Of the Discipline and Advantage of Chastity.34
1. I do not conceive that I have exceeded any portions of my duty, in always striving as much as possible, by dally discussions of the Gospels, to afford to you from time to time the means of growth, by the Lord’s help, in faith and knowledge. For what else can be effected in the Lord’s Church with greater advantage, what can be found more suitable to the office of a bishop, than that, by the teaching of the divine words, recommended and commented on by Him, believers should be enabled to attain to the promised kingdom of heaven? This assuredly, as the desired result day by day of my work as well as of my office, I endeavour, notwithstanding my absence, to accomplish; and by my letters I try to make myself present to you, addressing you in faith, in my usual manner, by the exhortations that I send you. I call upon you, therefore, to be established in the power of the Root [this illustrates pp. 322 and 389, note 7 (Elucidation XVIII. See pp. 380 ( note 314 ) and 322 ( note 218))] of the Gospel, and to stand always armed against all the assaults of the devil. I shall not believe myself to be absent from you, if I shall be sure of you. Nevertheless, everything which is advantageously set forth, and which either defines or promises the condition of eternal life to those who are investigating it, is then only profitable, if it be aided in attaining the reward of the effort by the power of the divine mercy. We not only set forth words which come from the sacred fountains of the Scriptures, but with these very words we associate prayers to the Lord, and wishes, that, as well to us as to you, He would not only unfold l the treasures of His sacraments, but would bestow strength for the carrying into act of what we know. For the danger is all the greater if we know the Lord’s will, and loiter in the work of the will of God.
2. Although, therefore, I exhort you always, as you are aware, to many things, and to the precepts of the Lord’s admonition – for what else can be desirable or more important to me, than that in all things you should stand perfect in the Lord? – yet I admonish you, that you should before all things maintain the barriers of chastity, as also you do: knowing that you are the temple of the Lord, the members of Christ, the habitation of the Holy Spirit, elected to hope, consecrated to faith, destined to salvation, sons of God, brethren of Christ, associates of the Holy Spirit, owing nothing any longer to the flesh, as born again of water, that the chastity, over and above the will, which we should always desire to be ours, may be afforded to us also, on account of the redemption, that that which has been consecrated by Christ might not be corrupted. For if the apostle declares the Church to be the spouse of Christ, I beseech you consider what chastity is required, where the Church is given in marriage as a betrothed virgin. And I indeed, except that I have proposed to admonish you with brevity, think the most diffuse praises due, and could set forth abundant laudations of chastity; but I have thought it superfluous to praise it at greater length among those who practise it. For you adorn it while you exhibit it; and in its exercise you set forth its more abundant praises, being made its ornament, while it also is yours, each lending and borrowing honour from the other. It adds to you the discipline of good morals; you confer upon it the ministry of saintly works. For how much and what it can effect has on the one hand been manifest by your means, and on the other it has shown and taught what you are wishing for, – the two advantages of precepts and practice being combined into one, that nothing should appear maimed, us would be the case if either principles were wanting to service, or service to principles.
3. Chastity is the dignity of the body, the ornament of morality, the sacredness of the sexes, the bond of modesty, the source of purity, the peacefulness of home, the crown of concord.35 Chastity is not careful whom it pleases but itself. Chastity is always modest, being the mother of innocency; chastity is ever adorned with modesty alone, then rightly conscious of its own beauty if it is displeasing to the wicked. Chastity seeks nothing in the way of adornments: it is its own glory. It is this which commends us to the Lord, unites us with Christ; it is this which drives out from our members all the illicit conflicts of desire, instills peace into our bodies: blessed itself, and making those blessed, whoever they are, in whom it condescends to dwell. It is that which even they who possess it not can never accuse; it is even venerable to its enemies, since, they admire it much more because they are unable to capture it. Moreover, as mature, it is both always excellent in men, and to be earnestly desired by women; so its enemy, unchastity, is always detestable, making an obscene sport for its servants, sparing neither bodies nor souls. For, their own proper character being overcome, it sends the entire man under its yoke of lust, alluring at first, that it may do the more mischief by its attraction, – the foe of continency, exhausting both means and modesty; the perilous madness of lust frequently attaining to the blood, the destruction of a good conscience, the mother of impenitence, the ruin of a more virtuous age, the disgrace of one’s race, driving away all confidence in blood and family, intruding one’s own children upon the affections of strangers, interpolating the offspring of an unknown and corrupted stock into the testaments of others. And this also, very frequently burning without reference to sex, and not restraining itself within the permitted limits, thinks it little satisfaction to it self, unless even in the bodies of men it seeks, not a new pleasure, but goes in quest of extraordinary and revolting extravagances, contrary to nature itself, of men with men.
4. But chastity maintains the first rank in virgins, the second in those who are continent, the third in the case of wedlock. Yet in all it is glorious, with all its degrees. For even to maintain the marriage-faith is a matter of praise in the midst of so many bodily strifes; and to have determined on a limit in marriage defined by continency is more virtuous still, because herein even lawful things are refused.36 Assuredly to have guarded one’s purity from the womb, and to have kept oneself an infant even to old age throughout the whole of life, is certainly the part of an admirable virtue; only that if never to have known the body’s seductive capacities is the greater blessedness, to have overcome them when once known is the greater virtue; yet still in such a sort that that virtue comes of God’s gift, although it manifests itself to men in their members.
5. The precepts of chastity, brethren, are ancient. Wherefore do I say ancient? Because they were ordained at the same time as men themselves. For both her own husband belongs to the woman, for the reason that besides him she may know no other; and the woman is given to the man for the purpose that, when that which had been his own had been yielded to him, he should seek for nothing belonging to another.37 And in such wise it is said, “Two shall be in one flesh,” (Mat_19:5) that what had been made one should return together, that a separation without return should not afford any occasion to a stranger. Thence also the apostle declares that the man is the head of the woman, that he might commend chastity in the conjunction of the two. For as the head cannot be suited to the limbs of another, so also one’s limbs cannot be suited to the head of another: for one’s head matches one’s limbs, and one’s limbs one’s head; and both of them are associated by a natural link in mutual concord, lest, by any discord arising from the separation of the members, the compact of the divine covenant should be broken. Yet he adds, and says: “Because he who loves his wife, loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ the Church.” (Eph_5:28, Eph_5:29) From this passage there is great authority for charity with chastity, if wives are to be loved by their husbands even as Christ loved the Church and wives ought so to love their husbands also as the Church loves Christ.
6. Christ gave this judgment when, being inquired of, He said that a wife must not be put away, save for the cause of adultery; such honour did He put upon chastity. Hence arose the decree: “Ye shall not suffer adulteresses to live.” (Lev_20:10) Hence the apostle says: “This is the will of God, that ye abstain from fornication.” (1Th_4:3) Hence also he says the same thing: “That the members of Christ must not be joined with the members of an harlot.” (1Co_6:15) Hence the man is delivered over unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, who, treading under foot the law of chastity, practises the vices of the flesh. Hence with reason adulterers do not attain the kingdom of heaven. Hence it is that every sin is without the body, but that the adulterer alone sins against his own body. Hence other authoritative utterances of the instructor, all of which it is not necessary at this time to collect, especially among you, who for the most part know and do them; and you cannot find cause for complaint concerning these things, even though they are not described. For the adulterer has not an excuse, nor could he have, because he might take a wife.
7. But as laws are prescribed to matrons, who are so bound that they cannot thence be separated, while virginity and continency are beyond all law, there is nothing in the laws of matrimony which pertains to virginity; for by its loftiness it transcends them all. If any evil undertakings of men endeavour to transcend laws, virginity places itself on an equality with angels; moreover, if we investigate, it even excels them, because struggling in the flesh it gains the victory even against a nature which angels have not. What else is virginity than the glorious preparation for the future life? Virginity is of neither sex. Virginity is the continuance of infancy. Virginity is the triumph over pleasures. Virginity has no children; but what is more, it has contempt for offspring: it has not fruitfulness, but neither has it bereavement; blessed that it is free from the pain of bringing forth, more blessed still that it is free from the calamity of the death of children. What else is virginity than the freedom of liberty? It has no husband for a master. Virginity is freed from all affections: it is not given up to marriage, nor to the world, nor to children. It cannot dread persecution, since it cannot provoke it from its security.
8. But since the precepts of chastity have thus briefly been set forth to us, let us now give an instance of chastity. For it is more profitable when we come in the very presence of the thing; nor will there be any doubt about the virtue, when that which is prescribed is also designated by illustrations. The example of chastity begins with Joseph. A Hebrew youth, noble by his parentage, nobler by his innocence, on account of the envy excited by his revelations exposed for sale by his brethren to the Israelites, had attained to the household of a man of Egypt. By his obedience and his innocence, and by the entire faithfulness of his service, he had aroused in his favour the easy and kindly disposition of his master; and his appearance had commended itself to all men, alike by his gracious speech as by his youthfulness. But that same nobility of manner was received by his master’s wife in another manner than was becoming; in a secret part of the house, and without witnesses, – a place high up, and fitted for deeds of wickedness, the unrestrained unchastity of the woman thought that it could overcome the youth’s chastity, now by promises, now by threats. And when he was restrained from attempting flight by her holding his garments, shocked at the audacity of such a crime, tearing his very garments, and able to appeal to the sincerity of his naked body as a witness of his innocence, the rash woman did not shrink from adding calumny to the crime of her unchastity. Dishevelled, and raging that her desire should be despised, she complained both to others and to her husband that the Hebrew youth had attempted to use that force to her which she herself had striven to exercise.38 The husband’s passion, unconscious of the truth, and terribly inflamed by his wife’s accusation, is aroused; and the modest youth, because he did not defile his conscience with the crime, is thrust into the lowest dungeon of the prison. But chastity is not alone in the dungeon; for God is with Joseph, and the guilty are given into his charge, because he had been guiltless. Moreover, he dissolves the obscurities of dreams, because his spirit was watchful in temptations, and he is freed from chains by the master of the prison. He who had been an inferior in the house with peril, was made lord of the palace without risk; restored to his noble station, he received the reward of chastity and innocence by the judgment of God, from whom he had deserved it.
9. But not less from a different direction arises to us another similar instance of chastity from the continence of women. Susanna, as we read, the daughter of Chelcias, the wife of Joachim, was exceedingly beautiful – more beautiful still in character. Her outward appearance added no charm to her, for she was simple: chastity had cultivated her; and in addition to chastity nature alone. With her, two of the elders had begun to be madly in love, mindful of nothing, neither of the fear of God, nor even of their age, already withering with years. Thus the flame of resuscitated lust recalled them into the glowing heats of their bygone youth. Robbers of chastity, they profess love, while they really hate. They threaten her with calumnies when she resists; the adulterers in wish declare themselves the accusers of adultery. And between these rocks of lust she sought help of the Lord, because she was not equal to prevailing against them by bodily strength. And the Lord heard from heaven chastity crying to Him; and when she, overwhelmed with injustice, was being led to punishment, she was delivered, and saw her revenge upon her enemies. Twice victorious, and in her peril so often and so fatally hedged in, she escaped both the lust and death. It will be endless if I continue to produce more examples; I an content with these two, especially as in these cases chastity has been defended with all their might.
10. The memory of noble descent could not enervate them, although to some this is a suggestive licence to lasciviousness; nor the comeliness of their bodies, and the beauty of their well-ordered limbs, although for the most part this affords a hint, that being, as it were, the short-lived flower of an age that rapidly passes away, it should be fed with the offered opportunity of pleasure; nor the first years of a green but mature age, although the blood, still inexperienced, grows hot, and stimulates the natural fires, and the blind flames that stir in the marrow, to seek a remedy, even if they should break forth at the risk of modesty; nor any opportunity afforded by secrecy, or by freedom from witnesses, which to some seems to ensure safety, although this is the greatest temptation to the commission of crime, that there is no punishment for meditating it. Neither was a necessity laid upon them by the authority of those who bade them yield, and in the boldness of association and companionship, by which kind of temptations also righteous determinations are often overcome. Neither did the very rewards nor the kindliness, nor did the accusations, nor threats, nor punishments, nor death, move them; nothing was counted so cruel, so hard, so distressing, as to have fallen from the lofty stand of chastity. They were worthy of such a reward of the Divine Judge, that one of them should be glorified on a throne almost regal; that the other, endowed with her husband’s sympathy, should be rescued by the death of her enemies. These, and such as these, are the examples ever to be placed before our eyes, the like of them to be meditated on day and night.
11. Nothing so delights the faithful soul as the healthy consciousness of an unstained modesty. [Tertullian, vol. 4. pp. 74, 97, etc.] To have vanquished pleasure is the greatest pleasure; nor is there any greater victory than that which is gained over one’s desires. He who has conquered an enemy has been stronger, but it was stronger than another; he who has subdued lust has been stronger than himself. He who has overthrown an enemy has beaten a foreign foe; he who has cast down desire has vanquished a domestic adversary. Every evil is more easily conquered than pleasure; because, whatever it is, the former is repulsive, the latter is attractive. Nothing is crushed with such difficulty as that which is armed by it. He who gets rid of desires has got rid of fears also; for from desires come fears. He who overcomes desires, triumphs over sin; he who overcomes desires, shows that the mischief of the human family lies prostrate under his feet; he who has overcome desires, has given to himself perpetual peace ; he who has overcome desires, restores to himself liberty, – a most difficult matter even for noble natures. Therefore we should always meditate, brethren, as these matters teach us, on chastity. That it may be the more easy, it is based upon no acquired skill. For the right will that is therein carried to perfection – which, were it not checked, is remote (scil. from our consciousness) – is still our will; so that it is not a will to be acquired, but that which is our own is to be cherished.39
12. For what is chastity but a virtuous mind added to watchfulness over the body; so that modesty observed in respect of the sexual relations, attested by strictness (of demeanour), should maintain honourable faith by an uncorrupted offspring? Moreover, to chastity, brethren, are suited and are known first of all divine modesty, and the sacred meditation of the divine precepts, and a soul inclined to faith, and a mind attuned to the sacredness of religion: then carefulness that nothing in itself should be elaborated beyond measure, or extended beyond propriety; that nothing should be made a show of, nothing artfully coloured; that there should be nothing to pander to the excitement or the renewal of wiles. She is not a modest woman who strives to stir up the fancy of another, even although her bodily chastity be preserved. Away with such as do not adorn, but prostitute their beauty. For anxiety about beauty is not only the wisdom of an evil mind, but belongs to deformity. Let the bodily nature be free, nor let any sort of force be intruded upon God’s works. She is always wretched who is not satisfied to be such as she is. Wherefore is the colour of hair changed? Why are the edges of the eyes darkened? Why is the face moulded by art into a different form? Finally, why is the looking-glass consulted, unless from fear lest a woman should be herself? Moreover, the dress of a modest woman should be modest; a believer should not be conscious of adultery even in the mixture of colours. To wear gold in one’s garments is as if it were desirable to corrupt one’s garments. What do rigid metals do among the delicate threads of the woven textures, except to press upon the enervated shoulders, and unhappily to show the extravagance of a boastful soul? Why are the necks oppressed and hidden by outlandish stones, the prices of which, without workmanship, exceed the entire fortune40 of many a one? It is not the woman that is adorned, but the woman’s vices that are manifested. What, when the fingers laden with so much gold can neither close nor open, is there any advantage sought for, or is it merely to show the empty parade of one’s estate? It is a marvellous thing that women, tender in all things else, in bearing the burden of their vices are stronger than men.
13. But to return to what I began with: chastity is ever to be cultivated by men and women; it is to be kept with all watchfulness within its bounds. The bodily nature is quickly endangered in the body, when the flesh, which is always falling, carries it away with itself. Because under the pretext of a nature which is always urging men to desires whereby the ruins of a decayed race are restored, deceiving with the enticement of pleasure, it does not lead its offspring to the continence of legitimate intercourse, but hurls them into crime. Therefore, in opposition to these fleshly snares, by which the devil both obtrudes himself as a companion and makes himself a leader, we must struggle with every kind of strength. Let the aid of Christ be appropriated, according to the apostle, and let the mind be withdrawn as much as possible from the association of the body; let consent be withheld from the body; let vices be always chastised, that they may be hated; let that misshapen and degraded shame which belongs to sin be kept before our eyes. Repentance itself, with all its struggles, is a discreditable testimony to sins committed. Let not curiosity be indulged in scanning other people’s countenances. Let one’s speech be brief, and one’s laughter moderate, for laughter is the sign of an easy and a negligent disposition; and let all contact, even that which is becoming, be avoided.41 Let no indulgence be permitted to the body, when bodily vice is to be avoided. Let it be considered how honourable it is to have conquered dishonour, how disgraceful to have been conquered by dishonour.
14. It must be said, moreover, that adultery is not pleasure, but mutual contempt; nor can it delight, because it kills both the soul and modesty. Let the soul restrain the provocations of the flesh; let it bridle the impulses of the body. For it has received this power, that the limbs should be subservient to its command; and as a lawful and accomplished charioteer, it should turn about the fleshly impulses when they lift themselves above the allowed limits of the body, by the reins of the heavenly precepts, lest that chariot of the body, carried away beyond. its limits, should hurry into its own peril the charioteer himself as well as it. But in the midst of these things, nay, before these things, in opposition to disturbances and all vices, help must be sought for from the divine camp; for God alone, who has condescended to make men, is powerful also to afford sufficient help to men. I have composed a few words, because I did not propose to write a volume, but to send you an address. Look ye to the Scriptures; seek out for yourselves from those precepts greater illustrations of this matter.42 Beloved brethren, farewell.
Exhortation to Repentance.43
That all sins may be forgiven him who has turned to God with his whole heart.
In the eighty-eighth Psalm: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments, and keep not my commandments, I will visit their iniquities with a rod, and their sins with stripes; nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not scatter away from them.” (Psa_89:30)
Also in Isaiah: “Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, When thou shalt turn and mourn, then thou shalt be saved, and shalt know where thou wast.” (Isa_30:15, LXX)
Also in the same place: “Woe unto you, children of desertion, saith the Lord! ye have made counsel not by me, and my covenant not by my Spirit, to add sin to sin.” (Isa_30:1, LXX)
Also in Jeremiah: “Withdraw thy foot from a rough way, and thy face from thirst. But she said, I will be comforted, I am willing; for she loved strangers, and went after them.” (Jer_2:25, LXX)
Also in Isaiah: “Be ye converted, because ye devise a deep and wicked counsel.” (Isa_31:6, LXX)
Also in the same place: “I am He, I am He that blotteth out thy iniquities, and will not remember them; but do thou remember them, and let us be judged together; do thou first tell thine unrighteousnesses.” (Isa_43:25, LXX)
Also in the same: “Seek the Lord; and when ye shall have found Him, call upon Him. But when He has drawn near to you, let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him be converted to the Lord, and mercy shall be prepared for him, because He does not much44 forgive your sins.” (Isa_55:6, Isa_55:7, LXX)
Also in the same: “Remember these things, O Jacob and Israel, because thou art my servant. I have called thee my servant; and thou, Israel, forget me not. Lo, I have washed away thy unrighteousness as …, and thy sins as a raincloud. Be converted to me, and I will redeem thee.” (Isa_44:21, Isa_44:22, LXX)
Also in the same: “Have these things in mind, and groan. Repent, ye that have been seduced; be converted in heart unto me, and have in mind the former ages, because I am God.” (Isa_46:8, LXX)
Also in the same: “For a very little season I have forsaken thee, and with great mercy I will pity thee. In a very little wrath I turned away my face from thee; in everlasting mercy I will pity thee.” (Isa_54:7, Isa_54:8, LXX)
Also in the same: “Thus said the Most High, who dwelleth on high, for ever Holy in the holies, His name is the Lord, the Most High, resting in the holy places, and giving calmness of mind to the faint-hearted, and giving life to those that are broken-hearted: I am not angry with you for ever, neither will I be avenged in all things on you: for my Spirit shall go forth from me, and I have made all inspiration; and on account of a very little sin I have grieved him, and have turned away my face from him; and he has suffered the vile man, and has gone away sadly in his ways. I have seen his ways, and have healed him, and I have comforted him, and I have given to him the true consolation, and peace upon peace to those who are afar off, and to those that are near. And the Lord said, I have healed them; but the unrighteous, as a troubled sea, are thus tossed about and cannot rest. There is no joy to the wicked, saith the Lord.” (Isa_57:15 et seq., LXX)
Also in Jeremiah: “Shall a bride forget her adornment, or45 a virgin the girdle of her breast? But my people has forgotten my days,46 whereof there is no number.” (Jer_2:32, LXX)
Also in the same: “For a decree, I will speak upon the nation or upon the kingdom, or I will take them away and destroy them. And if the nation should be converted from its evils, I will repent of the ills which47 I have thought to do I unto them. And I will speak the decree upon the nation or the people, that I should rebuild it and plant it; and they will do evil before me, that they should not hearken to my voice, and I will repent of the good things which I spoke of doing to them.” (Jer_18:7)
Also in the same: “Return to me, O dwelling of Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not harden my face upon you; because I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not be angry against you for ever.” (Jer_3:12, LXX)
Also in the same: “Be converted, ye children that have departed, saith the Lord; because I will rule over you, and will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you into Sion: and I will give you shepherds after my heart, and they shall feed you, feeding you with discipline.” (Jer_3:14, LXX)
Also in the same: “Be converted, ye children who are turning, and I will heal your affliction.” (Jer_3:22, LXX)
Also in the same: “Wash thine heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem, that thou mayest be healed: how long shall there be in thee thoughts of thy sorrows?” (Jer_4:14, LXX)
Also in the same: “Thus saith the Lord, Does not he that falleth arise? or he that turns away, shall he not be turned back? Because this people hath turned itself away by a shameless vision, and they have persisted in their presumption, and would not be converted.” (Jer_8:4, LXX)
Also in the same: “There is no man that repenteth of his iniquity, saying, What have I done? The runner has failed from his course, as the sweating horse in his neighing.” (Jer_8:6, LXX)
Also in the same: “Therefore let every one of you turn from his evil way, and make your desires better. And they said, We will be comforted, because we will go after your48 inventions, and every one of us will do the sins which please his own heart.” (Jer_18:12, LXX)
Also in the same: “Pour down as a torrent tears, day and night give thyself no rest, let not the pupil of thine eye be silent.” (Lam_2:18, LXX)
Also in the same: “Let us search out our ways, and be turned to the Lord. Let us purge our hearts with our hands, and let us look unto the Lord who dwelleth in the heavens. We have sinned, and we have provoked Thee, and Thou hast not been propitiated.” (Lam_3:40)
Also in the same: “And the Lord said to me in the days of Josias the king, Thou hast seen what the dwelling of the house,49 the house of Israel, has done to me. It has gone away upon every lofty mountain, and has gone under every shady50 tree, and has committed fornication there-and I said, after she had committed all these fornications, Return unto me, and she has not returned.” (Jer_3:6, LXX)
Also in the same: “The Lord will not reject for ever; and when He has made low, He will have pity according to the multitude of His mercy. Because He will not bring low from His whole heart, neither will He reject the children Of men.” (Lam_3:31, LXX)
Also in Ezekiel: “And the righteous shall not be able to be saved in the day of transgression. When I shall say to the righteous, Thou shalt surely live; but51 he will trust to his own righteousness, and will do iniquity: all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; in his iniquity which he has done, in that he shall die. And when I shall say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die, and he turns himself from his sin, and doeth righteousness and judgment, and restoreth to the debtor his pledge, and giveth back his robbery, and walketh in the precepts of life, that he may do no iniquity, he shall surely live, and shall not die; none of his sins which he hath sinned shall be stirred up against him: because he hath done justice and judgment, he shall live in them.” (Eze_32:12, etc., LXX)
Also in the same: “I am the Lord, because I bring low the high tree, and exalt the low tree, and dry up the green tree, and cause the dry tree to flourish.” (Eze_17:24, LXX)
Also in the same: “And thou, son of man, say unto the house of Israel, Even as ye have spoken, saying, Our errors and our iniquities are in us, and we waste away in them, and how shall we live? Say unto them, I live, saith the Lord: if I will the death of a sinner, only let him turn from his way, and he shall live.” (Eze_33:10, LXX)
Also in the same: “I the Lord have built up the ruined places, and have planted the wasted places.” (Eze_36:36, LXX)
Also in the same: “And the wicked man, if he turn himself from all his iniquities that he has done, and keep all my commandments, and do judgment, and justice, and mercy, shall surely live, and shall not die. None of his sins which he has committed shall be in remembrance; in his righteousness which he hath done he shall live. Do I willingly desire the death of the unrighteous man, saith Adonai the Lord, rather than that he should turn him from his evil way, that he should live?” (Eze_18:21, LXX)
Also in the same: “Be ye converted, and turn you from all your wickedneses, and they shall not be to you for a punishment. Cast away from you all your iniquities which ye have wickedly committed against me, and make to yourselves a new heart and a new spirit; and why will ye die, O house of lsrael? For I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith Adonai the Lord .” (Eze_18:30, LXX)
Also in Daniel: “And after the end of the days, I Nabuchodonosor lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my sense returned to me, and I praised the Most High, and blessed the King of heaven, and praised Him that liveth for ever: because His power is eternal, His kingdom is for generations52 and all who inhabit the earth are as nothing.” (Dan_4:34)
Also in Micah: “Alas for me, O my soul, because truth has perished from the earth, and among all there is none that correcteth; all judge in blood. Every one treadeth down his neighbour with tribulation; they prepare their hands for evil.” (Mic_7:1-3, LXX)
Also in the same: “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, because I have fallen, but I shall arise: because although I shall sit in darkness, the Lord will give me light: I will bear the Lord’s anger, because I have sinned against Him, until He justify my cause.” (Mic_7:8, LXX)
Also in Zephaniah: “Come ye together and pray, O undisciplined people; before ye be made as a flower that passeth away, before the anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’s fury come upon you, seek ye the Lord, all ye humble ones of the earth; do judgment and seek justice, and seek for gentleness; and answer ye to Him that ye may be protected in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zep_2:1, LXX)
Also in Zechariah: “Be ye converted unto me, and I will be turned unto you.” (Zec_1:3)
Also in Hosea: “Be thou converted, O lsrael, to the Lord thy God, because thou art weakened by thine iniquities. Take many with you, and be converted to the Lord your God; worship Him, and say, Thou art mighty to put away our sins; that ye may not receive iniquity, but that ye may receive good things.” (Hos_14:2)
Also in Ecclesiasticus: “Be thou turned to the Lord, and forsake thy sins, and exceedingly hate cursing, and know righteousness and God’s judgments, and stand in the lot of the propitiation of the Most High: and go into the portion of life with the living, and those that make confession. Delay not in the error of the wicked. Confession perisheth from the dead man, as if it were nothing. Living and sound, thou shalt confess to the Lord, and thou shalt glory in His mercies; for great is the mercy of the Lord, and His propitiation unto such as turn unto Him.” (Sirach 17:26)
Also in the same: “How good is it for a true heart to show forth repentance! For thus shalt thou escape voluntary sin.” (Sirach 20:3)
Also in the Acts of the Apostles: “But Peter saith unto him, thy money perish with thee, because thou thinkest to be able to obtain the grace of God by money. Thou hast no part nor lot in this faith, for thy heart is not right with God. Therefore repent of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if haply the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee. For I see that thou art in the bond of iniquity, and in the bitterness of gall.” (Act_8:20, etc.)
Also in the second Epistle of the blessed53 Paul to the Corinthians: “For the sorrow which is according to God worketh a stedfast repentance unto salvation, but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2Co_7:10)
Also in the same place of this very matter: “But if ye have forgiven anything to any one, I also forgive him; for I also forgave what I have forgiven for your sakes in the person of Christ, that we may not be circumvented by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his wiles.” (2Co_2:10)
Also in the same: “But I fear lest perchance, when I come to you, God may again humble me among you, and I shall bewail many of those who have sinned before, and have not repented, for that they have committed fornication and lasciviousness.” (2Co_12:21)
Also in the same: “I told you before, and foretell you as I sit present; and absent now from those who before have sinned, and to all others; as, if I shall come again, I will not spare.” (2Co_13:2)
Also in the second to Timothy: “But shun profane novelties of words, for they are of much advantage to impiety. And their word creeps as a cancer: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened, and have subverted the faith of certain ones. But the foundation of God standeth firm, having this seal, God knoweth them that are His. And, Every one who nameth the name of the Lord shall depart from all iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of clay; and some indeed for honour, and some for contempt. Therefore if any one shall amend54 himself from these things, he shall be a vessel sanctified for honour, and useful for the Lord, prepared for every good work. Moreover, flee youthful lusts: but follow after righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call upon the Lord from a pure heart. But avoid questions that are foolish and without learning, knowing that they beget strifes. And the servant of the Lord ought not to strive; but to be gentle, docile to all men, patient with modesty, correcting those who resist, lest at any time God may give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth, and recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captive at his will.” (2Ti_2:16) [On the true penitence see Epistle xxv. p. 304, supra.]
Also in the Apocalypse: “Remember whence thou hast fallen, and repent; but if not, I will come to thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of its place.” (Rev_2:5)55
(Maintained by consent, and caressed by excuses)
The severer discipline of early Christianity must not be discarded by those who claim it for the canon of Scripture; for modes of baptism, confirmation, and other rites; for Church polity, in short; and for the Christian year. Let us note that the whole spirit of antiquity is opposed to worldliness. It reflects the precept, “Be not conformed to this world,” and in nothing more emphatically than in hostility to theatrical amusements, which in our days are re-asserting the deadly influence over Christians which Cyprian and Tertullian and other Fathers so solemnly denounced. If they were “maintained by consent, and caressed by excuses,” even in the martyr-age, no wonder that in our Laodicean period they baffle all exertions of faithful watchmen, who enforce the baptismal vow against “pomps and vanities,” always understood of theatrical shows, and hence part of that “world, the flesh, and the devil” which Christians have renounced.
(Now is the axe laid to the root)
Mat_3:10. “Securis ad radicem arboris posita est,” says Cyprian, quoting the Old Latin, with which the Vulgate substantially agrees.56 A very diligent biblical scholar directs attention to the vulgar abuse of this saying,57 which turns upon a confusion of the active verb to lay, with the neuter verb to lie.58 It is quoted as if it read, Lay the axe to the root, and is “interpreted, popularly, as of felling a tree, an incumbrance or a nuisance.… Hence it often makes radical reformers in Church and State, and becomes the motto of many a reckless leader whose way has been to teach, not upward by elevating the ignoble, but downward by sinking the elevated.
There is something similar in Latin: jacio to hurl; and jaceo, to lie, recline, or remain at rest. Beza follows the Vulgate (posita est); but the original is clear, – κεῖται,59 is laid, or lieth.… It means, The axe is ready; it lieth near the root, in mercy and in menace.… The long-suffering of God waiteth as in the days of Noah … waiteth, i.e., for good fruit.”
Compare Luk_13:9: “If it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” Such is the argument of Cyprian, in view of the approaching “end of time.”
Let me here call attention to the mischievous use of words common among modern Latins, even the best of them. Thus, Pellicia60 mentions Cyprian as referring his synodical judgment to “the supreme chair of the Church of Rome.” No need to say that his reference proves nothing of the kind. “Supremacy,” indeed! Consult Bossuet and the Gallicans on that point, even after Trent. The case cited is evidence of the very reverse. Cyprian and his Carthaginian colleagues wished, also, the conspicuous co-operation of their Italian brethren; and so he writes to “Cornelius, our colleague,” who, “with very many comprovincial bishops, having held a council, concurred in the same opinion.” It is an instance of fraternal concurrence on grounds of entire equality; and Cyprian’s courteous invitation to his “colleague” Cornelius and his comprovincials to co-operate, is a striking illustration of the maxim, “Totus apellandus sit orbis, ubi totum orbem causa spectat.” Compare St. Basil’s letters to the Western bishops, in which he reminds them that the Gospel came to them from the East. This is a sort of primacy recognised by St. Paul himself, (1Co_14:36) as it was afterwards, when Jerusalem was recognised as “the mother of all the churches”61 by a general council, writing to Damasus, bishop of Rome, himself.
34 [Not reckoned by Erasmus as worthy of Cyprian. Pamelius thinks otherwise.]
35 [“So dear to Heaven is Saintly chastity, etc. – Milton, Comus, 455.]
36 [Holy men have generally recognised this rule as enabling the estate of matrimony. See Jeremy Taylor, Holy Living, cap. ii. sec. 3]
37 [This natural law, renewed in Christ, is part of the honour which He has restored to womanhood; honouring His mother therein as the second Eve. Mat_19:8; Gen_2:24.]
39 This passage is allowed by all to be corrupt. If we were to punctuate differently, to insert “nisi” before “consummata,” and change “longe est” into “non deesset,” we get the following sense: “Therefore we should always meditate, bretheren, on chastity, as circumstances teach us, that it may be more easy for us. It depends on no arts; for what is it but perfected will, which, if it were not checked, would certainly not fail to arise? And it is our own will, too; therefore it has not to be acquired, but we have to cherish what is already our own.”
40 [“Kalendarium cujusvis excedunt.” The kalendaria were tablets of monthly accounts, in which the monthly interest due, etc., were set down. “Exceed the entire monthly income” would be better. Tertullian uses the same word, “exhaust the kalendarium,” rendered by our Edinburgh translator (vol. iv. p. 18), a “fortune.” In this treatise Tertullian is constantly copied and quoted.]
41 [Laughter, vol. ii. p. 249, and contact p. 291.]
42 [Everything in antiquity breathes this spirit of “searching the Scriptures.” Compare Hippol., p. 219, note 81, supra.]
43 [Almost wholly made up of Scripture, and useful in any age to all Christians. Whatever its origin, it breathes a truly primitive spirit. Compare Tertullian, vol. 3. p. 657.]
44 Non multum remittit – probably a misprint for “permultum.”
45 It is taken for granted that the “ut” of the original is a misprint for “aut.”
46 Otherwise, “has forgotten me days without number.”
47 Here also the emendation of “quae” for “quod” is obviously necessary.
48 Otherwise, “our.”
49 There is evident confusion here, and no place can be found for the word “vocem.”
50 It has been taken for granted that “numerosum” is a misprint for “nemorosum.”
51 Trombellius suggests “if” instead of “but.”
52 “In generatione.”
53 The original has only “ben,” which Trombellius reasonably assumes to be meant for “benedicti.”
54 “Emendaverit,” probabaly a mistake for “emundaverit,” “shall purge,” as in the Vulg.; scil. ἐκκαθάρῃ.
55 [This selection of texts seems made on the same principle which dictated the compilation of texts against the Jews; a breviarium, the author calls it, – quaedam utilia collecta et digesta, – to be read with readiness, and frequently referred to.]
56 It has aborum, however, instead of the singular.
57 Theopneuston, by Samuel Hanson Cox, D. D., New York, 1842.
58 Note, an extraordinary instance, Childe Harold, Canto iv. st. 180.
59 Lexicographers give κεῖμαι = jaceo.
60 Polity, etc. p. 416 (translation). This valuable work, translated and edited by the Rev. Rev. J. C. Bellett, M.A. (London, 1883), is useful as to mediaeval usages, and as supplementing Bingham. But the learned editor has not been sufficiently prudent in noting his author’s perpetual misconceptions of antiquity.
61 Theodoret, book v. cap. ix. A.D. 382. The bishops say “last year” (A.D. 381), speaking of the council in session.