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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Ascetic and Moral Treatises.: XV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XV.

But the ways in our life which turn aside towards sin are innumerable; and their number is told by Scripture in divers manners. “Many are they that trouble me and persecute,” and “Many are they that fight against me from on high 1446 ” and many other texts like that. We may affirm, indeed, absolutely, that many are they who plot in the adulterer’s fashion to destroy this truly honourable marriage, and to defile this inviolate bed; and if we must name them one by one, we charge with this adulterous spirit anger, avarice, envy, revenge, enmity, malice, hatred, and whatever the Apostle puts in the class of those things which are contrary to sound doctrine. Now let us suppose a lady, prepossessing and lovely above her peers, and on that account wedded to a king, but besieged because of her beauty by profligate lovers. As long as she remains indignant at these would-be seducers and complains of them to her lawful husband, she keeps her chastity and has no one before her eyes but her bridegroom; the profligates find no vantage ground for their attack upon her. But if she were to listen to a single one of them, her chastity with regard to the rest would not exempt her from the retribution; it would be sufficient to condemn her, that she had allowed that one to defile the marriage bed. So the soul whose life is in God will find her pleasure 1447 in no single one of those things which make a beauteous show to deceive her. If she were, in some fit of weakness, to admit the defilement to her heart, she would herself have broken the covenant of her spiritual marriage; and, as the Scripture tells us, “into the malicious soul Wisdom cannot come 1448 .” It may, in a word, be truly said that the Good Husband cannot come to dwell with the soul that is irascible, or malice-bearing, or harbours any other disposition which jars with that concord. No way has been discovered of harmonizing things whose nature is antagonistic and which have nothing in common. The Apostle tells us there is “no communion of light with darkness 1449 ,” or of righteousness with iniquity, or, in a word, of all the qualities which we perceive and name as the essence of God’s nature, with all the opposite which are perceived in evil. Seeing, then, the impossibility of any union between mutual repellents, we understand that the vicious soul is estranged from entertaining the company of the Good. What then is the practical lesson from this? The chaste and thoughtful virgin must sever herself from any affection which can in any way impart contagion to her soul; she must keep herself pure for the Husband who has married her, “not having spot or blemish or any such thing 1450 .”



Ps. lvi. 3 (from LXX. according to many mss.: others join πὸ ὔψους ἡμέρας οὐ φοβηθήσομαι, ab altitudine diei non timebo). But Aquila has ψιστε, agreeing with the Hebrew; so also Jerome.


οὐδενὶ ἀρεσθήσεται. The Vatican Cod. has ραθήσεται, which would require the genitive.


Wis. i. 4.


2 Cor. vi. 14.


Eph. v. 27.—Origen (c. Cels. vii. 48, 49), comparing Pagan and Christian virginity, says, “The Athenian hierophant, distrusting his power of self-control for the period of his regular religious duties, uses hemlock, and passes as pure. But you may see among the Christians men who need no hemlock. The Faith drives evil from their minds, and ever fits them to perform the service of prayer. Belonging to some of the gods now in vogue there are certainly virgins here and there—watched or not I care not now to inquire—who seem not to break down in the course of chastity which the honour of their god requires. But amongst Christians, for no repute amongst men, for no stipend, for no mere show, they practise an absolute virginity; and as they ‘liked to retain God in their knowledge,’ so God has kept them in that liking mind, and in the performance of fitting works, filling them with righteousness and goodness. I say this without any depreciation of what is beautiful in Greek thought, and of what is wholesome in their teachings. I wish only to show that all they have said, and things more noble, more divine, have been said by those men of God, the prophets and apostles.”

Next: Chapter XVI

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