Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. LXII.—Of restraining the pleasures of the senses
Chap. LXII.—Of Restraining the Pleasures of the Senses.
Anger is to be restrained when we suffer an injury, that the evil may be suppressed which is imminent from a contest, and that we may retain two of the greatest virtues, harmlessness and patience. Let the desire of gain be broken when we have that which is enough. For what madness is it to labour in heaping up those things which must pass to others, either by robbery, or theft, or by proscription, or by death? Let lust not go beyond the marriage-bed, but be subservient to the procreation of children. For a too great eagerness for pleasure both produces danger and generates disgrace, and that which is especially to be avoided, leads to eternal death. Nothing is so hateful to God as an unchaste mind and an impure soul. Nor let any one think that he must abstain from this pleasure only, quæ capitur ex fœminei corporis copulatione, but also from the other pleasures which arise from the rest of the senses, because they also are of themselves vicious, and it is the part of the same virtue to despise them. The pleasure of the eyes is derived from the beauty of objects, that of the ears from harmonious and pleasant sounds, that of the nostrils from pleasant odour, that of taste from sweet food,—all of which virtue ought strongly to resist, lest, ensnared by these attractions, the soul should be depressed from heavenly to earthly things, from things eternal to things temporal, from life immortal to perpetual punishment. In pleasures of the taste and smell there is this danger, that they are able to draw us to luxury. For he who shall be given up to these things, either will have no property, or, if he shall have any, he will expend it, and afterwards live a life to be abominated. But he who is carried away by hearing (to say nothing respecting songs, 1584 which often so charm the inmost senses that they even disturb with madness a settled state of the mind by certain elaborately composed speeches and harmonious poems, or skilful disputations) is easily led aside to impious worship. Hence it is that they who are either themselves eloquent, or prefer to read eloquent writings, do not readily believe the sacred writings, because they appear unpolished; they do not seek things that are true, but things that are pleasant; nay, to them those things appear to be most true which soothe the ears. Thus they reject the truth, while they are captivated by the sweetness of the discourse. But the pleasure which has reference to the sight is manifold. For that which is derived from the beauty of precious objects excites avarice, which ought to be far removed from a wise and just man; but that which is received from the appearance of woman hurries a man to another pleasure, of which we have already spoken above.
[See vol. ii. p. 79, notes 1 and 2.]
Next: Chap. LXIII.—That shows are most powerful to corrupt the minds
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