Monday, April 27, 2015

St. Augustine: On the Good of Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Source. Translated by C.L. Cornish. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.

St. Augustine: On Patience

1. That virtue of the mind which is called Patience, is so great a gift of God, that even in Him who bestows the same upon us, that, whereby He waits for evil men that they may amend, is set forth by the name of Patience, [or long-suffering.] So, although in God there can be no suffering, and “patience” has its name a patiendo, from suffering, yet a patient God we not only faithfully believe, but also wholesomely confess. But the patience of God, of what kind and how great it is, His, Whom we say to be impassible, yet not impatient, nay even most patient, in words to unfold this who can be able? Ineffable is therefore that patience, as is His jealousy, as His wrath, and whatever there is like to these. For if we conceive of these as they be in us, in Him are there none. We, namely, can feel none of these without molestation: but be it far from us to surmise that the impassible nature of God is liable to any molestation. But like as He is jealous without any darkening of spirit,  angry without any perturbation, pitiful without any pain, repents Him without any wrongness in Him to be set right; so is He patient without anything of passion. Now therefore as concerning human patience, which we are able to conceive and beholden to have, of what sort it is, I will, as God grants and the brevity of the present discourse allows, essay to set forth.

2. The patience of man, which is right and laudable and worthy of the name of virtue, is understood to be that by which we tolerate evil things with an even mind, that we may not with a mind uneven desert good things, through which we may arrive at better. Wherefore the impatient, while they will not suffer ills, effect not a deliverance from ills, but only the suffering of heavier ills. Whereas the patient who choose rather by not committing to bear, than by not bearing to commit, evil, both make lighter what through patience they suffer, and also escape worse ills in which through impatience they would be sunk. But those good things which are great and eternal they lose not, while to the evils which be temporal and brief they yield not: because “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared,” as the Apostle says, “with the future glory that shall be revealed in us.”  And again he says, “This our temporal and light tribulation does in inconceivable manner work for us an eternal weight of glory.” 

3. Look we then, beloved, what hardships in labors and sorrows men endure, for things which they viciously love, and by how much they think to be made by them more happy, by so much more unhappily covet. How much for false riches, how much for vain honors, how much for affections of games and shows, is of exceeding peril and trouble most patiently borne! We see men hankering after money, glory, lasciviousness, how, that they may arrive at their desires, and having gotten not lose them, they endure sun, rain, icy cold, waves, and most stormy tempests, the roughnesses and uncertainties of wars, the strokes of huge blows, and dreadful wounds, not of inevitable necessity but of culpable will. But these madnesses are thought, in a manner, permitted. Thus avarice, ambition, luxury, and the delights of all sorts of games and shows, unless for them some wicked deed be committed or outrage which is prohibited by human laws, are accounted to pertain to innocence: nay moreover, the man who without wrong to any shall, whether for getting or increasing of money, whether for obtaining or keeping of honors, whether in contending in the match, or in hunting, or in exhibiting with applause some theatrical spectacle, have borne great labors and pains, it is not enough that through popular vanity he is checked by no reproofs, but he is moreover extolled with praises: “Because,” as it is written, “the sinner is praised in the desires of his soul.”  For the force of desires makes endurance of labors and pains: and no man save for that which he enjoys, freely takes on him to bear that which annoys. But these lusts, as I said, for the fulfilling of which they which are on fire with them most patiently endure much hardship and bitterness, are accounted to be permitted, and allowed by laws.

4. Nay more; for is it not so that even for open wickednesses, not to punish but to perpetrate them, men put up with many most grievous troubles? Do not authors of secular letters tell of a certain right noble parricide of his country, that hunger, thirst, cold, all these he was able to endure, and his body was patient of lack of food and warmth and sleep to a degree surpassing belief?  Why speak of highway robbers, all of whom while they lie in wait for travellers endure whole nights without sleep, and that they may catch, as they pass by, men who have no thought of harm, will, no matter how foul the weather, plant in one spot their mind and body, which are full of thoughts of harm? Nay it is said that some of them are wont to torture one another by turns, to that degree that this practice and training against pains is not a whit short of pains. For, not so much perchance are they excruciated by the Judge, that through smart of pain the truth may be got at, as they are by their own comrades, that through patience of pain truth may not be betrayed. And yet in all these the patience is rather to be wondered at than praised: nay neither wondered at nor praised, seeing it is no patience; but we must wonder at the hardness, deny the patience: for there is nothing in this rightly to be praised, nothing usefully to be imitated; and you will rightly judge the mind to be all the more worthy of greater punishment, the more it yields up to vices the instruments of virtues. Patience is companion of wisdom, not handmaid of concupiscence: patience is the friend of a good conscience, not the foe of innocence.

5. When therefore you shall see any man suffer anything patiently, do not straightway praise it as patience; for this is only shown by the cause of suffering. When it is a good cause, then is it true patience: when that is not polluted by lust, then is this distinguished from falsity. But when that is placed in crime, then is this much misplaced in name. For not just as all who know are partakers of knowledge, just so are all who suffer partakers of patience: but they which rightly use the suffering, these in verity of patience are praised, these with the prize of patience are crowned.

6. But yet, seeing that for lusts' sake, or even wickednesses, seeing, in a word, that for this temporal life and good men do wonderfully bear the brunt of many horrible sufferings, they much admonish us how great things ought to be borne for the sake of a good life, that it may also hereafter be eternal life, and without any bound of time, without waste or loss of any advantage, in true felicity secure. The Lord says, “In your patience you shall possess your souls:”  He says not, your farms, your praises, your luxuries; but, “your souls.” If then the soul endures so great sufferings that it may possess that whereby it may be lost, how great ought it to bear that it may not be lost? And then, to mention a thing not culpable, if it bear so great sufferings for saving of the flesh under the hands of chirurgeons cutting or burning the same, how great ought it to bear for saving of itself under the fury of any soever enemies? Seeing that leeches, that the body may not die, do by pains consult for the body's good; but enemies by threatening the body with pains and death, would urge us on to the slaying of soul and body in hell.

7. Though indeed the welfare even of the body is then more providently consulted for if its temporal life and welfare be disregarded for righteousness' sake, and its pain or death most patiently for righteousness' sake endured. Since it is of the body's redemption which is to be in the end, that the Apostle speaks, where he says, “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting the adoption of sons, the redemption of our body.”  Then he subjoins, “For in hope are we saved. But hope which is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he also hope for? But if what we see not we hope for, we do by patience wait for it.” When therefore any ills do torture us indeed, yet not extort from us ill works, not only is the soul possessed through patience; but even when through patience the body itself for a time is afflicted or lost, it is unto eternal stability and salvation resumed, and has through grief and death an inviolable health and happy immortality laid up for itself. Whence the Lord Jesus exhorting his Martyrs to patience, has promised of the very body a future perfect entireness, without loss, I say not of any limb, but of a single hair. “Verily I say unto you,” says He, “a hair of your head shall not perish.”  That so, because, as the Apostle says, “no man ever hated his own flesh,”  a faithful man may more by patience than by impatience take vigilant care for the state of his flesh, and find amends for its present losses, how great soever they may be, in the inestimable gain of future incorruption.

8. But although patience be a virtue of the mind, yet partly the mind exercises it in the mind itself, partly in the body. In itself it exercises patience, when, the body remaining unhurt and untouched, the mind is goaded by any adversities or filthinesses of things or words, to do or to say something that is not expedient or not becoming, and patiently bears all evils that it may not itself commit any evil in work or word. By this patience we bear, even while we be sound in body, that in the midst of the offenses of this world our blessedness is deferred: of which is said what I cited a little before, “If what we see not we hope for, we do by patience wait for it.” By this patience, holy David bore the revilings of a railer,  and, when he might easily have avenged himself, not only did it not, but even refrained another who was vexed and moved for him; and more put forth his kingly power by prohibiting than by exercising vengeance. Nor at that time was his body afflicted with any disease or wound, but there was an acknowledging of a time of humility, and a bearing of the will of God, for the sake of which there was a drinking of the bitterness of contumely with most patient mind. This patience the Lord taught, when, the servants being moved at the mixing in of the tares and wishing to gather them up, He said that the householder answered, “Leave both to grow until the harvest.”  That, namely, must be patience put up with, which must not be in haste put away. Of this patience Himself afforded and showed an example, when, before the passion of His Body, He so bore with His disciple Judas, that ere He pointed him out as the traitor, He endured him as a thief;  and before experience of bonds and cross and death, did, to those lips so full of guile, not deny the kiss of peace.  All these, and whatever else there be, which it were tedious to rehearse, belong to that manner of patience, by which the mind does, not its own sins but any evils so ever from without, patiently endure in itself, while the body remains altogether unhurt. But the other manner of patience is that by which the same mind bears any troubles and grievances whatsoever in the sufferings of the body; not as do foolish or wicked men for the sake of getting vain things or perpetrating crimes; but as is defined by the Lord, “for righteousness' sake.”  In both kinds, the holy Martyrs contended. For both with scornful reproofs of the ungodly were they filled, where, the body remaining intact, the mind has its own (as it were) blows and wounds, and bears these unbroken: and in their bodies they were bound, imprisoned, vexed with hunger and thirst, tortured, gashed, torn asunder, burned, butchered; and with piety immovable submitted unto God their mind, while they were suffering in the flesh all that exquisite cruelty could devise in its mind.

9. It is indeed a greater fight of patience, when it is not a visible enemy that by persecution and rage would urge us into crime which enemy may openly and in broad day be by not consenting overcome; but the devil himself, (he who does likewise by means of the children of infidelity, as by his vessels, persecute the children of light) does by himself hiddenly attack us, by his rage putting us on to do or say something against God. As such had holy Job experience of him, by both temptations vexed, but in both through steadfast strength of patience and arms of piety unconquered. For first, his body being left unhurt, he lost all that he had, in order that the mind, before excruciation of the flesh, might through withdrawal of the things which men are wont to prize highly, be broken, and he might say something against God upon loss of the things for the sake of which he was thought to worship Him. He was smitten also with sudden bereavement of all his sons so that whom he had begotten one by one he should lose all at once, as though their numerousness had been not for the adorning of his felicity, but for the increasing of his calamity. But where, having endured these things, he remained immovable in his God, he cleaved to His will, Whom it was not possible to lose but by his own will; and in place of the things he had lost he held Him who took them away, in Whom he should find what should never be lost. For He that took them away was not that enemy who had will of hurting, but He who had given to that enemy the power of hurting. The enemy next attacked also the body, and now not those things which were in the man from without, but the man himself, in whatever part he could, he smote. From the head to the feet were burning pains, were crawling worms, were running sores; still in the rotting body the mind remained entire, and horrid as were the tortures of the consuming flesh, with inviolate piety and uncorrupted patience it endured them all. There stood the wife, and instead of giving her husband any help, was suggesting blasphemy against God. For we are not to think that the devil, in leaving her when he took away the sons, went to work as one unskilled in mischief: rather, how necessary she was to the tempter, he had already learned in Eve. But now he had not found a second Adam whom he might take by means of a woman. More cautious was Job in his hours of sadness, than Adam in his bowers of gladness, the one was overcome in the midst of pleasant things, the other overcame in the midst of pains; the one consented to that which seemed delightsome, this other quailed not in torments most affrightsome. There stood his friends too, not to console him in his evils, but to suspect evil in him. For while he suffered so great sorrows, they believed him not innocent, nor did their tongue forbear to say that which his conscience had not to say; that so amid ruthless tortures of the body, his mind also might be beaten with truthless reproaches. But he, bearing in his flesh his own pains, in his heart others' errors, reproved his wife for her folly, taught his friends wisdom, preserved patience in each and all.

10. To this man let them  look who put themselves to death when they are sought for to have life put upon them; and by bereaving themselves of the present, deny and refuse also that which is to come. Why, if people were driving them to deny Christ or to do any thing contrary to righteousness, like true Martyrs, they ought rather to bear all patiently than to dare death impatiently. If it could be right to do this for the sake of running away from evils, holy Job would have killed himself, that being in so great evils, in his estate, in his sons, in his limbs, through the devil's cruelty, he might escape them all. But he did it not. Far be it from him, a wise man, to commit upon himself what not even that unwise woman suggested. And if she had suggested it, she would with good reason here also have had that answer which she had when suggesting blasphemy; “You have spoken as one of the foolish women. If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not bear evil?”  Seeing even he also would have lost patience, if either by blasphemy as she had suggested, or by killing himself which not even she had dared to speak of, he should die, and be among them of whom it is written, “Woe unto them that have lost patience!”  and rather increase than escape pains, if after the death of his body he should be hurried off to punishment either of blasphemers, or of murderers, or of them which are worse even than parricides. For if a parricide be on that account more wicked than any homicide, because he kills not merely a man but a near relative; and among parricides too, the nearer the person killed, the greater criminal he is judged to be: without doubt worse still is he who kills himself, because there is none nearer to a man than himself. What then do these miserable persons mean, who, though both here they have inflicted pain upon themselves, and hereafter not only for their impiety towards God but for the very cruelty which they have exercised upon themselves will deservedly suffer pains of His inflicting, do yet seek moreover the glories of Martyrs? Since, even if for the true testimony of Christ they suffered persecution, and killed themselves, that they might not suffer any thing from their persecutors, it would be rightly said to them, “Woe unto them which have lost patience!” For how has patience her just reward, if even an impatient suffering receives the crown? Or how shall that man be judged innocent, to whom is said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,”  if he commit murder upon himself which he is forbidden to commit upon his neighbor?

11. Let then the Saints hear from holy Scripture the precepts of patience: “My son, when you come to the service of God, stand in righteousness and fear, and prepare your soul for temptation: bring your heart low, and bear up; that in the last end your life may increase. All that shall come upon you receive you, and in pain bear up, and in your humility have patience. For in the fire gold and silver is proved, but acceptable men in the furnace  of humiliation.”  And in another place we read: “My son, faint not in the discipline of the Lord, neither be wearied when you are chidden of Him. For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”  What is here set down, “son whom He receives,” the same in the above mentioned testimony is, “acceptable men.” For this is just, that we who from our first felicity of Paradise for contumacious appetence of things to enjoy were dismissed, through humble patience of things that annoy may be received back: driven away for doing evil, brought back by suffering evil: there against righteousness doing ill, here for righteousness' sake patient of ills.

12. But concerning true patience, worthy of the name of this virtue, whence it is to be had, must now be inquired. For there are some  who attribute it to the strength of the human will, not which it has by Divine assistance, but which it has of free-will. Now this error is a proud one: for it is the error of them which abound, of whom it is said in the Psalm, “A scornful reproof to them which abound, and a despising to the proud.”  It is not therefore that “patience of the poor” which “perishes not forever.”  For these poor receive it from that Rich One, to Whom is said, “My God are You, because my goods You need not:”  of Whom is “every good gift, and every perfect gift;”  to Whom cries the needy and the poor, and in asking, seeking, knocking, says, “My God, deliver me from the hand of the sinner, and from the hand of the lawless and unjust: because You are my patience, O Lord, my hope from my youth up.”  But these which abound, and disdain to be in want before God, lest they receive of Him true patience, they which glory in their own false patience, seek to “confound the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his hope.”  Nor do they regard, seeing they are men, and attribute so much to their own, that is, to the human will, that they run into that which is written, “Cursed is every one who puts his hope in man.”  Whence even if it chance them that they do bear up under any hardships or difficulties, either that they may not displease men, or that they may not suffer worse, or in self-pleasing and love of their own presumption, do with most proud will bear up under these same, it is meet that concerning patience this be said unto them, which concerning wisdom the blessed Apostle James says, “This wisdom comes not from above, but is earthly, animal, devilish.”  For why may there not be a false patience of the proud, as there is a false wisdom of the proud? But from Whom comes true wisdom, from Him comes also true patience. For to Him sings that poor in spirit, “Unto God is my soul subjected, because from Him is my patience.” 

13. But they answer and speak, saying, “If the will of man without any aid of God by strength of free choice  bears so many grievous and horrible distresses, whether in mind or body, that it may enjoy the delight of this mortal life and of sins, why may it not be that in the same manner the self-same will of man by the same strength of free-choice, not thereunto looking to be aided of God, but unto itself by natural possibility sufficing, does, in all of labor or sorrow that is put upon it, for righteousness and eternal life's sake most patiently sustain the same? Or is it so, say they, that the will of the unjust is sufficient, without aid of God, for them, yea even to exercise themselves in undergoing torture for iniquity, and before they be tortured by others; sufficient the will of them which love the respiting of this life that, without aid of God, they should in the midst of most atrocious and protracted torments persevere in a lie, lest confessing their misdeeds they be ordered to be put to death; and not sufficient the will of the just, unless strength be put into them from above, that whatever be their pains, they should, either for beauty's sake of very righteousness or for love of eternal life, bear the same?”

14. They which say these things, do not understand that as well each one of the wicked is in that measure for endurance of any ills more hard, in what measure the lust of the world is mightier in him; as also that each one of the just is in that measure for endurance of any ills more brave, in what measure in him the love of God is mightier. But lust of the world has its beginning from choice of the will, its progress from enjoyableness of pleasure, its confirmation from the chain of custom, whereas “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts,”  not verily from ourselves, but “by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” And therefore from Him comes the patience of the just, by Whom is shed abroad their love (of Him). Which love (of charity) the Apostle praising and setting off, among its other good qualities, says, that it “bears all things.”  “Charity,” says he, “is magnanimous.”  And a little after he says, “endures all things.” The greater then is in saints the charity (or love) of God, the more do they endure all things for Him whom they love, and the greater in sinners the lust of the world, the more do they endure all things for that which they lust after. And consequently from that same source comes true patience of the righteous, from which there is in them the love of God; and from that same source the false patience of the unrighteous, from which is in them the lust of the world. With regard to which the Apostle John says; “Love not the world, neither the things that be in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him: because all that is in the world, is lust of the flesh, and lust of the eyes, and pride of life;  which is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  This concupiscence, then, which is not of the Father, but is of the world, in what measure it shall in any man be more vehement and ardent, in that measure becomes each more patient of all troubles and sorrows for that which he lusts after. Therefore, as we said above, this is not the patience which descends from above, but the patience of the godly is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. And so that is earthly, this heavenly; that animal, this spiritual; that devilish, this Godlike.  Because concupiscence, whereof it comes that persons sinning suffer all things stubbornly, is of the world; but charity, whereof comes that persons living aright suffer all things bravely, is of God. And therefore to that false patience it is possible that, without aid of God, the human will may suffice; harder, in proportion as it is more eager of lust, and bearing ills with the more endurance the worse itself becomes: while to this, which is true patience, the human will, unless aided and inflamed from above, does not suffice, for the very reason that the Holy Spirit is the fire thereof; by Whom unless it be kindled to love that impassible Good, it is not able to bear the ill which it suffers.

15. For, as the Divine utterances testify, “God is love, and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God dwells in him.”  Whoso therefore contends that love of God may be had without aid of God, what else does he contend, but that God may be had without God? Now what Christian would say this, which no madman would venture to say? Therefore in the Apostle, true, pious, faithful patience, says exultingly, and by the mouth of the Saints; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us:” not through ourselves, but, “through Him that loved us.”  And then he goes on and adds; “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is that “love of God” which “is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” But the concupiscence of the bad, by reason of which there is in them a false patience, “is not of the Father,”  as says the Apostle John, but is of the world.

16. Here some man shall say; “If the concupiscence of the bad, whereby it comes that they bear all evils for that which they lust after, be of the world, how is it said to be of their will?” As if, truly, they were not themselves also of the world, when they love the world, forsaking Him by Whom the world was made. For “they serve the creature more than the Creator, Who is blessed for ever.”  Whether then by the word “world,” the Apostle John signifies lovers of the world, the will, as it is of themselves, is therefore of the world: or whether under the name of the world he comprises heaven and earth, and all that is therein, that is the creature universally, it is plain that the will of the creature, not being that of the Creator, is of the world. For which cause to such the Lord says, “You are from beneath, I am from above: you are of this world, I am not of this world.”  And to the Apostle He says, “If you were of the world, the world would love his own.” But lest they should arrogate more unto themselves than their measure craved, and when He said that they were not of the world, should imagine this to be of nature, not of grace, therefore He says, “But because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” It follows, that they once were of the world: for, that they might not be of the world, they were chosen out of the world.

17. Now this election the Apostle demonstrating to be, not of merits going before in good works, but election of grace, says thus: “And in this time a remnant by election of grace is saved. But if by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.”  This is election of grace; that is, election in which through the grace of God men are elected: this, I say, is election of grace which goes before all good merits of men. For if it be to any good merits that it is given, then is it no more gratuitously given, but is paid as a debt, and consequently is not truly called grace; where “reward,” as the same Apostle says, “is not imputed as grace, but as debt.”  Whereas if, that it may be true grace, that is, gratuitous, it find nothing in man to which it is due of merit, (which thing is well understood in that saying, “You will save them for nothing,” ) then assuredly itself gives the merits, not to merits is given. Consequently it goes before even faith, from which it is that all good works begin. “For the just,” as is written, “shall live by faith.”  But, moreover, grace not only assists the just, but also justifies the ungodly. And therefore even when it does aid the just and seems to be rendered to his merits, not even then does it cease to be grace, because that which it aids it did itself bestow. With a view therefore to this grace, which precedes all good merits of man, not only was Christ put to death by the ungodly, but “died for the ungodly.”  And ere that He died, He elected the Apostles, not of course then just, but to be justified: to whom He says, “I have chosen you out of the world.” For to whom He said, “You are not of the world,” and then, lest they should account themselves never to have been of the world, presently added, “But I have chosen you out of the world;” assuredly that they should not be of the world was by His own election of them conferred upon them. Wherefore, if it had been through their own righteousness, not through His grace, that they were elected, they would not have been chosen out of the world, because they would already not be of the world if already they were just. And again, if the reason why they were elected was, that they were already just, they had already first chosen the Lord. For who can be righteous but by choosing righteousness? “But the end of the law is Christ, for righteousness is to every one that believes.  Who is made unto us wisdom of God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.”  He then is Himself our righteousness.

18. Whence also the just of old, before the Incarnation of the Word, in this faith of Christ, and in this true righteousness, (which thing Christ is unto us,) were justified; believing this to come which we believe come: and they themselves by grace were saved through faith, not of themselves, but by the gift of God, not of works, lest haply they should be lifted up.  For their good works did not come before God's mercy, but followed it. For to them was it said, and by them written, long ere Christ had come in the flesh, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will show compassion on whom I will have compassion.”  From which words of God the Apostle Paul, should so long after say; “It is not therefore of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.” It is also their own voice, long ere Christ had come in the flesh, “My God, His mercy shall prevent me.”  How indeed could they be aliens from the faith of Christ, by whose charity even Christ was fore-announced unto us; without the faith of Whom, not any of mortals either has been, or is, or ever shall be able to be, righteous? If then, being already just, the Apostles were elected by Christ, they would have first chosen Him, that just men might be chosen, because without Him they could not be just. But it was not so: as Himself says to them, “Not you have chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” Of which the Apostle John speaks, “Not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” 

19. Since the case is so, what is man, while in this life he uses his own proper will, ere he choose and love God, but unrighteous and ungodly? “What,” I say, “is man,” a creature going astray from the Creator, unless his Creator “be mindful of him,”  and choose  him freely, and love  him freely? Because he is himself not able to choose or love, unless being first chosen and loved he be healed, because by choosing blindness he perceives not, and by loving laziness is soon wearied. But perchance some man may say: In what manner is it that God first chooses and loves unjust men, that He may justify them, when it is written, “You hate, Lord, all that work iniquity?”  In what way, think we, but in a wonderful and ineffable manner? And yet even we are able to conceive, that the good Physician both hates and loves the sick man: hates him, because he is sick; loves him, that he may drive away his sickness.

20. Let thus much have been said with regard to charity, without which in us there cannot be true patience, because in good men it is the love of God which endures all things, as in bad men the lust of the world. But this love is in us by the Holy Spirit which was given us. Whence, of Whom comes in us love, of Him comes patience. But the lust of the world, when it patiently bears the burdens of any manner of calamity, boasts of the strength of its own will, like as of the stupor of disease, not robustness of health. This boasting is insane: it is not the language of patience, but of dotage. A will like this in that degree seems more patient of bitter ills, in which it is more greedy of temporal good things, because more empty of eternal.

21. But if it be goaded on and inflamed with deceitful visions and unclean incentives by the devilish spirit, associated and conspiring therewith in malignant agreement, this spirit makes the will of the man either frantic with error, or burning with appetite of some worldly delight; and hence, it seems to show a marvellous endurance of intolerable evils: but yet it does not follow from this that an evil will without instigation of another and unclean spirit, like as a good will without aid of the Holy Spirit, cannot exist. For that there may be an evil will even without any spirit either seducing or inciting, is sufficiently clear in the instance of the devil himself, who is found to have become a devil, not through some other devil, but of his own proper will. An evil will therefore, whether it be hurried on by lust, whether called back by fear, whether expanded by gladness, whether contracted by sadness, and in all these perturbations of mind enduring and making light of whatever are to others, or at another time, more grievous, this evil will may, without another spirit to goad it on, seduce itself, and in lapsing by defection from the higher to the lower, the more pleasant it shall account that thing to be which it seeks to get or fears to lose, or rejoices to have gotten, or grieves to have lost, the more tolerably for its sake bear what is less for it to suffer than that is to be enjoyed. For whatever that thing be, it is of the creature, of which one knows the pleasure. Because in some sort, the creature loved approaches itself to the creature loving in fond contact and connection, to the giving experience of its sweetness.

22. But the pleasure of the Creator, of which is written, “And from the river of Your pleasure will You give them to drink,”  is of far other kind, for it is not, like us, a creature. Unless then its love be given to us from thence there is no source whence it may be in us. And consequently, a good will, by which we love God, cannot be in man, save in whom God also works to will. This good will therefore, that is, a will faithfully subjected to God,  a will set on fire by sanctity of that ardor which is above, a will which loves God and his neighbor for God's sake; whether through love, of which the Apostle Peter makes answer, “Lord, You know that I love You;”  whether through fear, of which says the Apostle Paul, “In fear and trembling work out your own salvation;”  whether through joy, of which he says, “In hope rejoicing, in tribulation patient;”  whether through sorrow, with which he says he had great grief for his brethren; in whatever way it endure what bitterness and hardships soever, it is the love of God which “endures all things,”  and which is not shed abroad in our hearts but by the Holy Spirit given unto us.  Whereof piety makes no manner of doubt, but, as the charity of them which holily love, so the patience of them which piously endure, is the gift of God. For it cannot be that the divine Scripture deceives or is deceived, which not only in the Old Books has testimonies of this thing, when it is said unto God, “My Patience are You,” and, “From Him is my patience;”  and where another prophet says, that we receive the spirit of fortitude;  but also in the Apostolic writings we read, “Because unto you is given on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but to suffer for Him.”  Therefore let not that make the mind to be as of its own merit uplifted, wherewith he is told that he is of Another's mercy gifted.

23. But if moreover any not having charity, which pertains to the unity of spirit and the bond of peace whereby the Catholic Church is gathered and knit together, being involved in any schism, does, that he may not deny Christ, suffer tribulations, straits, hunger, nakedness, persecution, perils, prisons, bonds, torments, swords, or flames, or wild beasts, or the very cross, through fear of hell and everlasting fire; in nowise is all this to be blamed, nay rather this also is a patience meet to be praised. For we cannot say that it would have been better for him that by denying Christ he should suffer none of these things, which he did suffer by confessing Him: but we must account that it will perhaps be more tolerable for him in the judgment, than if by denying Christ he should avoid all those things: so that what the Apostle says, “If I shall give my body to be burned, but have not charity, it profits me nothing,”  should be understood to profit nothing for obtaining the kingdom of heaven, but not for having more tolerable punishment to undergo in the last judgment.

24.  But it may well be asked, whether this patience likewise be the gift of God, or to be attributed to strength of the human will, by which patience, one who is separated from the Church does, not for the error which separated him but for the truth of the Sacrament or Word which has remained with him, for fear of pains eternal suffer pains temporal. For we must take heed lest haply, if we affirm that patience to be the gift of God, they in whom it is should be thought to belong also to the kingdom of God; but if we deny it to be the gift of God, we should be compelled to allow that without aid and gift of God there can be in the will of man somewhat of good. Because it is not to be denied that it is a good thing that a man believe he shall undergo pain of eternal punishment if he shall deny Christ, and for that faith endure and make light of any manner of punishment of man's inflicting.

25. So then, as we are not to deny that this is the gift of God, we are thus to understand that there be some gifts of God possessed by the sons of that Jerusalem which is above,  and free, and mother of us all, (for these are in some sort the hereditary possessions in which we are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ:”) but some other which may be received even by the sons of concubines to whom carnal Jews and schismatics or heretics are compared. For though it be written, “Cast out the bondmaid and her son, for the son of the bondmaid shall not be heir with my son Isaac:”  and though God said to Abraham, “In Isaac shall your seed be called:” which the Apostle has so interpreted as to say, “That is, not they which be sons of the flesh, these be the sons of God; but the sons of the promise are counted for the seed;”  that we might understand the seed of Abraham in regard of Christ to pertain by reason of Christ to the sons of God, who are Christ's body and members, that is to say, the Church of God, one, true, very-begotten, catholic, holding the godly faith; not the faith which works through elation or fear, but “which works by love;”  nevertheless, even the sons of the concubines, when Abraham sent them away from his son Isaac, he did not omit to bestow upon them some gifts, that they might not be left in every way empty, but not that they should be held as heirs. For so we read: “And Abraham gave all his estate unto Isaac; and to the sons of his concubines gave Abraham gifts, and sent them away from his son Isaac.”  If then we be sons of Jerusalem the free, let us understand that other be the gifts of them which are put out of the inheritance, other the gifts of them which be heirs. For these be the heirs, to whom is said, “You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” 

26. Cry we therefore with the spirit of charity, and until we come to the inheritance in which we are always to remain, let us be, through love which becomes the free-born, not through fear which becomes bondmen, patient of suffering. Cry we, so long as we are poor, until we be with that inheritance made rich. Seeing how great earnest thereof we have received, in that Christ to make us rich made Himself poor; Who being exalted unto the riches which are above, there was sent One Who should breathe into our hearts holy longings, the Holy Spirit. Of these poor, as yet believing, not yet beholding; as yet hoping, not yet enjoying; as yet sighing in desire, not yet reigning in felicity; as yet hungering and thirsting, not yet satisfied: of these poor, then, “the patience shall not perish for ever:”  not that there will be patience there also, where anything to endure shall not be; but “will not perish,” meaning that it will not be unfruitful. But its fruit it will have for ever, therefore it “shall not perish for ever.” For he who labors in vain, when his hope fails for which he labored, says with good cause, “I have lost so much labor:” but he who comes to the promise of his labor says, congratulating himself, I have not lost my labor. Labor then is said not to perish (or be lost), not because it lasts perpetually, but because it is not spent in vain. So also the patience of the poor of Christ (who yet are to be made rich as heirs of Christ) shall not perish for ever: not because there also we shall be commanded patiently to bear, but because for that which we have here patiently borne, we shall enjoy eternal bliss. He will put no end to everlasting felicity, Who gives temporal patience unto the will: because both the one and the other is of Him bestowed as a gift upon charity, Whose gift that charity is also.

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Source.  Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887. 

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