Jovinianus, concerning whom we know little more than is to be found in the two following books, had published at Rome a Latin treatise containing all, or part of the opinions here controverted, viz. (1) “That a virgin is no better as such than a wife in the sight of God. (2) Abstinence is no better than a thankful partaking of food. (3) A person baptized with the Spirit as well as with water cannot sin. (4) All sins are equal. (5) There is but one grade of punishment and one of reward in the future state.” In addition to this he held the birth of our Lord to have been by a “true parturition,” and was thus at issue with the orthodoxy of the time, according to which the infant Jesus passed through the walls of the womb as His Resurrection body afterwards did out of the tomb or through the closed doors. Pammachius, Jerome’s friend, brought Jovinian’s book under the notice of Siricius, bishop of Rome, and it was shortly afterwards condemned in synods at that city and at Milan (about a.d. 390). He subsequently sent Jovinian’s books to Jerome, who answered them in the present treatise in the year 393. Nothing more is known of Jovinian, but it has been conjectured from Jerome’s remark in the treatise against Vigilantius, where Jovinian is said to have “amidst pheasants and pork rather belched out than breathed out his life,” and by a kind of transmigration to have transmitted his opinions into Vigilantius, that he had died before 409, the date of that work.
The first book is wholly on the first proposition of Jovinianus, that relating to marriage and virginity. The first three chapters are introductory. The rest may be divided into three parts:
1 (ch. 4–13). An exposition, in Jerome’s sense, of St. Paul’s teaching in 1Co 7,
2 (ch. 14–39). A statement of the teaching which Jerome derives from the various books of both the Old and the New Testaments.
3. A denunciation of Jovinianus (c. 40), and the praises of virginity and of jingle marriages derived from examples in the heathen world.
The treatise gives a remarkable specimen of Jerome’s system of interpreting Scripture, and also of the methods by which asceticism was introduced into the Church, and marriage brought into disesteem.
1. Very few days have elapsed since the holy brethren of Rome sent to me the treatises of a certain Jovinian with the request that I would reply to the follies contained in them, and would crush with evangelical and apostolic vigour the1 Epicurus of Christianity. I read but could not in the least comprehend them. I began therefore to give them closer attention, and to thoroughly sift not only words and sentences, but almost every single syllable; for I wished first to ascertain his meaning, and then to approve, or refute what he had said. But the style is so barbarous, and the language so vile and such a heap of blunders, that I could neither understand what he was talking about, nor by what arguments he was trying to prove his points. At one moment he is all bombast, at another he grovels: from time to time he lifts himself up, and then like a wounded snake finds his own effort too much for him. Not satisfied with the language of men, he attempts something loftier.
2 “The mountains labour; a poor mouse is born.”
152 3 “That he’s gone mad ev’n mad Orestes swears.”
Moreover he involves everything in such inextricable confusion that the saying of4 Plautus might be applied to him:—“This is what none but a Sibyl will ever read.”
To understand him we must be prophets. We read Apollo’s5 raving prophetesses. We remember, too, what6 Virgil says of senseless noise.7 Heraclitus, also, surnamed the Obscure, the philosophers find hard to understand even with their utmost toil. But what are they compared with our riddle-maker, whose books are much more difficult to comprehend than to refute? Although (we must confess) the task of refuting them is no easy one. For how can you overcome a man when you are quite in the dark as to his meaning? But, not to be tedious to my reader, the introduction to his second book, of which he has discharged himself like a sot after a night’s debauch, will show the character of his eloquence, and through what bright flowers of rhetoric he takes his stately course.
2. “I respond to your invitation, not that I may go through life with a high reputation, but may live free from idle rumour. I beseech the ground, the young shoots of our plantations, the plants and trees of tenderness snatched from the whirlpool of vice, to grant me audience and the support of many listeners. We know that the Church through hope, faith, charity, is inaccessible and impregnable. In it no one is immature: all are apt to learn: none can force a way into it by violence, or deceive it by craft.”
3. What, I ask, is the meaning of these portentous words and of this grotesque description? Would you not think he was in a feverish dream, or that he was seized with madness and ought to be put into the strait jacket which Hippocrates prescribed? However often I read him, even till my heart sinks within me, I am still in uncertainty of his meaning.8 Everything starts from, everything depends upon, something else. It is impossible to make out any connection; and, excepting the proofs from Scripture which he has not dared to exchange for his own lovely flowers of rhetoric, his words suit all matter equally well, because they suit no matter at all. This circumstance led me shrewdly to suspect that his object in proclaiming the excellence of marriage was only to disparage virginity. For when the less is put upon a level with the greater, the lower profits by comparison, but the higher suffers wrong. For ourselves, we do not follow the views of9 Marcion and Manichaeus, and disparage marriage; nor, deceived by the error of10 Tatian, the leader of the Encratites, do we think all intercourse impure; he condemns and rejects not only marriage but also food which God created for the use of man. We know that in a great house, there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earthenware. And that upon the foundation, Christ, which Paul the master-builder laid, some build gold, silver, precious stones: others, on the contrary, hay, wood, straw. We are not ignorant of the words,11 “Marriage is honourable among all, and the bed undefiled.” We have read God’s first command,12 “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”; but while we honour marriage we prefer virginity which is the offspring of marriage. Will silver cease to be silver, if gold is more precious than silver? Or is despite done to tree and corn, if we prefer the fruit to root and foliage, or the grain to stalk and ear? Virginity is to marriage what fruit is to the tree, or grain to the straw. Although the hundred-fold, the sixty-fold, and the thirty-fold spring from one earth and from one sowing, yet there is a great difference in respect of number. The thirty-fold has reference to marriage. The very way the13 fingers are combined—see how they seem to embrace, tenderly kiss, and pledge their troth either to other—is a picture of husband and wife. The sixty-fold applies to widows, because they are placed in a position of difficulty and distress. Hence the upper finger signifies their depression, and the greater the difficulty in resisting the allurements of pleasure once experienced, the greater the reward. Moreover (give good heed, my reader), to denote a hundred, the right hand is used instead of the left: a circle is made with the same fingers which on the left hand represented widowhood, and thus the crown of virginity is expressed. In saying this I have followed my own impatient spirit rather than the course of the argument. For I had scarcely left harbour, and had barely hoisted sail, when a swelling tide of words suddenly swept me into the depths of the discussion. I must stay my course, and take in canvas for a little while; nor will I indulge my sword, anxious as it is to strike a blow for virginity. The farther back the catapult is drawn, the greater the force of the missile. To linger is not to lose, if by lingering victory is better assured. I will briefly set forth our adversary’s views, and will drag them out from his books like snakes from the holes where they hide, and will separate the venomous head from the writhing body. What is baneful shall be discovered, that, when we have the power, it may be crushed.
(He says that “virgins, widows, and married women, who have been once passed through the layer of Christ, if they are on a par in other respects, are of equal merit.”
(He endeavours to show that “they who with full assurance of faith have been born again in baptism, cannot be overthrown by the devil.”
His third point is “that there is no difference between abstinence from food, and its reception with thanksgiving.”
The fourth and last is “that there is one reward in the kingdom of heaven for all who have kept their baptismal vow.”
4. This is the hissing of the old serpent; by counsel such as this the dragon drove man from Paradise. For he promised that if they would prefer fulness to fasting they should be immortal, as though it were an impossibility for them to fall; and while he promises they shall be as Gods, he drives them from Paradise, with the result that they who, while naked and unhampered, and as virgins unspotted enjoyed the fellowship of the Lord were cast down into the vale of tears, and sewed skins together to clothe themselves withal. But, not to detain the reader any longer, I will keep to the division given above and taking his propositions one by one will rely chiefly on the evidence of Scripture to refute them, for fear he may chatter and complain that he was overcome by rhetorical skill rather than by force of truth. If I succeed in this and with the aid of a cloud of witnesses from both Testaments prove too strong for him, I will then accept his challenge, and adduce illustrations from secular literature. I will show that even among philosophers and distinguished statesmen, the virtuous are wont to be preferred by all to the voluptuous, that is to say men like14 Pythagoras,15 Plato and16 Aristides, to17 Aristippus,18 Epicurus and19 Alcibiades. I entreat virgins of both sexes and all such as are continent, the married also and the twice married, to assist my efforts with their prayers. Jovinian is the common enemy. For he who maintains all to be of equal merit, does no less injury to virginity in comparing it with marriage than he does to marriage, when he allows it to be lawful, but to the same extent as second and third marriages. But to digamists and trigamists also he does wrong, for he places on a level with them whoremongers and the most licentious persons as soon as they have repented; but perhaps those who have been married twice or thrice ought not to complain, for the same whoremonger if penitent is made equal in the kingdom of heaven even to virgins. I will therefore explain more clearly and in proper sequence the arguments he employs and the illustrations he adduces respecting marriage, and will treat them in the order in which he states them. And I beg the reader not to be disturbed if he is compelled to read Jovinian’s nauseating trash. He will all the more gladly drink Christ’s antidote after the devil’s poisonous concoction. Listen with patience, ye virgins; listen, I pray you, to the voice of the most voluptuous of preachers; nay rather close your ears, as you would to the Syren’s fabled songs, and pass on. For a little while endure the wrongs you suffer: think you are crucified with Christ, and are listening to the blasphemies of the Pharisees.
5. First of all, he says, God declares that20 “therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” And lest we should say that this is a quotation from the Old Testament, he asserts that it has been21 confirmed by the Lord in the Gospel—“What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder”: and he immediately adds,22 “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” He next repeats the names of Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah, and tells us that they all had wives and in accordance with the will of God begot sons, as though there could be any table of descent or any history of mankind without wives and children. “There,” says he, "is Enoch, who walked with God and was carried up to heaven. There is Noah, the only person who, except his wife, and his sons and their wives, was saved at the deluge, although there must have been many persons not of marriageable age, and therefore presumably virgins. Again, after the deluge, when the human race started as it were anew, men and women were paired together and a fresh blessing was pronounced on procreation, 23 “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Moreover, free permission was given to eat flesh,24 “Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you; as the green herb have I given you all.” He then flies off to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of whom the first had three wives, the second one, the third four, Leah, Rachel, Billah, and Zilpah, and he declares that Abraham by his faith merited the blessing which he received in begetting his son. Sarah, typifying the Church, when it had ceased to be with her after the manner of women, exchanged the curse of barrenness for the blessing of child-bearing. We are informed that Rebekah went like a prophet to inquire of the Lord, and was told,25 “Two nations and two peoples are in thy womb.” that Jacob served for his wife, and that when Rachel, thinking it was in the power of her husband to give her children, said,26 “Give me children, or else I die,” he replied,27 “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” so well aware was he that the fruit of marriage cometh from the Lord and not from the husband. We next learn that Joseph, a holy man of spotless chastity, and all the patriarchs, had wives, and that God blessed them all alike through the lips of Moses. Judah also and Thamar are brought upon the scene, and he censures Onan, slain by the Lord, because he, grudging to raise up seed to his brother, marred the marriage rite. He refers to Moses and the leprosy of Miriam, who, because she chided her brother on account of his wife, was stricken by the avenging hand of God. He praises Samson, I may even say extravagantly panegyrizes the uxorious Nazarite. Deborah also and Barak are mentioned, because, although they had not the benefit of virginity, they were victorious over the iron chariots of Sisera and Jabin. He brings forward Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, and extols her for arming herself with the28 stake. He says there was no difference between Jephthah and his virgin daughter, who was sacrificed to the Lord: nay, of the two, he prefers the faith of the father to that of the daughter who met death with grief and tears. He then comes to Samuel, another Nazarite of the Lord, who from infancy was brought up in the tabernacle and was clad in a linen ephod, or, as the words are rendered, in linen vestments: he, too, we are told, begot sons without a stain upon his priestly purity. He places Boaz and his wife Rt side by side in his repository, and traces the descent of Jesse and David from them. He then points out how David himself, for the price of two hundred foreskins and at the peril of his life, was bedded with the king’s daughter. What shall I say of Solomon, whom he includes in the list of husbands, and represents as a type of the Saviour, maintaining that of him it was written,29 “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son”? And30 “To him shall be given of the gold of Sheba, and men shall pray for him continually.” Then all at once he makes a jump to Elijah and Elisha, and tells us as a great secret that the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha. Why he mentioned this he does not say. It can hardly be that he thinks Elijah and Elisha, like the rest, were married men. The next step is to Hezekiah, upon whose praises he dwells, and yet (I wonder why) forgets to mention that he said,31 “Henceforth I will beget children.” He relates that Josiah, a righteous man, in whose time the book of Deuteronomy was found in the temple, was instructed by Huldah, wife of Shallum. Daniel also and the three youths are classed by him with the married. Suddenly he betakes himself to the Gospel, and adduces Zachariah and Elizabeth, Peter and his father-in-law, and the rest of the Apostles. His inference is thus expressed: “If they idly urge in defence of themselves the plea that the world in its early stage needed to be replenished, let them listen to the words of Paul,32 ‘I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children.’ And33 ‘Marriage is honourable and the bed undefiled.’ And34 ‘A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.’ And35 ‘Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: but she shall be saved through the child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.’ Surely we shall hear no more of the famous Apostolic utterance,36 ‘And they who have wives as though they had them not.’ It can hardly be that you will say the reason why he wished them to be married was that some widows had already turned back after Satan: as though virgins never fell and their fall was not more ruinous. All this makes it clear that in forbidding to marry, and to eat food which God created for use, you have consciences seared as with a hot iron, and are followers of the Manichaeans.” Then comes much more which it would be unprofitable to discuss. At last he dashes into rhetoric and apostrophizes virginity thus: “I do you no wrong, Virgin: you have chosen a life of chastity on account of the present distress: you determined on the course in order to be holy in body and spirit: be not proud: you and your married sisters are members of the same Church.”
153 6. I have perhaps explained his position at too great a length, and become tedious to my reader; but I thought it best to draw up in full array against myself all his efforts, and to muster all the forces of the enemy with their squadrons and generals, lest after an early victory there should spring up a series of other engagements. I will not therefore do battle with single foes, nor will I be satisfied with skirmishes in which I meet small detachments of my opponents. The battle must be fought with the whole army of the enemy, and the disorderly rabble, fighting more like brigands than soldiers, must be repulsed by the skill and method of regular warfare. In the front rank I will set the Apostle Paul, and, since he is the bravest of generals, will arm him with his own weapons, that is to say, his own statements. For the Corinthians asked many questions about this matter, and the doctor of the Gentiles and master of the Church gave full replies. What he decreed we may regard as the law of Christ speaking in him. At the same time, when we begin to refute the several arguments, I trust the reader will give me his attention even before the Apostle speaks, and will not, in his eagerness to discuss the most weighty points, neglect the premises, and rush at once to the conclusion.
7. Among other things the Corinthians asked in their letter whether after embracing the faith of Christ they ought to be unmarried, and for the sake of continence put away their wives, and whether believing virgins were at liberty to marry. And again, supposing that one of two Gentiles believed on Christ, whether the one that believed should leave the one that believed not? And in case it were allowable to take wives, would the Apostle direct that only Christian wives, or Gentiles also, should be taken? Let us then consider Paul’s replies to these inquiries.37 “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. But, because of fornications, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife her due: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband: And likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, that ye may give yourselves unto prayer, and may be together again, that Satan tempt you not because of your incontinency. But this I say by way of permission not of commandment. Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they have not continency, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” Let us turn back to the chief point of the evidence: “It is good,” he says, “for a man not to touch a woman.” If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one: for there is no opposite to goodness but badness. But if it be bad and the evil is pardoned, the reason for the concession is to prevent worse evil. But surely a thing which is only allowed because there may be something worse has only a slight degree of goodness. He would never have added “let each man have his own wife,” unless he had previously used the words “but, because of fornications.” Do away with fornication, and he will not say “let each man have his own wife.” Just as though one were to lay it down: “It is good to feed on wheaten bread, and to eat the finest wheat flour,” and yet to prevent a person pressed by hunger from devouring cow-dung, I may allow, him to eat barley. Does it follow that the wheat will not have its peculiar purity, because such an one prefers barley to excrement? That is naturally good which does not admit of comparison with what is bad, and is not eclipsed because something else is preferred. At the same time we must notice the Apostle’s prudence. He did not say, it is good not to have a wife: but, it is good not to touch a woman: as though there were danger even in the touch: as though he who touched her, would not escape from her who “hunteth for the precious life,” who causeth the young man’s understanding to fly away.38 “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be scorched?” As then he who touches fire is instantly burned, so by the mere touch the peculiar nature of man and woman is perceived, and the difference of sex is understood, Heathen fables relate how39 Mithras and40 Ericthonius were begotten of the soil, in stone or earth, by raging lust. Hence it was that our Joseph, because the Egyptian woman wished to touch him, fled from her hands, and, as if he had been bitten by a mad dog and feared the spreading poison, threw away the cloak which she had touched. “But, because of fornications let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.” He did not say, because of fornication let each man marry a wife: otherwise by this excuse he would have thrown the reins to lust, and whenever a man’s wife died, he would have to marry another to prevent fornication, but “have his own wife.” Let him he says have and use his own wife, whom he had before he became a believer, and whom it would have been good not to touch, and, when once he became a follower of Christ, to know only as a sister, not as a wife unless fornication should make it excusable to touch her. “The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife.” The whole question here concerns those who are married men. Is it lawful for them to do what our Lord forbade in the Gospel, and to put away their wives? Whence it is that the Apostle says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” But inasmuch as he who is once married has no power to abstain except by mutual consent, and may not reject an unoffending partner, let the husband render unto the wife her due. He bound himself voluntarily that he might be under compulsion to render it. “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be by consent for a season, that ye may give yourselves unto prayer.” What, I pray you, is the quality of that good thing which hinders prayer? which does not allow the body of Christ to be received? So long as I do the husband’s part, I fail in continency. The same Apostle in another place commands us to pray always. If we are to pray always, it follows that we must never be in the bondage of wedlock, for as often as I render my wife her due, I cannot pray. The Apostle Peter had experience of the bonds of marriage. See how he fashions the Church, and what lesson he teaches Christians:41 “Ye husbands in like manner dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honour unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered.” Observe that, as S. Paul before, because in both cases the spirit is the same, so S. Peter now, says that prayers are hindered by the performance of marriage duty. When he says “likewise,” he challenges the husbands to imitate their wives, because he has already given them commandment:42 “beholding your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on apparel: but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” You see what kind of wedlock he enjoins. Husbands and wives are to dwell together according to knowledge, so that they may know what God wishes and desires, and give honour to the weak vessel, woman. If we abstain from intercourse, we give honour to our wives: if we do not abstain, it is clear that insult is the opposite of honour. He also tells the wives to let their husbands “see their chaste behaviour, and the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit.” Words truly worthy of an apostle, and of Christ’s rock! He lays down the law for husbands and wives, condemns outward ornament, while he praises continence, which is the ornament of the inner man, as seen in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit. In effect he says this: Since your outer man is corrupt, and you have ceased to possess the blessing of incorruption characteristic of virgins, at least imitate the incorruption of the spirit by subsequent abstinence, and what you cannot show in the body exhibit in the mind. For these are the riches, and these the ornaments of your union, which Christ seeks.
8. The words which follow, “that ye may give yourselves unto prayer, and may be together again,” might lead one to suppose that the Apostle was expressing a wish and not making a concession because of the danger of a greater fall. He therefore at once adds, “lest Satan tempt you for your incontinency.” It is a fine permission which is conveyed in the words “be together again.” What it was that he blushed to call by its own name, and thought only better than a temptation of Satan and the effect of incontinence, we take trouble to discuss as if it were obscure, although he has explained his meaning by saying, “this I say by way of permission, not by way of command.” And do we still hesitate to speak of marriage as a concession to weakness, not a thing commanded, as though second and third marriages were not allowed on the same ground, as though the doors of the Church were not opened by repentance even to fornicators, and what is more, to the incestuous? Take the case of the man who outraged his step-mother. Does not the Apostle, after delivering him, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit might be saved, in the second Epistle take the offender back and strive to prevent a brother from being swallowed up by overmuch grief. The Apostle’s wish is one thing, his pardon another. If a wish be expressed, it confers a right; if a thing is only called pardonable, we are wrong in using it. If you wish to know the Apostle’s real mind, you must take in what follows: “but I would that all men were as I am.” Happy is the man who is like Paul! Fortunate is he who attends to the Apostle’s command, not to his concession. This, says he, I wish, this I desire that ye be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ, who was a Virgin born of a Virgin, uncorrupt of her who was uncorrupt. We, because we are men, cannot imitate our Lord’s nativity; but we may at least imitate His life. The former was the blessed prerogative of divinity, the latter belongs to our human condition and is part of human effort. I would that all men were like me, that while they are like me, they may also become like Christ, to whom I am like. For43 “he that believeth in Christ ought himself also to walk even as He walked.”44 “Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.” What I wish, he says, is clear. But since in the Church there is a diversity of gifts, I acquiesce in marriage, lest I should seem to condemn nature. At the same time consider, that the gift of virginity is one, that of marriage, another. For were the reward the same for the married and for virgins, he would never after enjoining continence have said:45 “Each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that.” Where there is a distinction in one particular, there is a diversity also in other points. I grant that even marriage is a gift of God, but between gift and gift there is great diversity. In fact the Apostle himself speaking of the same person who had repented of his incestuous conduct, says:46 “so that contrariwise ye should rather forgive him and comfort him, and to whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also.” And that we might not think a man’s gift contemptible, he added,47 “for what I also have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, for your sakes have I forgiven it, in the presence of Christ.” There is diversity in the gifts of Christ. Hence it is that by way of type Joseph has a coat of many colours. And in the forty-fifth psalm we read,48 “at thy right hand doth stand the queen in a vesture of gold wrought about with divers colours.” And the Apostle Peter says,49 “as heirs together of the manifold grace of God,” where the more expressive Greek word poikivlh", i.e., varied, is used.
9. Then come the words50 “But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they have not continency, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” Having conceded to married persons the enjoyment of wedlock and pointed out his own wishes, he passes on to the unmarried and to widows, sets before them his own practice for imitation, and calls them happy if they so abide. “But if they have not continency, let them marry,” just as he said before “But because of fornications,” and “Lest Satan tempt you, because of your incontinency.” And he gives a reason for saying “If they have not continency, let them marry,” viz. “It is better to marry than to burn.” The reason why it is better to marry is that it is worse to burn. Let burning lust be absent, and he will not say it is better to marry. The word better always implies a comparison with something worse, not a thing absolutely good and incapable of comparison. It is as though he said, it is better to have one eye than neither, it is better to stand on one foot and to support the rest of the body with a stick, than to crawl with broken legs. What do you say, Apostle? I do not believe you when you say “Though I be rude in speech, yet am I not in knowledge.” As humility is the source of the sayings “For I am not worthy to be called an Apostle,” and “To me who am the least of the Apostles,” and “As to one born out of due time,” so here also we have an utterance of humility. You know the meaning of language, or you would not quote Epimenides,51 Menander, and52 Aratus. When you are discussing continence and virginity you say, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” And, “It is good for them if they abide even as I.” And, “I think that this is good by reason of the present distress.” And, “That it is good for a man so to be.” When you come to marriage, you do not say it is good to marry, because you cannot then add “than to burn;” but you say, “It is better to marry than to burn.” If marriage in itself be good, do not compare it with fire, but simply say “It is good to marry.” I suspect the goodness of that thing which is forced into the position of being only the lesser of two evils. What I want is not a smaller evil, but a thing absolutely good.
10. So far the first section has been explained. Let us now come to those which follow.53 “But unto the married I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord. That the wife depart not from her husband (but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband): and that the husband leave not his wife. But to the rest say I, not the Lord: If any brother hath an unbelieving wife, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her,” and so on to the words “As God hath called each, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all the churches.” This passage has no bearing on our present controversy. For he ordains, according to the mind of the Lord, that excepting the cause of fornication, a wife must not be put away, and that a wife who has been put away, may not, so long as her husband lives, be married to another, or at all events that her duty is to be reconciled to her husband. But in the case of those who are already married at the time of conversion, that is to say, supposing one of the two were a believer, he enjoins that the believer shall not put away the unbeliever. And after stating his reason, viz., that the unbeliever who is unwilling to leave the believer becomes thereby a candidate for the faith, he commands, on the other hand, that if the unbeliever reject the faithful one on account of the faith of Christ, the believer ought to depart, lest husband or wife be preferred to Christ, in comparison with Whom we must hold even life itself cheap. Yet at the present day many women despising the Apostle’s command, are joined to heathen husbands, and prostitute the temples of Christ to idols. They do not understand that they are part of His body though indeed they are His ribs. The Apostle is lenient to the union of unbelievers, who having (believing) husbands, afterwards come to believe in Christ. He does not extend his indulgence to those women who, although Christians, have been married to heathen husbands. To these he elsewhere says,54 “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of God with idols? For we are a temple of the living God.” Although I know that crowds of matrons will be furious against me: although I know that just as they have shamelessly despised the Lord, so they will rave at me who am but a flea and the least of Christians: yet I will speak out what I think. I will say what the Apostle has taught me, that they are not on the side of righteousness, but of iniquity: not of light, but of darkness: that they do not belong to Christ, but to Belial: that they are not temples of the living God, but shrines and idols of the dead. And, if you wish to see more clearly how utterly unlawful it is for a Christian woman to marry a Gentile, consider what the same Apostle says,55 “A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth: but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord,” that is, to a Christian. He who allows second and third marriages in the Lord, forbids first marriages with a Gentile. Whence Abraham also makes his servant swear upon his thigh, that is, on Christ, Who was to spring from his seed, that he would not bring an alien-born as a wife for his son Isaac. And Esd checked an offence of this kind against God by making his countrymen put away their wives. And the prophet Malachi thus speaks,56 “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loveth, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this,57 him that teacheth and him that learneth, out of the tents of Jacob, and him that offers an offering unto the Lord of hosts.” I have said this that they who compare marriage with virginity, may at least know that such marriages as these are on a lower level than digamy and trigamy.
11. In the above discussion the Apostle has taught that the believer ought not to depart from the unbeliever, but remain in marriage as the faith found them, and that each man whether married or single should continue as he was when baptized into Christ; and then he suddenly introduces the metaphors of circumcision and uncircumcision, of bond and free, and under those metaphors treats of the married and unmarried.58 “Was any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing: but the keeping of the commandments of God. Let each man abide in that calling wherein he was called. Wast thou called being a bondservant? Care not for it: but even if thou canst become free, use it rather. For he that was called in the Lord being a bondservant, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he that was called, being free, is Christ’s bondservant. Ye were bought with a price; become not bondservants of men. Brethren, let each man, wherein he was called, therein abide with God.” Some, I suppose, will find fault with the Apostle’s way of reasoning. I would therefore ask first, What we are to infer from his suddenly passing in a discussion concerning husbands and wives to a comparison of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, and then returning, when this point is settled, to the question about virgins, and telling us “Concerning virgins I have no commandment from the Lord”; what has a comparison of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, to do with wedlock and virginity? In the next place, how are we to understand the words “Hath any been called in uncircumcision, let him not be circumcised”?59 Can a man who has lost his foreskin restore it again at his pleasure? Then, in what sense are we to explain “For he that was called in the Lord, being a bondservant, is the Lord’s freedman: likewise he that was called, being free, is Christ’s bondservant.” Fourthly, how is it that he who commanded servants to obey their masters according to the flesh, now says, “Become net bondservants of men.” Lastly, how are we to connect with slavery, or with circumcision, his saying “Brethren, let each man, wherein he was called, therein abide with God,” which even contradicts his previous opinion. We heard him say “Become not bondservants of men.” How can we then possibly abide in that vocation wherein we were called, when many at the time they became believers had masters according to the flesh, whose bondservants they are now forbidden to be? Moreover, what has the argument about our abiding in the vocation wherein we were called, to do with circumcision? for in another place the same Apostle cries aloud “Behold I Paul tell you that, if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing”? We must conclude, therefore, that a higher meaning should be given to circumcision and uncircumcision, bond and free, and that these words must be taken in close connection with what has gone before. “Was anyone called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised.” If, he says, at the time you were called and became a believer in Christ, if I say, you were called being circumcised from a wife, that is, unmarried, do not marry a wife, that is, do not become uncircumcised, lest you lay upon the freedom of circumcision and chastity the burden of marriage. Again, if anyone was called in uncircumcision, let him not be circumcised. You had a wife, he says, when you believed: do not think the faith of Christ a reason for disagreement, because God called us in peace.60 “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but the keeping of the commandments of God.” For neither celibacy nor marriage availeth anything without works, since even faith, which is specially characteristic of Christians, if it have not works, is said to be dead, and vestal virgins and Juno’s widows might upon these terms be numbered with the saints. “Let each man in the vocation wherein he was called, therein abide.” Whether he had, or had not, a wife when he believed, let him remain in that condition in which he was when called. Accordingly he does not so strongly urge virgins to be married, as forbid divorce. And as he debars those who have wives from putting them away, so he cuts off from virgins the power of being married. “Thou wast called being a slave, heed it not; but even if thou canst become free, use it rather.” Even if you have, he says, a wife, and are bound to her, and pay her due, and have not power over your own body; or if, to speak more clearly, you are the bondservant of your wife, be not sad upon that account, nor sigh for the loss of your virginity. But even if you can find some causes of discord, do not, for the sake of thoroughly enjoying the liberty of chastity, seek your own welfare by destroying another. Keep your wife awhile, and do not go too fast for her lagging footsteps: wait till she follows. If you are patient, your spouse will become a sister, “For he that was called in the Lord, being a bondservant, is the Lord’s freedman: likewise, he that was called being free, is Christ’s bondservant.” He gives his reasons for not wishing wives to be forsaken. He therefore says, I command that Gentiles who believe on Christ do not abandon the married state in which they were before embracing the faith: for he who had a wife when he became a believer, is not so strictly devoted to the service of God as virgins and unmarried persons. But, in a manner, he has more freedom, and the reins of his bondage are relaxed; and, while he is the bondservant of a wife, he is, so to speak, the freedman of the Lord. Moreover, he who when called by the Lord had not a wife and was free from the bondage of wedlock, he is truly Christ’s bondservant. What happiness to be the bondservant, not of a wife but of Christ, to serve not the flesh, but the spirit!61 “For he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” There was some fear that by saying “Wast thou called being a bondservant? Care not for it: but, even if thou canst become free, use it rather,” he might seem to have flouted continence, and to have given us up to the slavery of marriage. He therefore makes a remark which removes all cavil: “Ye were bought with a price, become not servants of men.” We have been redeemed with the most precious blood of Christ: the Lamb was slain for us, and having been sprinkled with hyssop and the warm drops of His blood, we have rejected poisonous pleasure. Why do we at whose baptism Pharaoh died and all his host was drowned, again turn back in our hearts to Egypt, and after the manna, angels’ food, sigh for the garlic and the onions and the cucumbers, and Pharaoh’s meat?
12. Having discussed marriage and continency he at length comes to virginity and says62 “Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: but I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I think therefore that this is good by reason of the present distress, namely, that it is good for a man to be as he is,” Here our opponent goes utterly wild with exultation: this is his strongest battering-ram with which he shakes the wall of virginity. “See,” says he, "the Apostle confesses that as regards virgins he has no commandment of the Lord, and he who had with authority laid down the law respecting husbands and wives, does not dare to command what the Lord has not enjoined. And rightly too. For what is enjoined is commanded, what is commanded must be done, and that which must be done implies punishment if it be not done. For it is useless to order a thing to be done and yet leave the individual free to do it or not do it. If the Lord had commanded virginity He would have seemed to condemn marriage, and to do away with the seed-plot of mankind, of which virginity itself is a growth. If He had cut off the root, how was He to expect fruit? If the foundations were not first laid, how was He to build the edifice, and put on the roof to cover all! Excavators toil hard to remove mountains; the bowels of the earth are pierced in the search for gold. And, when the tiny particles, first by the blast of the furnace, then by the hand of the cunning workman have been fashioned into an ornament, men do not call him blessed who has separated the gold from the dross, but him who wears the beautiful gold. Do not marvel then if, placed as we are, amid temptations of the flesh and incentives to vice, the angelic life be not exacted of us, but merely recommended. If advice be given, a man is free to proffer obedience; if there be a command, he is a servant bound to compliance. “I have no commandment,” he says, “of the Lord: but I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” If you have no commandment of the Lord, how dare you give judgement without orders? The Apostle will reply: Do you wish me to give orders where the Lord has offered a favour rather than laid down a law? The great Creator and Fashioner, knowing the weakness of the vessel which he made, left virginity open to those whom He addressed; and shall I, the teacher of the Gentiles, who have become all things to all men that I might gain all, shall I lay upon the necks of weak believers from the very first the burden of perpetual chastity? Let them63 begin with short periods of release from the marriage bond, and give themselves unto prayer, that when they have tasted the sweets of chastity they may desire the perpetual possession of that wherewith they were temporarily delighted. The Lord, when tempted by the Pharisees, and asked whether according to the law of Moses it was permitted to put away a wife, forbade the practice altogether. After weighing His words the disciples said to Him:64 “If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry. But He said unto them, all men cannot receive this saying, but they to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are eunuchs, which were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, which made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” The reason is plain why the Apostle said, “concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord.” Surely; because the Lord had previously said “All men cannot receive the word, but they to whom it is given,” and “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”65 The Master of the Christian race offers the reward, invites candidates to the course, holds in His hand the prize of virginity, points to the fountain of purity, and cries aloud66 “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” He does not say, you must drink, you must run, willing or unwilling: but whoever is willingand able to run and to drink, he shall conquer, he shall be satisfied. And therefore Christ loves virgins more than others, because they willingly give what was not commanded them. And it indicates greater grace to offer what you are not bound to give, than to render what is exacted of you. The apostles, contemplating the burden of a wife, exclaimed, “If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” Our Lord thought well of their view. You rightly think, said He, that it is not expedient for a man who is hastening to the kingdom of heaven to take a wife: but it is a hard matter, and all men do not receive the saying, but they to whom it has been given. Some are eunuchs by nature, others by the violence of men. Those eunuchs please Me who are such not of necessity, but of free choice. Willingly do I take them into my bosom who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, and in order to worship Me have renounced the condition of their birth. We must now explain the words, “Those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” If they who have made themselves eunuchs have the reward of the kingdom of heaven, it follows that they who have not made themselves such cannot be placed with those who have. He who is able, he says, to receive it, let him receive it. It is a mark of great faith and of great virtue, to be the pure temple of God, to offer oneself a whole burnt-offering, and, according to the same apostle, to be holy both in body and in spirit. These are the eunuchs, who thinking themselves dry trees because of their impotence, hear by the mouth of67 Isaiah that they have a place prepared in heaven for sons and daughters. Their type is68 Ebed-melech the eunuch in Jeremiah, and the eunuch of Queen Candace in the69 Ac of the Apostles, who on account of the strength of his faith gained the name of a man. These are they to whom Clement, who was the successor of the Apostle Peter, and of whom the Apostle Paul makes mention, wrote letters, directing almost the whole of his discourse to the subject of virgin purity. After them there is a long series of apostolic men, martyrs, and men illustrious no less for holiness than for eloquence, with whom we may very easily become acquainted through their own writings.70 “I think, therefore,” he says, “that this is good for the present distress.” What is this distress which, in contempt of the marriage tie, longs for the liberty of virginity?71 “Woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days.” We have not here a condemnation of harlots and brothels, of whose damnation there is no doubt, but of the swelling womb, and wailing infancy, the fruit as well as the work of marriage. “For it is good for a man so to be.” If it is good for a man so to be, it is bad for a man not so to be.72 “Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife.” Each one of us has his appointed bounds; let me have what is mine, and keep your own. If thou art bound to a wife, give her not a bill of divorce. If I am loosed from a wife, I will not seek a wife. As I do not dissolve marriages once contracted: so you should not bind what is loosed. And at the same time the meaning of the words must be taken into account. He who has a wife is regarded as a debtor, and is said to be uncircumcised, to be the servant of his wife, and like bad servants to be bound. But he who has no wife, in the first place owes no man anything, then is circumcised, thirdly is free, lastly, is loosed.
13. Let us run through the remaining points, for our author is so voluminous that we cannot linger over every detail. “But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned.” It is one thing not to sin, another to do good. “And if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned.” Not that virgin who has once for all dedicated herself to the service of God: for, should one of these marry, she will have damnation, because she has made of no account her first faith. But, if our adversary objects that this saying relates to widows, we reply that it applies with still greater force to virgins, since marriage is forbidden even to widows whose previous marriage had been lawful. For virgins who marry after consecration are rather incestuous than adulterous. And, for fear he should by saying, “And if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned,” again stimulate the unmarried to be married, he immediately checks himself, and by introducing another consideration, invalidates his previous concession. “Yet,” says he, “such shall have tribulation in the flesh.” Who are they who shall have tribulation in the flesh? They to whom he had before indulgently said “But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Yet such shall have tribulation in the flesh.” We in our inexperience thought that marriage had at least the joys of the flesh. But if they who are married have tribulation even in the flesh, which is imagined to be the sole source of their pleasure, what else is there to marry for, when in the spirit, and in the mind, and in the flesh itself there is tribulation. “But I would spare you.” Thus, he says, I allege tribulation as a motive, as though there were not greater obligations to refrain. “But this I say, brethren, the time is shortened, that henceforth both those that have wives may be as though they had none.” I am by no means now discussing virgins, of whose happiness no one entertains a doubt. I am coming to the married. The time is short, the Lord is at hand. Even though we lived nine hundred years, as did men of old, yet we ought to think that short which must one day have an end, and cease to be. But, as things are, and it is not so much the joy as the tribulation of marriage that is short, why do we take wives whom we shall soon be compelled to lose?73 “And those that weep, and those that rejoice, and those that buy, and those that use the world, as though they wept not, as though they rejoiced not, as though they bought not, as though they did not use the world: for the fashion of this world passeth away.” If the world, which comprehends all things, passes away, yea if the fashion and intercourse of the world vanishes like the clouds, amongst the other works of the world, marriage too will vanish away. For after the resurrection there will be no wedlock. But if death be the end of marriage, why do we not voluntarily embrace the inevitable? And why do we not, encouraged by the hope of the reward, offer to God that which must be wrung from us against our will. “He that is unmarried is careful for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and is74 divided.” Let us look at the difference between the cares of the virgin, and those of the married man. The virgin longs to please the Lord, the husband to please his wife, and that he may please her he is careful for the things of the world, which will of course pass away with the world. “And he is divided,” that is to say, is distracted with manifold cares and miseries. This is not the place to describe the difficulties of marriage, and to revel in rhetorical commonplaces. I think I delivered myself fully as regards this point in my argument against75 Helvidius, and in the book which I addressed to76 Eustochium. At all events77 Tertullian, while still a young man, gave himself full play with this subject. And my teacher,78 Gregory of Nazianzus, discussed virginity and marriage in some Greek verses. I now briefly beg my reader to note that in the Latin manuscripts we have the reading “there is a difference also between the virgin and the wife.” The words, it is true, have a meaning of their own, and have by me, as well as by others, been so explained as showing the bearing of the passage. Yet they lack apostolic authority, since the Apostle’s words are as we have translated them—“He is careful for the things of the world, how he may please his wife,79 and he is divided.” Having laid down this, he passes to the virgins and the continent, and says “The woman that is unmarried and a virgin thinks of the things of the Lord, that she may be holy in body and in spirit.” Not every unmarried woman is also a virgin. But every virgin is of course unmarried. It may be, that regard for elegance of expression led him to repeat the same idea by means of another word and speak of “a woman unmarried and a virgin”; or at least he may have wished to give to “unmarried” the definite meaning of “virgin,” so that we might not suppose him to include harlots, united to no one by the fixed bonds of wedlock, among the “unmarried.” Of what, then, does she that is unmarried and a virgin think? “The things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.” Supposing there were nothing else, and that no greater reward followed virginity, this would be motive enough for her choice, to think of the things of the Lord. But he immediately points out the contents of her thought—that she may be holy both in body and spirit. For there are virgins in the flesh, not in the spirit, whose body is intact, their soul corrupt. But that virgin is a sacrifice to Christ, whose mind has not been defiled by thought, nor her flesh by lust. On the other hand, she who is married thinks of the things of the world, how she may please her husband. Just as the man who has a wife is anxious for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, so the married woman thinks of the things of the world, how she may please her husband. But we are not of this world, which lieth in wickedness, the fashion of which passeth away, and concerning which the Lord said to the Apostles,80 “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own.” And lest perchance someone might suppose that he was laying the heavy burden of chastity on unwilling shoulders, he at once adds his reasons for persuading to it, and says:81 “And this I say for your profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is seemly, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” The Latin words do not convey the meaning of the Greek. What words shall we use to render Pro;" to; euschmon ka;i eujprovsedron tw Kurivwajperispavstw"? The difficulty of translation accounts for the fact that the clause is completely wanting in Latin manuscripts. Let us, however, use the passage as we have translated it. The Apostle does not lay a snare upon us, nor does he compel us to be what we do not wish to be; but he gives his advice as to what is fair and seemly, he would have us attend upon the Lord and ever be anxious about that service, and await the Lord’s will, so that like active and well-armed soldiers we may obey orders, and may do so without distraction, which, according to82 Ecclesiastes, is given to the men of this world that they may be exercised thereby. But if anyone considers that his virgin, that is, his flesh, is wanton and boiling with lust, and cannot be bridled, and he must do one of two things, either take a wife or fall, let him do what he will, he does not sin if he marry. Let him do, he says, what he will, not what he ought. He does not sin if he marry a wife; yet, he does not well if he marry:83 “But he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power as touching his own will, and hath determined this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin, shall do well. So then both he that giveth his own virgin in marriage doeth well; and he that giveth her not in marriage shall do better.” With marked propriety he had previously said “He who marries a wife does not sin”: here he tells us “He that keepeth his own virgin doeth well.” But it is one thing not to sin, another to do well.84 “Depart from evil,” he says, “and do good.” The former we forsake, the latter we follow. In this last lies perfection. But whereas he says “and he that giveth his virgin in marriage doeth well,” it might be supposed that our remark does not hold good; he therefore forthwith detracts from this seeming good and puts it in the shade by comparing it with another, and saying, “and he that giveth her not in marriage shall do better.” If he had not intended to draw the inference of doing better, he would never have previously referred to doing well. But where there is something good and something better, the reward is not in both cases the same, and where the reward is not one and the same, there of course the gifts are different. The difference, then, between marriage and virginity is as great as that between not sinning and doing well; nay rather, to speak less harshly, as great as between good and better.
14. He has ended his discussion of wedlock and virginity, and has carefully steered between the two precepts without turning to the right hand or to the left. He has followed the royal road and fulfilled the command85 not to be righteous over much. Now again he compares monogamy with digamy, and as he had subordinated marriage to virginity, so he makes second marriages inferior to first, and says,86 “A wife is bound for so long time as her husband liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is free to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. But she is happier if she abide as she is, after my judgement: and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.” He allows second marriages, but to such persons as wish for them and are not able to contain; lest,87 having “waxed wanton against Christ,” they desire to marry, “having condemnation, because they have rejected their first faith;” and he makes the concession because many had already turned aside after Satan.88 “But,” says he, “they will be happier if they abide as they are,” and he immediately adds the weight of Apostolic authority, “after my judgement.” And that an Apostle’s authority might not, like that of an ordinary man, be without weight, he added, “and I think that I also have the Spirit of God.” When he incites to continence, it is not by the judgement or spirit of man, but by the judgement and Spirit of God; when, however, he grants the indulgence of marriage, he does not mention the Spirit of God, but weighs his judgement with wisdom, and adapts the severity of the strain to the weakness of the individual. In this sense we must take the whole of the following passage:89 “For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband liveth, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man.” And similarly the words to Timothy,90 “I desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, give none occasion to the adversary for reviling: for already some are turned aside after Satan,” and so on. For as on account of the danger of fornication he allows virgins to marry, and makes that excusable which in itself is not desirable, so to avoid this same fornication, he allows second marriages to widows. For it is better to know a single husband, though he be a second or third, than to have many paramours: that is, it is more tolerable for a woman to prostitute herself to one man than to many. At all events this is so if the Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel who said she had her sixth husband was reproved by the Lord because he was not her husband. For where there are more husbands than one the proper idea of a husband, who is a single person, is destroyed. At the beginning one rib was turned into one wife. “And they two,” he says, “shall be one flesh”: not three, or four; otherwise, how can they be any longer two, if they are several. Lamech, a man of blood and a murderer, was the first who divided one flesh between two wives. Fratricide and digamy were abolished by the same punishment—that of the deluge. The one was avenged seven times, the other seventy times seven. The guilt is as widely different as are the numbers. What the holiness of second marriage is, appears from this—that a person twice married91 cannot be enrolled in the ranks of the clergy, and so the Apostle tells Timothy,92 “Let none be enrolled as a widow under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.” The whole command concerns those widows who are supported on the alms of the Church. The age is therefore limited, so that those only may receive the food of the poor who can no longer work. And at the same time, consider that she who has had two husbands, even though she be a widow, decrepit, and in want, is not a worthy recipient of the Church’s funds. But if she be deprived of the bread of charity, how much more is she deprived of that bread which cometh down from heaven, and of which if a man eat unworthily, he shall be guilty of outrage offered to the body and the blood of Christ?
15. The passages, however, which I have adduced in support of my position and in which it is permitted to widows, if they so desire, to marry again, are interpreted by some concerning those widows who had lost their husbands and were found in that condition when they became Christians. For, supposing a person baptized and her husband dead, it would not be consistent if the Apostle were to bid her marry another, when he enjoins even those who have wives to be as though they had them not. And this is why the number of wives which a man may take is not defined, because when Christian baptism has been received, even though a third or a fourth wife has been taken, she is reckoned as the first. Otherwise, if, after baptism and after the death of a first husband, a second is taken why should not a sixth after the death of the second, third, fourth, and fifth, and so on? For it is possible, that through some strange misfortune, or by the judgement of God cutting short repeated marriages, a young woman may have several husbands, while an old woman may be left a widow by her first husband in extreme age. The first Adam was married once: the second was unmarried. Let the supporters of second marriages shew us as their leader a third Adam who was twice married. But granted that Paul allowed second marriages: upon the same grounds it follows that he allows even third and fourth marriages, or a woman may marry as often as her husband dies. The Apostle was forced to choose many things which he did not like. He circumcised Timothy, and shaved his own head, practised going barefoot, let his hair grow long, and cut it at Cenchrea. And he had certainly chastised the Galatians, and blamed Peter because for the sake of Jewish observances he separated himself from the Gentiles. As then in other points connected with the discipline of the Church he was a Jew to Jews, a Gentile to Gentiles, and was made all things to all men, that he might gain all: so too he allowed second marriages to incontinent persons, and did not limit the number of marriages, in order that women, although they saw themselves permitted to take a second husband, in the same way as a third or a fourth was allowed, might blush to take a second, lest they should be compared to those who were three or four times married. If more than one husband be allowed, it makes no difference whether he be a second or a third, because there is no longer a question of single marriage.93 “All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient.” I do not condemn second, nor third, nor, pardon the expression, eighth marriages: I will go still further and say that I welcome even a penitent whoremonger. Things that are equally lawful must be weighed in an even balance.
16. But he takes us to the Old Testament, and beginning with Adam goes on to Zacharias and Elizabeth. He next confronts us with Peter and the rest of the Apostles. We are therefore bound to traverse the same course of argument and show that chastity was always preferred to the condition of marriage. And as regards Adam and Eve we must maintain that before the fall they were virgins in Paradise: but after they sinned, and were cast out of Paradise, they were immediately married. Then we have the passage,94 “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the twain shall become one flesh,” in explanation of which the Apostle straightway adds,95 “This mystery is great, but I speak in regard of Christ, and of the Church.” Christ in the flesh is a virgin, in the spirit he is once married. For he has one Church, concerning which the same Apostle says,96 “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church.” If Christ loves the Church holily, chastely, and without spot, let husbands also love their wives in chastity. And let everyone know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, not in the lust of concupiscence, as the Gentiles who know not God:97 “For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification: seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there cannot be male and female, Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is all, and in all.” The link of marriage is not found in the image of the Creator. When difference of sex is done away, and we are putting off the old man, and putting on the new, then we are being born again into Christ a virgin, who was both born of a virgin, and is born again through98 virginity. And whereas he says “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” it was necessary first to plant the wood and to let it grow, so that there might be an after-growth for cutting down. And at the same time we must bear in mind the meaning of the phrase, “replenish the earth.” Marriage replenishes the earth, virginity fills Paradise. This too we must observe, at least if we would faithfully follow the Hebrew, that while Scripture on the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days relates that, having finished the works of each, “God saw that it was good,” on the second day it omitted this altogether, leaving us to understand that two is not a good number because it destroys unity, and prefigures the marriage compact. Hence it was that all the animals which Noah took into the ark by pairs were unclean. Odd numbers denote cleanness. And yet by the double number is represented another mystery: that not even in beasts and unclean birds is second marriage approved. For unclean animals went in two and two, and clean ones by sevens, so that Noah after the flood might be able to immediately offer to God sacrifices from the latter.
154 17. But if Enoch was translated, and Noah was preserved at the deluge, I do not think that Enoch was translated because he had a wife, but because he was99 the first to call upon God and to believe in the Creator; and the Apostle Paul fully instructs us concerning him in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Noah, moreover, who was preserved as a kind of second root for the human race, must of course be preserved together with his wife and sons, although in this there is a Scripture mystery. The ark,100 according to the Apostle Peter, was a type of the Church, in which eight souls were saved. When Noah entered into it, both he and his sons were separated from their wives; but when he landed from it, they united in pairs, and what had been separated in the ark, that is, in the Church, was joined together in the intercourse of the world. And at the same time if the ark had many compartments and little chambers, and was made with second and third stories, and was filled with different beasts, and was furnished with dwellings, great or small, according to the kind of animal, I think all this diversity in the compartments was a figure of the manifold character of the Church.
18. He raises the objection that when God gave his second blessing, permission was granted to eat flesh, which had not in the first benediction been allowed. He should know that just as divorce according to the Saviour’s word was not permitted from the beginning, but on account of the hardness of our heart was a concession of Moses to the human race, so too the eating of flesh was unknown until the deluge. But after the deluge, like the quails given in the desert to the murmuring people, the poison of flesh-meat was offered to our teeth. The Apostle writing to the Ephesians101 teaches that God had purposed in the fulness of time to sum up and renew in Christ Jesus all things which are in heaven and in earth. Whence also the Saviour himself in the Revelation of Jn says,102 “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.” At the beginning of the human race we neither ate flesh, nor gave bills of divorce, nor suffered circumcision for a sign. Thus we reached the deluge. But after the deluge, together with the giving of the law which no one could fulfil, flesh was given for food, and divorce was allowed to hard-hearted men, and the knife of circumcision was applied, as though the hand of God had fashioned us with something superfluous. But once Christ has come in the end of time, and Omega passed into Alpha and turned the end into the beginning, we are no longer allowed divorce, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh, for the Apostle says,103 “It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine.” For wine as well as flesh was consecrated after the deluge.
19. What shall I say of Abraham who had three wives, as Jovinianus says, and received circumcision as a sign of his faith? If we follow him in the number of his wives, let us also follow him in circumcision. We must not partly follow, partly reject him. Isaac, moreover, the husband of one wife, Rebecca, prefigures the Church of Christ, and reproves the wantonness of second marriage. And if Jacob had two pairs of wives and concubines, and our opponent will not admit that blear-eyed Leah, ugly and prolific, was a type of the synagogue, but that Rachel, beautiful and long barren, indicated the mystery of the Church, let me remind him that when Jacob did this thing he was among the Assyrians, and in Mesopotamia in bondage to a hard master. But when he wished to enter the holy land, he raised on Mount Galeed104 the heap of witness, in token that the lord of Mesopotamia had failed to find anything among his baggage, and there swore that he would never return to the place of his bondage; and when,105 after wrestling with the angel at the brook Jabbok, he began to limp, because the great muscle of his thigh was withered, he at once gained the name of Israel.106 Then the wife whom he once loved, and for whom he had served, was slain by the son of sorrow near Bethlehem which was destined to be the birthplace of our Lord, the herald of virginity: and the intimacies of Mesopotamia died in the land of the Gospel.
20. But I wonder why he set107 Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or108 Onan who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children? As regards Moses, it is clear that he would have been in peril at the inn, if109 Sephora which is by interpretation a bird, had not circumcised her son, and cut off the foreskin of marriage with the knife which prefigured the Gospel. This is that Moses who when he saw a great vision and heard an angel, or the Lord speaking in the bush,110 could not by any means approach to him without first loosing the latchet of his shoe, that is, putting off the bonds of marriage. And we need not be surprised at this in the case of one who was a prophet, lawgiver, and the friend of God, seeing that all the people when about to draw nigh to Mount Sinai, and to hear the voice speaking to them, were commanded to sanctify themselves in three days, and keep themselves from their wives. I am out of order in violating historical sequence, but I may point out that the same thing was said by111 Ahimelech the priest to David when he fled to Nob: “If only the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered, “of a truth about these three days.” For the shew-bread, like the body of Christ, might not be eaten by those who rose from the marriage bed. And in passing we ought to consider the words “if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” The truth is that, in view of the purity of the body of Christ, all sexual intercourse is unclean. In the law also it is enjoined that the112 high priest must not marry any but a virgin, nor must he take to wife a widow. If a virgin and a widow are on the same level, how is it that one is taken, the other rejected?113 And the widow of a priest is bidden abide in the house of her father, and not to contract a second marriage.114 If the sister of a priest dies in virginity, just as the priest is commanded to go to the funeral of his father and mother, so must he go to hers. But if she be married, she is despised as though she belonged not to him. He who has115 married a wife, and he who has planted a vineyard, an image of the propagation of children, is forbidden to go to the battle. For he who is the slave of his wife cannot be the Lord’s soldier. And the layer in the tabernacle was cast from the mirrors of the women who116 fasted, signifying the bodies of pure virgins: And within,117 in the sanctuary, both cherubim, and mercy-seat, and the ark of the covenant, and the table of shew-bread, and the candle-stick, and the censer, were made of the purest gold. For silver might not be brought into the holy of holies.
21. I must not linger over Moses when my purpose is at full speed to lightly touch on each topic and to sketch the outline of a proper knowledge of my subject. I will pass to Joshua the son of Nun, who was previously called Ause, or better, as in the Hebrew, Osee, that is, Saviour. For he,118 according to the epistle of Jude, saved the people of Israel and led them forth out of Egypt, and brought them into the land of promise. As soon as this Joshua119 reached the Jordan, the waters of marriage, which had ever flowed in the land, dried up and stood in one heap; and the whole people, barefooted and on dry ground, crossed over, and came to Gilgal, and there was a second time circumcised. If we take this literally, it cannot possibly stand. For if we had two foreskins, or if another could grow after the first was cut off, there would be room for speaking of a second circumcision. But the meaning is that Joshua circumcised the people who had crossed the desert, with the Gospel knife, and he circumcised them with a stone knife, that what in the case of Moses’ son was prefigured in a few might under Joshua be fulfilled in all. Moreover, the very foreskins were heaped together and buried, and covered with earth, and the fact that the reproach of Egypt was taken away, and the name of the place, Gilgal, which is by interpretation120 revelation, show that while the people wandered in the desert uncircumcised their eyes were blinded. Let us see what follows. After this Gospel circumcision and the consecration of twelve stones at the place of revelation, the Passover was immediately celebrated, a lamb was slain for them, and they ate the food of the Holy Land. Joshua went forth, and was met by the Prince of the host, sword in hand, that is either to shew that he was ready to fight for the circumcised people, or to sever the tie of marriage. And in the same way that Moses was commanded, so was he:121 “loose thy shoe, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” For if the armed host of the Lord was represented by the trumpets of the priests, we may see in Jericho a type of the overthrow of the world by the preaching of the Gospel. And to pass over endless details (for it is not my purpose now to unfold all the mysteries of the Old Testament),122 five kings who previously reigned in the land of promise, and opposed the Gospel army, were overcome in battle with Joshua. I think it is clearly to be understood that before the Lord led his people from Egypt and circumcised them, sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch had the dominion, and that to these, as to five princes, everything was subject. And when they123 took refuge in the cave of the body and in a place of darkness, Jesus entered the body itself and slew them, that the source of their power might be the instrument of their death.
22. But it is now time for us to raise the standard of Joshua’s chastity. It is written that Moses had a wife. Now Moses is interpreted both by our Lord and by the Apostle to mean the law:124 “They have Moses and the prophets.” And125 “Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression.” And no one doubts that in both passages Moses signifies the law. We read that Moses, that is the law, had a wife: shew me then in the same way that Joshua the son of Nun had either wife or children, and if you can do so, I will confess that I am beaten. He certainly received the fairest spot in the division of the land of Judah, and died, not in the twenties, which are ever unlucky in Scripture—by them are reckoned the years of126 Jacob’s service,127 the price of Joseph, and128 sundry presents which Esau who was fond of them received—but in the129 tens, whose praises we have often sung; and he was buried in130 Thamnath Sare, that is, most perfect sovereignty, or among those of a new covering, to signify the crowds of virgins, covered by the Saviour’s aid on Mount Ephraim, that is, the fruitful mountain; on the north of the Mountain of Gaash, which is, being interpreted, disturbance: for131 “Mount Sion is on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King,” is ever exposed to hatred, and in every trial says132 “But my feet had well nigh slipped.” The book which bears the name of Joshua ends with his burial. Again in the book of Judges we read of him as though he had risen and come to life again, and by way of summary his works are extolled. We read too133 “So Joshua sent the people away, every man unto his inheritance, that they might possess the land.” And “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua,” and so on. There immediately follows: “And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old.” Moses, moreover, only saw the land of promise; he could not enter: and134 “he died in the land of Moab, and the Lord buried him in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” Let us compare the burial of the two: Moses died in the land of Moab, Joshua in the land of Judaea. The former was buried in a valley over against the house of Phogor, which is, being interpreted, reproach (for the Hebrew Phogor corresponds to Priapus135 ); the latter in Mount Ephraim on the north of Mount Gaash. And in the simple expressions of the sacred Scriptures there is always a more subtle meaning. The Jews gloried in children and child-bearing; and the barren woman, who had not offspring in Israel, was accursed; but blessed was he whose seed was in Sion, and his family in Jerusalem; and part of the highest blessing was,136 “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine, in the innermost parts of thy house, thy children like olive plants, round about thy table.” Therefore his grave is described as placed in a valley over against the house of an idol which was in a special sense consecrated to lust. But we who fight under Joshua our leader, even to the present day know not where Moses was buried. For we despise Phogor, and all his shame, knowing that they who are in the flesh cannot please God. And the Lord before the flood had said137 “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for that he also is flesh.” Wherefore, when Moses died, the people of Israel mourned for him; but Joshua like one on his way to victory was unmourned. For marriage ends at death; virginity thereafter begins to wear the crown.
23. Next he brings forward Samson, and does not consider that the Lord’s Nazarite was once shaven bald by a woman. And although Samson continues to be a type of the Saviour because he loved a harlot from among the Gentiles, which harlot corresponds to the Church, and because he slew more enemies in his death than he did in his life, yet he does not set an example of conjugal chastity. And he surely reminds us138 of Jacob’s prophecy—he was shaken by his runaway steed, bitten by an adder and fell backwards. But why he enumerated Deborah, and Barak, and the wife of Heber the Kenite, I am at a loss to understand. For it is one thing to draw up a list of military commanders in historical sequence, another to indicate certain figures of marriage which cannot be found in them. And whereas he prefers the fidelity of the father Jephthah to the tears of the virgin daughter, that makes for us. For we are not commending virgins of the world so much as those who are virgins for Christ’s sake, and most Hebrews blame the father for the rash vow he made,139 “If thou wilt indeed deliver the children of Ammon into mine hand, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be for the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” Supposing (they say) a dog or an ass had met him, what would he have done? Their meaning is that God so ordered events that he who had improvidently made a vow, should learn his error by the death of his daughter. And if Samuel who was brought up in the tabernacle married a wife, how does that prejudice virginity? As if at the present day also there were not many married priests, and as though the Apostle did not140 describe a bishop as the husband of one wife, having children with all purity. At the same time we must not forget that Samuel was a Levite, not a priest or high-priest. Hence it was that his mother made for him a linen ephod, that is, a linen garment to go over the shoulders, which was the proper dress of the Levites and of the inferior order. And so he is not named in the Psalms among the priests, but among those who call upon the name of the Lord:141 “Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among those who call upon his name.” For142 Levi begat Kohath, Kohath begat Amminadab, Amminadab begat Korah, Korah begat Assir, Assir begat Elkanah, Elkanah begat Zuph, Zuph begat Tahath, Tahath begat Eliel, Eliel begat Jeroham, Jeroham begat Elkanah, Elkanah begat Samuel. And no one doubts that the priests sprang from the stock of Aaron, Eleazar, and Phinees. And seeing that they had wives, they would be rightly brought against us, if, led away by the error of the Encratites, we were to maintain that marriage deserved censure, and our high priest were not after the order of Melchizedek, without father, without mother,143 Agenealovghto", that is, unmarried. And much fruit truly did Samuel reap from his children! he himself pleased God, but144 begat such children as displeased the Lord. But if in support of second marriage, he urges the instance of Boaz and Ruth, let him know that in the Gospel (S. Mt 1,6) to typify the Church even Rahab the harlot is reckoned among our Lord’s ancestors.
24. He boasts that David bought his wife for two hundred foreskins. But he should remember that David had numerous other wives, and afterwards received Michal, Saul’s daughter, whom her father had delivered to another, and when he was old got heat from the embrace of the Shunammite maiden. And I do not say this because I am bold enough to disparage holy men, but because it is one thing to live under the law, another to live under the Gospel. David slew Uriah the Hittite and committed adultery with Bathsheba. And because he was a man of blood—the reference is not, as some think, to his wars, but to the145 murder—he was not permitted to build a temple of the Lord. But as for us,146 if we cause one of the least to stumble, and if we say to a brother147 Raca, or148 use our eyes improperly, it were good that a millstone were hanged about our neck, we shall be in danger of Gehenna, and a mere glance will be reckoned to us for adultery. He passes on to Solomon, through whom wisdom itself sang its own praises. Seeing that not content with dwelling upon his praises, he calls him uxorious, I am surprised that he did not add the words of the Canticles:149 “There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and maidens without number,” and those of the First Book of Kings;150 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and others without number." These are they who turned away his heart from the Lord: and yet before he had many wives, and fell into sins of the flesh, at the beginning of his reign and in his early years he built a temple to the Lord. For every one is judged not for what he will be, but for what he is. But if Jovinianus approves the example of Solomon, he will no longer be in favour of second and third marriages only, but unless he has seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, he cannot be the king’s antitype or attain to his merit. I earnestly again and again remind you, my reader, that I am compelled to speak as I do, and that I do not disparage our predecessors under the law, but am well aware that they served their generation according to their circumstances, and fulfilled the Lord’s command to increase, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And what is more they were figures of those that were to come. But we to whom it is said,151 “The time is shortened, that henceforth those that have wives may be as though they had none,” have a different command, and for us virginity is consecrated by the Virgin Saviour.
25. What folly it was to include Elijah and Elisha in a list of married men, is plain without a word from me. For, since Jn Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, and Jn was a virgin, it is clear that he came not only in Elijah’s spirit, but also in his bodily chastity. Then the passage relating to Hezekiah might be adduced (though Jovinianus with his wonted stupidity did not notice it), in which after his recovery and the addition of fifteen years to his life he said, “Now will I beget children.” It must be remembered, however, that in the Hebrew texts the passage is not so, but runs thus:152 “The father to the children shall make known thy faithfulness.” Nor need we wonder that Huldah, the prophetess, and wife of Shallum, was153 consulted by Josiah, King of Judah, when the captivity was approaching and the wrath of the Lord was falling upon Jerusalem: since it is the rule of Scripture when holy men fail, to praise women to the reproach of men. And it is superfluous to speak of Daniel, for the Hebrews to the present day affirm that the three youths were eunuchs, in accordance with the declaration of God which Isaiah utters to Hezekiah:154 “And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away: and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.” And again in Daniel we read:155 “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring in certain of the children of Israel, even of the seed royal and of the nobles: youth in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science.” The conclusion is that if Daniel and the three youths were chosen from the seed royal, and if Scripture foretold that that there should be eunuchs of the seed royal, these men were those who were made eunuchs. If he meets us with the argument that in Ezekiel156 it is said that Noah, Daniel and Jb in a sinful land could not free their sons and daughters, we reply that the words are used hypothetically. Noah and Jb were not in existence at that time: we know that they lived many ages before. And the meaning is this: if there were such and such men in a sinful land, they shall not be able to save their own sons and daughters: because the righteousness of the father shall not save the son, nor shall the sin of one be imputed to another.157 “For the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” This, too, must be said, that Daniel, as the history of his book shows, was taken captive with King Jehoiakim at the same time that Ezekiel was also led into captivity. How then could he have sons who was still a youth? And only three years had elapsed when he was brought in to wait upon the king. Let no one suppose that Ezekiel at this time remembers Daniel as a man, not as a youth; for “It came to pass,” he says,158 “in the sixth year,” that is of King Jehoiakim, “in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month:” and, “as I sat in my house, and the eiders of Judah sat before me.” Yet on that same day it was said to him,159 “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Jb were in it.” Daniel was therefore a youth, and known to the people, either on account of his interpretation of the king’s dreams,160 or on account of the release of Susannah, and the slaying of the elders. And it is clearly proved that at the time these things were spoken of Noah, Daniel, and Job, Daniel was still a youth and could not have had sons and daughters, whom he might save by his righteousness. So far concerning the Law.
26. Coming to the Gospel he sets before us Zacharias and Elizabeth, Peter and his mother-in-law, and, with a shamelessness to which we have now grown accustomed, fails to understand that they, too, ought to have been reckoned among those who served the Law. For the Gospel had no being before the crucifixion of Christ—it was consecrated by His passion and by His blood. In accordance with this rule Peter and the other Apostles (I must give Jovinianus something now and then out of my abundance) had indeed wives, but those which they had taken before they knew the Gospel. But once they were received into the Apostolate, they forsook the offices of marriage. For when Peter, representing the Apostles, says to the Lord:161 “Lo we have left all and followed thee,” the Lord answered him,162 “Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house or wife, or brethren, or parents, or children for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this time, and in the world to come eternal life.” But if, in order to show that all the Apostles had wives, he meets us with the words163 “Have we no right to lead about women or wives” (for gunh in Greek has both meanings) “even as the rest of the apostles, and Cephas, and the brethren of the Lord?” let him add what is found in the Greek copies, “Have we no right to lead about women that are sisters, or wives?” This makes it clear that the writer referred to other holy women, who, in accordance with Jewish custom, ministered to their teachers of their substance, as we read was the practice with even our Lord himself. Where there is a previous reference to eating and drinking, and the outlay of money, and mention is afterwards made of women that are sisters, it is quite clear, as we have said, that we must understand, not wives, but those women who ministered of their substance. And we read the same account in the Old Testament of the Shunammite who was wont to welcome Elisha, and to put for him a table, and bread, and a candlestick, and the rest. At all events if we take gunaika" to mean wives, not women, the addition of the word sisters destroys the effect of the word wives, and shews that they were related in spirit, not by wedlock. Nevertheless, with the exception of the Apostle Peter, it is not openly stated that the Apostles had wives; and since the statement is made of one while nothing is said about the rest, we must understand that those of whom Scripture gives no such description had no wives. Yet Jovinianus, who has arrayed against us Zacharias and Elizabeth, Peter and his wife’s mother, should know, that Jn was the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, that is, a virgin was the offspring of marriage, the Gospel of the law, chastity of matrimony; so that by a virgin prophet the virgin Lord might be both announced and baptized. But we might say concerning Peter, that he had a mother-in-law when he believed, and no longer had a wife, although in the164 “Sentences” we read of both his wife and daughter. But for the present our argument must be based wholly on Scripture. He has made his appeal to the Apostles, because he thinks that they, who hold the chief authority in our moral system and are the typical Christian teachers, were not virgins. If, then, we allow that they were not virgins (and, with the exception of Peter, the point cannot be proved), yet I must tell him that it is to the Apostles that the words of Isaiah relate:165 “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” So, then, they who were by birth Jews could not under the Gospel recover the virginity which they had lost in Judaism. And yet John, one of the disciples, who is related to have been the youngest of the Apostles, and who was a virgin when he embraced Christianity, remained a virgin, and on that account was more beloved by our Lord, and lay upon the breast of Jesus. And what Peter, who had had a wife, did not dare ask,166 he requested Jn to ask. And after the resurrection, when Mary Magdalene told them that the Lord had risen,167 they both ran to the sepulchre, but Jn outran Peter. And when they were fishing in the ship on the lake of Gennesaret, Jesus stood upon the shore, and the Apostles knew not who it was they saw;168 the virgin alone recognized a virgin, and said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Again, after hearing the prediction that he must be bound by another, and led whither he would not, and must suffer on the cross. Peter said, “Lord what shall this man do?” being unwilling to desert John, with whom he had always been united. Our Lord said to him, “What is that to thee if I wish him so to be?” Whence the saying went abroad among the brethren that that disciple should not die. Here we have a proof that virginity does not die, and that the defilement of marriage is not washed away by the blood of martyrdom, but virginity abides with Christ, and its sleep is not death but a passing to another state. If, however, Jovinianus should obstinately contend that Jn was not a virgin, (whereas we have maintained that his virginity was the cause of the special love our Lord bore to him), let him explain, if he was not a virgin, why it was that he was loved more than the other Apostles. But you say,169 the Church was rounded upon Peter: although170 elsewhere the same is attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike, yet one among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed, there may be no occasion for schism. But why was not Jn chosen, who was a virgin? Deference was paid to age, because Peter was the eider: one who was a youth, I may say almost a boy, could not be set over men of advanced age; and a good master who was bound to remove every occasion of strife among his disciples, and who had said to them,171 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,” and,172 “He that is the greater among you, let him be the least of all,” would not be thought to afford cause of envy against the youth whom he had loved. We maybe sure that Jn was then a boy because ecclesiastical history most clearly proves that he lived to the reign of Trajan, that is, he fell asleep in the sixty-eighth year after our Lord’s passion, as I have briefly noted in my treatise on Illustrious Men.173 Peter is an Apostle, and Jn is an Apostle—the one a married man, the other a virgin; but Peter is an Apostle only, Jn is both an Apostle and an Evangelist, and a prophet. An Apostle, because he wrote to the Churches as a master; an Evangelist, because he composed a Gospel, a thing which no other of the Apostles, excepting Matthew, did; a prophet, for he saw in the island of Patmos, to which he had been banished by the Emperor Domitian as a martyr for the Lord, an Apocalypse containing the boundless mysteries of the future Tertullian, more over, relates that he was sent to Rome, and that having been plunged into a jar of boiling oil he came out fresher and more active than when he went in. But his very Gospel is widely different from the rest. Matthew as though he were writing of a man begins thus: “The book of the Generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham;” Lc begins with the priesthood of Zacharias; Mc with a prophecy of the prophets Malachi and Isaiah. The first has the face of a man, on account of the genealogical table; the second, the face of a calf, on account of the priesthood; the third, the face of a lion, on account of the voice of one crying in the desert,174 “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” But John like an eagle soars aloft, and reaches the Father Himself, and says,175 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God,” and so on. The virgin writer expounded mysteries which the married could not, and to briefly sum up all and show how great was the privilege of John, or rather of virginity in John, the Virgin Mother176 was entrusted by the Virgin Lord to the Virgin disciple.
27. But we toil to no purpose. For our opponent urges against us the Apostolic sentence and says,177 “Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: but she shall be saved through the child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.” Let us consider what led the Apostle to make this declaration:178 “I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing.” So in due course he lays down rules of life for the women and says “In like manner that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works. Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness.” And that the lot of a woman might not seem a hard one, reducing her to the condition of a slave to her husband, the Apostle recalls the ancient law and goes back to the first example: that Adam was first made, then the woman out of his rib; and that the Devil could not seduce Adam, but did seduce Eve; and that after displeasing God she was immediately subjected to the man, and began to turn to her husband; and he points out that she who was once tied with the bonds of marriage and was reduced to the condition of Eve, might blot out the179 old transgression by the180 procreation of children: provided, however, that she bring up the children themselves in the faith and love of Christ, and in sanctification and chastity; for we must not adopt the faulty reading of the Latin texts, sobrietas, but castitas, that is,181 swfrosunh. You see how you are mastered by the witness of this passage also, and cannot but be driven to admit that what you thought was on the side of marriage tells in favour of virginity. For if the woman is saved in child-bearing, and the more the children the greater the safety of the mothers, why did he add “if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with chastity”? The woman will then be saved, if she bear not children who will remain virgins: if what she has herself lost, she attains in her children, and makes up for the loss and decay, of the root by the excellence of the flower and fruit.
155 28. Above, in passing, when our opponent adduced Solomon, who, although he had many wives, nevertheless built the temple, I briefly replied that it was my intention to run over the remaining points. Now that he may not cry out that both Solomon and others under the law, prophets and holy men, have been dishonoured by us, let us show what this very man with his many wives and concubines thought of marriage. For no one can know better than he who suffered through them, what a wife or woman is. Well then, he says in the Proverbs:182 “The foolish and bold woman comes to want bread.” What bread? Surely that bread which cometh down from heaven: and he immediately adds183 “The earth-born perish in her house, rush into the depths of hell.” Who are the earth-born that perish in her house? They of course who follow the first Adam, who is of the earth, and not the second, who is from heaven. And again in another place: “Like a worm in wood, so a wicked woman destroyeth her husband.” But if you assert that this was spoken of bad wives, I shall briefly answer: What necessity rests upon me to run the risk of the wife I marry proving good or bad?184 “It is better,” he says, “to dwell in a desert land, than with a contentious and passionate woman in a wide house.” How seldom we find a wife without these faults, he knows who is married. Hence that sublime orator, Varius Geminus185 says well “The man who does not quarrel is a bachelor.”186 “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a contentious woman in a house in common.” If a house common to husband and wife makes a wife proud and breeds contempt for the husband: how much more if the wife be the richer of the two, and the husband but a lodger in her house! She begins to be not a wife, but mistress of the house; and if she offend her husband, they must part.187 “A continual dropping on a wintry day” turns a man out of doors, and so will a contentious woman drive a man from his own house. She floods his house with her constant nagging and daily chatter, and ousts him from his own home, that is the Church. Hence the same Solomon previously commands:188 “My son flows forth beyond.” And the Apostle, writing to the Hebrews, says “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things spoken, lest haply we flow forth beyond.” But who can hide from himself what is thus enigmatically expressed?189 “The horseleech had three I daughters, dearly loved, but they satisfied her not, and a fourth is not satisfied when you say Enough; the grave, and woman’s love, and the earth that is not satisfied with water, and the fire that saith not, Enough.” The horse-leech is the devil, the daughters of the devil are dearly loved, and they cannot be satisfied with the blood of the slain: the grave, and woman’s love, and the earth dry and scorched with heat. It is not the harlot, or the adulteress who is spoken of; but woman’s love in general is accused of ever being insatiable; put it out, it bursts into flame; give it plenty, it is again in need; it enervates a man’s mind, and engrosses all thought except for the passion which it feeds. What we read in the parable which follows is to the same effect: “For three things the earth doth tremble, and for four which it cannot bear: for a servant when he is king: and a fool when he is filled with meat: for an odious woman when she is married to a good husband: and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.” See how a wife is classed with the greatest evils. But if you reply that it is an odious wife, I will give you the same answer as before—the mere possibility of such danger is in itself no light matter. For he who marries a wife is uncertain whether he is marrying an odious woman or one worthy of his love. If she be odious, she is intolerable. If worthy of love, her love is compared to the grave, to the parched earth, and to fire.
29. Let us come to Ecclesiastes and adduce a few corroborative passages from him also.190 “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die: a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” We brought forth young under the law with Moses, let us die under the Gospel with Christ. We planted in marriage, let us by chastity pluck up that which was planted. “A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing: a time to love, and a time to hate: a time for war, and a time for peace.” And at the same time he warns us not to prefer the law to the Gospel; nor to think that virgin purity is to be placed on a level with marriage:191 “Better,” he says, “is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” And he immediately adds: “Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.” And he gives the reason why the latter days are better than the former:192 “For wisdom with an inheritance is good.” Under the law carnal wisdom was followed by the sword of death; under the Gospel an eternal inheritance awaits spiritual wisdom. “Behold, this have I found,193 saith the Preacher, one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. Behold this only have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” He says that he had found man upright. Consider the force of the words. The word man comprehends both male and female. “But a woman,” he says, “among all these have I not found.” Let us read the beginning of Genesis, and we shall find Adam, that is man, called both male and female. Having then been created by God good and upright, by our own fault we have fallen to a worse condition; and that which in Paradise had been upright, when we left Paradise was corrupt. If you object that before they sinned there was a distinction in sex between male and female, and that they could without sin have come together, it is uncertain what might have happened. For we cannot know the judgements of God, and anticipate his sentence as we choose. What really happened is plain enough,—that they who in Paradiseremained in perpetual virginity, when they were expelled from Paradise were joined together. Or if Paradise admits of marriage, and there is no difference between marriage and virginity, what prevented their previous intercourse even in Paradise? They are driven out of Paradise; and what they did not there, they do on earth; so that from the very earliest days of humanity virginity was consecrated by Paradise, and marriage by earth.194 “Let thy garments be always white.” The eternal whiteness of our garments is the purity of virginity. In the morning we sowed our seed, and in the evening let us not cease. Let us who served marriage under the law, serve virginity under the Gospel.
30. I pass to the Song of Songs, and whereas our opponent thinks it makes altogether for marriage, I shall show that it contains the mysteries of virginity. Let us hear what the bride says before that the bridegroom comes to earth, suffers, descends to the lower world, and rises again.195 “We will make for thee likenesses of gold with ornaments of silver while the king sits at his table.” Before the Lord rose again, and the Gospel shone, the bride had not gold, but likenesses of gold. As for the silver, however, which she professes to have at the marriage, she not only had silver ornaments, but she had them in variety—in widows, in the continent, and in the married. Then the bridegroom makes answer to the bride, and teaches her that the shadow of the old law has passed away, and the truth of the Gospel has come.196 “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away, for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” This relates to the Old Testament. Once more he speaks of the Gospel and of virginity: “The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the pruning of vines has come.” Does he not seem to you to say the very same thing that the Apostle says:197 “The time is shortened that henceforth both those that have wives may be as though they had none”? And more plainly does he herald chastity:198 “The voice,” he says, “of the turtle is heard in our land.” The turtle, the chastest of birds, always dwelling in lofty places, is a type of the Saviour. Let us read the works of naturalists and we shall find that it is the nature of the turtle-dove, if it lose its mate, not to take another; and we shall understand that second marriage is repudiated even by dumb birds. And immediately the turtle says to its fellow:199 “The fig tree hath put forth its green figs,” that is, the commandments of the old law have fallen, and the blossoming vines of the Gospel give forth their fragrance Whence the Apostle also says,200 “We are a sweet savour of Christ.”201 “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, thou art in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the steep place. Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.”202 Whilst thou coveredst thy countenance like Moses and the veil of the law remained, I neither saw thy face, nor did I condescend to hear thy voice. I said,203 “Yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear.” But now with unveiled face behold my glory, and shelter thyself in the cleft and steep places of the solid rock. On hearing this the bride disclosed the mysteries of chastity:204 “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth his flock among the lilies,” that is among the pure virgin bands. Would you know what sort of a throne our true Solomon, the Prince of Peace, has, and what his attendants are like?205 “Behold,” he says, “it is the litter of Solomon: threescore mighty men are about it, of the mighty men of Israel. They all handle the sword, and are expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh.” They who are about Solomon have their sword upon their thigh, like Ehud, the left-handed judge, who slew the fattest of foes, a man devoted to the flesh, and cut short all his pleasures.206 “I will get me,” he says, “to the mountain of myrrh;” to those, that is, who have mortified their bodies; “and to the hill of frankincense,” to the crowds of pure virgins; “and I will say to my bride, thou art all fair, my love, and there is no spot in thee.” Whence too the Apostle:207 “That he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.”208 “Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon. Thou shalt come209 and pass on from the beginning of faith, from the top of Sanir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.” Lebanon is, being interpreted, whiteness.Come then, fairest bride, concerning whom it is elsewhere said210 “Who is she that cometh up, all in white?” and pass on by way of this world, from the beginning of faith, and from Sanir, which is by interpretation, God of light, as we read in the psalm:211 “Thy word is a lantern unto my feet, and light unto my path;” and “from Hermon,” that is, consecration: and “flee from the lions’ dens, and the mountains of the leopards who cannot change their spots.” Flee, he says, from the lions’ dens, flee from the pride of devils, that when thou hast been consecrated to me, I may be able to say unto thee:212 “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, thou hast ravished mine heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.” What he says is something like this—I do not reject marriage: you have a second eye, the left, which I have given to you on account of the weakness of those who cannot see the right. But I am pleased with the right eye of virginity, and if it be blinded the whole body is in darkness. And that we might not think he had in view carnal love and bodily marriage, he at once excludes this meaning by saying213 “Thou hast ravished my heart, my bride, my sister.” The name sister excludes all suspicion of unhallowed love. “How fair are thy breasts with wine,” those breasts concerning which he had said above, My beloved is mine, and I am his: “betwixt my breasts shall he lie,” that is in the princely portion of the heart where the Word of God has its lodging. What wine is that which gives beauty to the breasts of the bride, and fills them with the milk of chastity? That, forsooth, of which the bridegroom goes on to speak:214 “I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, O friends: yea, drink and be drunken, my brethren.” Hence the Apostles also were said to be filled with new wine; with new, he says, not with old wine; because215 new wine is put into fresh wine-skins, and they216 did not walk in oldness of the letter, but in newness of the Spirit. This is wine wherewith when youths and maidens are intoxicated, they at once thirst for virginity; they are filled with the spirit of chastity, and the prophecy of Zechariah comes to pass, at least if we follow the Hebrew literally, for he prophesied concerning virgins:217 “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. For what is his goodness, and what is his beauty, but the corn of the elect, and wine that giveth birth to virgins?” They are virgins of whom it is written in the forty-fifth psalm:218 “The virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be led: they shall enter into the King’s palace.” 31. Then follows:219 “A garden shut up is my sister, my bride: a garden shut up, a fountain sealed.” That which is shut up and sealed reminds us of the mother of our Lord who was a mother and a Virgin. Hence it was that no one before or after our Saviour was laid in his new tomb, hewn in the solid rock. And yet she that was ever a Virgin is the mother of many virgins. For next we read: “Thy shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with precious fruits.” By pomegranates and fruits is signified the blending of all virtues in virginity.220 “My beloved is white and ruddy”; white in virginity, ruddy in martyrdom. And because He is white and ruddy, therefore it is immediately added221 “His mouth is most sweet, yea, he is altogether lovely.” The virgin bridegroom having been praised by the virgin bride, in turn praises the virgin bride, and says to her:222 “How beautiful are thy feet in sandals,223 O daughter of Aminadab,” which is, being interpreted, a people that offereth itself willingly. For virginity is voluntary, and therefore the steps of the Church in the beauty of chastity are praised. This is not the time for me like a commentator to explain all the mysteries of virginity from the Song of Songs I have no doubt that the fastidious reader will turn up his nose at what has already been said.
32. Isaiah tells of the mystery of our faith and hope:224 “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.” I know that the Jews are accustomed to meet us with the objection that in Hebrew the word Almahdq does not mean a virgin, but a young woman. And, to speak truth, a virgin is properly called Bethulah, but a young woman, or a girl, is not Almah, but Naarah!225 What then is the meaning of Almah? A hidden virgin, that is, not merely virgin, but a virgin and something more, because not every virgin is hidden, shut off from the occasional sight of men. Then again, Rebecca, on account of her extreme purity, and because she was a type of the Church which she represented in her own virginity, is described in Genesis as Almah, not Bethulah, as may clearly be proved from the words of Abraham’s servant, spoken by him in Mesopotamia:226 “And he said, O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now thou do prosper my way which I go: behold I stand by the fountain of water; and let it come to pass, that the maiden which cometh forth to draw, to whom I shall say, Give me, I pray thee, a little water of this pitcher to drink; and she shall say to me, Both drink thou, and I will also draw for thy camels: let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed for my master’s son.” Where he speaks of the maiden coming forth to draw water, the Hebrew word is Almah, that is, a virgin secluded, and guarded by her parents with extreme care. Or, if if this be not so, let them at least show me where the word is applied to married women as well, and I will confess my ignorance. “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” If virginity be not preferred to marriage, why did not the Holy Spirit choose a married woman, or a widow? For at that time Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser, was alive, distinguished for purity, and always free to devote herself to prayers and fasting in the temple of God. If the life, and good works, and fasting without virginity can merit the advent of the Holy Spirit, she might well have been the mother of our Lord. Let us hasten to the rest:227 “The virgin daughter of Zion hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn.” To her whom he called daughter the prophet also gave the title virgin, for fear that if he spoke only of a daughter, it might be supposed that she was married. This is the virgin daughter whom elsewhere he thus addresses:228 “Sing, O barren, thou that dost not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate, than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.” This is she of whom God by the mouth of Jeremiah speaks, saying:229 “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire.” Concerning her we read of a great miracle in the same prophecy230 —that a woman should compass a man, and that the Father of all things should be contained in a virgin’s womb.
33. “Granted,” says Jovinianus, “that there is a difference between marriage and virginity, what have you to say to this,—Suppose a virgin and a widow were baptized, and continued as they were, what difference will there be between them?” What we have already said concerning Peter and John, Anna and Mary, may be of service here. For if there is no difference between a virgin and a widow, both being baptized, because baptism makes a new man, upon the same principle harlots and prostitutes, if they are baptized, will be equal to virgins. If previous marriage is no prejudice to a baptized widow, and past pleasures and the exposure of their bodies to public lust are no detriment in the case of harlots, once they have approached the layer they will gain the rewards of virginity. It is one thing to unite with God a mind pure and free from any stain of memory, another to remember the foul and forced embraces of a man, and in recollection to act a part which you do not in person. Jeremiah, who was231 sanctified in the womb, and was known in his mother’s belly, enjoyed the high privilege Because he was predestined to the blessing of virginity. And when all were captured, and even the vessels of the temple were plundered by the King of Babylon, he alone was232 liberated by the enemy, knew not the insults of captivity, and was supported by the conquerors; and Nebuchadnezzar, though he gave Nebuzaradan no charge concerning the Holy of Holies, did give him charge concerning Jeremiah. For that is the true temple of God, and that is the Holy of Holies, which is consecrated to the Lord by pure virginity. On the other hand, Ezekiel, who was kept captive in Babylon, who saw the233 storm approaching from the north, and the whirlwind sweeping all before it, says,234 “My wife died in the evening and I did in the morning as I was commanded.” For the Lord had previously told him that in that day he should open his mouth, and speak, and no longer keep silence. Mc well, that while his wife was living he was not at liberty to admonish the people. His wife died, the bond of wedlock was broken, and without the least hesitation he constantly devoted himself to the prophetic office. For he who was called being free, is truly the Lord’s bondservant. I do not deny the blessedness of widows who remain such after their baptism; nor do I disparage those wives who maintain their chastity in wedlock; but as they attain a greater reward with God than married women who pay the marriage due, let widows themselves the content to give the preference to virginity. For if a chastity which comes too late, when the glow of bodily pleasure is no longer felt, makes them feel superior to married women, why should they not acknowledge themselves inferior to perpetual virginity.
34. All that goes for nothing, says Jovinianus, because even bishops, priests, and deacons, husbands of one wife, and having children, were appointed by the Apostle. Just as the Apostle235 says he has no commandment respecting virgins, and yet gives his advice, as one who had obtained mercy from the Lord, and is anxious throughout the whole discussion to give virginity the preference over marriage, and advises what he does not venture to command, lest he seem to lay a snare, and to put a heavier burden upon man’s nature than it can bear; so also in establishing the constitution of the Church, inasmuch as the elements of the early Church were drawn from the Gentiles, he made therules for fresh believers somewhat lighter thatthey might not in alarm shrink from keepingthem. Then, again, the Apostles and elders wrote236 letters from Jerusalem that no heavier burden should be laid on Gentile believers than that they should keep themselves from idolatry, and from fornication, and from things strangled. As though they were providing for infant children, they gave them milk to drink, not solid food. Nor did they lay down rules for continence, nor hint at virginity, nor urge to fasting, nor repeat the directions237 given in the Gospel to the Apostles, not to have two tunics, nor scrip, nor money in their girdles, nor staff in their hand, nor shoes on their feet. And they certainly did not bid them,238 if they wished to be perfect, go and sell all that they had and give to the poor, and “come follow me.” For if the young man who boasted of having done all that the law enjoins, when he heard this went away sorrowful, because he had great possessions, and the Pharisees derided an utterance such as this from our Lord’s lips: how much more would the vast multitude of Gentiles, whose highest virtue consisted in not plundering another’s goods, have repudiated the obligation of perpetual chastity and continence, when they were told in the letter to keep themselves from idols, and from fornication, seeing that fornication was heard of among them, and such fornication as was not “even among the Gentiles.” But the very choice of a bishop makes for me. For he does not say: Let a bishop be chosen who marries one wife and begets children; but who marries one wife, and239 has his children in subjection and well disciplined. You surely admit that he is no bishop who during his episcopate begets children. The reverse is the case—if he be discovered, he will not be bound by the ordinary obligations of a husband, but will be condemned as an adulterer. Either permit240 priests to perform the work of marriage with the result that virginity and marriage are on a par: or if it is unlawful for priests to touch their wives, they are so far holy in that they imitate virgin chastity. But something more follows. A layman, or any believer, cannot pray unless he abstain from sexual intercourse. Now a priest must always offer sacrifices for the people: he must therefore always pray. And if he must always pray, he must always be released from the duties of marriage. For even under the old law they who used to offer sacrifices for the people not only remained in their houses, but purified themselves for the occasion by separating from their wives, nor would they drink wine or strong drink which are wont to stimulate lust. That married men are elected to the priesthood, I do not deny: the number of virgins is not so great as that of the priests required. Does it follow that because all the strongest men are chosen for the army, weaker men should not be taken as well? All cannot be strong. If an army were constituted of strength only, and numbers went for nothing, the feebler men might be rejected. As it is, men of second or third-rate strength are chosen, that the army may have its full numerical complement. How is it, then, you will say, that frequently at the ordination of priests a virgin is passed over, and a married man taken? Perhaps because he lacks other qualifications in keeping with virginity, or it may be that he is thought a virgin, and is not: or there may be a stigma on his virginity, or at all events virginity itself makes him proud, and while he plumes himself on mere bodily chastity, he neglects other virtues; he does not cherish the poor: he is too fond of money. It sometimes happens that a man has a gloomy visage, a frowning brow, a walk as though he were in a solemn procession, and so offends the people, who, because they have no fault to find with his life, hate his mere dress and gait. Many are chosen not out of affection for themselves, but out of hatred for another. In most cases the election is won by mere simplicity, while the shrewdness and discretion of another candidate elicit opposition as though they were evils. Sometimes the judgement of the commoner people is at fault, and in testing the qualities of the priesthood, the individual inclines to his own character, with the result that he looks not so much for a good candidate as for one like himself. Not unfrequently it happens that married men, who form the larger portion of the people, in approving married candidates seem to approve themselves, and it does not occur to them that the mere fact that they prefer a married person to a virgin is evidence of their inferiority to virgins. What I am going to say will perhaps offend many. Yet I will say it, and good men will not be angry with me, because they will not feel the sting of conscience. Sometimes it is the fault of the bishops, who choose into the ranks of the clergy not the best, but the cleverest, men, and think the more simple as well as innocent ones incapable; or, as though they were distributing the offices of an earthly service, they give posts to their kindred and relations; or they listen to the dictates of wealth. And, worse than all, they give promotion to the clergy who besmear them with flattery. To take the other view, if the Apostle’s meaning be that marriage is necessary in a bishop, the Apostle himself ought not to have been a bishop, for he said,241 “Yet I would that all men were even as I myself.” And Jn will be thought unworthy of this rank, and all the virgins, and the continent, the fairest gems that give grace and ornament to the Church. Bishop, priest, and deacon, are not honourable distinctions, but names of offices. And we do not read:242 “If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good degree,” but, “he desireth a good work,” because by being placed in the higher order an opportunity is afforded him, if he choose to avail himself of it, for the practice of virtue.
35. "The bishop, then, must be without reproach, so that he is the slave of no vice: “the husband of one wife,” that is, in the past, not in the present; “sober,” or243 better, as it is in the Greek, “vigilant,” that is nhfaleon; “chaste,” for that is the244 meaning of swvfona;245 “distinguished,” both by chastity and conduct: “hospitable,” so that he imitates Abraham, and with strangers, nay rather in strangers, entertains Christ; “apt to teach,” for it profits nothing to enjoy the consciousness of virtue, unless a man be able to instruct the people intrusted to him, so that he can exhort in doctrine, and refute the gainsayers;246 “not a drunkard,” for he who is constantly in the Holy of Holies and offers sacrifices, will not drink wine and strong drink, since wine is a luxury. If a bishop drink at all, let it be in such a way that no one will know whether he has drunk or not. “No striker,” that is,247 a striker of men’s consciences, for the Apostle is not pointing out what a boxer, but a pontiff ought not to do. He directly teaches what he ought to do: “but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money, one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity.” See what chastity is required in a bishop! If his child be unchaste, he himself cannot be a bishop, and he offends God in the same way as did248 Eli the priest, who had indeed rebuked his sons, but because he had not put away the offenders, fell backwards and died before the lamp of God went out.249 “Women in like manner must be chaste,” and so on. In every grade, and in both sexes, chastity has the chief place. You see then that the blessedness of a bishop, priest, or deacon, does not lie in the fact that they are bishops, priests, or deacons, but in their having the virtues which their names and offices imply. Otherwise, if a deacon be holier than his bishop, his lower grade will not give him a worse standing with Christ. If it were so, Stephen the deacon, the first to wear the martyr’s crown, would be less in the kingdom of heaven than many bishops, and than Timothy and Titus, whom I venture to make neither inferior nor yet superior to him. Just as in the legions of the army there are generals, tribunes, centurions, javelin-men, and light-armed troops, common soldiers, and companies, but once the battle begins, all distinctions of rank are dropped, and the one thing looked for is valour: so too in this camp and in this battle, in which we contend against devils, not names but deeds are needed: and under the true commander, Christ, not the man who has the highest title has the greatest fame, but he who is the bravest warrior.
36. But you will say: “If everybody were a virgin, what would become of the human race”? Like shall here beget like. If everyone were a widow, or continent in marriage, how will mortal men be propagated? Upon this principle there will be nothing at all for fear that something else may cease to exist. To put a case: if all men were philosophers, there would be no husbandmen. Why speak of husbandmen? there would be no orators, no lawyers, no teachers of the other professions. If all men were leaders, what would become of the soldiers? If all were the head, whose head would they be called, when there were no other members? You are afraid that if the desire for virginity were general there would be no prostitutes, no adulteresses, no wailing infants in town or country. Every day the blood of adulterers250 is shed, adulterers are condemned, and lust is raging and rampant in the very presence of the laws and the symbols of authority and the courts of justice. Be not afraid that all will become virgins: virginity is a hard matter, and therefore rare, because it is hard: “Many are called, few chosen.” Many begin, few persevere. And so the reward is great for those who have persevered. If all were able to be virgins, our Lord would never have said:251 “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it:” and the Apostle would not have hesitated to give his advice,—252 “Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord.” Why then, you will say, were the organs of generation created, and why were we so fashioned by the all-wise creator, that we burn for one another, and long for natural intercourse? To reply is to endanger our modesty: we are, as it were, between two rocks, the253 Symplegades of necessity and virtue, on either side; and must make shipwreck of either our sense of shame, or of the cause we defend: If we reply to your suggestions, shame covers our face. If shame secures silence, in a manner we seem to desert our post, and to leave the ground clear to the raging foe. Yet it is better, as the story goes, to shut our eyes and fight like the254 blindfold gladiators, than not to repel with the shield of truth the darts aimed at us. I can indeed say: “Our hinder parts which are banished from sight, and the lower portions of the abdomen, which perform the functions of nature, are the Creator’s work.” But inasmuch as the physical conformation of the organs of generation testifies to difference of sex, I shall briefly reply: Are we never then to forego lust, for fear that we may have members of this kind for nothing? Why then should a husband keep himself from his wife? Why should a widow persevere in chastity, if we were only born to live like beasts? Or what harm does it do me if another man lies with my wife? For as the teeth were made for chewing, and the food masticated passes into the stomach, and a man is not blamed for giving my wife bread: similarly if it was intended that the organs of generation should always be performing their office, when my vigour is spent let another take my place, and, if I may so speak, let my wife quench her burning lust where she can. But what does the Apostle mean by exhorting to continence, if continence be contrary to nature? What does our Lord mean when He instructs us in the various kinds of eunuchs.255 Surely256 the Apostle who bids us emulate his own chastity, must be asked, if we are to be consistent, Why are you like other men, Paul? Why are you distinguished from the female sex by a beard, hair, and other peculiarities of person? How is it that you have not swelling bosoms, and are not broad at the hips, narrow at the chest? Your voice is rugged, your speech rough, your eyebrows more shaggy. To no purpose you have all these manly qualities, if you forego the embraces of women. I am compelled to say something and become a fool: but you have forced me to dare to speak. Our Lord and Saviour,257 Who though He was in the form of God, condescended to take the form of a servant, and became obedient to the Father even unto death, yea the death of the cross—what necessity was there for Him to be born with members which He was not going to use? He certainly was circumcised to manifest His sex. Why did he cause Jn the Apostle and Jn the Baptist to make themselves eunuchs through love of Him, after causing them to be born men? Let us then who believe in Christ follow His example. And if we knew Him after the flesh, let us no longer know Him according to the flesh. The substance of our resurrection bodies will certainly be the same as now, though of higher glory. For the Saviour after His descent into hell had so far the selfsame body in which He was crucified, that258 He showed the disciples the marks of the nails in His hands and the wound in His side. Moreover, if we deny the identity of His body because259 He entered though the doors were shut, and this is not a property of human bodies, we must deny also that Peter and the Lord had real bodies because they260 walked upon the water, which is contrary to nature.261 “In the resurrection of the dead they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be like the angels.” What others will hereafter be in heaven, that virgins begin to be on earth. If likeness to the angels is promised us (and there is no difference of sex among the angels), we shall either be of no sex as are the angels, or at all events which is clearly proved, though we rise from the dead in our own sex, we shall not perform the functions of sex.
37. But why do we argue, and why are we eager to frame a clever and victorious reply to our opponent?262 “Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.” I will run through the utterances of the Apostles, and as to the instances afforded by Solomon I added short expositions to facilitate their being understood, so now I will go over the passages bearing on Christian purity and continence, and will make of many proofs a connected series. By this method I shall succeed in omitting nothing relating to chastity, and shall avoid being tediously long. Amongst other passages, Paul the Apostle writes to the Romans:263 “What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.” I suppose too that the end of marriage is death. But the compensating fruit of sanctification, fruit belonging either to virginity or to continence, is eternal life. And afterwards:264 “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were holden; so that we serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.” “When,” he says, “we were in the flesh, and not in the newness of the Spirit but in the oldness of the letter,” we did those things which pertained to the flesh, and bore fruit unto death. But now because we are dead to the law, through the body of Christ, let us bear fruit to God, that we may belong to Him who rose from the dead. And elsewhere, having previously said,265 “I know that the law is spiritual,” and having discussed at some length the violence of the flesh which frequently drives us to do what we would not, he at last continues: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And again, “So then I myself with the mind serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” And,266 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death.” And more clearly in what follows he teaches that Christians do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit:267 “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you,” and so on to where he says,268 “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the spirit ye mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” If the269 wisdom of the flesh is enmity against God, and they who are in the flesh cannot please God, I think that they who perform the functions of marriage love the wisdom of the flesh, and therefore are in the flesh. The Apostle being desirous to withdraw us from the flesh and to join us to the Spirit, says afterwards:270 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think according to chastity”271 (not soberly as the Latin versions badly render), but “think,” he says, “according to chastity,” for the Greek words are eji" to swfronein. Let us consider what the Apostle says: “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” What he says is something like this—God indeed permits marriage, He permits second marriages, and if necessary, prefers even third marriages to fornication and adultery. But we who ought to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service, should consider, not what God permits, but what He wishes: that we may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. It follows that what He merely permits is neither good, nor acceptable, nor perfect. And he gives his reasons for this advice:272 “Knowing the season, that now it is high time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand.” And lastly: “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” God’s will is one thing, His indulgence another. Whence, writing to the Corinthians, he says,273 “I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal.” He who274 is in the merely animal state, and does not receive the things pertaining to the Spirit of God (for he is foolish, and cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned), he is not fed with the food of perfect chastity, but with the coarse milk of marriage. As through man came death, so also through man came the resurrection of the dead. As in Adam we all die, so in Christ we shall all be made alive. Under the law we served the old Adam, under the Gospel let us serve the new Adam. For the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.275 “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” This is so clear that no explanation can make it clearer: “Flesh and blood,” he says, “cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” If corruption attaches to all intercourse, and incorruption is characteristic of chastity, the rewards of chastity cannot belong to marriage.276 “For we know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven. We are willing to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. Wherefore also we make it our aim, whether in the body, or out of the body, to be well-pleasing unto God.” And by way of more fully explaining what he did not wish them to be he says elsewhere:277 “I espoused you to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” But if you choose to apply the words to the whole Assembly of believers, and in this betrothal to Christ include both married women, and the twice-married, and widows, and virgins, that also makes for us. For whilst he invites all to chastity and to the reward of virginity, he shows that virginity is more excellent than all these conditions. And again writing to the Galatians he says:278 “Because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Among the works of the law is marriage, and accordingly under it they are cursed who have no children. And if under the Gospel it is permitted to have children, it is one thing to make a concession to weakness another to hold out rewards to virtue.
38. Something else I will say to my friends who marry and after long chastity and continence begin to burn and are as wanton as the brutes:279 “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh? Did ye suffer so many things in vain?” If the Apostle in the case of some persons loosens the cords of continence, and lets them have a slack rein, he does so on account of the infirmity of the flesh. This is the enemy he has in view when he once more says:280 “Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” It is unnecessary now to speak of the works of the flesh: it would be tedious, and he who chooses can easily gather them from the letter of the Apostle. I will only speak of the Spirit and its fruits, love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness,281 continence. All the virtues of the Spirit are supported and protected by continence, which is as it were their solid foundation and crowning point. Against such there is no law.282 “And they that are of Christ have crucified their flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.” Why do we who with Christ have crucified our flesh and its passions and desires again desire to do the things of the flesh?283 “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life.” I think that he who has a wife, so long as he reverts to the practice in question, that Satan may not tempt him, is sowing to the flesh and not to the Spirit. And he who sows to the flesh (the words are not mine, but the Apostle’s) reaps corruption. God the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy and without spot before Him.284 We walked in the lusts of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were children of wrath, even as the rest. But now He has raised us up with Him, and made us to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,285 that we may put away according to our former manner of life the old man, which is corrupt according to the lusts of deceit, and that blessing may be applied to us which so finely concludes the mystical Epistle to the Ephesians:286 “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in uncorruptness.”287 “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.288 Whatsoever things then are true, whatsoever are chaste, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things pertain to purity, let us join ourselves to these, let us follow these.289 Christ hath reconciled us in his body to God the Father through his death, and has presented us holy and without spot, and without blame before himself: in whom we have been also circumcised, not with the circumcision made with hands, to the spoiling of the body of the flesh, but with the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, wherein also we rose with him. If then we have risen with Christ, let us seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; let us set our affections on things above, not upon the things that are upon the earth. For we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ our life shall appear, then we also shall appear with him in glory.290 No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier.291 For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live purely and righteously and godly in this present world.”
39. The day would not be long enough were I to attempt to relate all that the Apostle enjoins concerning purity. These things are those concerning which our Lord said to the Apostles:292 “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth.” After the crucifixion of Christ, we find in the293 Ac of the Apostles that one house, that of Philip the Evangelist, produced four virgin daughters, to the end that Caesarea, where the Gentile Church had been consecrated in the person of Cornelius the centurion, might afford an illustration of virginity. And whereas our Lord said in the Gospel:294 “The law and the prophets were until John,” they because they were virgins are related to have prophesied even after John. For they could not be bound by the law of the Old Testament, who had shone with the brightness of virginity. Let us pass on to James, who was called the brother of the Lord, a man of such sanctity and righteousness, and distinguished by so rigid and perpetual a virginity, that even295 Josephus, the Jewish historian, relates that the overthrow of Jerusalem was due to his death. He, the first bishop of the Church at Jerusalem, which was composed of Jewish believers, to whom Paul went, accompanied by Titus and Barnabas, says in his Epistle:296 “Be not deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect boon is from above, coming down from the Father of lights,297 with whom there is no difference, neither shadow that is cast by turning. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” Himself a virgin, he teaches virginity in a mystery. Every perfect gift cometh down from above, where marriage is unknown; and it cometh down, not from any one you please, but from the Father of lights, Who says to the apostles, “Ye are the light of the world;” with Whom there is no difference of Jew, or Gentile, nor does that shadow which was the companion of the law, trouble those who have believed from among the nations; but with His word He begat us, and with the word of truth, because some shadow, image, and likeness of truth went before in the law, that we might be the first-fruits of His creatures. And as He who was Himself the298 first begotten from the dead has raised all that have died in Him: so He who was a virgin, consecrated the first-fruits of His virgins in His own virgin self. Let us also consider what Peter thinks of the calling of the Gentiles:299 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Where we read of an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, prepared in heaven and reserved for the last time, and of the hope of eternal life when they will neither marry, nor be given in marriage, there, in other words, the privileges of virginity are described. For he shows as much in what follows:300 “Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance; but like as he which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, ye shall be holy; for I am holy.301 For we were not redeemed with contemptible things, with silver or gold; but with the precious blood of a lamb without spot, Jesus Christ,302 that we might purify our souls in obedience to the truth, having been begotten again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God,303 who liveth and abideth. And as living stones let us be built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices through Christ our Lord.304 For we are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.305 Christ died for us in the flesh. Let us arm ourselves with the same conversation as did Christ; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that we should no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past is sufficient for us when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, and other vices. Great and precious are the promises attaching to virginity which He has given us,306 that through it we may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust.307 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgement, but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of defilement, and despise dominion, daring, self-willed. For they, as beasts of burden, without reason, think only of their belly and their lusts, railers who shall in their corruption be destroyed, and shall receive the reward of iniquity: men that count unrighteousness delight, spots and blemishes, thinking of nothing but their pleasures; having eyes full of adultery and insatiable lust, deceiving souls not yet strengthened by the love of Christ. For they utter swelling words and easily snare the unlearned with the seduction of the flesh; promising them liberty while they themselves are the slaves of vice, luxury, and corruption. For of what a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage. But if, after they had escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again overcome by that which they before overcame, the last state is become worse with them than the first. And it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back and forsake the holy commandment delivered unto them. And it has happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog hath turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire.” I have hesitated, for fear of being tedious, to quote the whole passage of the second Epistle of Peter, and have merely shown that the Holy Spirit in prophecy foretold the teachers of this time and their heresy. Lastly, he more clearly denotes them, saying,308 “In the last days seducing mockers shall come, walking after their own lusts.”
156 40. The Apostle has described Jovinianus speaking with swelling cheeks and nicely balancing his inflated utterances, promising heavenly liberty, when he himself is the slave of vice and self-indulgence, a dog returning to his vomit. For although he boasts of being a monk, he has exchanged his dirty tunic, bare feet, common bread, and drink of water, for a snowy dress, sleek skin, honey-wine and dainty dishes, for the sauces of309 Apicius and310 Paxamus, for baths and rubbings, and for the cook-shops. Is it not clear that he prefers his belly to Christ, and thinks his ruddy complexion worth the kingdom of heaven? And yet that handsome monk so fat and sleek, and of bright appearance, who always walks with the air of a bridegroom, must either marry a wife if he is to show that virginity and marriage are equal: or if he does not marry one, it is useless for him to bandy words with us when his acts are on our side. And Jn agrees with this almost to the letter:311 “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of this life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world.” And, “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. A new commandment have I written unto you, which thing is true both in Christ and in you; because the darkness is passing away, and the true light already shineth.” And again,312 “Beloved, now are we the children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. But we know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him: for we shall see him even as he is. And every one that hath this hope purifieth himself, even as he is pure.313 Herein is our love made perfect, if we have boldness in the day of judgement: that as he is, even so may we be in this world.” The Epistle of Jude also expresses nearly the same:314 “Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Let us read the Apocalypse of John, and we shall there find the Lamb upon Mount Sion,315 and with Him “a hundred and forty-four thousand of them that were sealed, having His name and the name of His Father written in their foreheads, who sing a new song, and no one can sing that song save they who have been redeemed out of the earth. These are they who have not defiled themselves with women, for they continued virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth: for they were redeemed from among men, first-fruits to God and to the Lamb, and in their mouth was found no guile, and they are without spot.”316 Out of each tribe, the tribe of Dan excepted, the place of which is taken by the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand virgins who have been sealed are spoken of as future believers, who have not defiled themselves with women. And that we may not suppose the reference to be to those who know not harlots, he immediately added: “For they continued virgins.” Whereby he shows that all who have not preserved their virginity, in comparison of pure and angelic chastity and of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, are defiled.317 “These are they who sing a new song which no man can sing except him that is a virgin. These are first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb, and are without blemish.” If virgins are first-fruits, it follows that widows and the continent in marriage, come after the first-fruits, that is, are in the second and third rank: nor can a lost people be saved unless it offer such sacrifices of chastity to God, and with pure victims reconcile the spotless Lamb. It would be endless work to explain the Gospel mystery of the ten virgins, five of whom were wise and five foolish. All I say now is, that as mere virginity without other works does not save, so all works without virginity, purity, continence, chastity, are imperfect. And we shall not be hindered in the least from taking this view by the objection of our opponent that our Lord was at Cana of Galilee, and joined in the marriage festivities when He turned water into wine. I shall very briefly reply, that He Who was circumcised on the eighth day, and for Whom a pair of turtle-doves and two young pigeons were offered on the day of purification, like others before He suffered, shewed His approval of Jewish custom, that He might not seem to give His enemies just cause for putting Him to death on the pretext that He destroyed the law and condemned nature. And even this was done for our sakes. For by going once to a marriage, He taught that men should marry only once. Moreover, at that time it was possible to injure virginity if marriage were not placed next to it, and the purity of widowhood in the third rank. But now when heretics are condemning wedlock, and despise the ordinance of God, we gladly hear anything he318 may say in praise of marriage. For the Church does not condemn marriage, but makes it subordinate; nor does she reject it, but regulates it; for she knows, as was said before, that319 in a great house there are notonly vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earthenware; and that some are to honour, some to dishonour; and that whoever cleanses himself will be a vessel of honour, necessary, prepared for every good work.
41. I have given enough and more than enough illustrations from the divine writings of Christian chastity and angelic virginity. But as I understand that our opponent in his commentaries summons us to the tribunal of worldly wisdom, and we are told that views of this kind are never accepted in the world, and that our religion has invented a dogma against nature, I will quickly run through Greek and Roman and Foreign History, and will show that virginity ever took the lead of chastity. Fable relates that Atalanta, the virgin of Calydonian fame, lived for the chase and dwelt always in the woods; in other words that she did not set her heart on marriage with its troubles of pregnancy and of sickness, but upon the nobler life of freedom and chastity.320 Harpalyce too, a Thracian virgin, is described by the famous poet; and so is321 Camilia, queen of the Volsci, on whom, when she came to his assistance, Turnus had no higher praise which he could bestow than to call her a virgin. “O Virgin, Glory of Italy!” And that famous daughter of322 Leos, the lady of the brazen house, ever a virgin, is related to have freed her country from pestilence by her voluntary death: and the blood of the virgin323 Iphigenia is said to have calmed the stormy winds. What need to tell of the Sibyls of Erythrae and Cumae, and the eight others? for Varro asserts there were ten whose ornament was virginity, and divination the reward of their virginity. But if in the Aeolian dialect “Sibyl” is represented by Qeobouvlh, we must understand that a knowledge of the Counsel of God is rightly attributed to virginity alone. We read, too, that Cassandra and Chryseis, prophetesses of Apollo and Juno, were virgins. And there were innumerable priestesses of the Taurian Diana, and of Vesta. One of these, Munitia, being suspected of unchastily was324 buried alive, which would be in my opinion an unjust punishment, unless the violation of virginity were considered a serious crime. At all events how highly the Romans always esteemed virgins is clear from the fact that consuls and generals even in their triumphal chariots and bringing home the spoils of conquered nations, were wont to make way for them to pass. And so did men of all ranks. When325 Claudia, a Vestal Virgin, was suspected of unchastily, and a vessel containing the image of Cybele was aground in the Tiber, it is related that she, to prove her chastity, with her girdle drew the ship which a thousand men could not move. Yet, as326 the uncle of Lucan the poet says, it would have been better if this circumstance had decorated a chastity tried and proved, and had not pleaded in defence of a chastity equivocal. No wonder that we read such things of human beings, when heathen error also invented the virgin goddesses Minerva and Diana, and placed the Virgin among the twelve signs of the Zodiac, by means of which, as they suppose, the world revolves. It is a proof of the little esteem in which they held marriage that they did not even among the scorpions, centaurs, crabs, fishes, and capricorn, thrust in a husband and wife. When the thirty tyrants of Athens had slain Phidon at the banquet, they commanded his virgin daughters to come to them, naked like harlots, and there upon the ground, red with their father’s blood, to act the wanton. For a little while they hid their grief, and then when they saw the revellers were intoxicated, going out on the plea of easing nature, they embraced one another and threw themselves into a well, that by death they might save their virginity. The virgin daughter of Demotion, chief of the Areopagites, having heard of the death of her betrothed,327 Leosthenes, who had originated the Lamian war, slew herself, for she declared that although in body she was a virgin, yet if she were compelled to: accept another, she should regard him as her second husband, when she had given her heartto Leosthenes. So close a friendship long existed between Sparta and Messene that for the furtherance of certain religious rites they even exchanged virgins. Well, on one occasion when the men of Messene attempted to outrage fifty Lacedaemonian virgins, out of so many not one consented, but they all most gladly died in defence of their chastity. Whence there arose a long and grievous war, and in the long run328 Mamertina was destroyed. Aristoclides, tyrant of Orchomenos, fell in love with a virgin of Stymphalus, and when after the death of her father she took refuge in the temple of Diana, and embraced the image of the goddess and could not be dragged thence by force, she was slain on the spot. Her death caused such intense grief throughout Arcadia that the people took up arms and avenged the virgin’s death.329 Aristomenes of Messene, a just man, at a time when the Lacedaemonians, whom he had conquered, were celebrating by night the festival called the330 Hyacinthia, carried off from the sportive bands fifteen virgins, and fleeing all night at full speed got away from the Spartan territory. His companions wished to outrage them, but he admonished them to the best of his power not to do so, and when certain refused to obey, he slew them, and restrained the rest by fear. The maidens were afterwards ransomed by their kinsmen, and on seeing Aristomenes condemned for murder would not return to their country until clasping the knees of the judges they beheld the protector of their chastity acquitted. How shall we sufficiently praise the daughters of Scedasus at Leuctra in Boeotia? It is related that in the absence of their father they hospitably entertained two youths who were passing by, and who having drunk to excess violated the virgins in the course of the night. Being unwilling to survive the loss of their virginity, the maidens inflicted deadly wounds on one another. Nor would it be right to omit mention of the Locrian virgins. They were sent to Ilium according to custom which had lasted for nearly a thousand years, and yet not one gave occasion to any idle tale or filthy rumour of virginity defiled. Could any one pass over in silence the seven virgins of Miletus who, when the Gauls spread desolation far and wide, that they might suffer no indignity at the hands of the enemy, escaped disgrace by death, and left to all virgins the lesson of their example—that noble minds care more for chastity than life? Nicanor having conquered and overthrown Thebes was himself overcome by a passion for one captive virgin, whose voluntary self-surrender he longed for. A captive maid, he thought, must be only too glad. But he found that virginity is dearer to the pure in heart than a kingdom, when with tears and grief he held her in his arms slain by her own hand. Greek writers tell also of another Theban virgin who had been deflowered by a Macedonian foe, and who, hiding her grief for a while, slew the violator of her virginity as he slept, and then killed herself with the sword, so that she wouldneither live when her chastity was lost, nor diebefore she had avenged herself.
42. To come to the Gymnosophists of India, the opinion is authoritatively handed down that Budda, the founder of their religion, had his birth through the side of a virgin. And we need not wonder at this in the case of Barbarians when cultured Greece supposed that Minerva at her birth sprang from the head of Jove, and Father Bacchus from his thigh.331 Speusippus also, Plato’s nephew, and332 Clearchus in his eulogy of Plato, and333 Anaxelides in the second book of his philosophy, relates that Perictione, the mother of Plato, was violated by an apparition of Apollo, and they agree in thinking that the prince of wisdom was born of a virgin.334 Timus writes that the335 virgin daughter of336 Pythagoras was at the head of a band of virgins, and instructed them in chastity.337 Diodorus, the disciple of Socrates, is said to have had five daughters skilled in dialectics and distinguished for chastity, of whom a full account is given by Philo the master of338 Carneades. And mighty Rome cannot taunt us as though we had invented the story of the birth of our Lord and Saviour from a virgin; for the Romans believe that the founders of their city and race were the offspring of the virgin339 Ilia and of Mars.
43. Let these allusions to the virgins of the world, brief and hastily gathered from many histories, now suffice. I will proceed to married women who were reluctant to survive the decease or violent death of their husbands for fear they might be forced into a second marriage, and who entertained a marvellous affection for the only husbands they had. This may teach us that second marriage was repudiated among the heathen. Dido, the sister of Pygmalion, having collected a vast amount of gold and silver, sailed to Africa, and there built Carthage. And when her hand was sought in marriage by Iarbas, king of Libya, she deferred the marriage for a while until her country was settled. Not long after, having raised a340 funeral pyre to the memory of her former husband Sichus, she preferred to “burn rather than to marry.” Carthage was built by a woman of chastity, and its end was a tribute to the excellence of the virtue. For the341 wife of Hasdrubal, when the city was captured and set on fire, and she saw that she could not herself escape capture by the Romans, took her little children in either hand and leaped into the burning ruins of her house.
44. What need to tell of the wife of342 Niceratus, who, not enduring to wrong her husband, inflicted death upon herself rather than subject herself to the lust of the thirty tyrants whom Lysander had set over conquered Athens?343 Artemisia, also, wife of Mausolus, is related to have been distinguished for chastity. Though she was queen of Caria, and is extolled by great poets and historians, no higher praise is bestowed upon her than that when her husband was dead she loved him as much as when he was alive, and built a tomb so great that even to the present day all costly sepulchres are called after his name, mausoleums.344 Teuta, queen of the Illyrians, owed her long sway over brave warriors, and her frequent victories over Rome, to her marvellous chastity. The Indians and almost all the Barbarians have a plurality of wives. It is a law with them that the favourite wife must be burned with her dead husband. The wives therefore vie with one another for the husband’s love, and the highest ambition of the rivals, and the proof of chastity, is to be considered worthy of death. So then she that is victorious, having put on her former dress and ornaments, lies down beside the corpse, embracing and kissing it, and to the glory of chastity despises the flames which are burning beneath her. I suppose that she who dies thus, wants no second marriage. The famous Alcibiades, the friend of Socrates, when Athens was conquered, fled to Pharnabazus, who took a bribe from Lysander the Lacedaemonian leader and ordered him to be slain. He was strangled, and when his head had been cut off it was sent to Lysander as proof of the murder, but the rest of his body lay unburied. His concubine, therefore, all alone, in defiance of the command of the cruel enemy, in the midst of strangers, and in the face of peril, gave him due burial, for she was ready to die for the dead man whom she had loved when living. Let matrons, Christian matrons at all events, imitate the fidelity of concubines, and exhibit in their freedom what she in her captivity preserved.
45. Strato, ruler of Sidon, thought of dying by his own hand, that he might not be the sport of the Persians, who were close by and whose alliance he had discarded for the friendship of the king of Egypt. But he drew back in terror, and eying the sword which he had seized, awaited in alarm the approach of the enemy. His wife, knowing that he must be immediately taken, wrested the weapon from his hand, and pierced his side. When the body was properly laid out she lay down upon it in the agony of death, that she might not violate her virgin troth in the embraces of another.345 Xenophon, in describing the early years of the eider Cyrus, relates that when her husband Abradatas was slain, Panthea who had loved him intensely, placed herself beside the mangled body, then stabbed herself, and let her blood run into her husband’s wounds. The346 queen whom the king her husband had shewn naked and without her knowledge to his friend, thought she had good cause for slaying the king. She judged that she was not beloved if it was possible for her to be exhibited to another. Rhodogune, daughter of Darius, after the death of her husband, put to death the nurse who was trying to persuade her to marry again.347 Alcestis is related in story to have voluntarily died for Admetus, and Penelope’s chastity is the theme of Homer’s song. Laodamia’s praises are also sung by the poets, because, when348 Protesilaus was slain at Troy, she refused to survive him.
46. I may pass on to Roman women; and the first that I shall mention is349 Lucretia, who would not survive her violated chastity, but blotted out the stain upon her person with her own blood. Duilius, the first Roman who won a350 naval triumph, took to wife a virgin, Bilia, of such extraordinary chastity that she was an example even to an age which held unchastity to be not merely vicious but monstrous. When he was grown old and feeble he was once in the course of a quarrel taunted with having bad breath. In dudgeon he betook himself home, and on complaining to his wife that she had never told him of it so that he might remedy the fault, he received the reply that she would have done so, but she thought that all men had foul breath as he had. In either case this chaste and noble woman deserves praise, whether she was not aware there was anything wrong with her husband, or if she patiently endured, and her husband discovered his unfortunate condition not by the disgust of a wife, but by the abuseof an enemy. At all events the woman who marries a second time cannot say this. Marcia, Cato’s younger daughter, on being asked after the loss of her husband why she did not marry again, replied that she could not find a man who wanted her more than her money. Her words teach us that men in choosing their wives look for riches rather than for chastity, and that many in marrying use not their eyes but their fingers. That must be an excellent thing which is won by avarice! When the same lady was mourning the loss of her husband, and the matrons asked what day would terminate her grief, she replied, “The same that terminates my life.” I imagine that a woman who thus followed her husband in heart and mind had no thought of marrying again. Porcia, whom351 Brutus took to wife, was a virgin; Cato’s wife,352 Marcia, was not a virgin; but Marcia went to and fro between Hortensius and Cato, and was quite content to live without Cato; while353 Porcia could not live without Brutus; for women attach themselves closely to particular men, and to keep to one is a strong link in the chain of affection. When a relative urged Annia to marry again (she was of full age and a goodly person), she answered, “I shall certainly not do so. For, if I find a good man, I have no wish to be in fear of losing him: if a bad one, why must I put up with a bad husband after having had a good one?”354 Porcia the younger, on hearing a certain lady of good character, who had a second husband, praised in her house, replied, “A chaste and happy matron never marries more than once.” Marcella the elder, on being asked by her mother if she was glad she was married, answered, “So much so that I want nothing more. ”355 Valeria, sister of the Messalas, when she lost her husband Servius, would marry no one else. On being asked why not, she said that to her, her husband Servius was ever alive.
47. I feel that in giving this list of women I have said far more than is customary in illustrating a point, and that I might be justly censured by my learned reader. But what am I to do when the women of our time press me with apostolic authority, and before the first husband is buried, repeat from morning to night the precepts which allow a second marriage? Seeing they despise the fidelity which Christian purity dictates, let them at least learn chastity from the heathen. A book On Marriage, worth its weight in gold, passes under the name of356 Theophrastus. In it the author asks whether a wise man marries. And after laying down the conditions—that the wife must be fair, of good character, and honest parentage, the husband in good health and of ample means, and after saying that under these circumstances a wise man sometimes enters the state of matrimony, he immediately proceeds thus: “But all these conditions are seldom satisfied in marriage. A wise man therefore must not take a wife. For in the first place his study of philosophy will be hindered, and it is impossible for anyone to attend to his books and his wife. Matrons want many things, costly dresses, gold, jewels, great outlay, maid-servants, all kinds of furniture, litters and gilded coaches. Then come curtain-lectures the livelong night: she complains that one lady goes out better dressed than she: that another is looked up to by all: ‘I am a poor despised nobody at the ladies’ assemblies.’ ‘Why did you ogle that creature next door?’ ‘Why were you talking to the maid?’ ‘What did you bring from the market?’ ‘I am not allowed to have a single friend, or companion.’ She suspects that her husband’s love goes the same way as her hate. There may be in some neighbouring city the wisest of teachers; but if we have a wife we can neither leave her behind, nor take the burden with us. To support a poor wife, is hard: to put up with a rich one, is torture. Notice, too, that in the case of a wife you cannot pick and choose: you must take her as you find her. If she has a bad temper, or is a fool, if she has a blemish, or is proud, or has bad breath, whatever her fault may be—all this we learn after marriage. Horses, asses, cattle, even slaves of the smallest worth, clothes, kettles, wooden seats, cups, and earthenware pitchers, are first tried and then bought: a wife is the only thing that is not shown before she is married, for fear she may not give satisfaction. Our gaze must always be directed to her face, and we must always praise her beauty: if you look at another woman, she thinks that she is out of favour. She must be called my lady, her birth-day must be kept, we must swear by her health and wish that she may survive us, respect must be paid to the nurse, to the nursemaid, to the father’s slave, to the foster-child, to the handsome hanger-on, to the curled darling who manages her affairs, and to the eunuch who ministers to the safe indulgence of her lust: names which are only a cloak for adultery. Upon whomsoever she sets her heart, they must have her love though they want her not. If you give her the management of the whole house, you must yourself be her slave. If you reserve something for yourself, she will not think you are loyal to her; but she will turn to strife and hatred, and unless you quickly take care, she will have the poison ready. If you introduce old women, and soothsayers, and prophets, and vendors of jewels and silken clothing, you imperil her chastity; if you shut the door upon them, she is injured and fancies you suspect her. But what is the good of even a careful guardian, when an unchaste wife cannot be watched, and a chaste one ought not to be? For necessity is but a faithless keeper of chastity, and she alone really deserves to be called pure, who is free to sin if she chooses. if a woman be fair, she soon finds lovers; if she be ugly, it is easy to be wanton. It is difficult to guard what many long for. It is annoying to have what no one thinks worth possessing. But the misery of having an ugly wife is less than that of watching a comely one. Nothing is safe, for which a whole people sighs and longs. One man entices with his figure, another with his brains, another with his wit, another with his open hand. Somehow, or sometime, the fortress is captured which is attacked on all sides. Men marry, indeed, so as to get a manager for the house, to solace weariness, to banish solitude; but a faithful slave is a far better manager, more submissive to the master, more observant of his ways, than a wife who thinks she proves herself mistress if she acts in opposition to her husband, that is, if she does what pleases her, not what she is commanded. But friends, and servants who are under the obligation of benefits received, are better able to wait upon us in sickness than a wife who makes us responsible for her tears (she will sell you enough to make a deluge for the hope of a legacy), boasts of her anxiety, but drives her sick husband to the distraction of despair. But if she herself is poorly, we must fall sick with her and never leave her bedside. Or if she be a good and agreeable wife (how rare a bird she is!), we have to share her groans in childbirth, and suffer torture when she is in danger. A wise man can never be alone. He has with him the good men of all time, and turns his mind freely wherever he chooses. What is inaccessible to him in person he can embrace in thought. And, if men are scarce, he converses with God.357 He is never less alone than when alone. Then again, to marry for the sake of children, so that our name may not perish, or that we may have support in old age, and leave our property without dispute, is the height of stupidity. For what is it to us when we are leaving the world if another bears our name, when even a son does not all at once take his father’s title, and there are countless others who are called by the same name. Or what support in old age is he whom you bring up, and who may die before you, or turn out a reprobate? Or at all events when he reaches mature age, you may seem to him long in dying. Friends and relatives whom you can judiciously love are better and safer heirs than those whom you must make your heirs whether you like it or not. Indeed, the surest way of having a good heir is to ruin your fortune in a good cause while you live, not to leave the fruit of your labour to be used you know not how.”
48. When Theophrastus thus discourses, are there any of us, Christians, whose conversation is in heaven and who daily say358 “I long to be dissolved, and to be with Christ,” whom he does not put to the blush? Shall a joint-heir of Christ really long for human heirs? And shall he desire children and delight himself in a long line of descendants, who will perhaps fall into the clutches of Antichrist, when we read that359 Moses and360 Samuel preferred other men to their own sons, and did not count as their children those whom they saw to be displeasing to God? When Cicero after361 divorcing Terentia was requested by362 Hirtius to marry his sister, he363 set the matter altogether on one side, and said that he could not possibly devote himself to a wife and to philosophy. Meanwhile that excellent partner, who had herself drunk wisdom at Tully’s fountains, married364 Sallust his enemy, and took for her third husband Messala Corvinus, and thus, as it were, passed through three degrees of eloquence. Socrates had two wives, Xantippe and Myron, grand-daughter of Aristides. They frequently quarrelled, and he was accustomed to banter them for disagreeing about him, he being the ugliest of men, with snub nose, bald forehead, rough-haired, and bandy-legged. At last they planned an attack upon him, and having punished him severely, and put him to flight, vexed him for a long time. On one occasion when he opposed Xantippe; who from above was heaping abuse upon him, the termagant soused him with dirty water, but he only wiped his head and said, “I knew that a shower must follow such thunder as that.”365 Metella, consort of L. Sulla the366 Fortunate (except in the matter of his wife) was367 openly unchaste. It was the common talk of Athens, as I learnt in my youthful years when we soon pick up what is bad, and yet Sulla was in the dark, and first got to know the secrets of his household through the abuse of his enemies. Cn. Pompey had an impure wife368 Mucia, who was surrounded by eunuchs from Pontus and troops of the countrymen of Mithridates. Others thought that he knew all and submitted to it; but a comrade told him during the campaign, and the conqueror of the whole world was dismayed at the sad intelligence.369 M. Cato, the Censor, had a wife Actoria Paula, a woman of low origin, fond of drink, violent, and (who would believe it?) haughty to Cato. I say this for fear anyone may suppose that in marrying a poor woman he has secured peace. When370 Philip king of Macedon, against whom371 Demosthenes thundered in his Philippics, was entering his bed-room as usual, his wife in a passion shut him out. Finding himself excluded he held his tongue, and consoled himself for the insult by reading a tragic poem.372 Gorgias the Rhetorician recited his excellent treatise on Concord to the Greeks, then at variance among themselves, at Olympia. Whereupon373 Melanthius his enemy observed: “Here is a man who teaches us concord, and yet could not make concord between himself his wife, and maid-servant, three persons in one house.” The truth was that his wife envied the beauty of the girl, and drove the purest of men wild with daily quarrels. Whole tragedies of Euripides are censures on women. Hence Hermione says,374 “The counsels of evil women have beguiled me.” In the semi-barbarous and remote city375 Leptis it is the custom for a daughter-in-law on376 the second day to beg the loan of a jar from her mother-in-law. The latter at once denies the request, and we see how true was the remark of377 Terence, ambiguously expressed on purpose—“How is this? do all mothers-in-law hate their daughters-in-law?” We read of a certain Roman noble who, when his friends found fault with him for having divorced a wife, beautiful, chaste, and rich, put out his foot and said to them, “And the shoe before you looks new and elegant, yet no one but myself knows where it pinches.” Herodotus378 tells us that a woman puts off her modesty with her clothes. And our own comic poet379 thinks the man fortunate who has never been married. Why should I refer to Pasiphaë,380 Clytemnestra, and Eriphyle, the first of whom, the wife of a king and swimming in pleasure, is said to have lusted for a bull, the second to have killed her: husband for the sake of an adulterer, the third to have betrayed Amphiaraus, and to have preferred a gold necklace to the welfare of her husband. In all the bombast of tragedy and the overthrow of houses, cities, and kingdoms, it is the wives and concubines who stir up strife. Parents take up arms against their children: unspeakable banquets are served: and on account of the rape of one wretched woman Europe and Asia are involved in a ten years’ war. We read of some who were divorced the day after they were married, and immediately married again. Both husbands are to blame, both he who was so soon dissatisfied, and he who was so soon pleased. Epicurus the patron of pleasure (though381 Metrodorus his disciple married Leontia) says that a wise man can seldom marry, because marriage has many drawbacks. And as riches, honours, bodily health, and other things which we call indifferent, are neither good nor bad, but stand as it were midway, and become good and bad according to the use and issue, so wives stand on the border line of good and ill. It is, moreover, a serious matter for a wise man to be in doubt whether he is going to marry a good or a bad woman.382 Chrysippus ridiculously maintains that a wise man should marry, that he may not outrage Jupiter383 Gamelius and Genethlius. For upon that principle the Latins would not marry at all, since they have no Jupiter who presides over marriage. But if, as he thinks, the life of men is determined by the names of gods, whoever chooses to sit will offend Jupiter384 Stator.
49. Aristotle and Plutarch and our Seneca have written treatises on matrimony, out of which we have already made some extracts and now add a few more. “The love of beauty is the forgetting of reason and the near neighbour of madness; a foul blot little in keeping with a sound mind. It confuses counsel, breaks high and generous spirits, draws away men from great thoughts to mean ones; it makes men querulous, ill-tempered, foolhardy, cruelly imperious, servile flatterers, good for nothing, at last not even for love itself. For although in the intensity of passion it burns like a raging fire, it wastes much time through suspicions, tears, and complaints: it begets hatred of itself, and at last hates itself.” The course of love is laid bare in Plato’s Phaedrus from beginning to end, and Lysias explains all its drawbacks—how it is led not by reason, but by frenzy, and in particular is a harsh gaoler over lovely wives. Seneca, too, relates that he knew an accomplished man who before going out used to tie his wife’s garter upon his breast, and could not bear to be absent from her for a quarter of an hour; and this pair would never take a drink unless husband and wife alternately put their lips to the cup; and they did other things just as absurd in the extravagant outbursts of their warm but blind affection. Their love was of honourable birth, but it grew out of all proportion. And it makes no difference how honourable may be the cause of a man’s insanity. Hence385 Xystus in his Sentences tells us that “He who too ardently loves his own wife is an adulterer.” It is disgraceful to love another man’s wife at all, or one’s own too much. A wise man ought to love his wife with judgment, not with passion. Let a man govern his voluptuous impulses. and not rush headlong into intercourse. There is nothing blacker than to love a wife as if she were an adulteress. Men who say they have contracted marriage and are bringing up children, for the good of their country and of the race, should at least imitate the brutes, and not destroy their offspring in the womb; nor should they appear in the character of lovers, but of husbands. In some cases marriage has grown out of adultery: and, shameful to relate! men have tried to teach their wives chastity after having taken their chastity away. Marriages of that sort are quickly dissolved when lust is satiated. The first allurement gone, the charm is lost. What shall I say, says Seneca, of the poor men who in numbers are bribed to take the name of husband in order to evade the laws promulgated against bachelors? How can he who is married under such conditions be a guide to morality, teach chastity, and maintain the authority of a husband? It is the saying of a very learned man, that chastity must be preserved at all costs, and that when it is lost all virtue falls to the ground. This holds the primacy of all virtues in woman. This it is that makes up for a wife’s poverty, enhances her riches, redeems her deformity, gives grace to her beauty; it makes her act in a way worthy of her forefathers whose blood it does not taint with bastard offspring; of her children, who through it have no need to blush for their mother, or to be in doubt about their father; and above all, of herself, since it defends her from external violation. There is no greater calamity connected with captivity than to be the victim of another’s lust. The consulship sheds lustre upon men; eloquence gives eternal renown; military glory and a triumph immortalise an obscure family. Many are the spheres ennobled by splendid ability. The virtue of woman is, in a special sense, purity. It was this that made386 Lucretia the equal of Brutus, if it did not make her his superior, since Brutus learnt from a woman the impossibility of being a slave. It was this that made387 Cornelia a fit match for Gracchus, and388 Porcia for a second Brutus.389 Tanaquil is better known than her husband. His name, like the names of many other kings, is lost in the mists of antiquity. She, through a virtue rare among women, is too deeply rooted in the hearts of all ages for her memory ever to perish. Let my married sisters copy the examples of390 Theano,391 Cleobuline, Gorgente,392 Timoclia, the393 Claudias and Cornelias; and when they find the Apostle conceding second marriage to depraved women, they will read that before the light of our religion shone upon the world wives of one husband ever held high rank among matrons, that by their hands the sacred rites of Fortuna394 Muliebris were performed, that a priest or395 Flamen twice396 married was unknown, that the high-priests of Athens to this day397 emasculate themselves by drinking hemlock, and once they have been drawn in to the pontificate, cease to be men).