.”6 No doubt it is for continence sake that incontinence is necessary—the “burning” will be extinguished by “fires!” Why, then, do they withal grant indulgence, under the name of repentance, to crimes for which they furnish remedies by their law of multinuptialism? For remedies will be idle while crimes are indulged, and crimes will remain if remedies are idle. And so, either way, they trifle with solicitude and negligence; by taking emptiest precaution against (crimes) to which they grant quarter, and granting absurdest quarter to (crimes) against which they take precaution: whereas either precaution is not to be taken where quarter is given, or quarter not given where precaution is taken; for they take precaution, as if they were unwilling that something should be committed; but grant indulgence, as if they were willing it should be committed: whereas, if they be unwilling it should be committed, they ought not to grant indulgence; if they be willing to grant indulgence, they ought not to take precaution. For, again, adultery and fornication will not be ranked at the same time among the moderate and among the greatest sins, so that each course may be equally open with regard to them—the solicitude which takes precaution, and the security which grants indulgence. But since they are such as to hold the culminating place among crimes, there is no room at once for their indulgence as if they were moderate, and for their precaution as if they were greatest. But by us precaution is thus also taken against the greatest, or, (if you will), highest (crimes, viz.,) in that it is not permitted, after believing, to know even a second marriage, differentiated though it be, to be sure, from the work of adultery and fornication by the nuptial and dotal tablets: and accordingly, with the utmost strictness, we excommunicate digamists, as bringing infamy upon the Paraclete by the irregularity of their discipline. The self-same liminal limit we fix for adulterers also and fornicators; dooming them to pour forth tears barren of peace, and to regain from the Church no ampler return than the publication of their disgrace.


“But,” say they, “God is ‘good,’ and ‘most good,’7 and ‘pitiful-hearted,’ and ‘a pitier,’ and ‘abundant in pitiful-heartedness,’8 which He holds ‘dearer than all sacrifice,’9 ‘not thinking the sinner’s death of so much worth as his repentance,’10 ‘a Saviour of all men, most of all of believers.’11 And so it will be becoming for ‘the sons of God’12 too to be ‘pitiful-hearted’13 and ‘peacemakers;’14 ‘giving in their turn just as Edition: current; Page: [76] Christ withal hath given to us;’1 ‘not judging, that we be not judged.’2 For ‘to his own lord a man standeth or falleth; who art thou, to judge another’s servant?’3 ‘Remit, and remission shall be made to thee.’ ”4 Such and so great futilities of theirs wherewith they flatter God and pander to themselves, effeminating rather than invigorating discipline, with how cogent and contrary (arguments) are we for our part able to rebut,—(arguments) which set before us warningly the “severity”5 of God, and provoke our own constancy? Because, albeit God is by nature good, still He is “just”6 too. For, from the nature of the case, just as He knows how to “heal,” so does He withal know how to “smite;”7 “making peace,” but withal “creating evils;”8 preferring repentance, but withal commanding Jeremiah not to pray for the aversion of ills on behalf of the sinful People,—“since, if they shall have fasted,” saith He, “I will not listen to their entreaty.”9 And again: “And pray not thou unto (me) on behalf of the People, and request not on their behalf in prayer and supplication, since I will not listen to (them) in the time wherein they shall have invoked me, in the time of their affliction.”10 And further, above, the same preferrer of mercy above sacrifice (says): “And pray not thou unto (me) on behalf of this People, and request not that they may obtain mercy, and approach not on their behalf unto me, since I will not listen to (them)”11—of course when they sue for mercy, when out of repentance they weep and fast, and when they offer their self-affliction to God. For God is “jealous,”12 and is One who is not contemptuously derided13—derided, namely, by such as flatter His goodness—and who, albeit “patient,”14 yet threatens, through Isaiah, an end of (His) patience. “I have held my peace; shall I withal always hold my peace and endure? I have been quiet as (a woman) in birth-throes; I will arise, and will make (them) to grow arid.”15 For “a fire shall proceed before His face, and shall utterly burn His enemies;”16 striking down not the body only, but the souls too, into hell.17 Besides, the Lord Himself demonstrates the manner in which He threatens such as judge: “For with what judgment ye judge, judgment shall be given on you.”18 Thus He has not prohibited judging, but taught (how to do it). Whence the apostle withal judges, and that in a case of fornication,19 that “such a man must be surrendered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh;”20 chiding them likewise because “brethren” were not “judged at the bar of the saints:”21 for he goes on and says, “To what (purpose is it) for me to judge those who are without?” “But you remit, in order that remission may be granted you by God.” The sins which are (thus) cleansed are such as a man may have committed against his brother, not against God. We profess, in short, in our prayer, that we will grant remission to our debtors;22 but it is not becoming to distend further, on the ground of the authority of such Scriptures, the cable of contention with alternate pull into diverse directions; so that one (Scripture) may seem to draw tight, another to relax, the reins of discipline—in uncertainty, as it were,—and the latter to debase the remedial aid of repentance through lenity, the former to refuse it through austerity. Further: the authority of Scripture will stand within its own limits, without reciprocal opposition. The remedial aid of repentance is determined by its own conditions, without unlimited concession; and the causes of it themselves are anteriorly distinguished without confusion in the proposition. We agree that the causes of repentance are sins. These we divide into two issues: some will be remissible, some irremissible: in accordance wherewith it will be doubtful to no one that some deserve chastisement, some condemnation. Every sin is dischargeable either by pardon or else by penalty: by pardon as the result of chastisement, by penalty as the result of condemnation. Touching this difference, we have not only already premised certain antithetical passages of the Scriptures, on one hand retaining, on the other remitting, sins;23 but John, too, will teach us: “If any knoweth his brother to be sinning a sin not unto death, he shall request, and life shall be given to him;” because he is not “sinning unto death,” this will be remissible. “(There) is a sin unto death; not for this do I say that any is to request”24—this will be irremissible. So, where there is the efficacious power of “making request,” there likewise is that of remission: where there is no (efficacious power) of “making request,” there equally is none of remission either. According to this Edition: current; Page: [77] difference of sins, the condition of repentance also is discriminated. There will be a condition which may possibly obtain pardon,—in the case, namely, of a remissible sin: there will be a condition which can by no means obtain it,—in the case, namely, of an irremissible sin. And it remains to examine specially, with regard to the position of adultery and fornication, to which class of sins they ought to be assigned.


But before doing this, I will make short work with an answer which meets us from the opposite side, in reference to that species of repentance which we are just defining as being without pardon. “Why, if,” say they, “there is a repentance which lacks pardon, it immediately follows that such repentance must withal be wholly unpractised by you. For nothing is to be done in vain. Now repentance will be practised in vain, if it is without pardon. But all repentance is to be practised. Therefore let (us allow that) all obtains pardon, that it may not be practised in vain; because it will not be to be practised, if it be practised in vain. Now, in vain it is practised, if it shall lack pardon.” Justly, then, do they allege (this argument) against us; since they have usurpingly kept in their own power the fruit of this as of other repentance—that is, pardon; for, so far as they are concerned, at whose hands (repentance) obtains man’s peace, (it is in vain). As regards us, however, who remember that the Lord alone concedes (the pardon of) sins, (and of course of mortal ones,) it will not be practised in vain. For (the repentance) being referred back to the Lord, and thenceforward lying prostrate before Him, will by this very fact the rather avail to win pardon, that it gains it by entreaty from God alone, that it believes not that man’s peace is adequate to its guilt, that as far as regards the Church it prefers the blush of shame to the privilege of communion. For before her doors it stands, and by the example of its own stigma admonishes all others, and calls at the same time to its own aid the brethren’s tears, and returns with an even richer merchandise—their compassion, namely—than their communion. And if it reaps not the harvest of peace here, yet it sows the seed of it with the Lord; nor does it lose, but prepares, its fruit. It will not fail of emolument if it do not fail in duty. Thus, neither is such repentance vain, nor such discipline harsh. Both honour God. The former, by laying no flattering unction to itself, will more readily win success; the latter, by assuming nothing to itself, will more fully aid.


Having defined the distinction (between the kinds) of repentance, we are by this time, then, able to return to the assessment of the sins—whether they be such as can obtain pardon at the hand of men. In the first place, (as for the fact) that we call adultery likewise fornication, usage requires (us so to do). “Faith,” withal, has a familiar acquaintance with sundry appellations. So, in every one of our little works, we carefully guard usage. Besides, if I shall say “adulterium,” and if “stuprum,” the indictment of contamination of the flesh will be one and the same. For it makes no difference whether a man assault another’s bride or widow, provided it be not his own “female;” just as there is no difference made by places—whether it be in chambers or in towers that modesty is massacred. Every homicide, even outside a wood, is banditry. So, too, whoever enjoys any other than nuptial intercourse, in whatever place, and in the person of whatever woman, makes himself guilty of adultery and fornication. Accordingly, among us, secret connections as well—connections, that is, not first professed in presence of the Church—run risk of being judged akin to adultery and fornication; nor must we let them, if thereafter woven together by the covering of marriage, elude the charge. But all the other frenzies of passions—impious both toward the bodies and toward the sexes—beyond the laws of nature, we banish not only from the threshold, but from all shelter of the Church, because they are not sins, but monstrosities.


Of how deep guilt, then, adultery—which is likewise a matter of fornication, in accordance with its criminal function—is to be accounted, the Law of God first comes to hand to show us; if it is true, (as it is), that after interdicting the superstitious service of alien gods, and the making of idols themselves, after commending (to religious observance) the veneration of the Sabbath, after commanding a religious regard toward parents second (only to that) toward God, (that Law) laid, as the next substratum in strengthening and fortifying such counts, no other precept than “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” For after spiritual chastity and sanctity followed corporeal integrity. And this (the Law) accordingly fortified, by immediately prohibiting its foe, adultery. Understand, consequently, what kind of sin (that must be), the repression of which (the Law) ordained next to (that of) idolatry. Nothing that is a second is remote from the first; nothing is so close to the first as Edition: current; Page: [78] the second. That which results from the first is (in a sense) another first. And so adultery is bordering on idolatry. For idolatry withal, often cast as a reproach upon the People under the name of adultery and fornication, will be alike conjoined therewith in fate as in following—will be alike co-heir therewith in condemnation as in co-ordination. Yet further: premising “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” (the Law) adjoins, “Thou shalt not kill.” It honoured adultery, of course, to which it gives the precedence over murder, in the very fore-front of the most holy law, among the primary counts of the celestial edict, marking it with the inscription of the very principal sins. From its place you may discern the measure, from its rank the station, from its neighbourhood the merit, of each thing. Even evil has a dignity, consisting in being stationed at the summit, or else in the centre, of the superlatively bad. I behold a certain pomp and circumstance of adultery: on the one side, Idolatry goes before and leads the way; on the other, Murder follows in company. Worthily, without doubt, has she taken her seat between the two most conspicuous eminences of misdeeds, and has completely filled the vacant space, as it were, in their midst, with an equal majesty of crime. Enclosed by such flanks, encircled and supported by such ribs, who shall dislocate her from the corporate mass of coherencies, from the bond of neighbour crimes, from the embrace of kindred wickednesses, so as to set apart her alone for the enjoyment of repentance? Will not on one side Idolatry, on the other Murder, detain her, and (if they have any voice) reclaim: “This is our wedge, this our compacting power? By (the standard of) Idolatry we are measured; by her disjunctive intervention we are conjoined; to her, outjutting from our midst, we are united; the Divine Scripture has made us concorporate; the very letters are our glue; herself can no longer exist without us. ‘Many and many a time do I, Idolatry, subminister occasion to Adultery; witness my groves and my mounts, and the living waters, and the very temples in cities, what mighty agents we are for overthrowing modesty.’ ‘I also, Murder, sometimes exert myself on behalf of Adultery. To omit tragedies, witness nowadays the poisoners, witness the magicians, how many seductions I avenge, how many rivalries I revenge; how many guards, how many informers, how many accomplices, I make away with. Witness the midwives likewise, how many adulterous conceptions are slaughtered.’ Even among Christians there is no adultery without us. Wherever the business of the unclean spirit is, there are idolatries; wherever a man, by being polluted, is slain, there too is murder. Therefore the remedial aids of repentance will not be suitable to them, or else they will likewise be to us. We either detain Adultery, or else follow her.” These words the sins themselves do speak. If the sins are deficient in speech, hard by (the door of the church) stands an idolater, hard by stands a murderer; in their midst stands, too, an adulterer. Alike, as the duty of repentance bids, they sit in sackcloth and bristle in ashes; with the self-same weeping they groan; with the self-same prayers they make their circuits; with the self-same knees they supplicate; the self-same mother they invoke. What doest thou, gentlest and humanest Discipline? Either to all these will it be thy duty so to be, for “blessed are the peacemakers;”1 or else, if not to all, it will be thy duty to range thyself on our side. Dost thou once for all condemn the idolater and the murderer, but take the adulterer out from their midst?—(the adulterer), the successor of the idolater, the predecessor of the murderer, the colleague of each? It is “an accepting of person:”2 the more pitiable repentances thou hast left (unpitied) behind!


Plainly, if you show by what patronages of heavenly precedents and precepts it is that you open to adultery alone—and therein to fornication also—the gate of repentance, at this very line our hostile encounter will forthwith cross swords. Yet I must necessarily prescribe you a law, not to stretch out your hand after the old things,3 not to look backwards:4 for “the old things are passed away,”5 according to Isaiah; and “a renewing hath been renewed,”6 according to Jeremiah; and “forgetful of former things, we are reaching forward,”7 according to the apostle; and “the law and the prophets (were) until John,”8 according to the Lord. For even if we are just now beginning with the Law in demonstrating (the nature of) adultery, it is justly with that phase of the law which Christ has “not dissolved, but fulfilled.”9 For it is the “burdens” of the law which were “until John,” not the remedial virtues. It is the “yokes” of “works” that have been rejected, not those Edition: current; Page: [79] of disciplines.1 “Liberty in Christ”2 has done no injury to innocence. The law of piety, sanctity, humanity, truth, chastity, justice, mercy, benevolence, modesty, remains in its entirety; in which law “blessed (is) the man who shall meditate by day and by night.”3 About that (law) the same David (says) again: “The law of the Lord (is) unblameable,4 converting souls; the statutes of the Lord (are) direct, delighting hearts; the precept of the Lord far-shining, enlightening eyes.” Thus, too, the apostle: “And so the law indeed is holy, and the precept holy and most good”5—“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” of course. But he had withal said above: “Are we, then, making void the law through faith? Far be it; but we are establishing the law”6—forsooth in those (points) which, being even now interdicted by the New Testament, are prohibited by an even more emphatic precept: instead of, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” “Whoever shall have seen with a view to concupiscence, hath already committed adultery in his own heart;”7 and instead of, “Thou shalt not kill,” “Whoever shall have said to his brother, Racha, shall be in danger of hell.”8 Ask (yourself) whether the law of not committing adultery be still in force, to which has been added that of not indulging concupiscence. Besides, if any precedents (taken from the Old Dispensation) shall favour you in (the secrecy of) your bosom, they shall not be set in opposition to this discipline which we are maintaining. For it is in vain that an additional law has been reared, condemning the origin even of sins—that is, concupiscences and wills—no less than the actual deeds; if the fact that pardon was of old in some cases conceded to adultery is to be a reason why it shall be conceded at the present day. “What will be the reward attaching to the restrictions imposed upon the more fully developed discipline of the present day, except that the elder (discipline) may be made the agent for granting indulgence to your prostitution?” In that case, you will grant pardon to the idolater too, and to every apostate, because we find the People itself, so often guilty of these crimes, as often reinstated in their former privileges. You will maintain communion, too, with the murderer: because Ahab, by deprecation, washed away (the guilt of) Naboth’s blood;9 and David, by confession, purged Uriah’s slaughter, together with its cause—adultery.10 That done, you will condone incests, too, for Lot’s sake;11 and fornications combined with incest, for Judah’s sake;12 and base marriages with prostitutes, for Hosea’s sake;13 and not only the frequent repetition of marriage, but its simultaneous plurality, for our fathers’ sakes: for, of course, it is meet that there should also be a perfect equality of grace in regard of all deeds to which indulgence was in days bygone granted, if on the ground of some pristine precedent pardon is claimed for adultery. We, too, indeed have precedents in the self-same antiquity on the side of our opinion,—(precedents) of judgment not merely not waived, but even summarily executed upon fornication. And of course it is a sufficient one, that so vast a number—(the number) of 24,000—of the People, when they committed fornication with the daughters of Madian, fell in one plague.14 But, with an eye to the glory of Christ, I prefer to derive (my) discipline from Christ. Grant that the pristine days may have had—if the Psychics please—even a right of (indulging) every immodesty; grant that, before Christ, the flesh may have disported itself, nay, may have perished before its Lord went to seek and bring it back: not yet was it worthy of the gift of salvation; not yet apt for the office of sanctity. It was still, up to that time, accounted as being in Adam, with its own vicious nature, easily indulging concupiscence after whatever it had seen to be “attractive to the sight,”15 and looking back at the lower things, and checking its itching with figleaves.16 Universally inherent was the virus of lust—the dregs which are formed out of milk contain it—(dregs) fitted (for so doing), in that even the waters themselves had not yet been bathed. But when the Word of God descended into flesh,—(flesh) not unsealed even by marriage,—and “the Word was made flesh,”17—(flesh) never to be unsealed by marriage,—which was to find its way to the tree not of incontinence, but of endurance; which was to taste from that tree not anything sweet, but something bitter; which was to pertain not to the infernal regions, but to heaven; which was to be precinct not with the leaves of lasciviousness, but the flowers of holiness;18 which was to impart to the waters its own purities—thenceforth, whatever flesh (is) “in Christ”19 has lost its pristine soils, is now a thing different, emerges in a new state, no longer (generated) of the slime of natural seed, nor of the grime of concupiscence, but of “pure water” and a “clean Edition: current; Page: [80] Spirit.” And, accordingly, why excuse it on the ground of pristine precedent? It did not bear the names of “body of Christ,”1 of “members of Christ,”2 of “temple of God,”3 at the time when it used to obtain pardon for adultery. And thus if, from the moment when it changed its condition, and “having been baptized into Christ put on Christ,”4 and was “redeemed with a great price”—“the blood,” to wit, “of the Lord and Lamb”5—you take hold of any one precedent (be it precept, or law, or sentence,) of indulgence granted, or to be granted, to adultery and fornication,—you have likewise at our hands a definition of the time from which the age of the question dates.


You shall have leave to begin with the parables, where you have the lost ewe re-sought by the Lord, and carried back on His shoulders.6 Let the very paintings upon your cups come forward to show whether even in them the figurative meaning of that sheep will shine through (the outward semblance, to teach) whether a Christian or heathen sinner be the object it aims at in the matter of restoration. For we put in a demurrer arising out of the teaching of nature, out of the law of ear and tongue, out of the soundness of the mental faculty, to the effect that such answers are always given as are called forth (by the question,—answers), that is, to the (questions) which call them forth. That which was calling forth (an answer in the present case) was, I take it, the fact that the Pharisees were muttering in indignation at the Lord’s admitting to His society heathen publicans and sinners, and communicating with them in food. When, in reply to this, the Lord had figured the restoration of the lost ewe, to whom else is it credible that he configured it but to the lost heathen, about whom the question was then in hand,—not about a Christian, who up to that time had no existence? Else, what kind of (hypothesis) is it that the Lord, like a quibbler in answering, omitting the present subject-matter which it was His duty to refute, should spend His labour about one yet future? “But a ‘sheep’ properly means a Christian,7 and the Lord’s ‘flock’ is the people of the Church,8 and the ‘good shepherd’ is Christ;9 and hence in the ‘sheep’ we must understand a Christian who has erred from the Church’s ‘flock.’ ” In that case, you make the Lord to have given no answer to the Pharisees’ muttering, but to your presumption. And yet you will be bound so to defend that presumption, as to deny that the (points) which you think applicable to Christians are referable to a heathen. Tell me, is not all mankind one flock of God? Is not the same God both Lord and Shepherd of the universal nations?10 Who more “perishes” from God than the heathen, so long as he “errs?” Who is more “re-sought” by God than the heathen, when he is recalled by Christ? In fact, it is among heathens that this order finds antecedent place; if, that is, Christians are not otherwise made out of heathens than by being first “lost,” and “re-sought” by God, and “carried back” by Christ. So likewise ought this order to be kept, that we may interpret any such (figure) with reference to those in whom it finds prior place. But you, I take it, would wish this: that He should represent the ewe as lost not from a flock, but from an ark or a chest! In like manner, albeit He calls the remaining number of the heathens “righteous,” it does not follow that He shows them to be Christians; dealing as He is with Jews, and at that very moment refuting them, because they were indignant at the hope of the heathens. But in order to express, in opposition to the Pharisees’ envy, His own grace and goodwill even in regard of one heathen, He preferred the salvation of one sinner by repentance to theirs by righteousness; or else, pray, were the Jews not “righteous,” and such as “had no need of repentance,” having, as they had, as pilotages of discipline and instruments of fear, “the Law and the Prophets?” He set them therefore in the parable—and if not such as they were, yet such as they ought to have been—that they might blush the more when they heard that repentance was necessary to others, and not to themselves.

Similarly, the parable of the drachma,11 as being called forth out of the same subject-matter, we equally interpret with reference to a heathen; albeit it had been “lost” in a house, as it were in the church; albeit “found” by aid of a “lamp,” as it were by aid of God’s word.12 Nay, but this whole world is the one house of all; in which world it is more the heathen, who is found in darkness, whom the grace of God enlightens, than the Christian, who is already in God’s light.13 Finally, it is one “straying” which is ascribed to the ewe and the drachma: (and this is an evidence in my favour); for if the parables had been composed with a view to a Christian sinner, after the loss of his faith, a second loss and restoration of them would have been noted.

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I will now withdraw for a short time from this position; in order that I may, even by withdrawing, the more recommend it, when I shall have succeeded even thus also in confuting the presumption of the opposite side. I admit that the sinner portrayed in each parable is one who is already a Christian; yet not that on this account must he be affirmed to be such an one as can be restored, through repentance, from the crime of adultery and fornication. For although he be said to “have perished,” there will be the kind of perdition to treat of; inasmuch as the “ewe” “perished” not by dying, but by straying; and the “drachma” not by being destroyed, but by being hidden. In this sense, a thing which is safe may be said to “have perished.” Therefore the believer, too, “perishes,” by lapsing out of (the right path) into a public exhibition of charioteering frenzy, or gladiatorial gore, or scenic foulness, or athletic vanity; or else if he has lent the aid of any special “arts of curiosity” to sports, to the convivialities of heathen solemnity, to official exigence, to the ministry of another’s idolatry; if he has impaled himself upon some word of ambiguous denial, or else of blasphemy. For some such cause he has been driven outside the flock; or even himself, perhaps, by anger, by pride, by jealousy, (or)—as, in fact, often happens—by disdaining to submit to chastisement, has broken away (from it). He ought to be re-sought and recalled. That which can be recovered does not “perish,” unless it persist in remaining outside. You will well interpret the parable by recalling the sinner while he is still living. But, for the adulterer and fornicator, who is there who has not pronounced him to be dead immediately upon commission of the crime? With what face will you restore to the flock one who is dead, on the authority of that parable which recalls a sheep not dead?

Finally, if you are mindful of the prophets, when they are chiding the shepherds, there is a word—I think it is Ezekiel’s: “Shepherds, behold, ye devour the milk, and clothe you with the fleeces: what is strong ye have slain; what is weak ye have not tended; what is shattered ye have not bound; what has been driven out ye have not brought back; what has perished ye have not re-sought.”1 Pray, does he withal upbraid them at all concerning that which is dead, that they have taken no care to restore that too to the flock? Plainly, he makes it an additional reproach that they have caused the sheep to perish, and to be eaten up by the beasts of the field; nor can they either “perish mortally,” or be “eaten up,” if they are left remaining. “Is it not possible—(granting) that ewes which have been mortally lost, and eaten up, are recovered—that (in accordance also with the example of the drachma (lost and found again) even within the house of God, the Church) there may be some sins of a moderate character, proportionable to the small size and the weight of a drachma, which, lurking in the same Church, and by and by in the same discovered, forthwith are brought to an end in the same with the joy of amendment?” But of adultery and fornication it is not a drachma, but a talent, (which is the measure); and for searching them out there is need not of the javelin-light of a lamp, but of the spear-like ray of the entire sun. No sooner has (such a) man made his appearance than he is expelled from the Church; nor does he remain there; nor does he cause joy to the Church which discovers him, but grief; nor does he invite the congratulation of her neighbours, but the fellowship in sadness of the surrounding fraternities.

By comparison, even in this way, of this our interpretation with theirs, the arguments of both the ewe and the drachma will all the more refer to the heathen, that they cannot possibly apply to the Christian guilty of the sin for the sake of which they are wrested into a forced application to the Christian on the opposite side.


But, however, the majority of interpreters of the parables are deceived by the self-same result as is of very frequent occurrence in the case of embroidering garments with purple. When you think that you have judiciously harmonized the proportions of the hues, and believe yourself to have succeeded in skilfully giving vividness to their mutual combination; presently, when each body (of colour) and (the various) lights are fully developed, the convicted diversity will expose all the error. In the self-same darkness, accordingly, with regard to the parable of the two sons also, they are led by some figures (occurring in it), which harmonize in hue with the present (state of things), to wander out of the path of the true light of that comparison which the subject-matter of the parable presents. For they set down, as represented in the two sons, two peoples—the elder the Jewish, the younger the Christian: for they cannot in the sequel arrange for the Christian sinner, in the person of the younger son, to obtain pardon, unless in the person of the elder they first portray the Jewish. Now, if I shall succeed in showing that the Jewish fails to suit the comparison of the elder son, the consequence of course will be, that the Christian will not be admissible (as represented) by the joint figure of the younger son. For although the Jew withal be called “a son,” and an “elder one,” inasmuch as he had priority in adoption;2 Edition: current; Page: [82] although, too, he envy the Christian the reconciliation of God the Father,—a point which the opposite side most eagerly catches at,—still it will be no speech of a Jew to the Father: “Behold, in how many years do I serve Thee, and Thy precept have I never transgressed.” For when has the Jew not been a transgressor of the law; hearing with the ear, and not hearing;1 holding in hatred him who reproveth in the gates,2 and in scorn holy speech?3 So, too, it will be no speech of the Father to the Jew: “Thou art always with Me, and all Mine are thine.” For the Jews are pronounced “apostate sons, begotten indeed and raised on high, but who have not understood the Lord, and who have quite forsaken the Lord, and have provoked unto anger the Holy One of Israel.”4 That all things, plainly, were conceded to the Jew, we shall admit; but he has likewise had every more savoury morsel torn from his throat,5 not to say the very land of paternal promise. And accordingly the Jew at the present day, no less than the younger son, having squandered God’s substance, is a beggar in alien territory, serving even until now its princes, that is, the princes of this world6 Seek, therefore, the Christians some other as their brother; for the Jew the parable does not admit. Much more aptly would they have matched the Christian with the elder, and the Jew with the younger son, “according to the analogy of faith,”7 if the order of each people as intimated from Rebecca’s womb8 permitted the inversion: only that (in that case) the concluding paragraph would oppose them; for it will be fitting for the Christian to rejoice, and not to grieve, at the restoration of Israel, if it be true, (as it is), that the whole of our hope is intimately united with the remaining expectation of Israel.9 Thus, even if some (features in the parable) are favourable, yet by others of a contrary significance the thorough carrying out of this comparison is destroyed; although (albeit all points be capable of corresponding with mirror-like accuracy) there be one cardinal danger in interpretations—the danger lest the felicity of our comparisons be tempered with a different aim from that which the subject-matter of each particular parable has bidden us (temper it). For we remember (to have seen) actors withal, while accommodating allegorical gestures to their ditties, giving expression to such as are far different from the immediate plot, and scene, and character, and yet with the utmost congruity. But away with extraordinary ingenuity, for it has nothing to do with our subject. Thus heretics, too, apply the self-same parables where they list, and exclude them (in other cases)—not where they ought—with the utmost aptitude. Why the utmost aptitude? Because from the very beginning they have moulded together the very subject-matters of their doctrines in accordance with the opportune incidences of the parables. Loosed as they are from the constraints of the rule of truth, they have had leisure, of course, to search into and put together those things of which the parables seem (to be symbolical).


We, however, who do not make the parables the sources whence we devise our subject-matters, but the subject-matters the sources whence we interpret the parables, do not labour hard, either, to twist all things (into shape) in the exposition, while we take care to avoid all contradictions. Why “an hundred sheep?” and why, to be sure, “ten drachmas?” And what is that “besom?” Necessary it was that He who was desiring to express the extreme pleasure which the salvation of one sinner gives to God, should name some special quantity of a numerical whole from which to describe that “one” had perished. Necessary it was that the style of one engaged in searching for a “drachma” in a “house,” should be aptly fitted with the helpful accompaniment of a “besom” as well as of a “lamp.” For curious niceties of this kind not only render some things suspected, but, by the subtlety of forced explanations, generally lead away from the truth. There are, moreover, some points which are just simply introduced with a view to the structure and disposition and texture of the parable, in order that they may be worked up throughout to the end for which the typical example is being provided. Now, of course the (parable of) the two sons will point to the same end as (those of) the drachma and the ewe: for it has the self-same cause (to call it forth) as those to which it coheres, and the self-same “muttering,” of course, of the Pharisees at the intercourse between the Lord and heathens. Or else, if any doubts that in the land of Judea, subjugated as it had been long since by the hand of Pompey and of Lucullus, the publicans were heathens, let him read Deuteronomy: “There shall be no tribute-weigher of the sons of Israel.”10 Nor would the name of publicans have been so execrable in the eyes of the Lord, unless as being Edition: current; Page: [83] a “strange”1 name,—a (name) of such as put up the pathways of the very sky, and earth, and sea, for sale. Moreover, when (the writer) adjoins “sinners” to “publicans,”2 it does not follow that he shows them to have been Jews, albeit some may possibly have been so; but by placing on a par the one genus of heathens—some sinners by office, that is, publicans; some by nature, that is, not publicans—he has drawn a distinction between them. Besides, the Lord would not have been censured for partaking of food with Jews, but with heathens, from whose board the Jewish discipline excludes (its disciples).3

Now we must proceed, in the case of the prodigal son, to consider first that which is more useful; for no adjustment of examples, albeit in the most nicely-poised balance, shall be admitted if it shall prove to be most hurtful to salvation. But the whole system of salvation, as it is comprised in the maintenance of discipline, we see is being subverted by that interpretation which is affected by the opposite side. For if it is a Christian who, after wandering far from his Father, squanders, by living heathenishly, the “substance” received from God his Father,—(the substance), of course, of baptism—(the substance), of course, of the Holy Spirit, and (in consequence) of eternal hope; if, stripped of his mental “goods,” he has even handed his service over to the prince of the world4—who else but the devil?—and by him being appointed over the business of “feeding swine”—of tending unclean spirits, to wit—has recovered his senses so as to return to his Father,—the result will be, that, not adulterers and fornicators, but idolaters, and blasphemers, and renegades, and every class of apostates, will by this parable make satisfaction to the Father; and in this way (it may) rather (be said that) the whole “substance” of the sacrament is most truly wasted away. For who will fear to squander what he has the power of afterwards recovering? Who will be careful to preserve to perpetuity what he will be able to lose not to perpetuity? Security in sin is likewise an appetite for it. Therefore the apostate withal will recover his former “garment,” the robe of the Holy Spirit; and a renewal of the “ring,” the sign and seal of baptism; and Christ will again be “slaughtered;”5 and he will recline on that couch from which such as are unworthily clad are wont to be lifted by the torturers, and cast away into darkness,6—much more such as have been stripped. It is therefore a further step if it is not expedient, (any more than reasonable), that the story of the prodigal son should apply to a Christian. Wherefore, if the image of a “son” is not entirely suitable to a Jew either, our interpretation shall be simply governed with an eye to the object the Lord had in view. The Lord had come, of course, to save that which “had perished;”7 “a Physician” necessary to “the sick” “more than to the whole.”8 This fact He was in the habit both of typifying in parables and preaching in direct statements. Who among men “perishes,” who falls from health, but he who knows not the Lord? Who is “safe and sound,” but he who knows the Lord? These two classes—“brothers” by birth—this parable also will signify. See whether the heathen have in God the Father the “substance” of origin, and wisdom, and natural power of Godward recognition; by means of which power the apostle withal notes that “in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom knew not God,”9—(wisdom) which, of course, it had received originally from God. This (“substance”), accordingly, he “squandered;” having been cast by his moral habits far from the Lord, amid the errors and allurements and appetites of the world,10 where, compelled by hunger after truth,11 he handed himself over to the prince of this age. He set him over “swine,” to feed that flock familiar to demons,12 where he would not be master of a supply of vital food, and at the same time would see others (engaged) in a divine work, having abundance of heavenly bread. He remembers his Father, God; he returns to Him when he has been satisfied; he receives again the pristine “garment,”—the condition, to wit, which Adam by transgression had lost. The “ring” also he is then wont to receive for the first time, wherewith, after being interrogated,13 he publicly seals the agreement of faith, and thus thenceforward feeds upon the “fatness” of the Lord’s body,—the Eucharist, to wit. This will be the prodigal son, who never in days bygone was thrifty; who was from the first prodigal, because not from the first a Christian. Him withal, returning from the world to the Father’s embraces, the Pharisees mourned over, in the persons of the “publicans and sinners.” And accordingly to this point alone the elder brother’s envy is adapted: not because the Jews were innocent, and obedient to God, but because they envied the nation salvation; being plainly Edition: current; Page: [84] they who ought to have been “ever with” the Father. And of course it is immediately over the first calling of the Christian that the Jew groans, not over his second restoration: for the former reflects its rays even upon the heathen; but the latter, which takes place in the churches, is not known even to the Jews. I think that I have advanced interpretations more consonant with the subject-matter of the parables, and the congruity of things, and the preservation of disciplines. But if the view with which the opposite party is eager to mould the ewe, and the drachma, and the voluptuousness of the son to the shape of the Christian sinner, is that they may endow adultery and fornication with (the gift of) repentance; it will be fitting either that all other crimes equally capital should be conceded remissible, or else that their peers, adultery and fornication, should be retained inconcessible.

But it is more (to the point) that it is not lawful to draw conclusions about anything else than the subject which was immediately in hand. In short, if it were lawful to transfer the parables to other ends (than they were originally intended for), it would be rather to martyrdom that we would direct the hope drawn from those now in question; for that is the only thing which, after all his substance has been squandered, will be able to restore the son; and will joyfully proclaim that the drachma has been found, albeit among all (rubbish) on a dungheap; and will carry back into the flock on the shoulders of the Lord Himself the ewe, fugitive though she have been over all that is rough and rugged. But we prefer, if it must be so, to be less wise in the Scriptures, than to be wise against them. We are as much bound to keep the sense of the Lord as His precept. Transgression in interpretation is not lighter than in conversation.


When, therefore, the yoke which forbade the discussion of these parables with a view to the heathens has been shaken off, and the necessity once for all discerned or admitted of not interpreting otherwise than is (suitable to) the subject-matter of the proposition; they contend in the next place, that the official proclamation of repentance is not even applicable to heathens, since their sins are not amenable to it, imputable as they are to ignorance, which nature alone renders culpable before God. Hence the remedies are unintelligible to such to whom the perils themselves are unintelligible: whereas the principle of repentance finds there its corresponding place where sin is committed with conscience and will, where both the fault and the favour are intelligible; that he who mourns, he who prostrates himself, is he who knows both what he has lost and what he will recover if he makes to God the offering of his repentance—to God who, of course, offers that repentance rather to sons than to strangers.

Was that, then, the reason why Jonah thought not repentance necessary to the heathen Ninevites, when he tergiversated in the duty of preaching? or did he rather, foreseeing the mercy of God poured forth even upon strangers, fear that that mercy would, as it were, destroy (the credit of) his proclamation? and accordingly, for the sake of a profane city, not yet possessed of a knowledge of God, still sinning in ignorance, did the prophet well-nigh perish?1 except that he suffered a typical example of the Lord’s passion, which was to redeem heathens as well (as others) on their repentance. It is enough for me that even John, when “strewing the Lord’s ways,”2 was the herald of repentance no less to such as were on military service and to publicans, than to the sons of Abraham.3 The Lord Himself presumed repentance on the part of the Sidonians and Tyrians if they had seen the evidences of His “miracles.”4

Nay, but I will even contend that repentance is more competent to natural sinners than to voluntary. For he will merit its fruit who has not yet used more than he who has already withal abused it; and remedies will be more effective on their first application than when outworn. No doubt the Lord is “kind” to “the unthankful,”5 rather than to the ignorant! and “merciful” to the “reprobates” sooner than to such as have yet had no probation! so that insults offered to His clemency do not rather incur His anger than His caresses! and He does not more willingly impart to strangers that (clemency) which, in the case of His own sons, He has lost, seeing that He has thus adopted the Gentiles while the Jews make sport of His patience! But what the Psychics mean is this—that God, the Judge of righteousness, prefers the repentance to the death of that sinner who has preferred death to repentance! If this is so, it is by sinning that we merit favour.

Come, you rope-walker upon modesty, and chastity, and every kind of sexual sanctity, who, by the instrumentality of a discipline of this nature remote from the path of truth, mount with uncertain footstep upon a most slender thread, balancing flesh with spirit, moderating your animal principle by faith, tempering your eye by fear; why are you thus wholly engaged in a single step? Go on, if you succeed in finding power and will, while you are so secure, and Edition: current; Page: [85] as it were upon solid ground. For if any wavering of the flesh, any distraction of the mind, any wandering of the eye, shall chance to shake you down from your equipoise, “God is good.” To His own (children), not to heathens, He opens His bosom: a second repentance will await you; you will again, from being an adulterer, be a Christian! These (pleas) you (will urge) to me, most benignant interpreter of God. But I would yield my ground to you, if the scripture of “the Shepherd,”1 which is the only one which favours adulterers, had deserved to find a place in the Divine canon; if it had not been habitually judged by every council of Churches (even of your own) among apocryphal and false (writings); itself adulterous, and hence a patroness of its comrades; from which in other respects, too, you derive initiation; to which, perchance, that “Shepherd” will play the patron whom you depict upon your (sacramental) chalice, (depict, I say, as) himself withal a prostitutor of the Christian sacrament, (and hence) worthily both the idol of drunkenness, and the brize of adultery by which the chalice will quickly be followed, (a chalice) from which you sip nothing more readily than (the flavour of) the “ewe” of (your) second repentance! I, however, imbibe the Scriptures of that Shepherd who cannot be broken. Him John forthwith offers me, together with the laver and duty of repentance; (and offers Him as) saying, “Bear worthy fruits of repentance: and say not, We have Abraham (as our) father”—for fear, to wit, lest they should again take flattering unctions for delinquency from the grace shown to the fathers—“for God is able from these stones to raise sons to Abraham.” Thus it follows that we too (must judge) such as “sin no more” (as) “bearing worthy fruits of repentance.” For what more ripens as the fruit of repentance than the achievement of emendation? But even if pardon is rather the “fruit of repentance,” even pardon cannot co-exist without the cessation from sin. So is the cessation from sin the root of pardon, that pardon may be the fruit of repentance.


From the side of its pertinence to the Gospel, the question of the parables indeed has by this time been disposed of. If, however, the Lord, by His deeds withal, issued any such proclamation in favour of sinners; as when He permitted contact even with his own body to the “woman, a sinner,”—washing, as she did, His feet with tears, and wiping them with her hair, and inaugurating His sepulture with ointment; as when to the Samaritaness—not an adulteress by her now sixth marriage, but a prostitute—He showed (what He did show readily to any one) who He was;2—no benefit is hence conferred upon our adversaries, even if it had been to such as were already Christians that He (in these several cases) granted pardon. For we now affirm: This is lawful to the Lord alone: may the power of His indulgence be operative at the present day!3 At those times, however, in which He lived on earth we lay this down definitively, that it is no prejudgment against us if pardon used to be conferred on sinners—even Jewish ones. For Christian discipline dates from the renewing of the Testament,4 and (as we have premised) from the redemption of flesh—that is, the Lord’s passion. None was perfect before the discovery of the order of faith; none a Christian before the resumption of Christ to heaven; none holy before the manifestation of the Holy Spirit from heaven, the Determiner of discipline itself.


Accordingly, these who have received “another Paraclete” in and through the apostles,—(a Paraclete) whom, not recognising Him even in His special prophets, they no longer possess in the apostles either;—come, now, let them, even from the apostolic instrument, teach us the possibility that the stains of a flesh which after baptism has been repolluted, can by repentance be washed away. Do we not, in the apostles also, recognise the form of the Old Law with regard to the demonstration of adultery, how great (a crime) it is; lest perchance it be esteemed more trivial in the new stage of disciplines than in the old? When first the Gospel thundered and shook the old system to its base, when dispute was being held on the question of retaining or not the Law; this is the first rule which the apostles, on the authority of the Holy Spirit, send out to those who were already beginning to be gathered to their side out of the nations: “It has seemed (good),” say they, “to the Holy Spirit and to us to cast upon you no ampler weight than (that) of those (things) from which it is necessary that abstinence be observed; from sacrifices, and from fornications, and from blood:5 by abstaining from which ye act rightly, the Holy Spirit carrying you.” Sufficient it is, that in this place withal there has been preserved to adultery and fornication the post of their own honour between idolatry and murder: Edition: current; Page: [86] for the interdict upon “blood” we shall understand to be (an interdict) much more upon human blood. Well, then, in what light do the apostles will those crimes to appear which alone they select, in the way of careful guarding against, from the pristine Law? which alone they prescribe as necessarily to be abstained from? Not that they permit others; but that these alone they put in the foremost rank, of course as not remissible; (they,) who, for the heathens’ sake, made the other burdens of the law remissible. Why, then, do they release our neck from so heavy a yoke, except to place forever upon those (necks) these compendia of discipline? Why do they indulgently relax so many bonds, except that they may wholly bind us in perpetuity to such as are more necessary? They loosed us from the more numerous, that we might be bound up to abstinence from the more noxious. The matter has been settled by compensation: we have gained much, in order that we may render somewhat. But the compensation is not revocable; if, that is, it will be revoked by iteration—(iteration) of adultery, of course, and blood and idolatry: for it will follow that the (burden of) the whole law will be incurred, if the condition of pardon shall be violated. But it is not lightly that the Holy Spirit has come to an agreement with us—coming to this agreement even without our asking; whence He is the more to be honoured. His engagement none but an ungrateful man will dissolve. In that event, He will neither accept back what He has discarded, nor discard what He has retained. Of the latest Testament the condition is ever immutable; and, of course, the public recitation of that decree,1 and the counsel embodied therein, will cease (only) with the world.2 He has definitely enough refused pardon to those crimes the careful avoidance whereof He selectively enjoined; He has claimed whatever He has not inferentially conceded. Hence it is that there is no restoration of peace granted by the Churches to “idolatry” or to “blood.” From which final decision of theirs that the apostles should have departed, is (I think) not lawful to believe; or else, if some find it possible to believe so, they will be bound to prove it.


We know plainly at this point, too, the suspicions which they raise. For, in fact, they suspect the Apostle Paul of having, in the second (Epistle) to the Corinthians, granted pardon to the self-same fornicator whom in the first he has publicly sentenced to be “surrendered to Satan, for the destruction of the flesh,”3—impious heir as he was to his father’s wedlock; as if he subsequently erased his own words, writing: “But if any hath wholly saddened, he hath not wholly saddened me, but in part, lest I burden you all. Sufficient is such a chiding which is given by many; so that, on the contrary, ye should prefer to forgive and console, lest, perhaps, by more abundant sadness, such an one be devoured. For which reason, I pray you, confirm toward him affection. For to this end withal have I written, that I may learn a proof of you, that in all (things) ye are obedient to me. But if ye shall have forgiven any, so (do) I; for I, too, if I have forgiven ought, have forgiven in the person of Christ, lest we be overreached by Satan, since we are not ignorant of his injections.”4 What (reference) is understood here to the fornicator? what to the contaminator of his father’s bed?5 what to the Christian who had overstepped the shamelessness of heathens?—since, of course, he would have absolved by a special pardon one whom he had condemned by a special anger. He is more obscure in his pity than in his indignation. He is more open in his austerity than in his lenity. And yet, (generally), anger is more readily indirect than indulgence. Things of a sadder are more wont to hesitate than things of a more joyous cast. Of course the question in hand concerned some moderate indulgence; which (moderation in the indulgence) was now, if ever, to be divined, when it is usual for all the greatest indulgences not to be granted without public proclamation, so far (are they from being granted) without particularization. Why, do you yourself, when introducing into the church, for the purpose of melting the brotherhood by his prayers, the repentant adulterer, lead into the midst and prostrate him, all in haircloth and ashes, a compound of disgrace and horror, before the widows, before the elders, suing for the tears of all, licking the footprints of all, clasping the knees of all? And do you, good shepherd and blessed father that you are, to bring about the (desired) end of the man, grace your harangue with all the allurements of mercy in your power, and under the parable of the “ewe” go in quest of your goats?6 do you, for fear lest your “ewe” again take a leap out from the flock—as if that were no more lawful for the future which was not even once lawful—fill all the rest likewise full of apprehension at the very moment of granting indulgence? And would the apostle so carelessly have granted indulgence to the atrocious licentiousness of fornication burdened with incest, as not at least to have exacted from Edition: current; Page: [87] the criminal even this legally established garb of repentance which you ought to have learned from him? as to have uttered no commination on the past? no allocution touching the future? Nay, more; he goes further, and beseeches that they “would confirm toward him affection,” as if he were making satisfaction to him, not as if he were granting an indulgence! And yet I hear (him speak of) “affection,” not “communion;” as (he writes) withal to the Thessalonians: “But if any obey not our word through the epistle, him mark; and associate not with him, that he may feel awed; not regarding (him) as an enemy, but rebuking as a brother.”1 Accordingly, he could have said that to a fornicator, too, “affection” only was conceded, not “communion” as well; to an incestuous man, however, not even “affection;” whom he would, to be sure, have bidden to be banished from their midst2—much more, of course, from their mind. “But he was apprehensive lest they should be ‘overreached by Satan’ with regard to the loss of that person whom himself had cast forth to Satan; or else lest, ‘by abundance of mourning, he should be devoured’ whom he had sentenced to ‘destruction of the flesh.’ ” Here they go so far as to interpret “destruction of the flesh” of the office of repentance; in that by fasts, and squalor, and every species of neglect and studious ill-treatment devoted to the extermination of the flesh, it seems to make satisfaction to God; so that they argue that that fornicator—that incestuous person rather—having been delivered by the apostle to Satan, not with a view to “perdition,” but with a view to “emendation,” on the hypothesis that subsequently he would, on account of the “destruction” (that is, the general affliction) “of the flesh,” attain pardon, therefore did actually attain it. Plainly, the self-same apostle delivered to Satan Hymenæus and Alexander, “that they might be emended into not blaspheming,”3 as he writes to his Timotheus. “But withal himself says that ‘a stake4 was given him, an angel of Satan,’ by which he was to be buffeted, lest he should exalt himself.” If they touch upon this (instance) withal, in order to lead us to understand that such as were “delivered to Satan” by him (were so delivered) with a view to emendation, not to perdition; what similarity is there between blasphemy and incest, and a soul entirely free from these,—nay, rather elated from no other source than the highest sanctity and all innocence; which (elation of soul) was being restrained in the apostle by “buffets,” if you will, by means (as they say) of pain in the ear or head? Incest, however, and blasphemy, deserved to have delivered the entire persons of men to Satan himself for a possession, not to “an angel” of his. And (there is yet another point): for about this it makes a difference, nay, rather withal in regard to this it is of the utmost consequence, that we find those men delivered by the apostle to Satan, but to the apostle himself an angel of Satan given. Lastly, when Paul is praying the Lord for its removal, what does he hear? “Hold my grace sufficient; for virtue is perfected in infirmity.”5 This they who are surrendered to Satan cannot hear. Moreover, if the crime of Hymenæus and Alexander—blasphemy, to wit—is irremissible in this and in the future age,6 of course the apostle would not, in opposition to the determinate decision of the Lord, have given to Satan, under a hope of pardon, men already sunken from the faith into blasphemy; whence, too, he pronounced them “shipwrecked with regard to faith,”7 having no longer the solace of the ship, the Church. For to those who, after believing, have struck upon (the rock of) blasphemy, pardon is denied; on the other hand, heathens and heretics are daily emerging out of blasphemy. But even if he did say, “I delivered them to Satan, that they might receive the discipline of not blaspheming,” he said it of the rest, who, by their deliverance to Satan—that is, their projection outside the Church—had to be trained in the knowledge that there must be no blaspheming. So, therefore, the incestuous fornicator, too, he delivered, not with a view to emendation, but with a view to perdition, to Satan, to whom he had already, by sinning above an heathen, gone over; that they might learn there must be no fornicating. Finally, he says, “for the destruction of the flesh,” not its “torture”—condemning the actual substance through which he had fallen out (of the faith), which substance had already perished immediately on the loss of baptism—“in order that the spirit,” he says, “may be saved in the day of the Lord.” And (here, again, is a difficulty): for let this point be inquired into, whether the man’s own spirit will be saved. In that case, a spirit polluted with so great a wickedness will be saved; the object of the perdition of the flesh being, that the spirit may be saved in penalty. In that case, the interpretation which is contrary to ours will recognise a penalty without the flesh, if we lose the resurrection of the flesh. It remains, therefore, that his meaning was, that that spirit which is accounted to exist in the Church must be presented “saved,” that is, untainted by the contagion of impurities in the day of the Lord, by the ejection of the incestuous fornicator; if, Edition: current; Page: [88] that is, he subjoins: “Know ye not, that a little leaven spoileth the savour of the whole lump?”1 And yet incestuous fornication was not a little, but a large, leaven.


And—these intervening points having accordingly been got rid of—I return to the second of Corinthians; in order to prove that this saying also of the apostle, “Sufficient to such a man be this rebuke which (is administered) by many,” is not suitable to the person of the fornicator. For if he had sentenced him “to be surrendered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,” of course he had condemned rather than rebuked him. Some other, then, it was to whom he willed the “rebuke” to be sufficient; if, that is, the fornicator had incurred not “rebuke” from his sentence, but “condemnation.” For I offer you withal, for your investigation, this very question: Whether there were in the first Epistle others, too, who “wholly saddened” the apostle by “acting disorderly,”2 and “were wholly saddened” by him, through incurring (his) “rebuke,” according to the sense of the second Epistle; of whom some particular one may in that (second Epistle) have received pardon. Direct we, moreover, our attention to the entire first Epistle, written (that I may so say) as a whole, not with ink, but with gall; swelling, indignant, disdainful, comminatory, invidious, and shaped through (a series of) individual charges, with an eye to certain individuals who were, as it were, the proprietors of those charges? For so had schisms, and emulations, and discussions, and presumptions, and elations, and contentions required, that they should be laden with invidiousness, and rebuffed with curt reproof, and filed down by haughtiness, and deterred by austerity. And what kind of invidiousness is the pungency of humility? “To God I give thanks that I have baptized none of you, except Crispus and Gaius, lest any say that I have baptized in mine own name.”3 “For neither did I judge to know anything among you but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”4 And, “(I think) God hath selected us the apostles (as) hindmost, like men appointed to fight with wild beasts; since we have been made a spectacle to this world, both to angels and to men:” And, “We have been made the offscourings of this world, the refuse of all:” And, “Am I not free? am I not an apostle? have I not seen Christ Jesus our Lord?”5 With what kind of superciliousness, on the contrary, was he compelled to declare, “But to me it is of small moment that I be interrogated by you, or by a human court-day; for neither am I conscious to myself (of any guilt);” and, “My glory none shall make empty.”6 “Know ye not that we are to judge angels?”7 Again, of how open censure (does) the free expression (find utterance), how manifest the edge of the spiritual sword, (in words like these): “Ye are already enriched! ye are already satiated! ye are already reigning!”8 and, “If any thinks himself to know, he knoweth not yet how it behoves him to know!”9 Is he not even then “smiting some one’s face,”10 in saying, “For who maketh thee to differ? What, moreover, hast thou which thou hast not received? Why gloriest thou as if thou have not received?”11 Is he not withal “smiting them upon the mouth,”12 (in saying): “But some, in (their) conscience, even until now eat (it) as if (it were) an idol-sacrifice. But, so sinning, by shocking the weak consciences of the brethren thoroughly, they will sin against Christ.”13 By this time, indeed, (he mentions individuals) by name: “Or have we not a power of eating, and of drinking, and of leading about women, just as the other apostles withal, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” and, “If others attain to (a share) in power over you, (may) not we rather?” In like manner he pricks them, too, with an individualizing pen: “Wherefore, let him who thinketh himself to be standing, see lest he fall;” and, “If any seemeth to be contentious, we have not such a custom, nor (has) the Church of the Lord.” With such a final clause (as the following), wound up with a malediction, “If any loveth not the Lord Jesus, be he anathema maranatha,” he is, of course, striking some particular individual through.

But I will rather take my stand at that point where the apostle is more fervent, where the fornicator himself has troubled others also. “As if I be not about to come unto you, some are inflated. But I will come with more speed, if the Lord shall have permitted, and will learn not the speech of those who are inflated, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in speech, but in power. And what will ye? shall I come unto you in a rod, or in a spirit of lenity?” For what was to succeed? “There is heard among you generally fornication, and such fornication as (is) not (heard) even among the Gentiles, that one should have his own father’s wife. And are ye inflated, and have ye not rather mourned, that he who hath committed Edition: current; Page: [89] such a deed may be taken away from the midst of you?” For whom were they to “mourn?” Of course, for one dead. To whom were they to mourn? Of course, to the Lord, in order that in some way or other he may be “taken away from the midst of them;” not, of course, in order that he may be put outside the Church. For a thing would not have been requested of God which came within the official province of the president (of the Church); but (what would be requested of Him was), that through death—not only this death common to all, but one specially appropriate to that very flesh which was already a corpse, a tomb leprous with irremediable uncleanness—he might more fully (than by simple excommunication) incur the penalty of being “taken away” from the Church. And accordingly, in so far as it was meantime possible for him to be “taken away,” he “adjudged such an one to be surrendered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” For it followed that flesh which was being cast forth to the devil should be accursed, in order that it might be discarded from the sacrament of blessing, never to return into the camp of the Church.

And thus we see in this place the apostle’s severity divided, against one who was “inflated,” and one who was “incestuous:” (we see the apostle) armed against the one with “a rod,” against the other with a sentence,—a “rod,” which he was threatening; a sentence, which he was executing: the former (we see) still brandishing, the latter instantaneously hurtling; (the one) wherewith he was rebuking, and (the other) wherewith he was condemning. And certain it is, that forthwith thereafter the rebuked one indeed trembled beneath the menace of the uplifted rod, but the condemned perished under the instant infliction of the penalty. Immediately the former retreated fearing the blow, the latter paying the penalty. When a letter of the self-same apostle is sent a second time to the Corinthians, pardon is granted plainly; but it is uncertain to whom, because neither person nor cause is advertised. I will compare the cases with the senses. If the “incestuous” man is set before us, on the same platform will be the “inflated” man too. Surely the analogy of the case is sufficiently maintained, when the “inflated” is rebuked, but the “incestuous” is condemned. To the “inflated” pardon is granted, but after rebuke; to the “incestuous” no pardon seems to have been granted, as under condemnation. If it was to him for whom it was feared that he might be “devoured by mourning” that pardon was being granted, the “rebuked” one was still in danger of being devoured, losing heart on account of the commination, and mourning on account of the rebuke. The “condemned” one, however, was permanently accounted as already devoured, alike by his fault and by his sentence; (accounted, that is, as one) who had not to “mourn,” but to suffer that which, before suffering it, he might have mourned. If the reason why pardon was being granted was “lest we should be defrauded by Satan,” the loss against which precaution was being taken had to do with that which had not yet perished. No precaution is taken in the case of a thing finally despatched, but in the case of a thing still safe. But the condemned one—condemned, too, to the possession of Satan—had already perished from the Church at the moment when he had committed such a deed, not to say withal at the moment of being forsworn by the Church itself. How should (the Church) fear to suffer a fraudulent loss of him whom she had already lost on his ereption, and whom, after condemnation, she could not have held? Lastly, to what will it be becoming for a judge to grant indulgence? to that which by a formal pronouncement he has decisively settled, or to that which by an interlocutory sentence he has left in suspense? And, of course, (I am speaking of) that judge who is not wont “to rebuild those things which he has destroyed, lest he be held a transgressor.”1

Come, now, if he had not “wholly saddened” so many persons in the first Epistle; if he had “rebuked” none, had “terrified”2 none; if he had “smitten” the incestuous man alone; if, for his cause, he had sent none into panic, had struck (no) “inflated” one with consternation,—would it not be better for you to suspect, and more believing for you to argue, that rather some one far different had been in the same predicament at that time among the Corinthians; so that, rebuked, and terrified, and already wounded with mourning, he therefore—the moderate nature of his fault permitting it—subsequently received pardon, than that you should interpret that (pardon as granted) to an incestuous fornicator? For this you had been bound to read, even if not in an Epistle, yet impressed upon the very character of the apostle, by (his) modesty more clearly than by the instrumentality of a pen: not to steep, to wit, Paul, the “apostle of Christ,”3 the “teacher of the nations in faith and verity,”4 the “vessel of election,”5 the founder of Churches, the censor of discipline, (in the guilt of) levity so great as that he should either have condemned rashly one whom he was presently to absolve, or else rashly absolved one whom he had not rashly condemned, albeit on the ground of that fornication which is the result of simple immodesty, not to say on the ground Edition: current; Page: [90] of incestuous nuptials and impious voluptuousness and parricidal lust,—(lust) which he had refused to compare even with (the lusts of) the nations, for fear it should be set down to the account of custom; (lust) on which he would sit in judgment though absent, for fear the culprit should “gain the time;”1 (lust) which he had condemned after calling to his aid even “the Lord’s power,” for fear the sentence should seem human. Therefore he has trifled both with his own “spirit,”2 and with “the angel of the Church,”3 and with “the power of the Lord,” if he rescinded what by their counsel he had formally pronounced.


If you hammer out the sequel of that Epistle to illustrate the meaning of the apostle, neither will that sequel be found to square with the obliteration of incest; lest even here the apostle be put to the blush by the incongruity of his later meanings. For what kind (of hypothesis) is it, that the very moment after making a largess of restoration to the privileges of ecclesiastical peace to an incestuous fornicator, he should forthwith have proceeded to accumulate exhortations about turning away from impurities, about pruning away of blemishes, about exhortations to deeds of sanctity, as if he had decreed nothing of a contrary nature just before? Compare, in short, (and see) whether it be his province to say, “Wherefore, having this ministration, in accordance with (the fact) that we have obtained mercy, we faint not; but renounce the secret things of disgrace,”4 who has just released from condemnation one manifestly convicted of, not “disgrace” merely, but crime too: whether it be his province, again, to excuse a conspicuous immodesty, who, among the counts of his own labours, after “straits and pressures,” after “fasts and vigils,” has named “chastity” also:5 whether it be, once more, his province to receive back into communion whatsoever reprobates, who writes, “For what society (is there) between righteousness and iniquity? what communion, moreover, between light and darkness? what consonance between Christ and Belial? or what part for a believer with an unbeliever? or what agreement between the temple of God and idols?” Will he not deserve to hear constantly (the reply): “And in what manner do you make a separation between things which, in the former part of your Epistle, by restitution of the incestuous one, you have joined? For by his restoration to concorporate unity with the Church, righteousness is made to have fellowship with iniquity, darkness has communion with light, Belial is consonant with Christ, and believer shares the sacraments with unbeliever. And idols may see to themselves: the very vitiator of the temple of God is converted into a temple of God: for here, too, he says, ‘For ye are a temple of the living God. For He saith, That I will dwell in you, and will walk in (you), and will be their God, and they shall be to Me a people. Wherefore depart from the midst of them, be separate, and touch not the unclean.’6 This (thread of discourse) also you spin out, O apostle, when at the very moment you yourself are offering your hand to so huge a whirlpool of impurities; nay, you superadd yet further, ‘Having therefore this promise, beloved, cleanse we ourselves out from every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting chastity in God’s fear.’ ”7 I pray you, had he who fixes such (exhortations) in our minds been recalling some notorious fornicator into the Church? or is his reason for writing it, to prevent himself from appearing to you in the present day to have so recalled him? These (words of his) will be in duty bound alike to serve as a prescriptive rule for the foregone, and a prejudgment for the following, (parts of the Epistle). For in saying, toward the end of the Epistle, “Lest, when I shall have come, God humble me, and I bewail many of those who have formerly sinned, and have not repented of the impurity which they have committed, the fornication, and the vileness,”8 he did not, of course, determine that they were to be received back (by him into the Church) if they should have entered (the path of) repentance, whom he was to find in the Church, but that they were to be bewailed, and indubitably ejected, that they might lose (the benefit of) repentance. And, besides, it is not congruous that he, who had above asserted that there was no communion between light and darkness, righteousness and iniquity, should in this place have been indicating somewhat touching communion. But all such are ignorant of the apostle as understand anything in a sense contrary to the nature and design of the man himself, contrary to the norm and rule of his docrines; so as to presume that he, a teacher of every sanctity, even by his own example, an execrator and expiator of every impurity, and universally consistent with himself in these points, restored ecclesiastical privileges to an incestuous person sooner than to some more mild offender.


Necessary it is, therefore, that the (character of the) apostle should be continuously pointed Edition: current; Page: [91] out to them; whom I will maintain to be such in the second of Corinthians withal, as I know (him to be) in all his letters. (He it is) who even in the first (Epistle) was the first of all (the apostles) to dedicate the temple of God: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that in you the Lord dwells?”1—who likewise, for the consecrating and purifying (of) that temple, wrote the law pertaining to the temple-keepers: “If any shall have marred the temple of God, him shall God mar; for the temple of God is holy, which (temple) are ye.”2 Come, now; who in the world has (ever) redintegrated one who has been “marred” by God (that is, delivered to Satan with a view to destruction of the flesh), after subjoining for that reason, “Let none seduce himself;”3 that is, let none presume that one “marred” by God can possibly be redintegrated anew? Just as, again, among all other crimes—nay, even before all others—when affirming that “adulterers, and fornicators, and effeminates, and cohabitors with males, will not attain the kingdom of God,” he premised, “Do not err”4—to wit, if you think they will attain it. But to them from whom “the kingdom” is taken away, of course the life which exists in the kingdom is not permitted either. Moreover, by superadding, “But such indeed ye have been; but ye have received ablution, but ye have been sanctified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God,”5 in as far as he puts on the paid side of the account such sins before baptism, in so far after baptism he determines them irremissible, if it is true, (as it is), that they are not allowed to “receive ablution” anew. Recognise, too, in what follows, Paul (in the character of) an immoveable column of discipline and its rules: “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: God maketh a full end both of the one and of the others; but the body (is) not for fornication, but for God:”6 for “Let Us make man,” said God, “(conformable) to Our image and likeness.” “And God made man; (conformable) to the image and likeness of God made He him.”7 “The Lord for the body:” yes; for “the Word was made flesh.”8 “Moreover, God both raised up the Lord, and will raise up us through His own power;”9 on account, to wit, of the union of our body with Him. And accordingly, “Know ye not your bodies (to be) members of Christ?” because Christ, too, is God’s temple. “Overturn this temple, and I will in three days’ space resuscitate it.”10 “Taking away the members of Christ, shall I make (them) members of an harlot? Know ye not, that whoever is agglutinated to an harlot is made one body? (for the two shall be (made) into one flesh): but whoever is agglutinated to the Lord is one spirit? Flee fornication.”11 If revocable by pardon, in what sense am I to flee it, to turn adulterer anew? I shall gain nothing if I do flee it: I shall be “one body,” to which by communion I shall be agglutinated. “Every sin which a human being may have committed is extraneous to the body; but whoever fornicateth, sinneth against his own body.”12 And, for fear you should fly to that statement for a licence to fornication, on the ground that you will be sinning against a thing which is yours, not the Lord’s, he takes you away from yourself, and awards you, according to his previous disposition, to Christ: “And ye are not your own;” immediately opposing (thereto), “for bought ye are with a price”—the blood, to wit, of the Lord.13 “glorify and extol the Lord in your body.”14 See whether he who gives this injunction be likely to have pardoned one who has disgraced the Lord, and who has cast Him down from (the empire of) his body, and this indeed through incest. If you wish to imbibe to the utmost all knowledge of the apostle, in order to understand with what an axe of censorship he lops, and eradicates, and extirpates, every forest of lusts, for fear of permitting aught to regain strength and sprout again; behold him desiring souls to keep a fast from the legitimate fruit of nature—the apple, I mean, of marriage: “But with regard to what ye wrote, good it is for a man to have no contact with a woman; but, on account of fornication, let each one have his own wife: let husband to wife, and wife to husband, render what is due.”15 Who but must know that it was against his will that he relaxed the bond of this “good,” in order to prevent fornication? But if he either has granted, or does grant, indulgence to fornication, of course he has frustrated the design of his own remedy, and will be bound forthwith to put the curb upon the nuptials of continence, if the fornication for the sake of which those nuptials are permitted shall cease to be feared. For (a fornication) which has indulgence granted it will not be feared. And yet he professes that he has granted the use of marriage “by way of indulgence, not of command.”16 For he “wills” all to be on a level with himself. But when things Edition: current; Page: [92] lawful are (only) granted by way of indulgence, who hope for things unlawful? “To the unmarried” also, “and widows,” he says, “It is good, by his example, to persevere” (in their present state); “but if they were too weak, to marry; because it is preferable to marry than to burn.”1 With what fires, I pray you, is it preferable to “burn”—(the fires) of concupiscence, or (the fires) of penalty? Nay, but if fornication is pardonable, it will not be an object of concupiscence. But it is more (the manner) of an apostle to take forethought for the fires of penalty. Wherefore, if it is penalty which “burns,” it follows that fornication, which penalty awaits, is not pardonable. Meantime withal, while prohibiting divorce, he uses the Lord’s precept against adultery as an instrument for providing, in place of divorce, either perseverance in widowhood, or else a reconciliation of peace: inasmuch as “whoever shall have dismissed a wife (for any cause) except the cause of adultery, maketh her commit adultery; and he who marrieth one dismissed by a husband committeth adultery.”2 What powerful remedies does the Holy Spirit furnish, to prevent, to wit, the commission anew of that which He wills not should anew be pardoned!

Now, if in all cases he says it is best for a man thus to be; “Thou art joined to a wife, seek not loosing” (that you may give no occasion to adultery); “thou art loosed from a wife, seek not a wife,” that you may reserve an opportunity for yourself: “but withal, if thou shalt have married a wife, and if a virgin shall have married, she sinneth not; pressure, however, of the flesh such shall have,”—even here he is granting a permission by way of “sparing them.”3 On the other hand, he lays it down that “the time is wound up,” in order that even “they who have wives may be as if they had them not.” “For the fashion of this world is passing away,”—(this world) no longer, to wit, requiring (the command), “Grow and multiply.” Thus he wills us to pass our life “without anxiety,” because “the unmarried care about the Lord, how they may please God; the married, however, muse about the world,4 how they may please their spouse.”5 Thus he pronounces that the “preserver of a virgin” doeth “better” than her “giver in marriage.”6 Thus, too, he discriminatingly judges her to be more blessed, who, after losing her husband subsequently to her entrance into the faith, lovingly embraces the opportunity of widowhood.7 Thus he commends as Divine all these counsels of continence: “I think,”8 he says, “I too have the Spirit of God.”9

Who is this your most audacious asserter of all immodesty, plainly a “most faithful” advocate of the adulterous, and fornicators, and incestuous, in whose honour he has undertaken this cause against the Holy Spirit, so that he recites a false testimony from (the writings of) His apostle? No such indulgence granted Paul, who endeavours to obliterate “necessity of the flesh” wholly from (the list of) even honourable pretexts (for marriage unions). He does grant “indulgence,” I allow;—not to adulteries, but to nuptials. He does “spare,” I allow;—marriages, not harlotries. He tries to avoid giving pardon even to nature, for fear he may flatter guilt. He is studious to put restraints upon the union which is heir to blessing, for fear that which is heir to curse be excused. This (one possibility) was left him—to purge the flesh from (natural) dregs, for (cleanse it) from (foul) stains he cannot. But this is the usual way with perverse and ignorant heretics; yes, and by this time even with Psychics universally: to arm themselves with the opportune support of some one ambiguous passage, in opposition to the disciplined host of sentences of the entire document.


Challenge me to front the apostolic line of battle; look at his Epistles: they all keep guard in defence of modesty, of chastity, of sanctity; they all aim their missiles against the interests of luxury, and lasciviousness, and lust. What, in short, does he write to the Thessalonians withal? “For our consolation10 (originated) not of seduction, nor of impurity:” and, “This is the will of God, your sanctification, that ye abstain from fornication; that each one know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, not in the lust of concupiscence, as (do) the nations which are ignorant of God.”11 What do the Galatians read? “Manifest are the works of the flesh.” What are these? Among the first he has set “fornication, impurity, lasciviousness:” “(concerning) which I foretell you, as I have foretold, that whoever do such acts are not to attain by inheritance the kingdom of God.”12 The Romans, moreover,—what learning is more impressed upon them than that there must be no dereliction of the Lord after believing? “What, then, say we? Do we persevere in sin, in order that grace may superabound? Far be Edition: current; Page: [93] it. We, who are dead to sin, how shall we live in it still? Are ye ignorant that we who have been baptized in Christ have been baptized into His death? Buried with Him, then, we have been, through the baptism into the death, in order that, as Christ hath risen again from the dead, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been buried together in the likeness of His death, why, we shall be (in that) of (His) resurrection too; knowing this, that our old man hath been crucified together with Him. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall live, too, with Him; knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, no more dieth, (that) death no more hath domination over Him. For in that He died to sin, He died once for all; but in that He liveth, to God He liveth. Thus, too, repute ye yourselves dead indeed to sin, but living to God through Christ Jesus.”1 Therefore, Christ being once for all dead, none who, subsequently to Christ, has died, can live again to sin, and especially to so heinous a sin. Else, if fornication and adultery may by possibility be anew admissible, Christ withal will be able anew to die. Moreover, the apostle is urgent in prohibiting “sin from reigning in our mortal body,”2 whose “infirmity of the flesh” he knew. “For as ye have tendered your members to servile impurity and iniquity, so too now tender them servants to righteousness unto holiness.” For even if he has affirmed that “good dwelleth not in his flesh,”3 yet (he means) according to “the law of the letter,”4 in which he “was:” but according to “the law of the Spirit,”5 to which he annexes us, he frees us from the “infirmity of the flesh.” “For the law,” he says, “of the Spirit of life hath manumitted thee from the law of sin and of death.”6 For albeit he may appear to be partly disputing from the standpoint of Judaism, yet it is to us that he is directing the integrity and plenitude of the rules of discipline,—(us), for whose sake soever, labouring (as we were) in the law, “God hath sent, through flesh, His own Son, in similitude of flesh of sin; and, because of sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh; in order that the righteousness of the law,” he says, “might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to flesh, but according to (the) Spirit. For they who walk according to flesh are sensible as to those things which are the flesh’s, and they who (walk) according to (the) Spirit those which (are) the Spirit’s.”7 Moreover, he has affirmed the “sense of the flesh” to be “death;”8 hence, too, “enmity,” and enmity toward God;9 and that “they who are in the flesh,” that is, in the sense of the flesh, “cannot please God:”10 and, “If ye live according to flesh,” he says, “it will come to pass that ye die.”11 But what do we understand “the sense of the flesh” and “the life of the flesh” (to mean), except whatever “it shames (one) to pronounce?”12 for the other (works) of the flesh even an apostle would have named.13 Similarly, too, (when writing) to the Ephesians, while recalling past (deeds), he warns (them) concerning the future: “In which we too had our conversation, doing the concupiscences and pleasures of the flesh.”14 Branding, in fine, such as had denied themselves—Christians, to wit—on the score of having “delivered themselves up to the working of every impurity,”15 “But ye,” he says, “not so have learnt Christ.” And again he says thus: “Let him who was wont to steal, steal no more.”16 But, similarly, let him who was wont to commit adultery hitherto, not commit adultery; and he who was wont to fornicate hitherto, not fornicate: for he would have added these (admonitions) too, had he been in the habit of extending pardon to such, or at all willed it to be extended—(he) who, not willing pollution to be contracted even by a word, says, “Let no base speech proceed out of your mouth.”17 Again: “But let fornication and every impurity not be even named among you, as becometh saints,”18—so far is it from being excused,—“knowing this, that every fornicator or impure (person) hath not God’s kingdom. Let none seduce you with empty words: on this account cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of unbelief.”19 Who “seduces with empty words” but he who states in a public harangue that adultery is remissible? not seeing into the fact that its very foundations have been dug out by the apostle, when he puts restraints upon drunkennesses and revellings, as withal here: “And be not inebriated with wine, in which is voluptuousness.”20 He demonstrates, too, to the Colossians what “members” they are to “mortify” upon earth: “fornication, impurity, lust, evil concupiscence,” and “base talk.”21

Yield up, by this time, to so many and such sentences, the one (passage) to which you cling. Paucity is cast into the shade by multitude, doubt by certainty, obscurity by plainness. Even if, for certain, the apostle had granted pardon Edition: current; Page: [94] of fornication to that Corinthian, it would be another instance of his once for all contravening his own practice to meet the requirement of the time. He circumcised Timotheus alone, and yet did away with circumcision.1


“But these (passages),” says (our opponent), “will pertain to the interdiction of all immodesty, and the enforcing of all modesty, yet without prejudice to the place of pardon; which (pardon) is not forthwith quite denied when sins are condemned, since the time of the pardon is concurrent with the condemnation which it excludes.”

This piece of shrewdness on the part of the Psychics was (naturally) sequent; and accordingly we have reserved for this place the cautions which, even in the times of antiquity, were openly taken with a view to the refusing of ecclesiastical communion to cases of this kind.

For even in the Proverbs, which we call Parœmiæ, Solomon specially (treats) of the adulterer (as being) nowhere admissible to expiation. “But the adulterer,” he says, “through indigence of senses acquireth perdition to his own soul; sustaineth dolors and disgraces. His ignominy, moreover, shall not be wiped away for the age. For indignation, full of jealousy, will not spare the man in the day of judgment.”2 If you think this said about a heathen, at all events about believers you have already heard (it said) through Isaiah: “Go out from the midst of them, and be separate, and touch not the impure.”3 You have at the very outset of the Psalms, “Blessed the man who hath not gone astray in the counsel of the impious, nor stood in the way of sinners, and sat in the statechair of pestilence;”4 whose voice,5 withal, (is heard) subsequently: “I have not sat with the conclave of vanity; and with them who act iniquitously will I not enter”—this (has to do) with “the church” of such as act ill—“and with the impious will I not sit;”6 and, “I will wash with the innocent mine hands, and Thine altar will I surround, Lord7—as being “a host in himself”—inasmuch as indeed “With an holy (man), holy Thou wilt be; and with an innocent man, innocent Thou wilt be; and with an elect, elect Thou wilt be; and with a perverse, perverse Thou wilt be.”8 And elsewhere: “But to the sinner saith the Lord, Why expoundest thou my righteous acts, and takest up my testament through thy mouth? If thou sawest a thief, thou rannest with him; and with adulterers thy portion thou madest.”9 Deriving his instructions, therefore, from hence, the apostle too says: “I wrote to you in the Epistle, not to be mingled up with fornicators: not, of course, with the fornicators of this world”—and so forth—“else it behoved you to go out from the world. But now I write to you, if any is named a brother among you, (being) a fornicator, or an idolater” (for what so intimately joined?), “or a defrauder” (for what so near akin?), and so on, “with such to take no food even,”10 not to say the Eucharist: because, to wit, withal “a little leaven spoileth the flavour of the whole lump.”11 Again to Timotheus: “Lay hands on no one hastily, nor communicate with others’ sins.”12 Again to the Ephesians: “Be not, then, partners with them: for ye were at one time darkness.”13 And yet more earnestly: “Communicate not with the unfruitful works of darkness; nay rather withal convict them. For (the things) which are done by them in secrecy it is disgraceful even to utter.”14 What more disgraceful than immodesties? If, moreover, even from a “brother” who “walketh idly”15 he warns the Thessalonians to withdraw themselves, how much more withal from a fornicator! For these are the deliberate judgments of Christ, “loving the Church,” who “hath delivered Himself up for her, that He may sanctify her (purifying her utterly by the laver of water) in the word, that He may present the Church to Himself glorious, not having stain or wrinkle”—of course after the laver—“but (that) she may be holy and without reproach;”16 thereafter, to wit, being “without wrinkle” as a virgin, “without stain” (of fornication) as a spouse, “without disgrace” (of vileness), as having been “utterly purified.”

What if, even here, you should conceive to reply that communion is indeed denied to sinners, very especially such as had been “polluted by the flesh,”17 but (only) for the present; to be restored, to wit, as the result of penitential suing: in accordance with that clemency of God which prefers a sinner’s repentance to his death?18—for this fundamental ground of your opinion must be universally attacked. We say, accordingly, that if it had been competent to the Divine clemency to have guaranteed the demonstration of itself even to the post-baptismally lapsed, the apostle would have said thus: “Communicate not with the works of darkness, unless they shall Edition: current; Page: [95] have repented;” and, “With such take not food even, unless after they shall have wiped, with rolling at their feet, the shoes of the brethren;” and, “Him who shall have marred the temple of God, shall God mar, unless he shall have shaken off from his head in the church the ashes of all hearths.” For it had been his duty, in the case of those things which he had condemned, to have equally determined the extent to which he had (and that conditionally) condemned them,—whether he had condemned them with a temporary and conditional, and not a perpetual, severity. However, since in all Epistles he both prohibits such a character, (so sinning) after believing, from being admitted (to the society of believers); and, if admitted, detrudes him from communion, without hope of any condition or time; he sides more with our opinion, pointing out that the repentance which the Lord prefers is that which before believing, before baptism, is esteemed better than the death of the sinner,—(the sinner, I say,) once for all to be washed through the grace of Christ, who once for all has suffered death for our sins. For this (rule), even in his own person, the apostle has laid down. For, when affirming that Christ came for this end, that He might save sinners,1 of whom himself had been the “first,” what does he add? “And I obtained mercy, because I did (so) ignorantly in unbelief.”2 Thus that clemency of God, preferring the repentance of a sinner to his death, looks at such as are ignorant still, and still unbelieving, for the sake of whose liberation Christ came; not (at such) as already know God, and have learnt the sacrament of the faith. But if the clemency of God is applicable to such as are ignorant still, and unbelieving, of course it follows that repentance invites clemency to itself; without prejudice to that species of repentance after believing, which either, for lighter sins, will be able to obtain pardon from the bishop, or else, for greater and irremissible ones, from God only.3


But how far (are we to treat) of Paul; since even John appears to give some secret countenance to the opposite side? as if in the Apocalypse he has manifestly assigned to fornication the auxiliary aid of repentance, where, to the angel of the Thyatirenes, the Spirit sends a message that He “hath against him that he kept (in communion) the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophet, and teacheth,4 and seduceth my servants unto fornicating and eating of idolsacrifices. And I gave her bounteously a space of time, that she might enter upon repentance; nor is she willing to enter upon it on the count of fornication. Behold, I will give her into a bed, and her adulterers with herself into greatest pressure, unless they shall have repented of her works.”5 I am content with the fact that, between apostles, there is a common agreement in rules of faith and of discipline. For, “Whether (it be) I,” says (Paul), “or they, thus we preach.”6 Accordingly, it is material to the interest of the whole sacrament to believe nothing conceded by John, which has been flatly refused by Paul. This harmony of the Holy Spirit whoever observes, shall by Him be conducted into His meanings. For (the angel of the Thyatirene Church) was secretly introducing into the Church, and urging justly to repentance, an heretical woman, who had taken upon herself to teach what she had learnt from the Nicolaitans. For who has a doubt that an heretic, deceived by (a spurious baptismal) rite, upon discovering his mischance, and expiating it by repentance, both attains pardon and is restored to the bosom of the Church? Whence even among us, as being on a par with an heathen, nay even more than heathen, an heretic likewise, (such an one) is purged through the baptism of truth from each character,7 and admitted (to the Church). Or else, if you are certain that that woman had, after a living faith, subsequently expired, and turned heretic, in order that you may claim pardon as the result of repentance, not as it were for an heretical, but as it were for a believing, sinner: let her, I grant, repent; but with the view of ceasing from adultery, not however in the prospect of restoration (to Church-fellowship) as well. For this will be a repentance which we, too, acknowledge to be due much more (than you do); but which we reserve, for pardon, to God.8

In short, this Apocalypse, in its later passages, has assigned “the infamous and fornicators,” as well as “the cowardly, and unbelieving, and murderers, and sorcerers, and idolaters,” who have been guilty of any such crime while professing the faith, to “the lake of fire,”9 without any conditional condemnation. For it will not appear to savour of (a bearing upon) heathens, since it has (just) pronounced with regard to believers, “They who shall have conquered shall have this inheritance; and I will be to them a God, and they to me for sons;” and so has subjoined: “But to the cowardly, and unbelieving, and infamous, and fornicators, and murderers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, (shall be) a Edition: current; Page: [96] share in the lake of fire and sulphur, which (lake) is the second death.” Thus, too, again: “Blessed they who act according to the precepts, that they may have power over the tree of life, and over the gates, for entering into the holy city. Dogs, sorcerers, fornicators, murderers, out!”1—of course, such as do not act according to the precepts; for to be sent out is the portion of those who have been within. Moreover, “What have I to do to judge them who are without?”2 had preceded (the sentences now in question).

From the Epistle also of John they forthwith cull (a proof). It is said: “The blood of His Son purifieth us utterly from every sin.”3 Always then, and in every form, we will sin, if always and from every sin He utterly purifies us; or else, if not always, not again after believing; and if not from sin, not again from fornication. But what is the point whence (John) has started? He had predicated “God” to be “Light,” and that “darkness is not in Him,” and that “we lie if we say that we have communion with Him, and walk in darkness.”4 “If, however,” he says, “we walk in the light, we shall have communion with Him, and the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord purifieth us utterly from every sin.”5 Walking, then, in the light, do we sin? and, sinning in the light, shall we be utterly purified? By no means. For he who sins is not in the light, but in darkness. Whence, too, he points out the mode in which we shall be utterly purified from sin—(by) “walking in the light,” in which sin cannot be committed. Accordingly, the sense in which he says we “are utterly purified” is, not in so far as we sin, but in so far as we do not sin. For, “walking in the light,” but not having communion with darkness, we shall act as they that are “utterly purified;” sin not being quite laid down, but not being wittingly committed. For this is the virtue of the Lord’s blood, that such as it has already purified from sin, and thenceforward has set “in the light,” it renders thenceforward pure, if they shall continue to persevere walking in the light. “But he subjoins,” you say, “ ‘If we say that we have not sin, we are seducing ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, faithful and just is He to remit them to us, and utterly purify us from every unrighteousness.’ ”6 Does he say “from impurity?” (No): or else, if that is so, then (He “utterly purifies” us) from “idolatry” too. But there is a difference in the sense. For see yet again: “If we say,” he says, “that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”7 All the more fully: “Little children, these things have I written to you, lest ye sin; and if ye shall have sinned, an Advocate we have with God the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins.”8 “According to these words,” you say, “it will be admitted both that we sin, and that we have pardon.” What, then, will become (of your theory), when, proceeding (with the Epistle), I find something different? For he affirms that we do not sin at all; and to this end he treats at large, that he may make no such concession; setting forth that sins have been once for all deleted by Christ, not subsequently to obtain pardon; in which statement the sense requires us (to apply the statement) to an admonition to chastity. “Every one,” he says, “who hath this hope, maketh himself chaste, because He too is chaste. Every one who doeth sin, doeth withal iniquity;9 and sin is iniquity.10 And ye know that He hath been manifested to take away sins”—henceforth, of course, to be no more incurred, if it is true, (as it is,) that he subjoins, “Every one who abideth in Him sinneth not; every one who sinneth neither hath seen nor knoweth Him. Little children, let none seduce you. Every one who doeth righteousness is righteous, as He withal is righteous. He who doeth sin is of the devil, inasmuch as the devil sinneth from the beginning. For unto this end was manifested the Son of God, to undo the works of the devil:” for He has “undone” them withal, by setting man free through baptism, the “handwriting of death” having been “made a gift of” to him:11 and accordingly, “he who is being born of God doeth not sin, because the seed of God abideth in him; and he cannot sin, because he hath been born of God. Herein are manifest the sons of God and the sons of the devil.”12 Wherein? except it be (thus): the former by not sinning, from the time that they were born from God; the latter by sinning, because they are from the devil, just as if they never were born from God? But if he says, “He who is not righteous is not of God,”13 how shall he who is not modest again become (a son) of God, who has already ceased to be so?

“It is therefore nearly equivalent to saying that John has forgotten himself; asserting, in the former part of his Epistle, that we are not without sin, but now prescribing that we do not sin at all: and in the one case flattering us somewhat with hope of pardon, but in the other asserting Edition: current; Page: [97] with all stringency, that whoever may have sinned are no sons of God.” But away with (the thought): for not even we ourselves forget the distinction between sins, which was the starting-point of our digression. And (a right distinction it was); for John has here sanctioned it; in that there are some sins of daily committal, to which we all are liable: for who will be free from the accident of either being angry unjustly, and retaining his anger beyond sunset;1 or else even using manual violence; or else carelessly speaking evil; or else rashly swearing; or else forfeiting his plighted word; or else lying, from bashfulness or “necessity?” In businesses, in official duties, in trade, in food, in sight, in hearing, by how great temptations are we plied! So that, if there were no pardon for such sins as these, salvation would be unattainable to any. Of these, then, there will be pardon, through the successful Suppliant of the Father, Christ. But there are, too, the contraries of these; as the graver and destructive ones, such as are incapable of pardon—murder, idolatry, fraud, apostasy, blasphemy; (and), of course, too, adultery and fornication; and if there be any other “violation of the temple of God.” For these Christ will no more be the successful Pleader: these will not at all be incurred by one who has been born of God, who will cease to be the son of God if he do incur them.

Thus John’s rule of diversity will be established; arranging as he does a distinction of sins, while he now admits and now denies that the sons of God sin. For (in making these assertions) he was looking forward to the final clause of his letter, and for that (final clause) he was laying his preliminary bases; intending to say, in the end, more manifestly: “If any knoweth his brother to be sinning a sin not unto death, he shall make request, and the Lord shall give life to him who sinneth not unto death. For there is a sin unto death: not concerning that do I say that one should make request.”2 He, too, (as I have been), was mindful that Jeremiah had been prohibited by God to deprecate (Him) on behalf of a people which was committing mortal sins. “Every unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin unto death.3 But we know that every one who hath been born of God sinneth not”4—to wit, the sin which is unto death. Thus there is no course left for you, but either to deny that adultery and fornication are mortal sins; or else to confess them irremissible, for which it is not permitted even to make successful intercession.


The discipline, therefore, of the apostles properly (so called), indeed, instructs and determinately directs, as a principal point, the overseer of all sanctity as regards the temple of God to the universal eradication of every sacrilegious outrage upon modesty, without any mention of restoration. I wish, however, redundantly to superadd the testimony likewise of one particular comrade of the apostles,—(a testimony) aptly suited for confirming, by most proximate right, the discipline of his masters. For there is extant withal an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas—a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself in the uninterrupted observance of abstinence: “Or else, I alone and Barnabas, have not we the power of working?”5 And, of course, the Epistle of Barnabas is more generally received among the Churches than that apocryphal “Shepherd” of adulterers. Warning, accordingly, the disciples to omit all first principles, and strive rather after perfection, and not lay again the foundations of repentance from the works of the dead, he says: “For impossible it is that they who have once been illuminated, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have participated in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the word of God and found it sweet, when they shall—their age already setting—have fallen away, should be again recalled unto repentance, crucifying again for themselves the Son of God, and dishonouring Him.”6 “For the earth which hath drunk the rain often descending upon it, and hath borne grass apt for them on whose account it is tilled withal, attaineth God’s blessing; but if it bring forth thorns, it is reprobate, and nighest to cursing, whose end is (doomed) unto utter burning.”7 He who learnt this from apostles, and taught it with apostles, never knew of any “second repentance” promised by apostles to the adulterer and fornicator.

For excellently was he wont to interpret the law, and keep its figures even in (the dispensation of) the Truth itself. It was with a reference, in short, to this species of discipline that the caution was taken in the case of the leper: “But if the speckled appearance shall have become efflorescent over the skin, and shall have covered the whole skin from the head even unto the feet through all the visible surface, then the priest, when he shall have seen, shall utterly cleanse him: since he hath wholly turned into white he is clean. But on the day that there Edition: current; Page: [98] shall have been seen in such an one quick colour, he is defiled.”1 (The Law) would have the man who is wholly turned from the pristine habit of the flesh to the whiteness of faith—which (faith) is esteemed a defect and blemish in (the eyes of) the world2—and is wholly made new, to be understood to be “clean;” as being no longer “speckled,” no longer dappled with the pristine and the new (intermixt). If, however, after the reversal (of the sentence of uncleanness), ought of the old nature shall have revived with its tendencies, that which was beginning to be thought utterly dead to sin in his flesh must again be judged unclean, and must no more be expiated by the priest. Thus adultery, sprouting again from the pristine stock, and wholly blemishing the unity of the new colour from which it had been excluded, is a defect that admits of no cleansing. Again, in the case of a house: if any spots and cavities in the party-walls had been reported to the priest, before he entered to inspect that house he bids all (its contents) be taken away from it; thus the belongings of the house would not be unclean. Then the priest, if, upon entering, he had found greenish or reddish cavities, and their appearance to the sight deeper down within the body of the party-wall, was to go out to the gate, and separate the house for a period within seven days. Then, upon returning on the seventh day, if he should have perceived the taint to have become diffused in the party-walls, he was to order those stones in which the taint of the leprosy had been to be extracted and cast away outside the city into an unclean place; and other stones, polished and sound, to be taken and replaced in the stead of the first, and the house to be plastered with other mortar.3 For, in coming to the High Priest of the Father—Christ—all impediments must first be taken away, in the space of a week, that the house which remains, the flesh and the soul, may be clean; and when the Word of God has entered it, and has found “stains of red and green,” forthwith must the deadly and sanguinary passions “be extracted” and “cast away” out of doors—for the Apocalypse withal has set “death” upon a “green horse,” but a “warrior” upon a “red”4—and in their stead must be under-strewn stones polished and apt for conjunction, and firm,—such as are made (by God) into (sons) of Abraham,5—that thus the man may be fit for God. But if, after the recovery and reformation, the priest again perceived in the same house ought of the pristine disorders and blemishes, he pronounced it unclean, and bade the timbers, and the stones, and all the structure of it, to be pulled down, and cast away into an unclean place.6 This will be the man—flesh and soul—who, subsequently to reformation, after baptism and the entrance of the priests, again resumes the scabs and stains of the flesh, and “is cast away outside the city into an unclean place,”—“surrendered,” to wit, “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,”—and is no more rebuilt in the Church after his ruin. So, too, with regard to lying with a female slave, who had been betrothed to an husband, but not yet redeemed, not yet set free: “provision,” says (the Law), shall be made for her, and she shall not die, because she was not yet manumitted for him for whom she was being kept.7 For flesh not yet manumitted to Christ, for whom it was being kept,8 used to be contaminated with impunity: so now, after manumission, it no more receives pardon.


If the apostles understood these (figurative meanings of the Law) better, of course they were more careful (with regard to them than even apostolic men). But I will descend even to this point of contest now, making a separation between the doctrine of apostles and their power. Discipline governs a man, power sets a seal upon him; apart from the fact that power is the Spirit, but the Spirit is God. What, moreover, used (the Spirit) to teach? That there must be no communicating with the works of darkness.9 Observe what He bids. Who, moreover, was able to forgive sins? This is His alone prerogative: for “who remitteth sins but God alone?”10 and, of course, (who but He can remit) mortal sins, such as have been committed against Himself,11 and against His temple? For, as far as you are concerned, such as are chargeable with offence against you personally, you are commanded, in the person of Peter, to forgive even seventy times sevenfold.12 And so, if it were agreed that even the blessed apostles had granted any such indulgence (to any crime) the pardon of which (comes) from God, not from man, it would be competent (for them) to have done so, not in the exercise of discipline, but of power. For they both raised the dead,13 which God alone (can do), and restored the debilitated to their integrity,14 which none but Christ (can do); nay, they inflicted plagues too, which Christ would not do. Edition: current; Page: [99] For it did not beseem Him to be severe who had come to suffer. Smitten were both Ananias1 and Elymas2—Ananias with death, Elymas with blidness—in order that by this very fact it might be proved that Christ had had the power of doing even such (miracles). So, too, had the prophets (of old) granted to the repentant the pardon of murder, and therewith of adultery, inasmuch as they gave, at the same time, manifest proofs of severity.3 Exhibit therefore even now to me,4 apostolic sir, prophetic evidences, that I may recognise your divine virtue, and vindicate to yourself the power of remitting such sins! If, however, you have had the functions of discipline alone allotted you, and (the duty) of presiding not imperially, but ministerially;5 who or how great are you, that you should grant indulgence, who, by exhibiting neither the prophetic nor the apostolic character, lack that virtue whose property it is to indulge?

“But,” you say, “the Church has the power of forgiving sins.” This I acknowledge and adjudge more (than you; I) who have the Paraclete Himself in the persons of the new prophets, saying, “The Church has the power to forgive sins; but I will not do it, lest they commit others withal.” “What if a pseudo-prophetic spirit has made that declaration?” Nay, but it would have been more the part of a subverter on the one hand to commend himself on the score of clemency, and on the other to influence all others to sin. Or if, again, (the pseudo-prophetic spirit) has been eager to affect this (sentiment) in accordance with “the Spirit of truth,”6 it follows that “the Spirit of truth” has indeed the power of indulgently granting pardon to fornicators, but wills not to do it if it involve evil to the majority.

I now inquire into your opinion, (to see) from what source you usurp this right to “the Church.”

If, because the Lord has said to Peter, “Upon this rock will I build My Church,”7 “to thee have I given the keys of the heavenly kingdom;”8 or, “Whatsoever thou shalt have bound or loosed in earth, shall be bound or loosed in the heavens,”9 you therefore presume that the power of binding and loosing has derived to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter, what sort of man are you, subverting and wholly changing the manifest intention of the Lord, conferring (as that intention did) this (gift) personally upon Peter? “On thee,” He says, “will I build My Church;” and, “I will give to thee the keys,” not to the Church; and, “Whatsoever thou shalt have loosed or bound,” not what they shall have loosed or bound. For so withal the result teaches. In (Peter) himself the Church was reared; that is, through (Peter) himself; (Peter) himself essayed the key; you see what (key): “Men of Israel, let what I say sink into your ears: Jesus the Nazarene, a man destined by God for you,” and so forth.10 (Peter) himself, therefore, was the first to unbar, in Christ’s baptism, the entrance to the heavenly kingdom, in which (kingdom) are “loosed” the sins that were beforetime “bound;” and those which have not been “loosed” are “bound,” in accordance with true salvation; and Ananias he “bound” with the bond of death, and the weak in his feet he “absolved” from his defect of health. Moreover, in that dispute about the observance or non-observance of the Law, Peter was the first of all to be endued with the Spirit, and, after making preface touching the calling of the nations, to say, “And now why are ye tempting the Lord, concerning the imposition upon the brethren of a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to support? But however, through the grace of Jesus we believe that we shall be saved in the same way as they.”11 This sentence both “loosed” those parts of the law which were abandoned, and “bound” those which were reserved. Hence the power of loosing and of binding committed to Peter had nothing to do with the capital sins of believers, and if the Lord had given him a precept that he must grant pardon to a brother sinning against him even “seventy times sevenfold,” of course He would have commanded him to “bind”—that is, to “retain”12nothing subsequently, unless perchance such (sins) as one may have committed against the Lord, not against a brother. For the forgiveness of (sins) committed in the case of a man is a prejudgment against the remission of sins against God.

What, now, (has this to do) with the Church, and your (church), indeed, Psychic? For, in accordance with the person of Peter, it is to spiritual men that this power will correspondently appertain, either to an apostle or else to a prophet. For the very Church itself is, properly and principally, the Spirit Himself, in whom is the Trinity of the One Divinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.13 (The Spirit) combines that Church which the Lord has made to consist in “three.” And thus, from that time forward,14 every number (of persons) who may have combined together into this faith is accounted “a Church,” from the Author and Consecrator (of Edition: current; Page: [100] the Church). And accordingly “the Church,” it is true, will forgive sins: but (it will be) the Church of the Spirit, by means of a spiritual man; not the Church which consists of a number of bishops. For the right and arbitrament is the Lord’s, not the servant’s; God’s Himself, not the priest’s.


But you go so far as to lavish this “power” upon martyrs withal! No sooner has any one, acting on a preconceived arrangement, put on the bonds—(bonds), moreover, which, in the nominal custody now in vogue,1 are soft ones—than adulterers beset him, fornicators gain access to him; instantly prayers echo around him; instantly pools of tears (from the eyes) of all the polluted surround him; nor are there any who are more diligent in purchasing entrance into the prison than they who have lost (the fellowship of) the Church! Men and women are violated in the darkness with which the habitual indulgence of lusts has plainly familiarized them; and they seek peace at the hands of those who are risking their own! Others betake them to the mines, and return, in the character of communicants, from thence, where by this time another “martyrdom” is necessary for sins committed after “martyrdom.” “Well, who on earth and in the flesh is faultless?” What “martyr” (continues to be) an inhabitant of the world2 supplicating? pence in hand? subject to physician and usurer? Suppose, now, (your “martyr”) beneath the glaive, with head already steadily poised; suppose him on the cross, with body already outstretched; suppose him at the stake, with the lion already let loose; suppose him on the axle, with the fire already heaped; in the very certainty, I say, and possession of martyrdom: who permits man to condone (offences) which are to be reserved for God, by whom those (offences) have been condemned without discharge, which not even apostles (so far as I know)—martyrs withal themselves—have judged condonable? In short, Paul had already “fought with beasts at Ephesus,” when he decreed “destruction” to the incestuous person.3 Let it suffice to the martyr to have purged his own sins: it is the part of ingratitude or of pride to lavish upon others also what one has obtained at a high price.4 Who has redeemed another’s death by his own, but the Son of God alone? For even in His very passion He set the robber free.5 For to this end had He come, that, being Himself pure from sin,6 and in all respects holy,7 He might undergo death on behalf of sinners.8 Similarly, you who emulate Him in condoning sins, if you yourself have done no sin, plainly suffer in my stead. If, however, you are a sinner, how will the oil of your puny torch be able to suffice for you and for me?9

I have, even now, a test whereby to prove (the presence of) Christ (in you). If Christ is in the martyr for this reason, that the martyr may absolve adulterers and fornicators, let Him tell publicly the secrets of the heart, that He may thus concede (pardon to) sins; and He is Christ. For thus it was that the Lord Jesus Christ showed His power: “Why think ye evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Thy sins are remitted thee; or, Rise and walk? Therefore, that ye may know the Son of man to have the power upon earth of remitting sins, I say to thee, paralytic, Rise, and walk.”10 If the Lord set so much store by the proof of His power as to reveal thoughts, and so impart health by His command, lest He should not be believed to have the power of remitting sins; it is not lawful for me to believe the same power (to reside) in any one, whoever he be, without the same proofs. In the act, however, of urgently entreating from a martyr pardon for adulterers and fornicators, you yourself confess that crimes of that nature are not to be washed away except by the martyrdom of the criminal himself, while you presume (they can be washed away) by another’s. If this is so, then martyrdom will be another baptism. For “I have withal,” saith He, “another baptism.”11 Whence, too, it was that there flowed out of the wound in the Lord’s side water and blood, the materials of either baptism.12 I ought, then, by the first baptism too to (have the right of) setting another free if I can by the second: and we must necessarily force upon the mind (of our opponents this conclusion): Whatever authority, whatever reason, restores ecclesiastical peace to the adulterer and fornicator, the same will be bound to come to the aid of the murderer and idolater in their repentance,—at all events, of the apostate, and of course of him whom, in the battle of his confession, after hard struggling with torments, savagery has overthrown. Besides, it were unworthy of God and of His mercy, who prefers the repentance of a sinner to his death, that they should have easier return into (the bosom of) the Church who have fallen in heat of passion, than they who have fallen in hand-to-hand Edition: current; Page: [101] combat.1 Indignation urges us to speak. Contaminated bodies you will recall rather than gory ones! Which repentance is more pitiable—that which prostrates tickled flesh, or lacerated? Which pardon is, in all causes, more justly concessible—that which a voluntary, or that which an involuntary, sinner implores? No one is compelled with his will to apostatize; no one against his will commits fornication. Lust is exposed to no violence, except itself: it knows no coercion whatever. Apostasy, on the contrary, what ingenuities of butchery and tribes of penal inflictions enforce! Which has more truly apostatized—he who has lost Christ amid agonies, or (he who has done so) amid delights? he who when losing Him grieved, or he who when losing Him sported? And yet those scars graven on the Christian combatant—scars, of course, enviable in the eyes of Christ, because they yearned after conquest, and thus also glorious, because failing to conquer they yielded; (scars) after which even the devil himself yet sighs; (scars) with an infelicity of their own, but a chaste one, with a repentance that mourns, but blushes not, to the Lord for pardon—will anew be remitted to such, because their apostasy was expiable! In their case alone is the “flesh weak.” Nay, no flesh so strong as that which crushes out the Spirit!



(The Shepherd of Hermas, p. 85.)

Here, and in chap. xx. below, Tertullian’s rabid utterances against the Shepherd may be balanced by what he had said, less unreasonably, in his better mood.1 Now he refers to the Shepherd’s (ii. 1)2 view of pardon, even to adulterers. But surely it might be objected even more plausibly against “the Shepherd,” whom he prefers, in common with all Christians, as see John viii. 1-11, which I take to be canonical Scripture. A curious question is suggested by what he says of the figure of the Good Shepherd portrayed on the chalice: Is this irony, as if the figure so familiar from illustrations of the catacombs must be meant for the Shepherd of Hermas? Regarding all pictures as idolatrous, he may intend to intimate that adultery (= idolatry) was thus symbolized.


(Clasping the knees of all, p. 86.)

Here is a portrait of the early penitential discipline sufficiently terrible, and it conforms to the apostolic pictures of the same. “Tell it unto the Church,” says our Lord (St. Matt. xviii. 17). In 1 Cor. v. 4 the apostle (“present in spirit”) gives judgment, but the whole Church is “gathered together.” In St. James v. 16 the “confession to one another” seems to refer to this public discipline, as also the prayer for healing enjoined on one another. St. Chrysostom, however, reflecting the discipline of his day, in which great changes were made, says, on Matt. xviii. 17, unless it be a gloss, “Die Ecclesiæ id est Præstdibus = προεδρευούσιν.” (Tom. vii. p. 536, ed. Migne.)


(Remedial discipline, p. 87.)

Powerfully as Tertullian states his view of this apostolic “delivering unto Satan” as for final perdition, it is not to be gainsaid that (1 Cor. v. 5) the object was salvation and hope, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Thus, the power of Satan to inflict bodily suffering (Job ii. 6), when divinely permitted, is recognised under the Gospel (Luke xiii. 16; 2 Cor. xii. 7). The remedial mercy of trials and sufferings may be inferred when providentially occurring.


(Personally upon Peter, p. 99.)

See what has been said before. But note our author (now writing against the Church, and as a Montanist) has no idea that the personal prerogative of St. Peter had descended to any bishop. More when we come to Cyprian, and see vol. iii. p. 630, this series.

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I should wonder at the Psychics, if they were enthralled to voluptuousness alone, which leads them to repeated marriages, if they were not likewise bursting with gluttony, which leads them to hate fasts. Lust without voracity would certainly be considered a monstrous phenomenon; since these two are so united and concrete, that, had there been any possibility of disjoining them, the pudenda would not have been affixed to the belly itself rather than elsewhere. Look at the body: the region (of these members) is one and the same. In short, the order of the vices is proportionate to the arrangement of the members. First, the belly; and then immediately the materials of all other species of lasciviousness are laid subordinately to daintiness: through love of eating, love of impurity finds passage. I recognise, therefore, animal2 faith by its care of the flesh (of which it wholly consists)—as prone to manifold feeding as to manifold marrying—so that it deservedly accuses the spiritual discipline, which according to its ability opposes it, in this species of continence as well; imposing, as it does, reins upon the appetite, through taking, sometimes no meals, or late meals, or dry meals, just as upon lust, through allowing but one marriage.

It is really irksome to engage with such: one is really ashamed to wrangle about subjects the very defence of which is offensive to modesty. For how am I to protect chastity and sobriety without taxing their adversaries? What those adversaries are I will once for all mention: they are the exterior and interior botuli of the Psychics. It is these which raise controversy with the Paraclete; it is on this account that the New Prophecies are rejected: not that Montanus and Priscilla and Maximilla preach another God, nor that they disjoin Jesus Christ (from God), nor that they overturn any particular rule of faith or hope, but that they plainly teach more frequent fasting than marrying. Concerning the limit of marrying, we have already published a defence of monogamy.3 Now our battle is the battle of the secondary (or rather the primary) continence, in regard of the chastisement of diet. They charge us with keeping fasts of our own; with prolonging our Stations generally into the evening; with observing xerophagies likewise, keeping our food unmoistened by any flesh, and by any juiciness, and by any kind of specially succulent fruit; and with not eating or drinking anything with a winey flavour; also with abstinence from the bath, congruent with our dry diet. They are therefore constantly reproaching us with novelty; concerning the unlawfulness of which they lay down a prescriptive rule, that either it must be adjudged heresy, if (the point in dispute) is a human presumption; or else pronounced pseudo-prophecy, if it is a spiritual declaration; provided that, either way, we who reclaim hear (sentence of) anathema.


For, so far as pertains to fasts, they oppose to us the definite days appointed by God: as when, in Leviticus, the Lord enjoins upon Moses the tenth day of the seventh month (as) a day of Edition: current; Page: [103] atonement, saying, “Holy shall be to you the day, and ye shall vex your souls; and every soul which shall not have been vexed in that day shall be exterminated from his people.”1 At all events, in the Gospel they think that those days were definitely appointed for fasts in which “the Bridegroom was taken away;”2 and that these are now the only legitimate days for Christian fasts, the legal and prophetical antiquities having been abolished: for wherever it suits their wishes, they recognise what is the meaning of “the Law and the prophets until John.”3 Accordingly, (they think) that, with regard to the future, fasting was to be indifferently observed, by the New Discipline, of choice, not of command, according to the times and needs of each individual: that this, withal, had been the observance of the apostles, imposing (as they did) no other yoke of definite fasts to be observed by all generally, nor similarly of Stations either, which (they think) have withal days of their own (the fourth and sixth days of the week), but yet take a wide range according to individual judgment, neither subject to the law of a given precept, nor (to be protracted) beyond the last hour of the day, since even prayers the ninth hour generally concludes, after Peter’s example, which is recorded in the Acts. Xerophagies, however, (they consider) the novel name of a studied duty, and very much akin to heathenish superstition, like the abstemious rigours which purify an Apis, an Isis, and a Magna Mater, by a restriction laid upon certain kinds of food; whereas faith, free in Christ,4 owes no abstinence from particular meats to the Jewish Law even, admitted as it has been by the apostle once for all to the whole range of the meat-market5—(the apostle, I say), that detester of such as, in like manner as they prohibit marrying, so bid us abstain from meats created by God.6 And accordingly (they think) us to have been even then prenoted as “in the latest times departing from the faith, giving heed to spirits which seduce the world, having a conscience inburnt with doctrines of liars.”7 (Inburnt?) With what fires, prithee? The fires, I ween, which lead us to repeated contracting of nuptials and daily cooking of dinners! Thus, too, they affirm that we share with the Galatians the piercing rebuke (of the apostle), as “observers of days, and of months, and of years.”8 Meantime they hurl in our teeth the fact that Isaiah withal has authoritatively declared, “Not such a fast hath the Lord elected,” that is, not abstinence from food, but the works of righteousness, which he there appends:9 and that the Lord Himself in the Gospel has given a compendious answer to every kind of scrupulousness in regard to food; “that not by such things as are introduced into the mouth is a man defiled, but by such as are produced out of the mouth;”10 while Himself withal was wont to eat and drink till He made Himself noted thus; “Behold, a gormandizer and a drinker:”11 (finally), that so, too, does the apostle teach that “food commendeth us not to God; since we neither abound if we eat, nor lack if we eat not.”12

By the instrumentalities of these and similar passages, they subtlely tend at last to such a point, that every one who is somewhat prone to appetite finds it possible to regard as superfluous, and not so very necessary, the duties of abstinence from, or diminution or delay of, food, since “God,” forsooth, “prefers the works of justice and of innocence.” And we know the quality of the hortatory addresses of carnal conveniences, how easy it is to say, “I must believe with my whole heart;13 I must love God, and my neighbour as myself:14 for ‘on these two precepts the whole Law hangeth, and the prophets,’ not on the emptiness of my lungs and intestines.”


Accordingly we are bound to affirm, before proceeding further, this (principle), which is in danger of being secretly subverted; (namely), of what value in the sight of God this “emptiness” you speak of is: and, first of all, whence has proceeded the rationale itself of earning the favour of God in this way. For the necessity of the observance will then be acknowledged, when the authority of a rationale, to be dated back from the very beginning, shall have shone out to view.

Adam had received from God the law of not tasting “of the tree of recognition of good and evil,” with the doom of death to ensue upon tasting.15 However, even (Adam) himself at that time, reverting to the condition of a Psychic after the spiritual ecstasy in which he had prophetically interpreted that “great sacrament”16 with reference to Christ and the Church, and no longer being “capable of the things which were the Spirit’s,”17 yielded more readily to his belly than to God, heeded the meat rather than the mandate, and sold salvation for his gullet! He Edition: current; Page: [104] ate, in short, and perished; saved (as he would) else (have been), if he had preferred to fast from one little tree: so that, even from this early date, animal faith may recognise its own seed, deducing from thence onward its appetite for carnalities and rejection of spiritualities. I hold, therefore, that from the very beginning the murderous gullet was to be punished with the torments and penalties of hunger. Even if God had enjoined no preceptive fasts, still, by pointing out the source whence Adam was slain, He who had demonstrated the offence had left to my intelligence the remedies for the offence. Unbidden, I would, in such ways and at such times as I might have been able, have habitually accounted food as poison, and taken the antidote, hunger; through which to purge the primordial cause of death—a cause transmitted to me also, concurrently with my very generation; certain that God willed that whereof He nilled the contrary, and confident enough that the care of continence will be pleasing to Him by whom I should have understood that the crime of incontinence had been condemned. Further: since He Himself both commands fasting, and calls “a soul1 wholly shattered”—properly, of course, by straits of diet—“a sacrifice;” who will any longer doubt that of all dietary macerations the rationale has been this, that by a renewed interdiction of food and observation of precept the primordial sin might now be expiated, in order that man may make God satisfaction through the self-same causative material through which he had offended, that is, through interdiction of food; and thus, in emulous wise, hunger might rekindle, just as satiety had extinguished, salvation, contemning for the sake of one unlawful more lawful (gratifications)?


This rationale was constantly kept in the eye of the providence of God—modulating all things, as He does, to suit the exigencies of the times—lest any from the opposite side, with the view of demolishing our proposition, should say: “Why, in that case, did not God forthwith institute some definite restriction upon food? nay, rather, why did He withal enlarge His permission? For, at the beginning indeed, it had only been the food of herbs and trees which He had assigned to man: ‘Behold, I have given you all grass fit for sowing, seeding seed, which is upon the earth; and every tree which hath in itself the fruit of seed fit for sowing shall be to you for food.’2 Afterwards, however, after enumerating to Noah the subjection (to him) of ‘all beasts of the earth, and fowls of the heaven, and things moving on earth, and the fish of the sea, and every creeping thing,’ He says, ‘They shall be to you for food: just like grassy vegetables have I given (them) you universally: but flesh in the blood of its own soul shall ye not eat.’3 For even by this very fact, that He exempts from eating that flesh only the ‘soul’ of which is not out-shed through ‘blood,’ it is manifest that He has conceded the use of all other flesh.” To this we reply, that it was not suitable for man to be burdened with any further special law of abstinence, who so recently showed himself unable to tolerate so light an interdiction—of one single fruit, to wit; that, accordingly, having had the rein relaxed, he was to be strengthened by his very liberty; that equally after the deluge, in the reformation of the human race, (as before it), one law—of abstaining from blood—was sufficient, the use of all things else being allowed. For the Lord had already shown His judgment through the deluge; had, moreover, likewise issued a comminatory warning through the “requisition of blood from the hand of a brother, and from the hand of every beast.”4 And thus, preministering the justice of judgment, He issued the materials of liberty; preparing through allowance an undergrowth of discipline; permitting all things, with a view to take some away; meaning to “exact more” if He had “committed more;”5 to command abstinence since He had foresent indulgence: in order that (as we have said) the primordial sin might be the more expiated by the operation of a greater abstinence in the (midst of the) opportunity of a greater licence.


At length, when a familiar people began to be chosen by God to Himself, and the restoration of man was able to be essayed, then all the laws and disciplines were imposed, even such as curtailed food; certain things being prohibited as unclean, in order that man, by observing a perpetual abstinence in certain particulars, might at last the more easily tolerate absolute fasts. For the first People had withal reproduced the first man’s crime, being found more prone to their belly than to God, when, plucked out from the harshness of Egyptian servitude “by the mighty hand and sublime arm”6 of God, they were seen to be its lord, destined to the “land flowing with Edition: current; Page: [105] milk and honey;1 but forthwith, stumbled at the surrounding spectacle of an incopious desert, sighing after the lost enjoyments of Egyptian satiety, they murmured against Moses and Aaron: “Would that we had been smitten to the heart by the Lord, and perished in the land of Egypt, when we were wont to sit over our jars of flesh and eat bread unto the full! How leddest thou us out into these deserts, to kill this assembly by famine?”2 From the self-same belly-preference were they destined (at last) to deplore3 (the fate of) the self-same leaders of their own and eye-witnesses of (the power of) God, whom, by their regretful hankering after flesh, and their recollection of their Egyptian plenties, they were ever exacerbating: “Who shall feed us with flesh? there have come into our mind the fish which in Egypt we were wont to eat freely, and the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. But now our soul is arid: nought save manna do our eyes see!”4 Thus used they, too, (like the Psychics), to find the angelic bread5 of xerophagy displeasing: they preferred the fragrance of garlic and onion to that of heaven. And therefore from men so ungrateful all that was more pleasing and appetizing was withdrawn, for the sake at once of punishing gluttony and exercising continence, that the former might be condemned, the latter practically learned.


Now, if there has been temerity in our retracing to primordial experiences the reasons for God’s having laid, and our duty (for the sake of God) to lay, restrictions upon food, let us consult common conscience. Nature herself will plainly tell with what qualities she is ever wont to find us endowed when she sets us, before taking food and drink, with our saliva still in a virgin state, to the transaction of matters, by the sense especially whereby things divine are handled; whether (it be not) with a mind much more vigorous, with a heart much more alive, than when that whole habitation of our interior man, stuffed with meats, inundated with wines, fermenting for the purpose of excremental secretion, is already being turned into a premeditatory of privies, (a premeditatory) where, plainly, nothing is so proximately supersequent as the savouring of lasciviousness. “The people did eat and drink, and they arose to play.”6 Understand the modest language of Holy Scripture: “play,” unless it had been immodest, it would not have reprehended. On the other hand, how many are there who are mindful of religion, when the seats of the memory are occupied, the limbs of wisdom impeded? No one will suitably, fitly, usefully, remember God at that time when it is customary for a man to forget his own self. All discipline food either slays or else wounds. I am a liar, if the Lord Himself, when upbraiding Israel with forgetfulness, does not impute the cause to “fulness:” “(My) beloved is waxen thick, and fat, and distent, and hath quite forsaken God, who made him, and hath gone away from the Lord his Saviour.”7 In short, in the self-same Deuteronomy, when bidding precaution to be taken against the self-same cause, He says: “Lest, when thou shalt have eaten, and drunken, and built excellent houses, thy sheep and oxen being multiplied, and (thy) silver and gold, thy heart be elated, and thou be forgetful of the Lord thy God.”8 To the corrupting power of riches He made the enormity of edacity antecedent, for which riches themselves are the procuring agents.9 Through them, to wit, had “the heart of the People been made thick, lest they should see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and understand with a heart”10 obstructed by the “fats” of which He had expressly forbidden the eating,11 teaching man not to be studious of the stomach.12

On the other hand, he whose “heart” was habitually found “lifted up”13 rather than fattened up, who in forty days and as many nights maintained a fast above the power of human nature, while spiritual faith subministered strength (to his body),14 both saw with his eyes God’s glory, and heard with his ears God’s voice, and understood with his heart God’s law: while He taught him even then (by experience) that man liveth not upon bread alone, but upon every word of God; in that the People, though fatter than he, could not constantly contemplate even Moses himself, fed as he had been upon God, nor his leanness, sated as it had been with His glory!15 Deservedly, therefore, even while in the flesh, did the Lord show Himself to him, the colleague of His own fasts, no less than to Elijah.16 For Elijah withal had, by this fact primarily, that he had imprecated a famine,17 already sufficiently devoted himself to fasts: “The Lord liveth,” he said, “before whom I am standing in His Edition: current; Page: [106] sight, if there shall be dew in these years, and rain-shower.”1 Subsequently, fleeing from threatening Jezebel, after one single (meal of) food and drink, which he had found on being awakened by an angel, he too himself, in a space of forty days and nights, his belly empty, his mouth dry, arrived at Mount Horeb; where, when he had made a cave his inn, with how familiar a meeting with God was he received!2 “What (doest) thou, Elijah, here?”3 Much more friendly was this voice than, “Adam, where art thou?”4 For the latter voice was uttering a threat to a fed man, the former soothing a fasting one. Such is the prerogative of circumscribed food, that it makes God tent-fellow5 with man—peer, in truth, with peer! For if the eternal God will not hunger, as He testifies through Isaiah,6 this will be the time for man to be made equal with God, when he lives without food.


And thus we have already proceeded to examples, in order that, by its profitable efficacy, we may unfold the powers of this duty which reconciles God, even when angered, to man.

Israel, before their gathering together by Samuel on occasion of the drawing of water at Mizpeh, had sinned; but so immediately do they wash away the sin by a fast, that the peril of battle is dispersed by them simultaneously (with the water on the ground). At the very moment when Samuel was offering the holocaust (in no way do we learn that the clemency of God was more procured than by the abstinence of the people), and the aliens were advancing to battle, then and there “the Lord thundered with a mighty voice upon the aliens, and they were thrown into confusion, and fell in a mass in the sight of Israel; and the men of Israel went forth out of Mizpeh, and pursued the aliens, and smote them unto Bethor,”—the unfed (chasing) the fed, the unarmed the armed. Such will be the strength of them who “fast to God.”7 For such, Heaven fights. You have (before you) a condition upon which (divine) defence will be granted, necessary even to spiritual wars.

Similarly, when the king of the Assyrians, Sennacherib, after already taking several cities, was volleying blasphemies and menaces against Israel through Rabshakeh, nothing else (but fasting) diverted him from his purpose, and sent him into the Ethiopias. After that, what else swept away by the hand of the angel an hundred eighty and four thousand from his army than Hezekiah the king’s humiliation? if it is true, (as it is), that on hearing the announcement of the harshness of the foe, he rent his garment, put on sackcloth, and bade the elders of the priests, similarly habited, approach God through Isaiah—fasting being, of course, the escorting attendant of their prayers.8 For peril has no time for food, nor sackcloth any care for satiety’s refinements. Hunger is ever the attendant of mourning, just as gladness is an accessory of fulness.

Through this attendant of mourning, and (this) hunger, even that sinful state, Nineveh, is freed from the predicted ruin. For repentance for sins had sufficiently commended the fast, keeping it up in a space of three days, starving out even the cattle with which God was not angry.9 Sodom also, and Gomorrah, would have escaped if they had fasted.10 This remedy even Ahab acknowledges. When, after his transgression and idolatry, and the slaughter of Naboth, slain by Jezebel on account of his vineyard, Elijah had upbraided him, “How hast thou killed, and possessed the inheritance? In the place where dogs had licked up the blood of Naboth, thine also shall they lick up,”—he “abandoned himself, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and slept in sackcloth. And then (came) the word of the Lord unto Elijah, Thou hast seen how Ahab hath shrunk in awe from my face: for that he hath shrunk in awe I will not bring the hurt upon (him) in his own days; but in the days of his son I will bring it upon (him)”—(his son), who was not to fast.11 Thus a Godward fast is a work of reverential awe: and by its means also Hannah the wife of Elkanah making suit, barren as she had been beforetime, easily obtained from God the filling of her belly, empty of food, with a son, ay, and a prophet.12

Nor is it merely change of nature, or aversion of perils, or obliteration of sins, but likewise the recognition of mysteries, which fasts will merit from God. Look at Daniel’s example. About the dream of the King of Babylon all the sophists are troubled: they affirm that, without external aid, it cannot be discovered by human skill. Daniel alone, trusting to God, and knowing what would tend to the deserving of God’s favour, requires a space of three days, fasts with his fraternity, and—his prayers thus commended—is instructed throughout as to the order and signification of the dream; quarter is granted to the tyrant’s sophists; God is glorified; Daniel is honoured; destined as he was to receive, even subsequently also, no less a favour of God in the first year of King Darius, when, after careful Edition: current; Page: [107] and repeated meditation upon the times predicted by Jeremiah, he set his face to God in fasts, and sackcloth, and ashes. For the angel, withal, sent to him, immediately professed this to be the cause of the Divine approbation: “I am come,” he said, “to demonstrate to thee, since thou art pitiable”1—by fasting, to wit. If to God he was “pitiable,” to the lions in the den he was formidable, where, six days fasting, he had breakfast provided him by an angel.2


We produce, too, our remaining (evidences). For we now hasten to modern proofs.

On the threshold of the Gospel,3 Anna the prophetess, daughter of Phanuel, “who both recognised the infant Lord, and preached many things about Him to such as were expecting the redemption of Israel,” after the pre-eminent distinction of long-continued and single-husbanded widowhood, is additionally graced with the testimony of “fastings” also; pointing out, as she does, what the duties are which should characterize attendants of the Church, and (pointing out, too, the fact) that Christ is understood by none more than by the once married and often fasting.

By and by the Lord Himself consecrated His own baptism (and, in His own, that of all) by fasts;4 having (the power) to make “loaves out of stones,”5 ay, to make Jordan flow with wine perchance, if He had been such a “glutton and toper.”6 Nay, rather, by the virtue of contemning food He was initiating “the new man” into “a severe handling” of “the old,”7 that He might show that (new man) to the devil, again seeking to tempt him by means of food, (to be) too strong for the whole power of hunger.

Thereafter He prescribed to fasts a law—that they are to be performed “without sadness:”8 for why should what is salutary be sad? He taught likewise that fasts are to be the weapons for battling with the more direful demons:9 for what wonder if the same operation is the instrument of the iniquitous spirit’s egress as of the Holy Spirit’s ingress? Finally, granting that upon the centurion Cornelius, even before baptism, the honourable gift of the Holy Spirit, together with the gift of prophecy besides, had hastened to descend, we see that his fasts had been heard.10 I think, moreover, that the apostle too, in the Second of Corinthians, among his labours, and perils, and hardships, after “hunger and thirst,” enumerates “fasts” also “very many.”11


This principal species in the category of dietary restriction may already afford a prejudgment concerning the inferior operations of abstinence also, as being themselves too, in proportion to their measure, useful or necessary. For the exception of certain kinds from use of food is a partial fast. Let us therefore look into the question of the novelty or vanity of xerophagies, to see whether in them too we do not find an operation alike of most ancient as of most efficacious religion.

I return to Daniel and his brethren, preferring as they did a diet of vegetables and the beverage of water to the royal dishes and decanters, and being found as they were therefore “more handsome” (lest any be apprehensive on the score of his paltry body, to boot!), besides being spiritually cultured into the bargain.12 For God gave to the young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature, and to Daniel in every word, and in dreams, and in every kind of wisdom; which (wisdom) was to make him wise in this very thing also,—namely, by what means the recognition of mysteries was to be obtained from God. Finally, in the third year of Cyrus king of the Persians, when he had fallen into careful and repeated meditation on a vision, he provided another form of humiliation. “In those days,” he says, “I Daniel was mourning during three weeks: pleasant bread I ate not; flesh and wine entered not into my mouth; with oil I was not anointed; until three weeks were consummated:” which being elapsed, an angel was sent out (from God), addressing him on this wise: “Daniel, thou art a man pitiable; fear not: since, from the first day on which thou gavest thy soul to recogitation and to humiliation before God, thy word hath been heard, and I am entered at thy word.”13 Thus the “pitiable” spectacle and the humiliation of xerophagies expel fear, and attract the ears of God, and make men masters of secrets.

I return likewise to Elijah. When the ravens had been wont to satisfy him with “bread and Edition: current; Page: [108] flesh,1 why was it that afterwards, at Beersheba of Judea, that certain angel, after rousing him from sleep, offered him, beyond doubt, bread alone, and water?2 Had ravens been wanting, to feed him more liberally? or had it been difficult to the “angel” to carry away from some part of the banquet-room of the king some attendant with his amply-furnished waiter, and transfer him to Elijah, just as the breakfast of the reapers was carried into the den of lions and presented to Daniel in his hunger? But it behoved that an example should be set, teaching us that, at a time of pressure and persecution and whatsoever difficulty, we must live on xerophagies. With such food did David express his own exomologesis; “eating ashes indeed as it were bread,” that is, bread dry and foul like ashes: “mingling, moreover, his drink with weeping”—of course, instead of wine.3 For abstinence from wine withal has honourable badges of its own: (an abstinence) which had dedicated Samuel, and consecrated Aaron, to God. For of Samuel his mother said: “And wine and that which is intoxicating shall he not drink:”4 for such was her condition withal when praying to God.5 And the Lord said to Aaron: “Wine and spirituous liquor shall ye not drink, thou and thy son after thee, whenever ye shall enter the tabernacle, or ascend unto the sacrificial altar; and ye shall not die.”6 So true is it, that such as shall have ministered in the Church, being not sober, shall “die.” Thus, too, in recent times He upbraids Israel: “And ye used to give my sanctified ones wine to drink.” And, moreover, this limitation upon drink is the portion of xerophagy. Anyhow, wherever abstinence from wine is either exacted by God or vowed by man, there let there be understood likewise a restriction of food forefurnishing a formal type to drink. For the quality of the drink is correspondent to that of the eating. It is not probable that a man should sacrifice to God half his appetite; temperate in waters, and intemperate in meats. Whether, moreover, the apostle had any acquaintance with xerophagies—(the apostle) who had repeatedly practised greater rigours, “hunger, and thirst, and fasts many,” who had forbidden “drunkennesses and revellings,”7—we have a sufficient evidence even from the case of his disciple Timotheus; whom when he admonishes, “for the sake of his stomach and constant weaknesses,” to use “a little wine,”8 from which he was abstaining not from rule, but from devotion—else the custom would rather have been beneficial to his stomach—by this very fact he has advised abstinence from wine as “worthy of God,” which, on a ground of necessity, he has dissuaded.


In like manner they censure on the count of novelty our Stations as being enjoined, some, moreover, (censure them) too as being prolonged habitually too late, saying that this duty also ought to be observed of free choice, and not continued beyond the ninth hour,—(deriving their rule), of course, from their own practice. Well: as to that which pertains to the question of injunction, I will once for all give a reply to suit all causes. Now, (turning) to the point which is proper to this particular cause—concerning the limit of time, I mean—I must first demand from themselves whence they derive this prescriptive law for concluding Stations at the ninth hour. If it is from the fact that we read that Peter and he who was with him entered the temple “at the ninth (hour), the hour of prayer,” who will prove to me that they had that day been performing a Station, so as to interpret the ninth hour as the hour for the conclusion and discharge of the Station? Nay, but you would more easily find that Peter at the sixth hour had, for the sake of taking food, gone up first on the roof to pray;9 so that the sixth hour of the day may the rather be made the limit to this duty, which (in Peter’s case) was apparently to finish that duty, after prayer. Further: since in the self-same commentary of Luke the third hour is demonstrated as an hour of prayer, about which hour it was that they who had received the initiatory gift of the Holy Spirit were held for drunkards;10 and the sixth, at which Peter went up on the roof; and the ninth, at which they entered the temple: why should we not understand that, with absolutely perfect indifference, we must pray11 always, and everywhere, and at every time: yet still that these three hours, as being more marked in things human—(hours) which divide the day, which distinguish businesses, which reecho in the public ear—have likewise ever been of special solemnity in divine prayers? A persuasion which is sanctioned also by the corroborative fact of Daniel praying thrice in the day;12 of course, through exception of certain stated hours, no other, moreover, than the more marked and subsequently apostolic (hours)—the third, the sixth, the ninth. And hence, accordingly, I shall affirm that Peter too had been led rather Edition: current; Page: [109] by ancient usage to the observance of the ninth hour, praying at the third specific interval, (the interval) of final prayer.

These (arguments), moreover, (we have advanced) for their sakes who think that they are acting in conformity with Peter’s model, (a model) of which they are ignorant: not as if we slighted the ninth hour, (an hour) which, on the fourth and sixth days of the week, we most highly honour; but because, of those things which are observed on the ground of tradition, we are bound to adduce so much the more worthy reason, that they lack the authority of Scripture, until by some signal celestial gift they be either confirmed or else corrected. “And if,” says (the apostle), “there are matters which ye are ignorant about, the Lord will reveal to you.”1 Accordingly, setting out of the question the confirmer of all such things, the Paraclete, the guide of universal truth,2 inquire whether there be not a worthier reason adduced among us for the observing of the ninth hour; so that this reason (of ours) must be attributed even to Peter if he observed a Station at the time in question. For (the practice) comes from the death of the Lord; which death albeit it behoves to be commemorated always, without difference of hours; yet are we at that time more impressively commended to its commemoration, according to the actual (meaning of the) name of Station. For even soldiers, though never unmindful of their military oath, yet pay a greater deference to Stations. And so the “pressure” must be maintained up to that hour in which the orb—involved from the sixth hour in a general darkness—performed for its dead Lord a sorrowful act of duty; so that we too may then return to enjoyment when the universe regained its sunshine.3 If this savours more of the spirit of Christian religion, while it celebrates more the glory of Christ, I am equally able, from the self-same order of events, to fix the condition of late protraction of the Station; (namely), that we are to fast till a late hour, awaiting the time of the Lord’s sepulture, when Joseph took down and entombed the body which he had requested. Thence (it follows) that it is even irreligious for the flesh of the servants to take refreshment before their Lord did.

But let it suffice to have thus far joined issue on the argumentative challenge; rebutting, as I have done, conjectures by conjectures, and yet (as I think) by conjectures more worthy of a believer. Let us see whether any such (principle) drawn from the ancient times takes us under its patronage.

In Exodus, was not that position of Moses, battling against Amalek by prayers, maintained as it was perseveringly even till “sunset,” a “late Station?”4 Think we that Joshua the son of Nun, when warring down the Amorites, had breakfasted on that day on which he ordered the very elements to keep a Station?5 The sun “stood” in Gibeon, and the moon in Ajalon; the sun and the moon “stood in station until the People was avenged of his enemies, and the sun stood in the mid heaven.” When, moreover, (the sun) did draw toward his setting and the end of the one day, there was no such day beforetime and in the latest time (of course, (no day) so long), “that God,” says (the writer), “should hear a man”—(a man,) to be sure, the sun’s peer, so long persistent in his duty—a Station longer even than late.

At all events, Saul himself, when engaged in battle, manifestly enjoined this duty: “Cursed (be) the man who shall have eaten bread until evening, until I avenge me on mine enemy;” and his whole people tasted not (food), and (yet) the whole earth was breakfasting! So solemn a sanction, moreover, did God confer on the edict which enjoined that Station, that Jonathan the son of Saul, although it had been in ignorance of the fast having been appointed till a late hour that he had allowed himself a taste of honey, was both presently convicted, by lot, of sin, and with difficulty exempted from punishment through the prayer of the People:6 for he had been convicted of gluttony, although of a simple kind. But withal Daniel, in the first year of King Darius, when, fasting in sackcloth and ashes, he was doing exomologesis to God, said: “And while I was still speaking in prayer, behold, the man whom I had seen in dreams at the beginning, swiftly flying, approached me, as it were, at the hour of the evening sacrifice.”7 This will be a “late” Station which, fasting until the evening, sacrifices a fatter (victim of) prayer to God!8


But all these (instances) I believe to be unknown to those who are in a state of agitation at our proceedings; or else known by the reading alone, not by careful study as well; in accordance with the greater bulk of “the unskilled”9 among the overboastful multitude, to wit, of the Psychics. This is why we have steered our course straight through the different individual species of fastings, of xerophagies, of stations: Edition: current; Page: [110] in order that, while we recount, according to the materials which we find in either Testament, the advantages which the dutiful observances of abstinence from, or curtailment or deferment of, food confer, we may refute those who invalidate these things as empty observances; and again, while we similarly point out in what rank of religious duty they have always had place, may confute those who accuse them as novelties: for neither is that novel which has always been, nor that empty which is useful.

The question, however, still lies before us, that some of these observances, having been commanded by God to man, have constituted this practice legally binding; some, offered by man to God, have discharged some votive obligation. Still, even a vow, when it has been accepted by God, constitutes a law for the time to come, owing to the authority of the Acceptor; for he who has given his approbation to a deed, when done, has given a mandate for its doing thenceforward. And so from this consideration, again, the wrangling of the opposite party is silenced, while they say: “It is either a pseudo-prophecy, if it is a spiritual voice which institutes these your solemnities; or else a heresy, if it is a human presumption which devises them.” For, while censuring that form in which the ancient economies ran their course, and at the same time drawing out of that form arguments to hurl back (upon us) which the very adversaries of the ancient economies will in their turn be able to retort, they will be bound either to reject those arguments, or else to undertake these proven duties (which they impugn): necessarily so; chiefly because these very duties (which they impugn), from whatsoever institutor they are, be he a spiritual man or merely an ordinary believer, direct their course to the honour of the same God as the ancient economies. For, indubitably, both heresy and pseudo-prophecy will, in the eyes of us who are all priests of one only God the Creator and of. His Christ, be judged by diversity of divinity: and so far forth I defend this side indifferently, offering my opponents to join issue on whatever ground they choose. “It is the spirit of the devil,” you say, O Psychic. And how is it that he enjoins duties which belong to our God, and enjoins them to be offered to none other than our God? Either contend that the devil works with our God, or else let the Paraclete be held to be Satan. But you affirm it is “a human Antichrist:” for by this name heretics are called in John.1 And how is it that, whoever he is, he has in (the name of) our Christ directed these duties toward our Lord; whereas withal antichrists have (ever) gone forth (professedly teaching) towards God, (but) in opposition to our Christ? On which side, then, do you think the Spirit is confirmed as existing among us; when He commands, or when He approves, what our God has always both commanded and approved? But you again set up boundary-posts to God, as with regard to grace, so with regard to discipline; as with regard to gifts, so, too, with regard to solemnities: so that our observances are supposed to have ceased in like manner as His benefits; and you thus deny that He still continues to impose duties, because, in this case again, “the Law and the prophets (were) until John.” It remains for you to banish Him wholly, being, as He is, so far as lies in you, so otiose.


For, by this time, in this respect as well as others, “you are reigning in wealth and satiety”2—not making inroads upon such sins as fasts diminish, nor feeling need of such revelations as xerophagies extort, nor apprehending such wars of your own as Stations dispel. Grant that from the time of John the Paraclete had grown mute; we ourselves would have arisen as prophets to ourselves, for this cause chiefly: I say not now to bring down by our prayers God’s anger, nor to obtain his protection or grace; but to secure by premunition the moral position of the “latest times;”3 enjoining every species of ταπεινοϕρόνησις, since the prison must be familiarized to us, and hunger and thirst practised, and capacity of enduring as well the absence of food as anxiety about it acquired: in order that the Christian may enter into prison in like condition as if he had (just) come forth of it,—to suffer there not penalty, but discipline, and not the world’s tortures, but his own habitual observances; and to go forth out of custody to (the final) conflict with all the more confidence, having nothing of sinful false care of the flesh about him, so that the tortures may not even have material to work on, since he is cuirassed in a mere dry skin, and cased in horn to meet the claws, the succulence of his blood already sent on (heavenward) before him, the baggage as it were of his soul,—the soul herself withal now hastening (after it), having already, by frequent fasting, gained a most intimate knowledge of death!

Plainly, your habit is to furnish cookshops in the prisons to untrustworthy martyrs, for fear they should miss their accustomed usages, grow weary of life, (and) be stumbled at the novel discipline of abstinence; (a discipline) which not even the well-known Pristinus—your martyr, Edition: current; Page: [111] no Christian martyr—had ever come in contact with: he whom—stuffed as he had long been, thanks to the facilities afforded by the “free custody” (now in vogue, and) under an obligation, I suppose, to all the baths (as if they were better than baptism!), and to all the retreats of voluptuousness (as if they were more secret than those of the Church!), and to all the allurements of this life (as if they were of more worth than those of life eternal!), not to be willing to die—on the very last day of trial, at high noon, you premedicated with drugged wine as an antidote, and so completely enervated, that on being tickled—for his intoxication made it feel like tickling—with a few claws, he was unable any more to make answer to the presiding officer interrogating him “whom he confessed to be Lord;” and, being now put on the rack for this silence, when he could utter nothing but hiccoughs and belchings, died in the very act of apostasy! This is why they who preach sobriety are “false prophets;” this why they who practise it are “heretics!” Why then hesitate to believe that the Paraclete, whom you deny in a Montanus, exists in an Apicius?


You lay down a prescription that this faith has its solemnities “appointed” by the Scriptures or the tradition of the ancestors; and that no further addition in the way of observance must be added, on account of the unlawfulness of innovation. Stand on that ground, if you can. For, behold, I impeach you of fasting besides on the Paschal-day, beyond the limits of those days in which “the Bridegroom was taken away;” and interposing the half-fasts of Stations; and you, (I find), sometimes living on bread and water, when it has seemed meet to each (so to do). In short, you answer that “these things are to be done of choice, not of command.” You have changed your ground, therefore, by exceeding tradition, in undertaking observances which have not been “appointed.” But what kind of deed is it, to permit to your own choice what you grant not to the command of God? Shall human volition have more licence than Divine power? I am mindful that I am free from the world,1 not from God. Thus it is my part to perform, without external suggestion thereto, an act of respect to my Lord, it is His to enjoin. I ought not merely to pay a willing obedience to Him, but withal to court Him; for the former I render to His command, the latter to my own choice.

But it is enough for me that it is a customary practice for the bishops withal to issue mandates for fasts to the universal commonalty of the Church; I do not mean for the special purpose of collecting contributions of alms, as your beggarly fashion has it, but sometimes too from some particular cause of ecclesiastical solicitude. And accordingly, if you practise ταπεινοϕρόνησις at the bidding of a man’s edict, and all unitedly, how is it that in our case you set a brand upon the very unity also of our fastings, and xerophagies, and Stations?—unless, perhaps, it is against the decrees of the senate and the mandates of the emperors which are opposed to “meetings” that we are sinning! The Holy Spirit, when He was preaching in whatsoever lands He chose, and through whomsoever He chose, was wont, from foresight of the imminence either of temptations to befall the Church, or of plagues to befall the world, in His character of Paraclete (that is, Advocate for the purpose of winning over the judge by prayers), to issue mandates for observances of this nature; for instance, at the present time, with the view of practising the discipline of sobriety and abstinence: we, who receive Him, must necessarily observe also the appointments which He then made. Look at the Jewish calendar, and you will find it nothing novel that all succeeding posterity guards with hereditary scrupulousness the precepts given to the fathers. Besides, throughout the provinces of Greece there are held in definite localities those councils gathered out of the universal Churches, by whose means not only all the deeper questions are handled for the common benefit, but the actual representation of the whole Christian name is celebrated with great veneration. (And how worthy a thing is this, that, under the auspices of faith, men should congregate from all quarters to Christ! “See, how good and how enjoyable for brethren to dwell in unity!”2 This psalm you know not easily how to sing, except when you are supping with a goodly company!) But those conclaves first, by the operations of Stations and fastings, know what it is “to grieve with the grieving,” and thus at last “to rejoice in company with the rejoicing.”3 If we also, in our diverse provinces, (but) present mutually in spirit,4 observe those very solemnities, whose then celebration our present discourse has been defending, that is the sacramental law.


Being, therefore, observers of “seasons” for these things, and of “days, and months, and years,”5 we Galaticize. Plainly we do, if we are Edition: current; Page: [112] observers of Jewish ceremonies, of legal solemnities: for those the apostle unteaches, suppressing the continuance of the Old Testament which has been buried in Christ, and establishing that of the New. But if there is a new creation in Christ,1 our solemnities too will be bound to be new: else, if the apostle has erased all devotion absolutely “of seasons, and days, and months, and years,” why do we celebrate the passover by an annual rotation in the first month? Why in the fifty ensuing days do we spend our time in all exultation? Why do we devote to Stations the fourth and sixth days of the week, and to fasts the “preparation-day?2 Anyhow, you sometimes continue your Station even over the Sabbath,—a day never to be kept as a fast except at the passover season, according to a reason elsewhere given. With us, at all events, every day likewise is celebrated by an ordinary consecration. And it will not, then, be, in the eyes of the apostle, the differentiating principle—distinguishing (as he is doing) “things new and old”3—which will be ridiculous; but (in this case too) it will be your own unfairness, while you taunt us with the form of antiquity all the while you are laying against us the charge of novelty.


The apostle reprobates likewise such as “bid to abstain from meats;” but he does so from the foresight of the Holy Spirit, precondemning already the heretics who would enjoin perpetual abstinence to the extent of destroying and despising the works of the Creator; such as I may find in the person of a Marcion, a Tatian, or a Jupiter, the Pythagorean heretic of to-day; not in the person of the Paraclete. For how limited is the extent of our “interdiction of meats!” Two weeks of xerophagies in the year (and not the whole of these,—the Sabbaths, to wit, and the Lord’s days, being excepted) we offer to God; abstaining from things which we do not reject, but defer. But further: when writing to the Romans, the apostle now gives you a homethrust, detractors as you are of this observance: “Do not for the sake of food,” he says, “undo4 the work of God.” What “work?” That about which he says,5 “It is good not to eat flesh, and not to drink wine:” “for he who in these points doeth service, is pleasing and propitiable to our God.” “One believeth that all things may be eaten; but another, being weak, feedeth on vegetables. Let not him who eateth lightly esteem him who eateth not. Who art thou, who judgest another’s servant?” “Both he who eateth, and he who eateth not, giveth God thanks.” But, since he forbids human choice to be made matter of controversy, how much more Divine! Thus he knew how to chide certain restricters and interdicters of food, such as abstained from it of contempt, not of duty; but to approve such as did so to the honour, not the insult, of the Creator. And if he has “delivered you the keys of the meat-market,” permitting the eating of “all things” with a view to establishing the exception of “things offered to idols;” still he has not included the kingdom of God in the meat-market: “For,” he says, “the kingdom of God is neither meat nor drink;”6 and, “Food commendeth us not to God”—not that you may think this said about dry diet, but rather about rich and carefully prepared, if, when he subjoins, “Neither, if we shall have eaten, shall we abound; nor, if we shall not have eaten, shall we be deficient,” the ring of his words suits, (as it does), you rather (than us), who think that you do “abound” if you eat, and are “deficient” if you eat not; and for this reason disparage these observances.

How unworthy, also, is the way in which you interpret to the favour of your own lust the fact that the Lord “ate and drank” promiscuously! But I think that He must have likewise “fasted,” inasmuch as He has pronounced, not “the full,” but “the hungry and thirsty, blessed:”7 (He) who was wont to profess “food” to be, not that which His disciples had supposed, but “the thorough doing of the Father’s work;”8 teaching “to labour for the meat which is permanent unto life eternal;”9 in our ordinary prayer likewise commanding us to request “bread,”10 not the wealth of Attalus11 therewithal. Thus, too, Isaiah has not denied that God “hath chosen” a “fast;” but has particularized in detail the kind of fast which He has not chosen: “for in the days,” he says, “of your fasts your own wills are found (indulged), and all who are subject to you ye stealthily sting; or else ye fast with a view to abuse and strifes, and ye smite with the fists. Not such a fast have I elected;”12 but such an one as He has subjoined, and by subjoining has not abolished, but confirmed.


For even if He does prefer “the works of righteousness,” still not without a sacrifice, which Edition: current; Page: [113] is a soul afflicted with fasts.1 He, at all events, is the God to whom neither a People incontinent of appetite, nor a priest, nor a propliet, was pleasing. To this day the “monuments of concupiscence,” remain, where the People, greedy of “flesh,” till, by devouring without digesting the quails, they brought on cholera, were buried. Eli breaks his neck before the temple doors,2 his sons fall in battle, his daughter-in-law expires in child-birth:3 for such was the blow which had been deserved at the hand of God by the shameless house, the defrauder of the fleshly sacrifices.4 Sameas, a “man of God,” after prophesying the issue of the idolatry introduced by King Jeroboam—after the drying up and immediate restoration of that king’s hand—after the rending in twain of the sacrificial altar,—being on account of these signs invited (home) by the king by way of recompense, plainly declined (for he had been prohibited by God) to touch food at all in that place; but having presently afterwards rashly taken food from another old man, who lyingly professed himself a prophet, he was deprived, in accordance with the word of God then and there uttered over the table, of burial in his fathers’ sepulchres. For he was prostrated by the rushing of a lion upon him in the way, and was buried among strangers; and thus paid the penalty of his breach of fast.5

These will be warnings both to people and to bishops, even spiritual ones, in case they may ever have been guilty of incontinence of appetite. Nay, even in Hades the admonition has not ceased to speak; where we find in the person of the rich feaster, convivialities tortured; in that of the pauper, fasts refreshed; having—(as convivialities and fasts alike had)—as preceptors “Moses and the prophets.”6 For Joel withal exclaimed: “Sanctify a fast, and a religious service;”7 foreseeing even then that other apostles and prophets would sanction fasts, and would preach observances of special service to God. Whence it is that even they who court their idols by dressing them, and by adorning them in their sanctuary, and by saluting them at each particular hour, are said to do them service. But, more than that, the heathens recognise every form of ταπεινοϕρόνησις. When the heaven is rigid and the year arid, barefooted processions are enjoined by public proclamation; the magistrates lay aside their purple, reverse the fasces, utter prayer, offer a victim. There are, moreover, some colonies where, besides (these extraordinary solemnities, the inhabitants), by an annual rite, clad in sackcloth and besprent with ashes, present a suppliant importunity to their idols, (while) baths and shops are kept shut till the ninth hour. They have one single fire in public—on the altars; no water even in their platters. There is, I believe, a Ninevitan suspension of business! A Jewish fast, at all events, is universally celebrated; while, neglecting the temples, throughout all the shore, in every open place, they continue long to send prayer up to heaven. And, albeit by the dress and ornamentation of mourning they disgrace the duty, still they do affect a faith in abstinence, and sigh for the arrival of the long-lingering evening star to sanction (their feeding). But it is enough for me that you, by heaping blasphemies upon our xerophagies, put them on a level with the chastity of an Isis and a Cybele. I admit the comparison in the way of evidence. Hence (our xerophagy) will be proved divine, which the devil, the emulator of things divine, imitates. It is out of truth that falsehood is built; out of religion that superstition is compacted. Hence you are more irreligious, in proportion as a heathen is more conformable. He, in short, sacrifices his appetite to an idol-god; you to (the true) God will not. For to you your belly is god, and your lungs a temple, and your paunch a sacrificial altar, and your cook the priest, and your fragrant smell the Holy Spirit, and your condiments spiritual gifts, and your belching prophecy.


“Old” you are, if we will say the truth, you who are so indulgent to appetite, and justly do you vaunt your “priority:” always do I recognise the savour of Esau, the hunter of wild beasts: so unlimitedly studious are you of catching fieldfares, so do you come from “the field” of your most lax discipline, so faint are you in spirit.8 If I offer you a paltry lentile dyed red with must well boiled down, forthwith you will sell all your “primacies:” with you “love” shows its fervour in sauce-pans, “faith” its warmth in kitchens, “hope” its anchorage in waiters; but of greater account is “love,” because that is the means whereby your young men sleep with their sisters! Appendages, as we all know, of appetite are lasciviousness and voluptuousness. Which alliance the apostle withal was aware of; and hence, after premising, “Not in drunkenness and revels,” he adjoined, “nor in couches and lusts.”9

To the indictment of your appetite pertains (the charge) that “double honour” is with you Edition: current; Page: [114] assigned to your presiding (elders) by double shares (of meat and drink); whereas the apostle has given them “double honour” as being both brethren and officers.1 Who, among you, is superior in holiness, except him who is more frequent in banqueting, more sumptuous in catering, more learned in cups? Men of soul and flesh alone as you are, justly do you reject things spiritual. If the prophets were pleasing to such, my (prophets) they were not. Why, then, do not you constantly preach, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die?”2 just as we do not hesitate manfully to command, “Let us fast, brethren and sisters, lest to-morrow perchance we die.” Openly let us vindicate our disciplines. Sure we are that “they who are in the flesh cannot please God;”3 not, of course, those who are in the substance of the flesh, but in the care, the affection, the work, the will, of it. Emaciation displeases not us; for it is not by weight that God bestows flesh, any more than He does “the Spirit by measure.”4 More easily, it may be, through the “strait gate”5 of salvation will slenderer flesh enter; more speedily will lighter flesh rise; longer in the sepulchre will drier flesh retain its firmness. Let Olympic cestus-players and boxers cram themselves to satiety. To them bodily ambition is suitable to whom bodily strength is necessary; and yet they also strengthen themselves by xerophagies. But ours are other thews and other sinews, just as our contests withal are other; we whose “wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the world’s6 power, against the spiritualities of malice.” Against these it is not by robustness of flesh and blood, but of faith and spirit, that it behoves us to make our antagonistic stand. On the other hand, an over-fed Christian will be more necessary to bears and lions, perchance, than to God; only that, even to encounter beasts, it will be his duty to practise emaciation.



(Greater licence, p. 104.)

In this treatise, which is designed to justify the extremes of Montanistic fasts, Tertullian’s genius often surprises us by his ingenuity. This is one of the instances where the forensic orator comes out, trying to outflank and turn the position of an antagonist who has gained an advantage. The fallacy is obvious. Kaye cites, in comparison, a passage1 from “The Apparel of Women,” and another2 from “The Exhortation to Chastity.” He remarks, “Were we required to produce an instance [i.e. to prove the tendency of mankind to run into extremes], we should without hesitation refer the reader to this treatise.”

Fasting was ordained of Christ Himself as a means to an end. It is here reduced from its instrumental character, and made an excuse for dividing the household of faith, and for cruel accusations against brethren.

In our age of an entire relaxation of discipline, the enthusiast may nevertheless awaken us, perhaps, to honest self-examination as to our manner of life, in view of the example of Christ and His apostles, and their holy precepts.


(Provinces of Greece, p. 111.)

We have here an interesting hint as to the ἀρχαι̑α ἔθη to which the Council of Nice3 refers in one of her most important canons. Provinces, synods, and the charges or pastoral letters of the bishops are referred to as established institutions. And note the emphasis given to “Greece” as Edition: current; Page: [115] the mother of churches, and of laws and customs. He looks Eastward, and not by any means to the West, for high examples of the Catholic usages by which he was endeavouring to justify his own.


(An over-fed Christian, p. 114.)

“Are we not carnal” (psychics) in our days? May not the very excesses of Tertullian sting and reproach us with the charge of excessive indulgence (Matt. ix. 15)? The “over-fed Christians” whom he here reproaches are proved by this very treatise to have observed a system of fasting which is little practised anywhere in our times—for a mere change to luxurious fish-diet is the very mockery of fasting. We learn that the customary fasts of these psychics were as follows: (1) the annual Paschal fast,1 from Friday till Easter-Day; (2) Wednesdays and Fridays (stationary days2) every week; and (3) the “dry-food days,”3—abstinence from “pleasant bread” (Dan. x. 2),—though some Catholics objected to these voluntary abstinences.


(Practise emaciation, p. 114.)

Think of our Master’s fast among the wild beasts! Let us condescend to go back to Clement, to Origen, and to Tertullian to learn the practical laws of the Gospel against avarice, luxury, and “the deceitfulness of sin.” I am emboldened to say this by some remarkable words which I find, to my surprise, thrown out in a scientific work4 proceeding from Harvard University. It is with exceeding gratitude that I quote as follows: “It is well to go away at times, that we may see another aspect of human life which still survives in the East, and to feel that influence which led even the Christ into the wilderness to prepare for the struggle with the animal nature of man.5 We need something of the experience of the Anchorites of Egypt, to impress us with the great truth that the distinction between the spiritual and the material remains broad and clear, even if with the scalpel of our modern philosophy we cannot completely dissect the two; and this experience will give us courage to cherish our aspirations, keep bright our hopes, and hold fast our Christian faith until the consummation comes.”

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1. My brother Fabius, you very lately asked, because some news or other were communicated, whether or not we ought to flee in persecution. For my part, having on the spot made some observations in the negative suited to the place and time, I also, owing to the rudeness of some persons, took away with me the subject but half treated, meaning to set it forth now more fully by my pen; for your inquiry had interested me in it, and the state of the times had already on its own account pressed it upon me. As persecutions in increasing number threaten us, so the more are we called on to give earnest thought to the question of how faith ought to receive them, and the duty of carefully considering it concerns you no less, who no doubt, by not accepting the Comforter, the guide to all truth, have, as was natural, opposed us hitherto in regard to other questions also. We have therefore applied a methodical treatment, too, to your inquiry, as we see that we must first come to a decision as to how the matter stands in regard to persecution itself, whether it comes on us from God or from the devil, that with the less difficulty we may get on firm ground as to our duty to meet it; for of everything one’s knowledge is clearer when it is known from whom it has its origin. It is enough indeed to lay it down, (in bar of all besides,) that nothing happens without the will of God. But lest we be diverted from the point before us, we shall not by this deliverance at once give occasion to the other discussions if one make answer—Therefore evil and sin are both from God; the devil henceforth, and even we ourselves, are entirely free. The question in hand is persecution. With respect to this, let me in the meantime say, that nothing happens without God’s will; on the ground that persecution is especially worthy of God, and, so to speak, requisite, for the approving, to wit, or if you will, the rejection of His professing servants. For what is the issue of persecution, what other result comes of it, but the approving and rejecting of faith, in regard to which the Lord will certainly sift His people? Persecution, by means of which one is declared either approved or rejected, is just the judgment of the Lord. But the judging properly belongs to God alone. This is that fan which even now cleanses the Lord’s threshing-floor—the Church, I mean—winnowing the mixed heap of believers, and separating the grain2 of the martyrs from the chaff of the deniers; and this is also the ladder3 of which Jacob dreams, on which are seen, some mounting up to higher places, and others going down to lower. So, too, persecution may be viewed as a contest. By whom is the conflict proclaimed, but by Him by whom the crown and the rewards are offered? You find in the Revelation its edict, setting forth the rewards by which He incites to victory—those, above all, whose is the distinction of conquering in persecution, in very deed contending in their victorious struggle not against flesh and blood, but against spirits of wickedness. So, too, you will see that the adjudging of the contest belongs to the same glorious One, as umpire, who calls us to the prize. The one great thing in persecution is the promotion of the glory of God, as He tries and casts away, lays on and takes off. But what concerns the glory of God will surely come to pass by His will. And when is trust in God more strong, than when there is a greater fear of Him, and when persecution breaks out? The Church is awe-struck. Then is faith both more zealous in preparation, and better disciplined in fasts, and meetings, and prayers, and lowliness, in brotherly-kindness and love, in holiness and temperance. There is no room, in fact, for Edition: current; Page: [117] ought but fear and hope. So even by this very thing we have it clearly proved that persecution, improving as it does the servants of God, cannot be imputed to the devil.

2. If, because injustice is not from God, but from the devil, and persecution consists of injustice (for what more unjust than that the bishops of the true God, that all the followers of the truth, should be dealt with after the manner of the vilest criminals?), persecution therefore seems to proceed from the devil, by whom the injustice which constitutes persecution is perpetrated, we ought to know, as you have neither persecution without the injustice of the devil, nor the trial of faith without persecution, that the injustice necessary for the trial of faith does not give a warrant for persecution, but supplies an agency; that in reality, in reference to the trial of faith, which is the reason of persecution, the will of God goes first, but that as the instrument of persecution, which is the way of trial, the injustice of the devil follows. For in other respects, too, injustice in proportion to the enmity it displays against righteousness affords occasion for attestations of that to which it is opposed as an enemy, that so righteousness may be perfected in injustice, as strength is perfected in weakness.1 For the weak things of the world have been chosen by God to confound the strong, and the foolish things of the world to confound its wisdom.2 Thus even injustice is employed, that righteousness may be approved in putting unrighteousness to shame. Therefore, since the service is not of free-will, but of subjection (for persecution is the appointment of the Lord for the trial of faith, but its ministry is the injustice of the devil, supplied that persecution may be got up), we believe that persecution comes to pass, no question, by the devil’s agency, but not by the devil’s origination. Satan will not be at liberty to do anything against the servants of the living God unless the Lord grant leave, either that He may overthrow Satan himself by the faith of the elect which proves victorious in the trial, or in the face of the world show that apostatizers to the devil’s cause have been in reality His servants. You have the case of Job, whom the devil, unless he had received authority from God, could not have visited with trial, not even, in fact, in his property, unless the Lord had said, “Behold, all that he has I put at your disposal; but do not stretch out your hand against himself.”3 In short, he would not even have stretched it out, unless afterwards, at his request, the Lord had granted him this permission also, saying, “Behold, I deliver him to you; only preserve his life.” So he asked in the case of the apostles likewise an opportunity to tempt them, having it only by special allowance, since the Lord in the Gospel says to Peter, “Behold, Satan asked that he might sift you as grain; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not;”4 that is, that the devil should not have power granted him sufficient to endanger his faith. Whence it is manifest that both things belong to God, the shaking of faith as well as the shielding of it, when both are sought from Him—the shaking by the devil, the shielding by the Son. And certainly, when the Son of God has faith’s protection absolutely committed to Him, beseeching it of the Father, from whom He receives all power in heaven and on earth, how entirely out of the question is it that the devil should have the assailing of it in his own power! But in the prayer prescribed to us, when we say to our Father, “Lead us not into temptation”5 (now what greater temptation is there than persecution?), we acknowledge that that comes to pass by His will whom we beseech to exempt us from it. For this is what follows, “But deliver us from the wicked one,” that is, do not lead us into temptation by giving us up to the wicked one, for then are we delivered from the power of the devil, when we are not handed over to him to be tempted. Nor would the devil’s legion have had power over the herd of swine6 unless they had got it from God; so far are they from having power over the sheep of God. I may say that the bristles of the swine, too, were then counted by God, not to speak of the hairs of holy men. The devil, it must be owned, seems indeed to have power—in this case really his own—over those who do not belong to God, the nations being once for all counted by God as a drop of the bucket, and as the dust of the threshing-floor, and as the spittle of the mouth, and so thrown open to the devil as, in a sense, a free possession. But against those who belong to the household of God he may not do ought as by any right of his own, because the cases marked out in Scripture show when—that is, for what reasons—he may touch them. For either, with a view to their being approved, the power of trial is granted to him, challenged or challenging, as in the instances already referred to, or, to secure an opposite result, the sinner is handed over to him, as though he were an executioner to whom belonged the inflicting of punishment, as in the case of Saul. “And the Spirit of the Lord,” says Scripture, “departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled and stifled him;”7 or the design is to humble, as the apostle tells us, that there was given him Edition: current; Page: [118] a stake, the messenger of Satan, to buffet him;1 and even this sort of thing is not permitted in the case of holy men, unless it be that at the same time strength of endurance may be perfected in weakness. For the apostle likewise delivered Phygellus and Hermogenes over to Satan, that by chastening they might be taught not to blaspheme.2 You see, then, that the devil receives more suitably power even from the servants of God; so far is he from having it by any right of his own.

3. Seeing therefore, too, these cases occur in persecutions more than at other times, as there is then among us more of proving or rejecting, more of abasing or punishing, it must be that their general occurrence is permitted or commanded by Him at whose will they happen even partially; by Him, I mean, who says, “I am He who make peace and create evil,”3—that is, war, for that is the antithesis of peace. But what other war has our peace than persecution? If in its issues persecution emphatically brings either life or death, either wounds or healing, you have the author, too, of this. “I will smite and heal, I will make alive and put to death.”4 “I will burn them,” He says, “as gold is burned; and I will try them,” He says, “as silver is tried,”5 for when the flame of persecution is consuming us, then the stedfastness of our faith is proved. These will be the fiery darts of the devil, by which faith gets a ministry of burning and kindling; yet by the will of God. As to this I know not who can doubt, unless it be persons with frivolous and frigid faith, which seizes upon those who with trembling assemble together in the church. For you say, seeing we assemble without order, and assemble at the same time, and flock in large numbers to the church, the heathen are led to make inquiry about us, and we are alarmed lest we awaken their anxieties. Do ye not know that God is Lord of all? And if it is God’s will, then you shall suffer persecution; but if it is not, the heathen will be still. Believe it most surely, if indeed you believe in that God without whose will not even the sparrow, a penny can buy, falls to the ground.6 But we, I think, are better than many sparrows.

4. Well, then, if it is evident from whom persecution proceeds, we are able at once to satisfy your doubts, and to decide from these introductory remarks alone, that men should not flee in it. For if persecution proceeds from God, in no way will it be our duty to flee from what has God as its author; a twofold reason opposing: for what proceeds from God ought not on the one hand to be avoided, and it cannot be evaded on the other. It ought not to be avoided, because it is good; for everything must be good on which God has cast His eye. And with this idea has perhaps this statement been made in Genesis, “And God saw because it is good;” not that He would have been ignorant of its goodness unless He had seen it, but to indicate by this expression that it was good because it was viewed by God. There are many events indeed happening by the will of God, and happening to somebody’s harm. Yet for all that, a thing is therefore good because it is of God, as divine, as reasonable; for what is divine, and not reasonable and good? What is good, yet not divine? But if to the universal apprehension of mankind this seems to be the case, in judging, man’s faculty of apprehension does not predetermine the nature of things, but the nature of things his power of apprehension. For every several nature is a certain definite reality, and it lays it on the perceptive power to perceive it just as it exists. Now, if that which comes from God is good indeed in its natural state (for there is nothing from God which is not good, because it is divine, and reasonable), but seems evil only to the human faculty, all will be right in regard to the former; with the latter the fault will lie. In its real nature a very good thing is chastity, and so is truth, and righteousness; and yet they are distasteful to many. Is perhaps the real nature on this account sacrificed to the sense of perception? Thus persecution in its own nature too is good, because it is a divine and reasonable appointment; but those to whom it comes as a punishment do not feel it to be pleasant. You see that as proceeding from Him, even that evil has a reasonable ground, when one in persecution is cast out of a state of salvation, just as you see that you have a reasonable ground for the good also, when one by persecution has his salvation made more secure. Unless, as it depends on the Lord, one either perishes irrationally, or is irrationally saved, he will not be able to speak of persecution as an evil, which, while it is under the direction of reason, is, even in respect of its evil, good. So, if persecution is in every way a good, because it has a natural basis, we on valid grounds lay it down, that what is good ought not to be shunned by us, because it is a sin to refuse what is good; besides that, what has been looked upon by God can no longer indeed be avoided, proceeding as it does from God, from whose will escape will not be possible. Therefore those who think that they should flee, either reproach God with doing what is evil, if they flee from persecution as an evil (for no one avoids what is good); or they count themselves stronger than God: so they think, who imagine it possible to escape when it is God’s pleasure that such events should occur.

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5. But, says some one, I flee, the thing it belongs to me to do, that I may not perish, if I deny; it is for Him on His part, if He chooses, to bring me, when I flee, back before the tribunal. First answer me this: Are you sure you will deny if you do not flee, or are you not sure? For if you are sure, you have denied already, because by presupposing that you will deny, you have given yourself up to that about which you have made such a presupposition; and now it is vain for you to think of flight, that you may avoid denying, when in intention you have denied already. But if you are doubtful on that point, why do you not, in the incertitude of your fear wavering between the two different issues, presume that you are able rather to act a confessor’s part, and so add to your safety, that you may not flee, just as you presuppose denial to send you off a fugitive? The matter stands thus—we have either both things in our own power, or they wholly he with God. If it is ours to confess or to deny, why do we not anticipate the nobler thing, that is, that we shall confess? If you are not willing to confess, you are not willing to suffer; and to be unwilling to confess is to deny. But if the matter is wholly in God’s hand, why do we not leave it to His will, recognising His might and power in that, just as He can bring us back to trial when we flee, so is He able to screen us when we do not flee; yes, and even living in the very heart of the people? Strange conduct, is it not, to honour God in the matter of flight from persecution, because He can bring you back from your flight to stand before the judgment-seat; but in regard of witness-bearing, to do Him high dishonour by despairing of power at His hands to shield you from danger? Why do you not rather on this, the side of constancy and trust in God, say, I do my part; I depart not; God, if He choose, will Himself be my protector? It beseems us better to retain our position in submission to the will of God, than to flee at our own will. Rutilius, a saintly martyr, after having ofttimes fled from persecution from place to place, nay, having bought security from danger, as he thought, by money, was, notwithstanding the complete security he had, as he thought, provided for himself, at last unexpectedly seized, and being brought before the magistrate, was put to the torture and cruelly mangled,—a punishment, I believe, for his fleeing,—and thereafter he was consigned to the flames, and thus paid to the mercy of God the suffering which he had shunned. What else did the Lord mean to show us by this example, but that we ought not to flee from persecution because it avails us nothing if God disapproves?

6. Nay, says some one, he fulfilled the command, when he fled from city to city. For so a certain individual, but a fugitive likewise, has chosen to maintain, and others have done the same who are unwilling to understand the meaning of that declaration of the Lord, that they may use it as a cloak for their cowardice, although it has had its persons as well as its times and reasons to which it specially applies. “When they begin,” He says, “to persecute you, flee from city to city.”1 We maintain that this belongs specially to the persons of the apostles, and to their times and circumstances, as the following sentences will show, which are suitable only to the apostles: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and into a city of the Samaritans do not enter: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”2 But to us the way of the Gentiles is also open, as in it we in fact were found, and to the very last we walk; and no city has been excepted. So we preach throughout all the world; nay, no special care even for Israel has been laid upon us, save as also we are bound to preach to all nations. Yes, and if we are apprehended, we shall not be brought into Jewish councils, nor scourged in Jewish synagogues, but we shall certainly be cited before Roman magistrates and judgment-seats.3 So, then, the circumstances of the apostles even required the injunction to flee, their mission being to preach first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. That, therefore, this preaching might be fully accomplished in the case of those among whom this behoved first of all to be carried out—that the sons might receive bread before the dogs, for that reason He commanded them to flee then for a time—not with the object of eluding danger, under the plea strictly speaking which persecution urges (rather He was in the habit of proclaiming that they would suffer persecutions, and of teaching that these must be endured); but in order to further the proclamation of the Gospel message, lest by their being at once put down, the diffusion of the Gospel too might be prevented. Neither were they to flee to any city as if by stealth, but as if everywhere about to proclaim their message; and for this, everywhere about to undergo persecutions, until they should fulfil their teaching. Accordingly the Saviour says, “Ye will not go over all the cities of Israel.”4 So the command to flee was restricted to the limits of Judea. But no command that shows Judea to be specially the sphere for preaching applies to us, now that the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon all flesh. Therefore Paul and the apostles themselves, mindful of the precept of the Lord, bear this solemn testimony before Israel, which they had now filled with their doctrine—saying, “It was Edition: current; Page: [120] necessary that the word of God should have been first delivered to you; but seeing ye have rejected it, and have not thought yourselves worthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”1 And from that time they turned their steps away, as those who went before them had laid it down, and departed into the way of the Gentiles, and entered into the cities of the Samaritans; so that, in very deed, their sound went forth into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.2 If, therefore, the prohibition against setting foot in the way of the Gentiles, and entering into the cities of the Samaritans, has come to an end, why should not the command to flee, which was issued at the same time, have come also to an end? Accordingly, from the time when, Israel having had its full measure, the apostles went over to the Gentiles, they neither fled from city to city, nor hesitated to suffer. Nay, Paul too, who had submitted to deliverance from persecution by being let down from the wall, as to do so was at this time a matter of command, refused in like manner now at the close of his ministry, and after the injunction had come to an end, to give in to the anxieties of the disciples, eagerly entreating him that he would not risk himself at Jerusalem, because of the sufferings in store for him which Agabus had foretold; but doing the very opposite, it is thus he speaks, “What do ye, weeping and disquieting my heart? For I could wish not only to suffer bonds, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of my Lord Jesus Christ.”3 And so they all said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” What was the will of the Lord? Certainly no longer to flee from persecution. Otherwise they who had wished him rather to avoid persecution, might also have adduced that prior will of the Lord, in which He had commanded flight. Therefore, seeing even in the days of the apostles themselves, the command to flee was temporary, as were those also retating to the other things at the same time enjoined, that [command] cannot continue with us which ceased with our teachers, even although it had not been issued specially for them; or if the Lord wished it to continue, the apostles did wrong who were not careful to keep fleeing to the last.

7. Let us now see whether also the rest of our Lord’s ordinances accord with a lasting command of flight. In the first place, indeed, if persecution is from God, what are we to think of our being ordered to take ourselves out of its way, by the very party who brings it on us? For if He wanted it to be evaded, He had better not have sent it, that there might not be the appearance of His will being thwarted by another will. For He wished us either to suffer persecution or to flee from it. If to flee, how to suffer? If to suffer, how to flee? In fact, what utter inconsistency in the decrees of One who commands to flee, and yet urges to suffer, which is the very opposite! “Him who will confess Me, I also will confess before My Father.”4 How will he confess, fleeing? How flee, confessing? “Of him who shall be ashamed of Me, will I also be ashamed before My Father.”5 If I avoid suffering, I am ashamed to confess. “Happy they who suffer persecution for My name’s sake.”6 Unhappy, therefore, they who, by running away, will not suffer according to the divine command. “He who shall endure to the end shall be saved.”7 How then, when you bid me flee, do you wish me to endure to the end? If views so opposed to each other do not comport with the divine dignity, they clearly prove that the command to flee had, at the time it was given, a reason of its own, which we have pointed out. But it is said, the Lord, providing for the weakness of some of His people, nevertheless, in His kindness, suggested also the haven of flight to them. For He was not able even without flight—a protection so base, and unworthy, and servile—to preserve in persecution such as He knew to be weak! Whereas in fact He does not cherish, but ever rejects the weak, teaching first, not that we are to fly from our persecutors, but rather that we are not to fear them. “Fear not them who are able to kill the body, but are unable to do ought against the soul; but fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”8 And then what does He allot to the fearful? “He who will value his life more than Me, is not worthy of Me; and he who takes not up his cross and follows Me, cannot be My disciple.”9 Last of all, in the Revelation, He does not propose flight to the “fearful,”10 but a miserable portion among the rest of the outcast, in the lake of brimstone and fire, which is the second death.

8. He sometimes also fled from violence Himself, but for the same reason as had led Him to command the apostles to do so: that is, He wanted to fulfil His ministry of teaching; and when it was finished, I do not say He stood firm, but He had no desire even to get from His Father the aid of hosts of angels: finding fault, too, with Peter’s sword. He likewise acknowledged, it is true, that His “soul was troubled, even unto death,”11 and the flesh weak; with the Edition: current; Page: [121] design, (however,) first of all, that by having, as His own, trouble of soul and weakness of the flesh, He might show you that both the substances in Him were truly human; lest, as certain persons have now brought it in, you might be led to think either the flesh or the soul of Christ different from ours; and then, that, by an exhibition of their states, you might be convinced that they have no power at all of themselves without the spirit. And for this reason He puts first “the willing spirit,”1 that, looking to the natures respectively of both the substances, you may see that you have in you the spirit’s strength as well as the flesh’s weakness; and even from this may learn what to do, and by what means to do it, and what to bring under what,—the weak, namely, under the strong, that you may not, as is now your fashion, make excuses on the ground of the weakness of the flesh, forsooth, but put out of sight the strength of the spirit. He also asked of His Father, that if it might be, the cup of suffering should pass from Him.2 So ask you the like favour; but as He did, holding your position,—merely offering supplication, and adding, too, the other words: “but not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” But when you run away, how will you make this request? taking, in that case, into your own hands the removal of the cup from you, and instead of doing what your Father wishes, doing what you wish yourself.

9. The teaching of the apostles was surely in everything according to the mind of God: they forgot and omitted nothing of the Gospel. Where, then, do you show that they renewed the command to flee from city to city? In fact, it was utterly impossible that they should have laid down anything so utterly opposed to their own examples as a command to flee, while it was just from bonds, or the islands in which, for confessing, not fleeing from the Christian name, they were confined, they wrote their letters to the Churches. Paul3 bids us support the weak, but most certainly it is not when they flee. For how can the absent be supported by you? By bearing with them? Well, he says that people must be supported, if anywhere they have committed a fault through the weakness of their faith, just as (he enjoins) that we should comfort the fainthearted; he does not say, however, that they should be sent into exile. But when he urges us not to give place to evil,4 he does not offer the suggestion that we should take to our heels, he only teaches that passion should be kept under restraint; and if he says that the time must be redeemed, because the days are evil,5 he wishes us to gain a lengthening of life, not by flight, but by wisdom. Besides, he who bids us shine as sons of light,6 does not bid us hide away out of sight as sons of darkness. He commands us to stand stedfast,7 certainly not to act an opposite part by fleeing; and to be girt, not to play the fugitive or oppose the Gospel. He points out weapons, too, which persons who intend to run away would not require. And among these he notes the shield8 too, that ye may be able to quench the darts of the devil, when doubtless ye resist him, and sustain his assaults in their utmost force. Accordingly John also teaches that we must lay down our lives for the brethren;9 much more, then, we must do it for the Lord. This cannot be fulfilled by those who flee. Finally, mindful of his own Revelation, in which he had heard the doom of the fearful, (and so) speaking from personal knowledge, he warns us that fear must be put away. “There is no fear,” says he, “in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear has torment”—the fire of the lake, no doubt. “He that feareth is not perfect in love”10—to wit, the love of God. And yet who will flee from persecution, but he who fears? Who will fear, but he who has not loved? Yes; and if you ask counsel of the Spirit, what does He approve more than that utterance of the Spirit? For, indeed, it incites all almost to go and offer themselves in martyrdom, not to flee from it; so that we also make mention of it. If you are exposed to public infamy, says he, it is for your good; for he who is not exposed to dishonour among men is sure to be so before the Lord. Do not be ashamed; righteousness brings you forth into the public gaze. Why should you be ashamed of gaining glory? The opportunity is given you when you are before the eyes of men. So also elsewhere: seek not to die on bridal beds, nor in miscarriages, nor in soft fevers, but to die the martyr’s death, that He may be glorified who has suffered for you.

10. But some, paying no attention to the exhortations of God, are readier to apply to themselves that Greek versicle of worldly wisdom, “He who fled will fight again;” perhaps also in the battle to flee again. And when will he who, as a fugitive, is a defeated man, be conqueror? A worthy soldier he furnishes to his commander Christ, who, so amply armed by the apostle, as soon as he hears persecution’s trumpet, runs off from the day of persecution. I also will produce in answer a quotation taken from the world: “Is it a thing so very sad to die?”11 He must die, in whatever way of it, either as Edition: current; Page: [122] conquered or as conqueror. But although he has succumbed in denying, he has yet faced and battled with the torture. I had rather be one to be pitied than to be blushed for. More glorious is the soldier pierced with a javelin in battle, than he who has a safe skin as a fugitive. Do you fear man, O Christian?—you who ought to be feared by the angels, since you are to judge angels; who ought to be feared by evil spirits, since you have received power also over evil spirits; who ought to be feared by the whole world, since by you, too, the world is judged. You are Christ-clothed, you who flee before the devil, since into Christ you have been baptized. Christ, who is in you, is treated as of small account when you give yourself back to the devil, by becoming a fugitive before him. But, seeing it is from the Lord you flee, you taunt all runaways with the futility of their purpose. A certain bold prophet also had fled from the Lord, he had crossed over from Joppa in the direction of Tarsus, as if he could as easily transport himself away from God; but I find him, I do not say in the sea and on the land, but, in fact, in the belly even of a beast, in which he was confined for the space of three days, unable either to find death or even thus escape from God. How much better the conduct of the man who, though he fears the enemy of God, does not flee from, but rather despises him, relying on the protection of the Lord; or, if you will, having an awe of God all the greater, the more that he has stood in His presence, says, “It is the Lord, He is mighty. All things belong to Him; wherever I am, I am in His hand: let Him do as He wills, I go not away; and if it be His pleasure that I die, let Him destroy me Himself, while I save myself for Him. I had rather bring odium upon Him by dying by His will, than by escaping through my own anger.”

11. Thus ought every servant of God to feel and act, even one in an inferior place, that he may come to have a more important one, if he has made some upward step by his endurance of persecution. But when persons in authority themselves—I mean the very deacons, and presbyters, and bishops—take to flight, how will a layman be able to see with what view it was said, Flee from city to city? Thus, too, with the leaders turning their backs, who of the common rank will hope to persuade men to stand firm in the battle? Most assuredly a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, according to the word of Moses, when the Lord Christ had not as yet been revealed, but was already shadowed forth in himself: “If you destroy this people,” he says, “destroy me also along with it.”1 But Christ, confirming these foreshadowings Himself, adds: “The bad shepherd is he who, on seeing the wolf, flees, and leaves the sheep to be torn in pieces.”2 Why, a shepherd like this will be turned off from the farm; the wages to have been given him at the time of his discharge will be kept from him as compensation; nay, even from his former savings a restoration of the master’s loss will be required; for “to him who hath shall be given, but from him who hath not shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have.”3 Thus Zechariah threatens: “Arise, O sword, against the shepherds, and pluck ye out the sheep; and I will turn my hand against the shepherds.”4 And against them both Ezekiel and Jeremiah declaim with kindred threatenings, for their not only wickedly eating of the sheep,—they feeding themselves rather than those committed to their charge,—but also scattering the flock, and giving it over, shepherdless, a prey to all the beasts of the field. And this never happens more than when in persecution the Church is abandoned by the clergy. If any one recognises the Spirit also, he will hear him branding the runaways. But if it does not become the keepers of the flock to flee when the wolves invade it—nay, if that is absolutely unlawful (for He who has declared a shepherd of this sort a bad one has certainly condemned him; and whatever is condemned has, without doubt, become unlawful)—on this ground it will not be the duty of those who have been set over the Church to flee in the time of persecution. But otherwise, if the flock should flee, the overseer of the flock would have no call to hold his ground, as his doing so in that case would be, without good reason, to give to the flock protection, which it would not require in consequence of its liberty, forsooth, to flee.

12. So far, my brother, as the question proposed by you is concerned, you have our opinion in answer and encouragement. But he who inquires whether persecution ought to be shunned by us must now be prepared to consider the following question also: Whether, if we should not flee from it, we should at least buy ourselves off from it. Going further than you expected, therefore, I will also on this point give you my advice, distinctly affirming that persecution, from which it is evident we must not flee, must in like manner not even be bought off. The difference lies in the payment; but as flight is a buying off without money, so buying off is money-flight. Assuredly you have here too the counselling of fear. Because you fear, you buy yourself off; and so you flee. As regards your feet, you have stood; in respect of the money you have paid, Edition: current; Page: [123] you have run away. Why, in this very standing of yours there was a fleeing from persecution, in the release from persecution which you bought; but that you should ransom with money a man whom Christ has ransomed with His blood, how unworthy is it of God and His ways of acting, who spared not His own Son for you, that He might be made a curse for us, because cursed is he that hangeth on a tree,1—Him who was led as a sheep to be a sacrifice, and just as a lamb before its shearer, so opened He not His mouth;2 but gave His back to the scourges, nay, His cheeks to the hands of the smiter, and turned not away His face from spitting, and, being numbered with the transgressors, was delivered up to death, nay, the death of the cross. All this took place that He might redeem us from our sins. The sun ceded to us the day of our redemption; hell re-transferred the right it had in us, and our covenant is in heaven; the everlasting gates were lifted up, that the King of Glory, the Lord of might, might enter in,3 after having redeemed man from earth, nay, from hell, that he might attain to heaven. What, now, are we to think of the man who strives against that glorious One, nay, slights and defiles His goods, obtained at so great a ransom—no less, in truth, than His most precious blood? It appears, then, that it is better to flee than to fall in value, if a man will not lay out for himself as much as he cost Christ. And the Lord indeed ransomed him from the angelic powers which rule the world—from the spirits of wickedness, from the darkness of this life, from eternal judgment, from everlasting death. But you bargain for him with an informer, or a soldier, or some paltry thief of a ruler—under, as they say, the folds of the tunic—as if he were stolen goods whom Christ purchased in the face of the whole world, yes, and set at liberty. Will you value, then, this free man at any price, and possess him at any price, but the one, as we have said, it cost the Lord,—namely, His own blood? (And if not,) why then do you purchase Christ in the man in whom He dwells, as though He were some human property? No otherwise did Simon even try to do, when he offered the apostles money for the Spirit of Christ. Therefore this man also, who in buying himself has bought the Spirit of Christ, will hear that word, “Your money perish with you, since you have thought that the grace of God is to be had at a price!”4 Yet who will despise him for being (what he is), a denier? For what says that extorter? Give me money: assuredly that he may not deliver him up, since he tries to sell you nothing else than that which he is going to give you for money. When you put that into his hands, it is certainly your wish not to be delivered up. But not delivered up, had you to be held up to public ridicule? While, then, in being unwilling to be delivered up, you are not willing to be thus exposed; by this unwillingness of yours you have denied that you are what you have been unwilling to have it made public that you are. Nay, you say, While I am unwilling to be held up to the public as being what I am, I have acknowledged that I am what I am unwilling to be so held up as being, that is, a Christian. Can Christ, therefore, claim that you, as a witness for Him, have stedfastly shown Him forth? He who buys himself off does nothing in that way. Before one it might, I doubt not, be said, You have confessed Him; so also, on the account of your unwillingness to confess Him before many you have denied Him. A man’s very safety will pronounce that he has fallen while getting out of persecution’s way. He has fallen, therefore, whose desire has been to escape. The refusal of martyrdom is denial. A Christian is preserved by his wealth, and for this end has his treasures, that he may not suffer, while he will be rich toward God. But it is the case that Christ was rich in blood for him. Blessed therefore are the poor, because, He says, the kingdom of heaven is theirs who have the soul only treasured up.5 If we cannot serve God and mammon, can we be redeemed both by God and by mammon? For who will serve mammon more than the man whom mammon has ransomed? Finally, of what example do you avail yourself to warrant your averting by money the giving of you up? When did the apostles, dealing with the matter, in any time of persecution trouble, extricate themselves by money? And money they certainly had from the prices of lands which were laid down at their feet,6 there being, without a doubt, many of the rich among those who believed—men, and also women, who were wont, too, to minister to their comfort. When did Onesimus, or Aquila, or Stephen,7 give them aid of this kind when they were persecuted? Paul indeed, when Felix the governor hoped that he should receive money for him from the disciples,8 about which matter he also dealt with the apostle in private, certainly neither paid it himself, nor did the disciples for him. Those disciples, at any rate, who wept because he was equally persistent in his determination to go to Jerusalem, and neglectful of all means to secure himself from the persecutions which had been foretold as about to occur there, at last say, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” What was that will? No doubt that he should suffer for the name of the Lord, not Edition: current; Page: [124] that he should be bought off. For as Christ laid down His life for us, so, too, we should do for Him; and not only for the Lord Himself, nay, but likewise for our brethren on His account. This, too, is the teaching of John when he declares, not that we should pay for our brethren, but rather that we should die for them. It makes no difference whether the thing not to be done by you is to buy off a Christian, or to buy one. And so the will of God accords with this. Look at the condition—certainly of God’s ordaining, in whose hand the king’s heart is—of kingdoms and empires. For increasing the treasury there are daily provided so many appliances—registerings of property, taxes in kind, benevolences, taxes in money; but never up to this time has ought of the kind been provided by bringing Christians under some purchase-money for the person and the sect, although enormous gains could be reaped from numbers too great for any to be ignorant of them. Bought with blood, paid for with blood, we owe no money for our head, because Christ is our Head. It is not fit that Christ should cost us money. How could martyrdoms, too, take place to the glory of the Lord, if by tribute we should pay for the liberty of our sect? And so he who stipulates to have it at a price, opposes the divine appointment. Since, therefore, Cæsar has imposed nothing on us after this fashion of a tributary sect—in fact, such an imposition never can be made,—with Antichrist now close at hand, and gaping for the blood, not for the money of Christians—how can it be pointed out to me that there is the command, “Render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s?”1 A soldier, be he an informer or an enemy, extorts money from me by threats, exacting nothing on Cæsar’s behalf; nay, doing the very opposite, when for a bribe he lets me go—Christian as I am, and by the laws of man a criminal. Of another sort is the denarius which I owe to Cæsar, a thing belonging to him, about which the question then was started, it being a tribute coin due indeed by those subject to tribute, not by children. Or how shall I render to God the things which are God’s,—certainly, therefore, His own likeness and money inscribed with His name, that is, a Christian man? But what do I owe God, as I do Cæsar the denarius, but the blood which His own Son shed for me? Now if I owe God, indeed, a human being and my own blood; but I am now in this juncture, that a demand is made upon me for the payment of that debt, I am undoubtedly guilty of cheating God if I do my best to withhold payment. I have well kept the commandment, if, rendering to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s, I refuse to God the things which are God’s!

13. But also to every one who asks me I will give on the plea of charity, not under any intimidation. Who asks?2 He says. But he who uses intimidation does not ask. One who threatens if he does not receive, does not crave, but compels. It is not alms he looks for, who comes not to be pitied, but to be feared. I will give, therefore, because I pity, not because I fear, when the recipient honours God and returns me his blessing; not when rather he both believes that he has conferred a favour on me, and, beholding his plunder, says, “Guilt money.” Shall I be angry even with an enemy? But enmities have also other grounds. Yet withal he did not say a betrayer, or persecutor, or one seeking to terrify you by his threats. For how much more shall I heap coals upon the head of a man of this sort, if I do not redeem myself by money? “In like manner,” says Jesus, “to him who has taken away your coat, grant even your cloak also.” But that refers to him who has sought to take away my property, not my faith. The cloak, too, I will grant, if I am not threatened with betrayal. If he threatens, I will demand even my coat back again. Even now, the declarations of the Lord have reasons and laws of their own. They are not of unlimited or universal application. And so He commands us to give to every one who asks, yet He Himself does not give to those who ask a sign. Otherwise, if you think that we should give indiscriminately to all who ask, that seems to me to mean that you would give, I say not wine to him who has a fever, but even poison or a sword to him who longs for death. But how we are to understand, “Make to yourselves friends of mammon,”3 let the previous parable teach you. The saying was addressed to the Jewish people; inasmuch as, having managed ill the business of the Lord which had been entrusted to them, they ought to have provided for themselves out of the men of mammon, which we then were, friends rather than enemies, and to have delivered us from the dues of sins which kept us from God, if they bestowed the blessing upon us, for the reason given by the Lord, that when grace began to depart from them, they, betaking themselves to our faith, might be admitted into everlasting habitations. Hold now any other explanation of this parable and saying you like, if only you clearly see that there is no likelihood of our opposers, should we make them friends with mammon, then receiving us into everlasting abodes. But of what will not cowardice convince men? As if Scripture both allowed them to flee, and commanded them to Edition: current; Page: [125] buy off! Finally, it is not enough if one or another is so rescued. Whole Churches have imposed tribute en masse on themselves. I know not whether it is matter for grief or shame when, among hucksters, and pickpockets, and baththieves, and gamesters, and pimps, Christians too are included as taxpayers in the lists of free soldiers and spies. Did the apostles, with so much foresight, make the office of overseer of this type, that the occupants might be able to enjoy their rule free from anxiety, under colour of providing (a like freedom for their flocks)? For such a peace, forsooth, Christ, returning to His Father, commanded to be bought from the soldiers by gifts like those you have in the Saturnalia!

14. But how shall we assemble together? say you; how shall we observe the ordinances of the Lord? To be sure, just as the apostles also did, who were protected by faith, not by money; which faith, if it can remove a mountain, can much more remove a soldier. Be your safeguard wisdom, not a bribe. For you will not have at once complete security from the people also, should you buy off the interference of the soldiers. Therefore all you need for your protection is to have both faith and wisdom: if you do not make use of these, you may lose even the deliverance which you have purchased for yourself; while, if you do employ them, you can have no need of any ransoming. Lastly, if you cannot assemble by day, you have the night, the light of Christ luminous against its darkness. You cannot run about among them one after another. Be content with a church of threes. It is better that you sometimes should not see your crowds, than subject yourselves (to a tribute bondage). Keep pure for Christ His betrothed virgin; let no one make gain of her. These things, my brother, seem to you perhaps harsh and not to be endured; but recall that God has said, “He who receives it, let him receive it,”1 that is, let him who does not receive it go his way. He who fears to suffer, cannot belong to Him who suffered. But the man who does not fear to suffer, he will be perfect in love—in the love, it is meant, of God; “for perfect love casteth out fear.”2 “And therefore many are called, but few chosen.”3 It is not asked who is ready to follow the broad way, but who the narrow. And therefore the Comforter is requisite, who guides into all truth, and animates to all endurance. And they who have received Him will neither stoop to flee from persecution nor to buy it off, for they have the Lord Himself, One who will stand by us to aid us in suffering, as well as to be our mouth when we are put to the question.



(Persecutions threaten, p. 116.)

We have reserved this heroic tract to close our series of the ascetic essays of our author because it places even his sophistical enthusiasm in a light which shows much to admire. Strange that this defiant hero should have died (as we may infer) in his bed, and in extreme old age. Great man, how much, alike for weal and woe, the ages have been taught by thee!

This is the place for a tabular view of the ten persecutions of the Ante-Nicene Church. They are commonly enumerated as follows:1

I. Under Nero ad 64.
II. Under Trajan ad 95.
III. Under Trajan ad 107.
IV. Under Hadrian (ad 118 and) ad 134.
V. Under Aurelius (ad 177) and Severus ad 202.
VI. Under Maximin ad 235.
VII. Under Decius ad 250.
VIII. Under Valerian ad 254.
IX. Under Aurelian ad 270.
X. Under Diocletian (ad 284 and) ad 303.
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Periods of Comparative Rest.
I. Under Antoninus Pius ad 151.
II. Under Commodus ad 185.
III. Under Alexander Severus ad 223.
IV. Under Philip ad 248.
V. Under Diocletian ad 284 till ad 303.

In thus chastising and sifting his Church in the years of her gradual growth “from the smallest of all seeds,” we see illustrations of the Lord’s Epistles to the seven churches of the Apocalypse. Who can doubt that Tertullian’s writings prepared the North-African Church for the Decian furnace, and all believers for the “seven times hotter” fires of Diocletian?

(To the fearful, p. 120.)

In the Patientia1 Tertullian reflects the views of Catholics, and seems to allow those “persecuted in one city to flee to another.” So also in the Ad Uxorem,2 as instanced by Kaye.3 In the Fuga we have the enthusiast, but not as Gibbon will have it,4 the most wild and fanatical of declaimers. On the whole subject we again refer our readers to the solid and sober comments of Kaye on the martyrdoms and persecutions of the early faithful, and on the patristic views of the same.


(Enormous gains from numbers, p. 124.)

Christians were now counted by millions. The following tabular view of the Christian population of the world from the beginning has been attributed to Sharon Turner. I do not find it in any of his works with which I am familiar. The nineteenth century is certainly credited too low, according to the modern computists; but I insert it merely for the centuries we are now considering.

First century 500,000
Second century 2,000,000
Third century 5,000,000
Fourth century 10,000,000
Fifth century 15,000,000
Sixth century 20,000,000
Seventh century 24,000,000
Eighth century 30,000,000
Ninth century 40,000,000
Tenth century 50,000,000
Eleventh century 70,000,000
Twelfth century 80,000,000
Thirteenth century 75,000,000
Fourteenth century 80,000,000
Fifteenth century 100,000,000
Sixteenth century 125,000,000
Seventeenth century 155,000,000
Eighteenth century 200,000,000
Nineteenth century 400,000,000
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    • After the living, aye-enduring death
    • Of Sodom and Gomorrah; after fires
    • Penal, attested by time-frosted plains
    • Of ashes; after fruitless apple-growths,
    • Coxe1994: 5Born but to feed the eye; after the death
    • Of sea and brine, both in like fate involved;
    • While whatsoe’er is human still retains
    • In change corporeal its penal badge:2
    • A city—Nineveh—by stepping o’er
    • Coxe1994: 10The path of justice and of equity,
    • On her own head had well-nigh shaken down
    • More fires of rain supernal. For what dread3
    • Dwells in a mind subverted? Commonly
    • Tokens of penal visitations prove
    • Coxe1994: 15All vain where error holds possession. Still,
    • Kindly and patient of our waywardness,
    • And slow to punish, the Almighty Lord
    • Will launch no shaft of wrath, unless He first
    • Admonish and knock oft at hardened hearts,
    • Coxe1994: 20Rousing with mind august presaging seers.
    • For to the merits of the Ninevites
    • The Lord had bidden Jonah to foretell
    • Destruction; but he, conscious that He spares
    • The subject, and remits to suppliants
    • Coxe1994: 25The dues of penalty, and is to good
    • Ever inclinable, was loth to face
    • That errand; lest he sing his seerly strain
    • In vain, and peaceful issue of his threats
    • Ensue. His counsel presently is flight:
    • Coxe1994: 30(If, howsoe’er, there is at all the power
    • God to avoid, and shun the Lord’s right hand,
    • ’Neath whom the whole orb trembles and is held
    • In check: but is there reason in the act
    • Which in4 his saintly heart the prophet dares?)
    • Coxe1994: 35On the beach-lip, over against the shores
    • Of the Cilicians, is a city poised,5
    • Far-famed for trusty port—Joppa her name.
    • Thence therefore Jonah speeding in a barque
    • Seeks Tarsus,6 through the signal providence
    • Coxe1994: 40Of the same God;7 nor marvel is’t, I ween,
    • If, fleeing from the Lord upon the lands,
    • He found Him in the waves. For suddenly
    • A little cloud had stained the lower air
    • With fleecy wrack sulphureous, itself8
    • Coxe1994: 45By the wind’s seed excited: by degrees,
    • Bearing a brood globose, it with the sun
    • Cohered, and with a train caliginous
    • Shut in the cheated day. The main becomes
    • The mirror of the sky; the waves are dyed
    • Coxe1994: 50With black encirclement; the upper air
    • Down rushes into darkness, and the sea
    • Uprises; nought of middle space is left;
    • While the clouds touch the waves, and the waves all
    • Are mingled by the bluster of the winds
    • Coxe1994: 55In whirling eddy. ’Gainst the renegade,
    • ’Gainst Jonah, diverse frenzy joined to rave,
    • While one sole barque did all the struggle breed
    • ’Twixt sky and surge. From this side and from that
    • Pounded she reels; ’neath each wave-breaking blow
    • Coxe1994: 60The forest of her tackling trembles all;
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    • As, underneath, her spinal length of keel,
    • Staggered by shock on shock, all palpitates;
    • And, from on high, her labouring mass of yard
    • Creaks shuddering; and the tree-like mast itself
    • Coxe1994: 65Bends to the gale, misdoubting to be riven.
    • Meantime the rising1 clamour of the crew
    • Tries every chance for barque’s and dear life’s sake:
    • To pass from hand to hand2 the tardy coils
    • To tighten the girth’s noose: straitly to bind
    • Coxe1994: 70The tiller’s struggles; or, with breast opposed,
    • T’ impel reluctant curves. Part, turn by turn,
    • With foremost haste outbale the reeking well
    • Of inward sea. The wares and cargo all
    • They then cast headlong, and with losses seek
    • Coxe1994: 75Their perils to subdue. At every crash
    • Of the wild deep rise piteous cries; and out
    • They stretch their hands to majesties of gods,
    • Which gods are none; whom might of sea and sky
    • Fears not, nor yet the less from off their poops
    • Coxe1994: 80With angry eddy sweeping sinks them down.
    • Unconscious of all this, the guilty one
    • ’Neath the poop’s hollow arch was making sleep
    • Re-echo stertorous with nostril wide
    • Inflated: whom, so soon as he who guides
    • Coxe1994: 85The functions of the wave-dividing prow
    • Saw him sleep-bound in placid peace, and proud
    • In his repose, he, standing o’er him, shook,
    • And said, “Why sing’st, with vocal nostril, dreams,
    • In such a crisis? In so wild a whirl,
    • Coxe1994: 90Why keep’st thou only harbour? Lo! the wave
    • Whelms us, and our one hope is in the gods.
    • Thou also, whosoever is thy god,
    • Make vows, and, pouring prayers on bended knee,
    • Win o’er thy country’s Sovran!”
    • Then they vote
    • Coxe1994: 95To learn by lot who is the culprit, who
    • The cause of storm; nor does the lot belie
    • Jonah: whom then they ask, and ask again,
    • “Who? whence? who in the world? from what abode,
    • What people, hail’st thou?” He avows himself
    • Coxe1994: 100A servant, and an over-timid one,
    • Of God, who raised aloft the sky, who based
    • The earth, who corporally fused the whole:
    • A renegade from Him he owns himself,
    • And tells the reason. Rigid turned they all
    • Coxe1994: 105With dread. “What grudge, then, ow’st thou us? What now
    • Will follow? By what deed shall we appease
    • The main?” For more and far more swelling grew
    • The savage surges. Then the seer begins
    • Words prompted by the Spirit of the Lord:3
    • Coxe1994: 110“Lo! I your tempest am; I am the sum
    • Of the world’s4 madness: ’tis in me,” he says,
    • “That the sea rises, and the upper air
    • Down rushes; land in me is far, death near,
    • And hope in God is none! Come, headlong hurl
    • Coxe1994: 115Your cause of bane: lighten your ship, and cast
    • This single mighty burden to the main,
    • A willing prey!” But they—all vainly!—strive
    • Homeward to turn their course; for helm refused
    • To suffer turning, and the yard’s stiff poise
    • Coxe1994: 120Willed not to change. At last unto the Lord
    • They cry: “For one soul’s sake give us not o’er
    • Unto death’s maw, nor let us be besprent
    • With righteous blood, if thus Thine own right hand
    • Leadeth.” And from the eddy’s depth a whale
    • Coxe1994: 125Outrising on the spot, scaly with shells,5
    • Unravelling his body’s train, ’gan urge
    • More near the waves, shocking the gleaming brine,
    • Seizing—at God’s command—the prey; which, rolled
    • From the poop’s summit prone, with slimy jaws
    • Coxe1994: 130He sucked; and into his long belly sped
    • The living feast; and swallowed, with the man,
    • The rage of sky and main. The billowy waste
    • Grows level, and the ether’s gloom dissolves;
    • The waves on this side, and the blasts on that,
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    • Coxe1994: 135Are to their friendly mood restored; and, where
    • The placid keel marks out a path secure,
    • White traces in the emerald furrow bloom.
    • The sailor then does to the reverend Lord
    • Of death make grateful offering of his fear;1
    • Coxe1994: 140Then enters friendly ports.
    • Jonah the seer
    • The while is voyaging, in other craft
    • Embarked, and cleaving ’neath the lowest waves
    • A wave: his sails the intestines of the fish,
    • Inspired with breath ferine; himself, shut in
    • Coxe1994: 145By waters, yet untouched; in the sea’s heart,
    • And yet beyond its reach; ’mid wrecks of fleets
    • Half-eaten, and men’s carcasses dissolved
    • In putrid disintegrity: in life
    • Learning the process of his death; but still—
    • Coxe1994: 150To be a sign hereafter of the Lord2
    • A witness was he (in his very self),3
    • Not of destruction, but of death’s repulse.


(author uncertain)

    • Already had Almighty God wiped off
    • By vengeful flood (with waters all conjoined
    • Which heaven discharged on earth and the sea’s plain1
    • Outspued) the times of the primeval age:
    • Coxe1994: 5Had pledged Himself, while nether air should bring
    • The winters in their course, ne’er to decree,
    • By liquid ruin, retribution’s due;
    • And had assigned, to curb the rains, the bow
    • Of many hues, sealing the clouds with band
    • Coxe1994: 10Of purple and of green, Iris its name,
    • The rain-clouds’ proper baldric.2
    • But alike
    • With mankind’s second race impiety
    • Revives, and a new age of ill once more
    • Shoots forth; allotted now no more to showers
    • Coxe1994: 15For ruin, but to fires: thus did the land
    • Of Sodom earn to be by glowing dews
    • Upburnt, and typically thus portend
    • The future end.3 There wild voluptuousness
    • (Modesty’s foe) stood in the room of law;
    • Coxe1994: 20Which prescient guest would shun, and sooner choose
    • At Scythian or Busirian altar’s foot
    • ’Mid sacred rites to die, and, slaughtered, pour
    • His blood to Bebryx, or to satiate
    • Libyan palæstras, or assume new forms
    • Coxe1994: 25By virtue of Circæan cups, than lose
    • His outraged sex in Sodom.
    • At heaven’s gate
    • There knocked for vengeance marriages commixt
    • With equal incest common ’mong a race
    • By nature rebels ’gainst themselves;4 and hurts
    • Coxe1994: 30Done to man’s name and person equally.
    • But God, forewatching all things, at fix’d time
    • Doth judge the unjust; with patience tarrying
    • The hour when crime’s ripe age—not any force
    • Of wrath impetuous—shall have circumscribed
    • Coxe1994: 35The space for waiting.5
    • Now at length the day
    • Of vengeance was at hand. Sent from the host
    • Angelical, two, youths in form, who both
    • Were ministering spirits,6 carrying
    • The Lord’s divine commissions, come beneath
    • Coxe1994: 40The walls of Sodom. There was dwelling Lot,
    • A transplantation from a pious stock;
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    • Wise, and a practiser of righteousness,
    • He was the only one to think on God:
    • As oft a fruitful tree is wont to lurk,
    • Coxe1994: 45Guest-like, in forests wild. He, sitting then
    • Before the gate (for the celestials scarce
    • Had reached the ramparts), though he knew not them
    • Divine,1 accosts them unsolicited,
    • Invites, and with ancestral honour greets;
    • Coxe1994: 50And offers them, preparing to abide
    • Abroad, a hospice. By repeated prayers
    • He wins them; and then ranges studiously
    • The sacred pledges2 on his board,3 and quits4
    • His friends with courteous offices. The night
    • Coxe1994: 55Had brought repose: alternate5 dawn had chased
    • The night, and Sodom with her shameful law
    • Make uproar at the doors. Lot, suppliantwise,
    • Withstands: “Young men, let not your newfed lust
    • Enkindle you to violate this youth!6
    • Coxe1994: 60Whither is passion’s seed inviting you?
    • To what vain end your lust? For such an end
    • No creatures wed: not such as haunt the fens;
    • Not stall-fed cattle; not the gaping brood
    • Subaqueous; nor they which, modulant
    • Coxe1994: 65On pinions, hang suspended near the clouds;
    • Nor they which with forth-stretchèd body creep
    • Over earth’s face. To conjugal delight
    • Each kind its kind doth owe: but female still
    • To all is wife; nor is there one that has
    • Coxe1994: 70A mother save a female one. Yet now,
    • If youthful vigour holds it right7 to waste
    • The flower of modesty, I have within
    • Two daughters of a nuptial age, in whom
    • Virginity is swelling in its bloom,
    • Coxe1994: 75Already ripe for harvest—a desire
    • Worthy of men—which let your pleasure reap!
    • Myself their sire, I yield them; and will pay,
    • For my guests’ sake, the forfeit of my grief!”
    • Answered the mob insane: “And who art thou?
    • Coxe1994: 80And what? and whence? to lord it over us,
    • And to expound us laws? Shall foreigner
    • Rule Sodom, and hurl threats? Now, then, thyself
    • For daughters and for guests shalt sate our greed!
    • One shall suffice for all!” So said, so done:
    • Coxe1994: 85The frantic mob delays not. As, whene’er
    • A turbid torrent rolls with wintry tide,
    • And rushes at one speed through countless streams
    • Of rivers, if, just where it forks, some tree
    • Meets the swift waves (not long to stand, save while
    • Coxe1994: 90By her root’s force she shall avail to oppose
    • Her tufty obstacles), when gradually
    • Her hold upon the underminèd soil
    • Is failing, with her barèd stem she hangs,
    • And, with uncertain heavings to and fro,
    • Coxe1994: 95Defers her certain fall; not otherwise
    • Lot in the mid-whirl of the dizzy mob
    • Kept nodding, now almost o’ercome. But power
    • Divine brings succour: the angelic youths,
    • Snatching him from the threshold, to his roof
    • Coxe1994: 100Restore him; but upon the spot they mulct
    • Of sight the mob insane in open day,—
    • Fit augury of coming penalties!
    • Then they unlock the just decrees of God:
    • That penalty condign from heaven will fall
    • Coxe1994: 105On Sodom; that himself had merited
    • Safety upon the count of righteousness.
    • “Gird thee, then, up to hasten hence thy flight,
    • And with thee to lead out what family
    • Thou hast: already we are bringing on
    • Coxe1994: 110Destruction o’er the city.” Lot with speed
    • Speaks to his sons-in-law; but their hard heart
    • Scorned to believe the warning, and at fear
    • Laughed. At what time the light attempts to climb
    • The darkness, and heaven’s face wears double hue
    • Coxe1994: 115From night and day, the youthful visitants
    • Were instant to outlead from Sodoma
    • The race Chaldæan,8 and the righteous house
    • Consign to safety: “Ho! come, Lot! arise,
    • And take thy yokefellow and daughters twain,
    • Coxe1994: 120And hence, beyond the boundaries be gone,
    • Preventing9 Sodom’s penalties!” And eke
    • With friendly hands they lead them trembling forth,
    • And then their final mandates give: “Save, Lot,
    • Thy life, lest thou perchance should will to turn
    • Coxe1994: 125Thy retroverted gaze behind, or stay
    • The step once taken: to the mountain speed!”
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    • Lot feared to creep the heights with tardy step,
    • Lest the celestial wrath-fires should o’ertake
    • And whelm him: therefore he essays to crave
    • Coxe1994: 130Some other ports; a city small, to wit,
    • Which opposite he had espied. “Hereto,”
    • He said, “I speed my flight: scarce with its walls
    • ’Tis visible; nor is it far, nor great.”
    • They, favouring his prayer, safety assured
    • Coxe1994: 135To him and to the city; whence the spot
    • Is known in speech barbaric by the name
    • Segor.1 Lot enters Segor while the sun
    • Is rising,2 the last sun, which glowing bears
    • To Sodom conflagration; for his rays
    • Coxe1994: 140He had armed all with fire: beneath him spreads
    • An emulous gloom, which seeks to intercept
    • The light; and clouds combine to interweave
    • Their smoky globes with the confusèd sky:
    • Down pours a novel shower: the ether seethes
    • Coxe1994: 145With sulphur mixt with blazing flames:3 the air
    • Crackles with liquid heats exust. From hence
    • The fable has an echo of the truth
    • Amid its false, that the sun’s progeny
    • Would drive his father’s team; but nought availed
    • Coxe1994: 150The giddy boy to curb the haughty steeds
    • Of fire: so blazed our orb: then lightning reft
    • The lawless charioteer, and bitter plaint
    • Transformed his sisters. Let Eridanus
    • See to it, if one poplar on his banks
    • Coxe1994: 155Whitens, or any bird dons plumage there
    • Whose note old age makes mellow!4
    • Here they mourn
    • O’er miracles of metamorphosis
    • Of other sort. For, partner of Lot’s flight,
    • His wife (ah me, for woman! even then5
    • Coxe1994: 160Intolerant of law!) alone turned back
    • At the unearthly murmurs of the sky)
    • Her daring eyes, but bootlessly: not doomed
    • To utter what she saw! and then and there
    • Changed into brittle salt, herself her tomb
    • Coxe1994: 165She stood, herself an image of herself,
    • Keeping an incorporeal form: and still
    • In her unsheltered station ’neath the heaven
    • Dures she, by rains unmelted, by decay
    • And winds unwasted; nay, if some range hand
    • Coxe1994: 170Deface her form, forthwith from her own store
    • Her wounds she doth repair. Still is she said
    • To live, and, ’mid her corporal change, discharge
    • With wonted blood her sex’s monthly dues.
    • Gone are the men of Sodom; gone the glare
    • Coxe1994: 175Of their unhallowed ramparts; all the house
    • Inhospitable, with its lords, is gone:
    • The champaign is one pyre; here embers rough
    • And black, here ash-heaps with hoar mould, mark out
    • The conflagration’s course: evanishèd
    • Coxe1994: 180Is all that old fertility6 which Lot,
    • Seeing outspread before him, . . .
    • . . . . . . . .
    • No ploughman spends his fruitless toil on glebes
    • Pitchy with soot: or if some acres there,
    • But half consumed, still strive to emulate
    • Coxe1994: 185Autumn’s glad wealth, pears, peaches, and all fruits
    • Promise themselves full easely7 to the eye
    • In fairest bloom, until the plucker’s hand
    • Is on them: then forthwith the seeming fruit
    • Crumbles to dust’neath the bewraying touch,
    • Coxe1994: 190And turns to embers vain.
    • Thus, therefore (sky
    • And earth entombed alike), not e’en the sea
    • Lives there: the quiet of that quiet sea
    • Is death!8—a sea which no wave animates
    • Through its anhealant volumes; which beneath
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    • Coxe1994: 195Its native Auster sighs not anywhere;
    • Which cannot from its depths one scaly race,
    • Or with smooth skin or cork-like fence encased,
    • Produce, or curlèd shell in single valve
    • Or double fold enclosed. Bitumen there
    • Coxe1994: 200(The sooty reek of sea exust) alone,
    • With its own crop, a spurious harvest yields;
    • Which ’neath the stagnant surface vivid heat
    • From seething mass of sulphur and of brine
    • Maturing tempers, making earth cohere
    • Coxe1994: 205Into a pitch marine.1 At season due
    • The heated water’s fatty ooze is borne
    • Up to the surface; and with foamy flakes
    • Over the level top a tawny skin
    • Is woven. They whose function is to catch
    • Coxe1994: 210That ware put to, tilting their smooth skin down
    • With balance of their sides, to teach the film,
    • Once o’er the gunnel, to float in: for, lo!
    • Raising itself spontaneous, it will swim
    • Up to the edge of the unmoving craft;
    • Coxe1994: 215And will, when pressed,2 for guerdon large, ensure
    • Immunity from the defiling touch
    • Of weft which female monthly efflux clothes.
    • Behold another portent notable,
    • Fruit of that sea’s disaster: all things cast
    • Coxe1994: 220Therein do swim: gone is its native power
    • For sinking bodies: if, in fine, you launch
    • A torch’s lightsome3 hull (where spirit serves
    • For fire) therein, the apex of the flame
    • Will act as sail; put out the flame, and ’neath
    • Coxe1994: 225The waters will the light’s wreckt ruin go!
    • Such Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s penalties,
    • For ages sealed as signs before the eyes
    • Of unjust nations, whose obdurate hearts
    • God’s fear have quite forsaken,4 will them teach
    • Coxe1994: 230To reverence heaven-sanctioned rights,5 and lift
    • Their gaze unto one only Lord of all.


(author uncertain.)

    • In the beginning did the Lord create
    • The heaven and earth:1 for formless was the land,2
    • And hidden by the wave, and God immense3
    • O’er the vast watery plains was hovering,
    • Coxe1994: 5While chaos and black darkness shrouded all:
    • Which darkness, when God bade be from the pole4
    • Disjoined, He speaks, “Let there be light;” and all
    • In the clear world5 was bright. Then, when the Lord
    • The first day’s work had finishèd, He formed
    • Coxe1994: 10Heaven’s axis white with nascent clouds: the deep
    • Immense receives its wandering6 shores, and draws
    • The rivers manifold with mighty trains.
    • The third dun light unveiled earth’s7 face, and soon
    • (Its name assigned8) the dry land’s story ’gins:
    • Coxe1994: 15Together on the windy champaigns rise
    • The flowery seeds, and simultaneously
    • Fruit-bearing boughs put forth procurvant arms.
    • The fourth day, with9 the sun’s lamp generates
    • The moon, and moulds the stars with tremulous light
    • Coxe1994: 20Radiant: these elements it10 gave as signs
    • To th’ underlying world,11 to teach the times
    • Which, through their rise and setting, were to change.
    • Then, on the fifth, the liquid12 streams receive
    • Their fish, and birds poise in the lower air
    • Coxe1994: 25Their pinions many-hued. The sixth, again,
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    • Supples the ice-cold snakes into their coils,
    • And over the whole fields diffuses herds
    • Of quadrupeds; and mandate gave that all
    • Should grow with multiplying seed, and roam
    • Coxe1994: 30And feed in earth’s immensity.
    • All these
    • When power divine by mere command arranged,
    • Observing that things mundane still would lack
    • A ruler, thus It1 speaks: “With utmost care,
    • Assimilated to our own aspèct,2
    • Coxe1994: 35Make We a man to reign in the whole orb.”
    • And him, although He with a single word3
    • Could have compounded, yet Himself did deign
    • To shape him with His sacred own right hand,
    • Inspiring his dull breast from breast divine.
    • Coxe1994: 40Whom when He saw formed in a likeness such
    • As is His own, He measures how he broods
    • Alone on gnawing cares. Straightway his eyes
    • With sleep irriguous He doth perfuse;
    • That from his left rib woman softlier
    • Coxe1994: 45May formèd be, and that by mixture twin
    • His substance may add firmness to her limbs.
    • To her the name of “Life”—which is called “Eve”4
    • Is given: wherefore sons, as custom is,
    • Their parents leave, and, with a settled home,
    • Coxe1994: 50Cleave to their wives.
    • The seventh came, when God
    • At His works’ end did rest, decreeing it
    • Sacred unto the coming ages’ joys.
    • Straightway—the crowds of living things deployed
    • Before him—Adam’s cunning skill (the gift
    • Coxe1994: 55Of the good Lord) gives severally to all
    • The name which still is permanent. Himself,
    • And, joined with him, his Eve, God deigns address
    • “Grow, for the times to come, with manifold
    • Increase, that with your seed the pole and earth5
    • Coxe1994: 60Be filled; and, as Mine heirs, the varied fruits
    • Pluck ye, which groves and champaigns render you,
    • From their rich turf.” Thus after He discoursed,
    • In gladsome court6 a paradise is strewn,
    • And looks towàrds the rays of th’ early sun.7
    • Coxe1994: 65These joys among, a tree with deadly fruits,
    • Breeding, conjoined, the taste of life and death,
    • Arises. In the midst of the demesne8
    • Flows with pure tide a stream, which irrigates
    • Fair offsprings from its liquid waves, and cuts
    • Coxe1994: 70Quadrified paths from out its bubbling fount.
    • Here wealthy Phison, with auriferous waves,
    • Swells, and with hoarse tide wears9 conspicuous gems,
    • This prasinus,10 that glowing carbuncle,11
    • By name; and laves, transparent in its shoals,
    • Coxe1994: 75The margin of the land of Havilath.
    • Next Gihon, gliding by the Æthiops,
    • Enriches them. The Tigris is the third,
    • Adjoined to fair Euphrates, furrowing
    • Disjunctively with rapid flood the land
    • Coxe1994: 80Of Asshur. Adam, with his faithful wife,
    • Placed here as guard and workman, is informed
    • By such the Thunderer’s12 speech: “Tremble ye not
    • To pluck together the permitted fruits
    • Which, with its leafy bough, the unshorn grove
    • Coxe1994: 85Hath furnished; anxious only lest perchance
    • Ye cull the hurtful apple,13 which is green
    • With a twin juice for functions several.”
    • And, no less blind meantime than Night herself,
    • Deep night ’gan hold them, nor had e’en a robe
    • Coxe1994: 90Covered their new-formed limbs.
    • Amid these haunts,
    • And on mild berries reared, a foamy snake,
    • Surpassing living things in sense astute,
    • Was creeping silently with chilly coils.
    • He, brooding over envious lies instinct
    • Coxe1994: 95With gnawing sense, tempts the soft heart beneath
    • The woman’s breast: “Tell me, why shouldst thou dread
    • The apple’s14 happy seeds? Why, hath not God
    • All known fruits hallowed?15 Whence if thou be prompt
    • To cull the honeyed fruits, the golden world16
    • Coxe1994: 100Will on its starry pole return.”17 But she
    • Refuses, and the boughs forbidden fears
    • To touch. But yet her breast ’gins be o’ercome
    • Edition: current; Page: [134]
    • With sense infirm. Straightway, as she at length
    • With snowy tooth the dainty morsels bit,
    • Coxe1994: 105Stained with no cloud the sky serene up-lit!
    • Then taste, instilling lure in honeyed jaws,
    • To her yet uninitiated lord
    • Constrained her to present the gift; which he
    • No sooner took, than—night effaced!—their eyes
    • Coxe1994: 110Shone out serene in the resplendent world.1
    • When, then, they each their body bare espied,
    • And when their shameful parts they see, with leaves
    • Of fig they shadow them.
    • By chance, beneath
    • The sun’s now setting light, they recognise
    • Coxe1994: 115The sound of the Lord’s voice, and, trembling, haste
    • To bypaths. Then the Lord of heaven accosts
    • The mournful Adam: “Say, where now thou art.”
    • Who suppliant thus answers: “Thine address,
    • O Lord, O Mighty One, I tremble at,
    • Coxe1994: 120Beneath my fearful heart; and, being bare,
    • I faint with chilly dread.” Then said the Lord:
    • “Who hath the hurtful fruits, then, given you?”
    • “This woman, while she tells me how her eyes
    • With brilliant day promptly perfusèd were,
    • Coxe1994: 125And on her dawned the liquid sky serene,
    • And heaven’s sun and stars, o’ergave them me!”
    • Forthwith God’s anger frights perturbèd Eve,
    • While the Most High inquires the authorship
    • Of the forbidden act. Hereon she opes
    • Coxe1994: 130Her tale: “The speaking serpent’s suasive words
    • I harboured, while the guile and bland request
    • Misled me: for, with venoms viperous
    • His words inweaving, stories told he me
    • Of those delights which should all fruits excel.”
    • Coxe1994: 135Straightway the Omnipotent the dragon’s deeds
    • Condemns, and bids him be to all a sight
    • Unsightly, monstrous; bids him presently
    • With grovelling beast to crawl; and then to bite
    • And chew the soil; while war should to all time
    • Coxe1994: 140’Twixt human senses and his tottering self
    • Be waged, that he might creep, crestfallen, prone,
    • Behind the legs of men,2—that while he glides
    • Close on their heels they may down-trample him.
    • The woman, sadly caught by guileful words,
    • Coxe1994: 145Is bidden yield her fruit with struggle hard,
    • And bear her husband’s yoke with patient zeal.3
    • “But thou, to whom the sentence4 of thy wife
    • (Who, vanquished, to the dragon pitiless
    • Yielded) seemed true, shalt through long times deplore
    • Coxe1994: 150Thy labour sad; for thou shalt see, instead
    • Of wheaten harvest’s seed, the thistle rise,
    • And the thorn plenteously with pointed spines:
    • So that, with weary heart and mournful breast,
    • Full many sighs shall furnish anxious food;5
    • Coxe1994: 155Till, in the setting hour of coming death,
    • To level earth, whence thou thy body draw’st,
    • Thou be restored.” This done, the Lord bestows
    • Upon the trembling pair a tedious life;
    • And from the sacred gardens far removes
    • Coxe1994: 160Them downcast, and locates them opposite,
    • And from the threshold bars them by mid fire,
    • Wherein from out the swift heat is evolved
    • A cherubim,6 while fierce the hot point glows,
    • And rolls enfolding flames. And lest their limbs
    • Coxe1994: 165With sluggish cold should be benumbed, the Lord
    • Hides flayed from cattle’s flesh together sews,
    • With vestures warm their bare limbs covering.
    • When, therefore, Adam—now believing—felt
    • (By wedlock taught) his manhood, he confers
    • Coxe1994: 170On his loved wife the mother’s name; and, made
    • Successively by scions twain a sire,
    • Gives names to stocks7 divèrse: Cain the first
    • Hath for his name, to whom is Abel joined.
    • The latter’s care tended the harmless sheep;
    • Coxe1994: 175The other turned the earth with curvèd plough.
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    • These, when in course of time1 they brought their gifts
    • To Him who thunders, offered—as their sense
    • Prompted them—fruits unlike. The elder one
    • Offered the first-fruits2 of the fertile glebes:
    • Coxe1994: 180The other pays his vows with gentle lamb,
    • Bearing in hand the entrails pure, and fat
    • Snow-white; and to the Lord, who pious vows
    • Beholds, is instantly accèptable.
    • Wherefore with anger cold did Caïn glow;3
    • Coxe1994: 185With whom God deigns to talk, and thus begins:
    • “Tell Me, if thou live rightly, and discern
    • Things hurtful, couldst thou not then pass thine age
    • Pure from contracted guilt? Cease to essay
    • With gnawing sense thy brother’s ruin, who,
    • Coxe1994: 190Subject to thee as lord, his neck shall yield.”
    • Not e’en thus softened, he unto the fields
    • Conducts his brother; whom when overta’en
    • In lonely mead he saw, with his twin palms
    • Bruising his pious throat, he crushed life out.
    • Coxe1994: 195Which deed the Lord espying from high heaven,
    • Straitly demands “where Abel is on earth?”
    • He says “he will not as his brother’s guard
    • Be set.” Then God outspeaks to him again:
    • “Doth not the sound of his blood’s voice, sent up
    • Coxe1994: 200To Me, ascend unto heaven’s lofty pole?
    • Learn, therefore, for so great a crime what doom
    • Shall wait thee. Earth, which with thy kinsman’s blood
    • Hath reeked but now, shall to thy hateful hand
    • Refuse to render back the cursèd seeds
    • Coxe1994: 205Entrusted her; nor shall, if set with herbs,
    • Produce her fruit: that, torpid, thou shalt dash
    • Thy limbs against each other with much fear.” . . . . . .


(author uncertain)1

    • Who will for me in fitting strain adapt
    • Field-haunting muses? and with flowers will grace
    • The spring-tide’s rosy gales? And who will give
    • The summer harvest’s heavy stalks mature?
    • Coxe1994: 5And to the autumn’s vines their swollen grapes?
    • Or who in winter’s honour will commend
    • The olives, ever-peaceful? and will ope
    • Waters renewed, even at their fountainheads?
    • And cut from waving grass the leafy flowers?
    • Coxe1994: 10Forthwith the breezes of celestial light
    • I will attune. Now be it granted me
    • To meet the lightsome2 muses! to disclose
    • The secret rivers on the fluvial top
    • Of Helicon,3 and gladsome woods that grow
    • Coxe1994: 15’Neath other star.4 And simultaneously
    • I will attune in song the eternal flames;
    • Whence the sea fluctuates with wave immense:
    • What power5 moves the solid lands to quake;
    • And whence the golden light first shot its rays
    • Coxe1994: 20On the new world; or who from gladsome clay
    • Could man have moulded; whence in empty world6
    • Our race could have upgrown; and what the greed
    • Of living which each people so inspires;
    • What things for ill created are; or what
    • Coxe1994: 25Death’s propagation; whence have rosy wreaths
    • Sweet smell and ruddy hue; what makes the vine
    • Ferment in gladsome grapes away; and makes
    • Full granaries by fruit of slender stalks distended be; or makes the tree grow ripe
    • Edition: current; Page: [136]
    • Coxe1994: 30’Mid ice, with olives black; who gives to seeds
    • Their increments of vigour various;
    • And with her young’s soft shadowings protects
    • The mother. Good it is all things to know
    • Which wondrous are in nature, that it may
    • Coxe1994: 35Be granted us to recognise through all
    • The true Lord, who light, seas, sky, earth prepared,
    • And decked with varied star the new-made world;1
    • And first bade beasts and birds to issue forth;
    • And gave the ocean’s waters to be stocked
    • Coxe1994: 40With fish; and gathered in a mass the sands,
    • With living creatures fertilized. Such strains
    • With stately2 muses will I spin, and waves
    • Healthful will from their fountainheads disclose:
    • And may this strain of mine the gladsome shower
    • Coxe1994: 45Catch, which from placid clouds doth come, and flows
    • Deeply and all unsought into men’s souls,
    • And guide it into our new-turnèd lands
    • In copious rills.3
    • Now come: if any one
    • Still ignorant of God, and knowing naught
    • Coxe1994: 50Of life to come,4 would fain attain to touch
    • The care-effacing living nymph, and through
    • The swift waves’ virtue his lost life repair,
    • And ’scape the penalties of flame eterne,5
    • And rather win the guerdons of the life
    • Coxe1994: 55To come, let such remember God is One,
    • Alone the object of our prayers; who ’neath
    • His threshold hath the whole world poised; Himself
    • Eternally abiding, and to be
    • Alway for aye; holding the ages6 all;
    • Coxe1994: 60Alone, before all ages;6 unbegotten,
    • Limitless God; who holds alone His seat
    • Supernal; supereminent alone
    • Above high heavens; omnipotent alone;
    • Whom all things do obey; who for Himself
    • Coxe1994: 65Formed, when it pleased Him, man for aye; and gave
    • Him to be pastor of beasts tame, and lord
    • Of wild; who by a word7 could stretch forth heaven;
    • And with a word could solid earth suspend;
    • And quicklier than word8 had the seas wave
    • Coxe1994: 70Disjoined;9 and man’s dear form with His own hands
    • Did love to mould; and furthermore did will
    • His own fair likeness10 to exist in him;
    • And by His Spirit on his countenance
    • The breath11 of life did breathe.
    • Unmindful he
    • Coxe1994: 75Of God, such guilt rashly t’ incur! Beyond
    • The warning’s range he was not ought to touch.12
    • One fruit illicit, whence he was to know
    • Forthwith how to discriminate alike
    • Evil and equity, God him forbade
    • Coxe1994: 80To touch. What functions of the world13 did God
    • Permit to man, and sealed the sweet sweet pledge
    • Of His own love! and jurisdiction gave
    • O’er birds, and granted him both deep and soil
    • To tame, and mandates useful did impart
    • Coxe1994: 85Of dear salvation! ’Neath his sway He gave
    • The lands, the souls of flying things, the race
    • Feathered, and every race, or tame or wild,
    • Of beasts, and the sea’s race, and monster-forms
    • Shapeless of swimming things. But since so soon
    • Coxe1994: 90The primal man by primal crime transgressed
    • The law, and left the mandates of the Lord
    • (Led by a wife who counselled all the ills),
    • By death he ’gan to perish. Woman ’twas
    • Who sin’s first ill committed, and (the law
    • Coxe1994: 95Transgressed) deceived her husband. Eve, induced
    • By guile, the thresholds oped to death, and proved
    • To her own self, with her whole race as well,
    • A procreatrix of funereal woes.
    • Hence unanticipated wickedness,
    • Coxe1994: 100Hence death, like seed, for aye, is scattered. Then
    • More frequent grew atrocious deed; and toil
    • More savage set the corrupt orb astir:
    • (This lure the crafty serpent spread, inspired
    • By envy’s self:) then peoples more invent
    • Coxe1994: 105Practices of ill deeds; and by ill deeds
    • Gave birth to seeds of wickedness.
    • And so
    • The only Lord, whose is the power supreme,
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    • Who o’er the heights the summits holds of heaven
    • Supreme, and in exalted regions dwells
    • Coxe1994: 110In lofty light for ages, mindful too
    • Of present time, and of futurity
    • Prescient beforehand, keeps the progeny
    • Of ill-desert, and all the souls which move
    • By reason’s force much-erring man—nor less
    • Coxe1994: 115Their tardy bodies governs He—against
    • The age decreed, so soon as, stretched in death,
    • Men lay aside their ponderous limbs, and, light
    • As air, shall go, their earthly bonds undone,
    • And take in diverse parts their proper spheres.
    • Coxe1994: 120(But some He bids be forthwith by glad gales
    • Recalled to life, and be in secret kept
    • To wait the decreed law’s awards, until
    • Their bodies with resuscitated limbs
    • Revive.1) Then shall men ’gin to weigh the awards
    • Coxe1994: 125Of their first life, and on their crime and faults
    • To think, and keep them for their penalties
    • Which will be far from death; and mindful grow
    • Of pious duties, by God’s judgments taught;
    • To wait expectant for their penalty
    • Coxe1994: 130And their descendants’, fruit of their own crime;
    • Or else to live wholly the life of sheep,2
    • Without a name; and in God’s ear, now deaf,
    • Pour unavailing weeping.
    • Shall not God
    • Almighty, ’neath whose law are all things ruled,
    • Coxe1994: 135Be able after death life to restore?
    • Or is there ought which the creation’s Lord
    • Unable seems to do? If, darkness chased,
    • He could outstretch the light, and could compound
    • All the world’s mass by a word suddenly,
    • Coxe1994: 140And raise by potent voice all things from nought,
    • Why out of somewhat3 could He not compound
    • The well-known shape which erst had been, which He
    • Had moulded formerly; and bid the form
    • Arise assimilated to Himself
    • Coxe1994: 145Again? Since God’s are all things, earth the more
    • Gives Him all back; for she will, when He bids,
    • Unweave whate’er she woven had before.
    • If one, perhaps, laid on sepulchral pyre,
    • The flame consumed; or one in its blind waves
    • Coxe1994: 150The ocean have dismembered; if of one
    • The entrails have, in hunger, satisfied
    • The fishes; or on any’s limbs wild beasts
    • Have fastened cruel death; or any’s blood,
    • His body reft by birds, unhid have lain:
    • Coxe1994: 155Yet shall they not wrest from the mighty Lord
    • His latest dues. Need is that men appear
    • Quickened from death ’fore God, and at His bar
    • Stand in their shapes resumed. Thus arid seeds
    • Are dropt into the vacant lands, and deep
    • Coxe1994: 160In the fixt furrows die and rot: and hence
    • Is not their surface4 animated soon
    • With stalks repaired? and do they5 not grow strong
    • And yellow with the living grains? and, rich
    • With various usury,6 new harvests rise
    • Coxe1994: 165In mass? The stars all set, and, born again,
    • Renew their sheen; and day dies with its light
    • Lost in dense night; and now night wanes herself
    • As light unveils creation presently;
    • And now another and another day
    • Coxe1994: 170Rises from its own stars; and the sun sets,
    • Bright as it is with splendour-bearing light;
    • Light perishes when by the coming eve
    • The world7 is shaded; and the phœnix lives
    • By her own soot8 renewed, and presently
    • Coxe1994: 175Rises, again a bird, O wondrous sight!
    • After her burnings! The bare tree in time
    • Shoots with her leaves; and once more are her boughs
    • Curved by the germen of the fruits.
    • While then
    • The world9 throughout is trembling at God’s voice,
    • Coxe1994: 180And deeply movèd are the high air’s powers,10
    • Then comes a crash unwonted, then ensue
    • Heaven’s mightiest murmurs, on the approach of God,
    • The whole world’s11 Judge! His countless ministers
    • Forthwith conjoin their rushing march, and God
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    • Coxe1994: 185With majesty supernal fence around.
    • Angelic bands will from the heaven descend
    • To earth; all, God’s host, whose is faculty
    • Divine; in form and visage spirits all
    • Of virtue: in them fiery vigour is;
    • Coxe1994: 190Rutilant are their bodies; heaven’s might
    • Divine about them flashes; the whole orb
    • Hence murmurs; and earth, trembling to her depths
    • (Or whatsoe’er her bulk is1), echoes back
    • The roar, parturient of men, whom she,
    • Coxe1994: 195Being bidden, will with grief upyield.2 All stand
    • In wonderment. At last disturbèd are
    • The clouds, and the stars move and quake from height
    • Of sudden power.3 When thus God comes, with voice
    • Of potent sound, at once throughout all realms
    • Coxe1994: 200The sepulchres are burst, and every ground
    • Outpours bones from wide chasms, and opening sand
    • Outbelches living peoples; to the hair4
    • The members cleave; the bones inwoven are
    • With marrow; the entwinèd sinews rule
    • Coxe1994: 205The breathing bodies; and the veins ’gin throb
    • With simultaneously infusèd blood:
    • And, from their caves dismissed, to open day
    • Souls are restored, and seek to find again
    • Each its own organs, as at their own place
    • Coxe1994: 210They rise. O wondrous faith! Hence every age
    • Shoots forth; forth shoots from ancient dust the host
    • Of dead. Regaining light, there rise again
    • Mothers, and sires, and high-souled youths, and boys,
    • And maids unwedded; and deceased old men
    • Coxe1994: 215Stand by with living souls; and with the cries
    • Of babes the groaning orb resounds.5 Then tribes
    • Various from their lowest seats will come:
    • Bands of the Easterns; those which earth’s extreme
    • Sees; those which dwell in the downsloping clime
    • Coxe1994: 220Of the mid-world, and hold the frosty star’s
    • Riphæan citadels. Every colonist
    • Of every land stands frighted here: the boor;
    • The son of Atreus6 with his diadem
    • Of royalty put off; the rich man mixt
    • Coxe1994: 225Coequally in line with pauper peers.
    • Deep tremor everywhere: then groans the orb
    • With prayers; and peoples stretching forth their hands
    • Grow stupid with the din!
    • The Lord Himself
    • Seated, is bright with light sublime; and fire
    • Coxe1994: 230Potent in all the Virtues7 flashing shines.
    • And on His high-raised throne the Heavenly One
    • Coruscates from His seat; with martyrs hemmed
    • (A dazzling troop of men), and by His seers
    • Elect accompanied (whose bodies bright
    • Coxe1994: 235Effulgent are with snowy stoles), He towers
    • Above them. And now priests in lustrous robes
    • Attend, who wear upon their markèd8 front
    • Wreaths golden-red; and all submissive kneel
    • And reverently adore. The cry of all
    • Coxe1994: 240Is one: “O Holy, Holy, Holy, God!”
    • To these9 the Lord will mandate give, to range
    • The people in twin lines; and orders them
    • To set apart by number the depraved;
    • While such as have His biddings followèd
    • Coxe1994: 245With placid words He calls, and bids them, clad
    • With vigour—death quite conquered—ever dwell
    • Amid light’s inextinguishable airs,
    • Stroll through the ancients’ ever blooming realm,
    • Through promised wealth, through ever sunny swards,
    • Coxe1994: 250And in bright body spend perpetual life.
    • A place there is, belovèd of the Lord,
    • In Eastern coasts, where light is bright and clear,
    • And healthier blows the breeze; day is eterne,
    • Time changeless: ’tis a region set apart
    • Coxe1994: 255By God, most rich in plains, and passing blest,
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    • In the meridian1 of His cloudless seat.
    • There gladsome is the air, and is in light
    • Ever to be; soft is the wind, and breathes
    • Life-giving blasts; earth, fruitful with a soil
    • Coxe1994: 260Luxuriant, bears all things; in the meads
    • Flowers shed their fragrance; and upon the plains
    • The purple—not in envy—mingles all
    • With golden-ruddy light. One gladsome flower,
    • With its own lustre clad, another clothes;
    • Coxe1994: 265And here with many a seed the dewy fields
    • Are dappled, and the snowy tilths are crisped
    • With rosy flowers. No region happier
    • Is known in other spots; none which in look
    • Is fairer, or in honour more excels.
    • Coxe1994: 270Never in flowery gardens are there born
    • Such lilies, nor do such upon our plains
    • Outbloom; nor does the rose so blush, what time,
    • New-born, ’tis opened by the breeze; nor is
    • The purple with such hue by Tyrian dye
    • Coxe1994: 275Imbued. With coloured pebbles beauteous gleams
    • The gem: here shines the prasinus;2 there glows
    • The carbuncle; and giant-emerald
    • Is green with grassy light. Here too are born
    • The cinnamons, with odoriferous twigs;
    • Coxe1994: 280And with dense leaf gladsome amomum joins
    • Its fragrance. Here, a native, lies the gold
    • Of radiant sheen; and lofty groves reach heaven
    • In blooming time, and germens fruitfullest
    • Burden the living boughs. No glades like these
    • Coxe1994: 285Hath Ind herself forth-stretcht; no tops so dense
    • Rears on her mount the pine; nor with a shade
    • So lofty-leavèd is her cypress crisped;
    • Nor better in its season blooms her bough
    • In spring-tide. Here black firs on lofty peak
    • Coxe1994: 290Bloom; and the only woods that know no hail
    • Are green eternally: no foliage falls;
    • At no time fails the flower. There, too, there blooms
    • A flower as red as Tarsine purple is:
    • A rose, I ween, it is (red hue it has,
    • Coxe1994: 295An odour keen); such aspect on its leaves
    • It wears, such odour breathes. A tree it3 stands,
    • With a new flower, fairest in fruits; a crop
    • Life-giving, dense, its happy strength does yield.
    • Rich honies with green cane their fragrance join,
    • Coxe1994: 300And milk flows potable in runnels full;
    • And with whate’er that sacred earth is green,
    • It all breathes life; and there Crete’s healing gift4
    • Is sweetly redolent. There, with smooth tide,
    • Flows in the placid plains a fount: four floods
    • Coxe1994: 305Thence water parted lands.5 The garden robed
    • With flowers, I wot, keeps ever spring; no cold
    • Of wintry star varies the breeze; and earth,
    • After her birth-throes, with a kindlier blast
    • Repairs. Night there is none; the stars maintain
    • Coxe1994: 310Their darkness; angers, envies, and dire greed
    • Are absent; and out-shut is fear, and cares
    • Driven from the threshold. Here the Evil One