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To His Wife by Tertullian

Chapter VIII.--Conclusion.

For, concerning the honours which widowhood enjoys in the sight of God, there is a brief summary in one saying of His through the prophet: |Do thou justly to the widow and to the orphan; and come ye, let us reason, saith the Lord.| These two names, left to the care of the divine mercy, in proportion as they are destitute of human aid, the Father of all undertakes to defend. Look how the widow's benefactor is put on a level with the widow herself, whose champion shall |reason with the Lord!| Not to virgins, I take it, is so great a gift given. Although in their case perfect integrity and entire sanctity shall have the nearest vision of the face of God, yet the widow has a task more toilsome, because it is easy not to crave after that which you know not, and to turn away from what you have never had to regret. More glorious is the continence which is aware of its own right, which knows what it has seen. The virgin may possibly be held the happier, but the widow the more hardly tasked; the former in that she has always kept |the good,| the latter in that she has found |the good for herself.| In the former it is grace, in the latter virtue, that is crowned. For some things there are which are of the divine liberality, some of our own working. The indulgences granted by the Lord are regulated by their own grace; the things which are objects of man's striving are attained by earnest pursuit. Pursue earnestly, therefore, the virtue of continence, which is modesty's agent; industry, which allows not women to be |wanderers;| frugality, which scorns the world. Follow companies and conversations worthy of God, mindful of that short verse, sanctified by the apostle's quotation of it, |Ill interviews good morals do corrupt.| Talkative, idle, winebibbing, curious tent-fellows, do the very greatest hurt to the purpose of widow-hood. Through talkativeness there creep in words unfriendly to modesty; through idleness they seduce one from strictness; through winebibbing they insinuate any and every evil; through curiosity they convey a spirit of rivalry in lust. Not one of such women knows how to speak of the good of single-husbandhood; for their |god,| as the apostle says, |is their belly;| and so, too, what is neighbour to the belly.

These considerations, dearest fellow-servant, I commend to you thus early, handled throughout superfluously indeed, after the apostle, but likely to prove a solace to you, in that (if so it shall turn out ) you will cherish my memory in them.

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