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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Ascetic and Moral Treatises.: Chapter XIV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XIV.

But if we apprehend at last the perfection of this grace, we must understand as well what necessarily follows from it; namely that it is not a single achievement, ending in the subjugation of the body, but that in intention it reaches to and pervades everything that is, or is considered, a right condition of the soul. That soul indeed which in virginity cleaves to the true Bridegroom will not remove herself merely from all bodily defilement; she will make that abstension only the beginning of her purity, and will carry this security from failure equally into everything else upon her path. Fearing lest, from a too partial heart, she should by contact with evil in any one direction give occasion for the least weakness of unfaithfulness (to suppose p. 361 such a case: but I will begin again what I was going to say), that soul which cleaves to her Master so as to become with Him one spirit, and by the compact of a wedded life has staked the love of all her heart and all her strength on Him alone—that soul will no more commit any other of the offences contrary to salvation, than imperil her union with Him by cleaving to fornication; she knows that between all sins there is a single kinship of impurity, and that if she were to defile herself with but one 1442 , she could no longer retain her spotlessness. An illustration will show what we mean. Suppose all the water in a pool remaining smooth and motionless, while no disturbance of any kind comes to mar the peacefulness of the spot; and then a stone thrown into the pool; the movement in that one part 1443 will extend to the whole, and while the stone’s weight is carrying it to the bottom, the waves that are set in motion round it pass in circles 1444 into others, and so through all the intervening commotion are pushed on to the very edge of the water, and the whole surface is ruffled with these circles, feeling the movement of the depths. So is the broad serenity and calm of the soul troubled by one invading passion, and affected by the injury of a single part. They tell us too, those who have investigated the subject, that the virtues are not disunited from each other, and that to grasp the principle of any one virtue will be impossible to one who has not seized that which underlies the rest, and that the man who shows one virtue in his character will necessarily show them all. Therefore, by contraries, the depravation of anything in our moral nature will extend to the whole virtuous life; and in very truth, as the Apostle tells us, the whole is affected by the parts, and “if one member 1445 suffer, all the members suffer with it,” “if one be honoured, all rejoice.”



The text is here due to the Vatican Codex: καὶ εἰ δι᾽ἑνός τινος μολυνθείη, κ. τ. λ.


τῷ μέρει. This is the reading of Cod. Morell. and of the fragment used by Livineius; preferable to τῷ μερικῷ σάλῳ συγκυματούμενον, as in Cod. Reg.


κυκλοτερῶς, Plutarch, ii. 892, F.


μέλος (not as Galesinius, μέρος), 1 Cor. xii. 26.

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