Augustin on Virginity 124

124 44. Next let not man, now that he knoweth that by the grace of God he is what he is, fall into another snare of pride, so as by lifting up himself for the very grace of God to despise the rest. By which fault that other Pharisee both gave thanks unto God for the goods which he had, and yet vaunted himself above the Publican confessing his sins. What therefore should a virgin do, what should she think, that she vaunt not herself above those, men or women, who have not this so great gift? For she ought not to feign humility, but to set it forth: for the feigning of humility is greater pride. Wherefore Scripture wishing to show that humility ought to be true, after having said, “By how much thou art great, by so much humble thyself in all things,” added soon after, “And thou shalt find grace before God:”161 assuredly where one could not humble one’s self deceitfully.

45. Wherefore what shall we say? is there any thought which a virgin of God may truly have, by reason of which she dare not to set herself before a faithful woman, not only a widow, but even married? I say not a reprobate virgin; for who knows not that an obedient woman is to be set before a disobedient virgin? But where both are obedient unto the commands of God, shall she so tremble to prefer holy virginity even to chaste marriage, and continence to wedded life, the fruit an hundred-fold to go before the thirty-fold? Nay, let her not doubt to prefer this thing to that thing; yet let not this or that virgin, obeying and fearing God, dare to set herselfbefore this or that woman, obeying and fearing God; otherwise she will not be humble, and “God resisteth the proud!”162 What, therefore, shall she have in her thoughts? Forsooth the hidden gifts of God, which nought save the questioning of trial makes known to each, even in himself. For, to pass over the rest, whence doth a virgin know, although careful of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord163 but that haply, by reason of some weakness of mind unknown to herself, she be not as yet ripe for martyrdom, whereas that woman, whom she rejoiced to set herself before, may already be able to drink the Cup of the Lord’s humiliation,164 which He set before His disciples, to drink first, when enamored of high place? Whence, I say, doth she know but that she herself be not as yet Thecla, that other be already Crispina.165 Certainly unless there be present trial, there takes place no proof of this gift.

46. But this is so great, that certain understand it to be the fruit an hundred-fold.166 For the authority of the Church bears a veryconspicuous witness, in which it is known the faithful in what place the Martyrs, in what place the holy nuns deceased, are rehearsed at the Sacraments of the Altar.167 But what the meaning is of that difference of fruitfulness, let them see to it, who understand these things better than we; whether the virginal life be in fruit an hundred-fold, in sixty-fold the widowed, in thirty-fold the married; or whether the hundred-fold fruitfulness be ascribed unto martyrdom, the sixty-fold unto continence, the thirty-fold unto marriage; or whether virginity, by the addition of martyrdom, fill up the hundred-fold, but when alone be in sixty-fold, but married persons bearing thirty-fold arrive at sixty-fold, in case they shall be martyrs: or whether, what seems to me more probable, forasmuch as the gifts of Divine grace are many, and one is greater and better than another, whence the Apostle says, “But emulate ye the better gifts;”168 we are to understand that they are more in number than to allow of being distributed under those different kinds. In the first place, that we set not widowed continence either as bearing no fruit, or set it but level with the desert of married charity, or equal it unto virgin glory; or think that the Crown of Martyrdom, either established in habit of mind, although proof of trial be wanting, or in actual making trial of suffering, be added unto either one of those these chastities, without any increase of fruitfulness. Next, when we set it down that many men and women so keep virginal chastity, as that yet they do not the things which the Lord saith, “If thou wiliest to be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast, and give unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come, follow me;”169 and dare not unite themselves to those dwelling together, among whom no one saith that any thing is his own, but all things are unto them common;170 do we think that there is no addition of fruitfulness unto the virgins of God, when they do this? or that the virgins of God are without any fruit, although they do not this? Therefore there are many gifts, and some brighter and higher than others, each than each. And at times one is fruitful in fewer gifts, but better; another in lower gifts, but more. And in what manner they be either made equal one to another, or distinguished one from another, in receiving eternal honors, who of men would dare to pronounce? whereas yet it is plain both that those differences are many, and that the better are profitable not for the present time, but for eternity. But I judge that the Lord willed to make mention of three differences of fruitfulness, the rest He left to such as understand.171 For also another Evangelist hath made mention only of the hundred-fold:172 we are not, therefore, are we, to think that he either rejected, or knew not of, the other two, but rather that he left them to be understood?

47. But, as I had begun to say, whether the fruit an hundred-fold be virginity dedicated to God, or whether we are to understand that interval of fruitfulness in some other way, either such as we have made mention of, or such as we have not made mention of; yet no one, as I suppose, will have dared to prefer virginity to martyrdom, and no one will have doubted that this latter gift is hidden, if trial to test it be wanting. A virgin, therefore, hath a subject for thought, such asmay be of profit to her for the keeping of humility, that she violate not that charity, which is above all gifts, without which assuredly whatever other gifts she shall have had, whether few or many, whether great or small, she is nothing. She hath, I say, a subject for thought, that she be not puffed up, that she rival not; forsooth that she so make profession that the virginal good is much greater and better than the married good, as that yet she know not whether this or that married woman be not already able to suffer for Christ, but herself as yet unable, and she herein spared, that her weakness is not put to the question by trial. “For God,” saith the Apostle, “is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tried above what ye are able but will make with the trial a way out, that ye may be able to bear it.”173 Perhaps, therefore, those men or women keeping a way of married life praiseworthy in its kind, are already able, against an enemy forcing to unrighteousness, to contend even by tearing in pieces of bowels, and shedding of blood; but these men or women, continent from childhood, and making themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, still are not as yet able to endure such, either for righteousness, or for chastity itself. For it is one thing, for truth and an holy purpose, not to consent unto one who would persuade and flatter, but another thing not to yield even to one who tortures and strikes. These lie hid in the powers and strength of souls, by trial they are unfolded, by actual essay they come forth. In order, therefore, that each be not puffed up by reason of that, which he sees clearly that he can do, let him humbly consider that he knows not that there is perchance something more excellent which he cannot do, but that some, who neither have nor profess that of which he is lawfully self-conscious, are able to do this, which he himself cannot do. Thus will be kept, not by feigned but by true humility, “In honor preventing one another,”174 and, “esteeming each the other higher than himself.”175

48. What now shall I say concerning the very carefulness and watchfulness against sin? “Who shall boast that he hath a chaste heart? or who shall boast that he is clean from sin?”176 Holy virginity is indeed inviolate from the mother’s womb; but “no one,” saith he, “is clean in Thy sight, not even the infant whose life is of one day upon the earth.”177 There is kept also in faith inviolate a certain virginal chastity, whereby the Church is joined as a chaste virgin unto One Husband: but That One Husband hath taught, not only the faithful who are virgin in mind and body, but all Christians altogether, from spiritual even unto carnal, fromApostles even unto the last penitents, as though from the height of heaven even unto the bounds of it,178 to pray, and in the prayer itself hath admonished them to say, “And forgive us our debts, even as we also forgive our debtors:”179 where, by this which we seek, He shews what also we should remember that we are. For neither on behalf of those debts, which for our whole past life we trust have been forgiven unto us in Baptism through His peace, hath He charged us to pray, saying, “And forgive us our debts, even as we also forgive our debtors:” otherwise this were a prayer which Catechumens rather ought to pray up to the time of Baptism; but whereas it is what baptized persons pray, rulers and people, pastors and flocks; it is sufficiently shown that in this life, the whole of which is a trial, no one ought to boast himself as though free from all sins.180

49. Wherefore also the virgins of God without blame indeed, “follow the Lamb whithersoever He shall have gone,” both the cleansing of sins being perfected, and virginity being kept, which, were it lost, could not return: but, because that same Apocalypse itself, wherein such unto one such were revealed, in this also praises them, that “in their mouth there was not found a lie:”181 let them remember in this also to be true, that they dare not say that they have not sin. Forsooth the same John, who saw that, hath said this, “If we shall have said that we have not sin, we deceive our own selves, and the truth is not in us; but if we shall have confessed our faults, He is faithful and just, so as to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But if we shall have said that we have not sinned, we shall make Him a liar, and His word shall not be in us.”182 This surely is not said unto these or those, but unto all Christians, wherein virgins also ought to recognize themselves. For thus they shall be without a lie, such as in the Apocalypse they appeared. And by this means so long as there is not as yet perfection in heavenly height, confession in lowliness maketh them Without blame.

50. But, again, lest by occasion of this sentence, any one should sin with deadly security, and should allow himself to be carried away, as though his sins were soon by easy confession to be blotted out, he straightway added, “My little children, these things have I written unto you, that ye sin not; and, if one shall have sinned, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and Himself is a propitiation of our sins.”183 Let no one therefore depart from sin as though about to return to it, nor bind himself as it were by compact of alliance of this kind with unrighteousness, so as to take delight rather to confess it than to shun it. But, forasmuch as even upon such as are busy and on the watch not to sin, there creep by stealth, in a certain way, from human weakness, sins, however small, however few, yet not none; these same themselves become great and grievous, in case pride shall have added to them increase and weight: but by the Priest, Whom we have in the heavens, if by pious humility they be destroyed, they are with all ease cleansed.

51. But I contend not with those, who assert that a man can in this life live without any sin: I contend not, I gainsay not. For perhaps we take measure of the great from out our own misery, and, comparing ourselves with ourselves, understand not.184 One thing I know, that those great ones, such as we are not, such as we have not as yet made proof of, by how much they are great, by so much humble themselves in all things, that they may find grace before God. For, let them be how great soever they will, “there is no servant greater than his Lord, nor disciple greater than his master.”185 And assuredly He is the Lord, Who saith, “All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father;”186 and He is the Master, Who saith, “Come unto Me, all ye who labor, and learn of Me;” andyet what learn we? “In that I am meek,” saith He, “and lowly of heart.”52. Here some one will say, This is now not to write of virginity, but of humility. As though truly it were any kind of virginity, and not that which is after God, which we had undertaken to set forth. And this good, by how much I see it to be great, by so muchI fear for it, lest it be lost, the thief pride. Therefore there is none that guardeth the virginal good, save God Himself Who gave it: and God is Charity.187 The Guardian therefore of virginity is Charity: but the place of this Guardian is humility. There forsooth He dwelleth, Who said, that on the lowly and quiet, and that trembleth at His words, His Spirit resteth.188 What, therefore, have I done foreign from my purpose, if wishing the good, which I have praised, to be more securely guarded, I have taken care also to prepare a place for the Guardian? For I speak with confidence, nor have I any fear lest they be angry with me, whom I admonish with care to fear for themselves together with me. More easily do follow the Lamb, although not whithersoever He shall have gone, yet so far as they shall have had power, married persons who are humble, than virgins who are proud. For how doth one follow Him, unto Whom one wills not to approach or how doth one approach Him, unto Whom one comes not to learn, “in that I am meek and lowly of heart?” Wherefore those the Lamb leadeth following whithersoever He shall have gone, in whom first Himself shall have found where to lay His Head. For also a certain proud and crafty person had said to Him, “Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou shaft have gone;”189 to whom He made answer, “Foxes have dens, and fowls of heaven nests: but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His Head.” By the term of foxes He reproved wily craftiness, and by the name of birds puffed-up arrogance, wherein He found not pious humility to rest in. And by this no where at all did he follow the Lord, who had promised that he would follow Him, not unto a certain point of progress, but altogether whithersoever He should have gone.

53. Wherefore this do ye, virgins of God, this do ye: follow ye the Lamb, whithersoever He shall have gone. But first come unto Him, Whom ye are to follow, and learn, in that He is meek and lowly of heart. Come ye in lowly wise unto the Lowly, if ye love: and depart not from Him, lest ye fall. For whoso fears to depart from Him asks and says, “Let there not come to me foot of pride.”190 Go on in the why of loftiness with the foot of lowliness; Himself lifteth up such as follow in lowly wise, Who thought it not a trouble to come down unto such as lay low. Commit ye His gifts unto Him to keep, “guard ye your strength unto Him.”191 Whatever of evil through His guardianship ye commit not, account as forgiven unto you by Him: lest, thinking that you have little forgiven unto you, ye love little, and with ruinous boasting despise the publicans beating their breasts. Concealing that strength of yours which hath been tried beware, that ye be not puffed up, because ye have been able to bear something: but concerning that which hath been untried pray, that ye be not tempted above that ye are able to bear. Think that some are superior to you in secret, than whom ye are openly better. When the good things of others, haply unknown to you, are kindly believed by you, your own that are known to you are not lessened by comparison, but strengthened by love: and what haply as yet are wanting, are by so much the more easily given, by how much they are the more humbly desired. Let such among your number as persevere, afford to you an example: but let such as fall increase your fear. Love the one that ye may imitate it; mourn over the other, that ye be not puffed up. Do not ye establish your own righteousness; submit yourselves unto God Who justifies you. Pardon the sins of others, pray for your own: future sins shun by watching, past sins blot out by confessing.

54. Lo, already ye are such, as that in the rest of your conduct also ye correspond with the virginity which ye have professed and kept. Lo, already not only do ye abstain from murders, devilish sacrifices and abominations, thefts, rapines, frauds, perjuries, drunkennesses, and all luxury and avarice, hatreds, emulations, impieties, cruelties; but even those things, which either are, or are thought, lighter, are not found nor arise among you: not bold face, not wandering eyes, not unbridled tongue, not petulant laugh, not scurrilous jest, not unbecoming mien, not swelling or loose gait; already ye render not evil for evil, nor curse for curse;192 already, lastly, ye fulfill that measure of love, that ye lay down your lives for your brethren.193 Lo, already ye are such, because also such ye ought to be. These, being added to virginity, set forth an angelic life unto men, and the ways of heaven unto the earth. But, by how much ye are great, whosoever of you are so great, “by so much humble yourselves in all things, that ye may find grace before God,” that He resist younot as proud, that He humble you not as lifting up yourselves, that He lead you not through straits as being puffed up: although anxiety be unnecessary, that, where Charity glows, humility be not wanting.

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

125 56. It is well that He seeks your beauty within, where He hath given unto you power to become daughters of God:194 He seeks not of you a fair flesh, but fair conduct, whereby to bridle also the flesh. He is not one unto Whom any one can lie concerning you, and make him rage through jealousy. See with how great security ye love Him, Whom ye fear not to offend by false suspicions. Husband and wife love each other, in that they see each other: and what they see not, that they fear between themselves: nor have they sure delight in what is visible, while in what is concealed they usually suspect what is not. Ye in Him, Whom ye see not with the eyes, and behold by faith, neither have what is real to blame, nor fear lest haply ye offend Him by what is false. If therefore ye should owe great love to husbands, Him, for Whose sake ye would not have husbands, how greatly ought ye to love? Let Him be fixed in your whole heart, Who for you was fixed on the Cross: let Him possess in your soul all that, whatever it be, that ye would not have occupied by marriage. It is not lawful for you to love little Him, for Whose sake ye have not loved even what were lawful. So loving Him Who is meek and lowly of heart, I have no fear for you of pride.

57. Thus, after our small measure, we have spoken enough both of sanctity, whereby ye are properly called “sanctimoniales,” and of humility, whereby whatever great name ye bear is kept. But more worthily let those Three Children, unto whom He, Whom they loved with full glow of heart, afforded refreshing in the fire, admonish you concerning this our little work, much more shortly indeed in number of words, but much more greatly in weight of authority, in the Hymn wherein God is honored by them. For joining humility unto holiness in such as praise God, they havemost plainly taught, that each, by how much he make any more holy profession, by so muchdo beware that he be not deceived by pride. Wherefore do ye also praise Him, Who grants unto you, that in the midst of the flames of this world, although ye be not joined in marriage, yet ye be not burned: and praying also for us, “Bless ye the Lord, ye holy and humble men of heart; utter an hymn, and exalt Him above all forever.”195

Rm 11,17-18.
2 (1Co 7,9,
3 Mt 19,12.
4 (2Co 11,2).
5 Mt 12,46-50.
6 Lc 11,27-28.
7 (Lc 1,34,
8 (Ga 4,19).
9 (Mt 9,15). [See R. V.]
10 (1Tm 1,5,
11 Imbuti.
12 It has been proposed to omit “que,” making the sense, “wherein the virgins themselves also are mothers of Christ,” but the sense is good as it stands
13 (Ga 5,6,
14 (Mt 19,12 1Co 7,9).
15 Muneri.
16 Componit..
17 (1Co 7,34,
18 (Ps 14,2,
19 (2Co 11,2,
20 Meditatio..
21 (1Co 7,25-26).
22 Dispensatio.
23 (1Co 7,25,
24 (1Co 7,26,
25 1Co 15,41-42.
26 (1Co 7,27,
27 (Mt 19,9,
28 1Co 7,10-11.
29 (1Co 7,28).
30 (1Co 7,38 1Co 7,28 1Co 7,40.
31 (1Co 7,39).
32 (1Co 7,26,
33 (1Co 7,28,
34 Hist. of Sus. 23.
35 (1Co 7,28,
36 (1Co 7,38).
37 (1Co 7,26,
38 (1Co 7,28,
39 cf. de Bon. conj. 10.
40 1Co 7,32-34.
41 (1Co 15,19,
42 (Mt 19,10-12).
43 Is 56,4-5). [See R.V.]
44 (2Co 4,18 1Tm 4,8
45 Is 56,4-5). [See R.V.]).
46 Mt 20,9-10.
47 (1Co 15,53,
48 1Co 15,41-2.
49 (1Co 12,18,
50 (Jn 14,2,
51 Lc 12,35-36.
52 Ps 96,1.
53 Ap 14,1-5.
54 “Eructuabat.” cf. Ps 44,1. Vulg.
55 Merito.
56 1P 2,21.
57 Mt 5,3-10.
58 (2Co 8,9).
59 (Mt 11,29).
60 (Lc 19,41,
61 (Jn 4,34,
62 (Lc 10,30-35.
63 1P 2,22.
64 (Lc 23,34,
65 1P 2,21.
66 Forma.
67 (1Co 15,28,
68 “Praesumite.”.
69 (Mt 19,12,
70 (1Co 9,24,
71 Ps 96,8.
72 (1Co 7,37,
73 (Ex 20,14 Ex 20,113.
74 “Supererogaveritis.”.
75 (Lc 10,35, § 48
76 (Is 56,5,
77 Muneris..
78 (Si 3,18)
79 (1Co 13,4). [See R. V.]
80 (Ph 2,7-8). [See R. V.].
81 (Mt 5,3,
82 Mt 8,5-10 Lc 7,6-7.
83 Ps 138,6.
84 Mt 15,22-28.
85 Promeruit..
86 Lc 18,11-14.
87 (Jc 1,17,
88 Mt 18,1-3.
89 Mt 20,21-22.
90 (Ph 2,8)
91 (Jn 13,1-17).
92 (Si 3,18,
93 (1Tm 5,11-13). [See R.V.].
94 (1Tm 5,6,
95 (Jc 4,6,
96 (Mt 11,29).
97 Mt 11,25-29.
98 (Col 2,3,
99 (Lc 18,13,
100 (Mt 8,8,
101 Lc 19,2-8.
102 (Lc 7,37-38.
103 (Mt 21,31,
104 (Mt 9,11-13). [See R.V.].
105 (Rm 5,20,
106 (1Tm 1,13,
107 (Mt 19,12,
108 (Ps 51,5,
109 (Jn 1,14,
110 (Jn 1,29).
111 (Ps 45,2).
112 1Co 13,4-5
113 (Rm 15,3,
114 (Jn 6,38,
115 (Jn 13,5,
116 Lc 18,10-14.
117 Lc 7,38 Lc 7,47.
118 (Is 26,18, LXX..
119 1Jn 4,18. [See R.V.].
120 Rm 11,20.
121 (Ps 19,9,
122 (1Co 7,32,
123 Rm 8,15
124 (Ps 139,7,
125 (Ps 27,4,
126 (Ps 27,9,
127 (Ps 84,2).
128 (Rm 11,20).
129 (Rm 8,15,
130 (1Co 2,3,
131 (Ph 2,12-13). [See R.V.].
132 (Ps 2,11,
133 (Is 66,2,
134 (Jb 7,1
135 (Mt 18,7). [See R.V.].
136 (Mt 24,12,
137 1Co 10,12.
138 (Ga 2,20,
139 Lc 7,36-47.
140 (Rm 10,3,
141 (Ep 2,8-10). [See R.V.].
142 (Ps 25,15,
143 (Ps 127,1,
144 (1Co 7,7,
145 (1Co 12,11,
146 (Rm 9,16).
147 (1Co 4,7).
148 (Jc 1,17). [See R. V.].
149 (Ps 119,4-6.
150 (Ps 141,3, 4.
151 (Ps 37,23 Ps 37,
152 (2Tm 2,25 2Tm 2,
153 (Sg 8,21 Sg 8,
154 (Ps 146,8 Ps 146,
155 (Ps 19,7,
156 (Jc 1,5,
157 (Mt 25,4,
158 (Rm 12,16,
159 (Jb 28,28, .
160 (Rm 11,20).
161 (Si 3,18).
162 (Jc 4,6,
163 (1Co 7,32,
164 (Mt 20,22,
165 A married woman, who was beheaded in the persecution under Diocletian and Maximian at Thebeste in Africa. See Ser. 354, ad Continentes, n. 5. where he says, “bethink you that in the time of persecution not only Agnes the Virgin was crowned, but likewise Crispina, the wife; and perchance, as there is no doubt, some of the continent then failed, and many of the wedded fought and conquered.” Ben. ed.
166 St. Jerome mentions this interpretation; but b. 1. agt. Jovinian, and on Mt 18, takes that which assigns the hundred-fold to virginity). Ben. ed.
167 Ser. 159, he says, “Martyrs are in such place rehearsed at the Altar of God as that prayer is not made for them; but for the other deceased that are mentioned prayer is made.” Ben. ed.
168 (1Co 12,31,
169 (Mt 19,21,
170 (Ac 2,44 Ac 4,32).
171 (Mt 13,8).
172 (Lc 8,8,
173 (1Co 10,13,
174 (Rm 12,10). [See R.V.].
175 (Ph 2,3,
176 (Pr 20,9,
177 (Jb 25,4,
178 (Mt 24,31). [See R.V.].
179 (Mt 6,12
180 (Jb 7,1
181 (Ap 14,4-5).
182 (1Jn 1,8-10). [See R.V.]
183 (1Jn 2,1-2.
184 (2Co 10,12,
185 (Jn 13,16,
186 (Mt 11,27-28.
187 (1Jn 4,8,
188 (Is 66,2,
189 (Mt 8,19-20.
190 (Ps 36,11).
191 (Ps 59,9). [See R.V.]
192 (1P 3,9). [See R.V.].
193 (1Jn 3,16,
194 (Jn 1,12).
195 Song of Three Children 65).

Augustin on Virginity 124