To His Wife by Tertullian
Chapter I.--Reasons Which Led to the Writing of This Second Book.
Very lately, best beloved fellow-servant in the Lord, I, as my ability permitted, entered for your benefit at some length into the question what course is to be followed by a holy woman when her marriage has (in whatever way) been brought to an end. Let us now turn our attention to the next best advice, in regard of human infirmity; admonished hereto by the examples of certain, who, when an opportunity for the practice of continence has been offered them, by divorce, or by the decease of the husband, have not only thrown away the opportunity of attaining so great a good, but not even in their remarriage have chosen to be mindful of the rule that |above all they marry in the Lord.| And thus my mind has been thrown into confusion, in the fear that, having exhorted you myself to perseverance in single husbandhood and widowhood, I may now, by the mention of precipitate marriages, put |an occasion of falling| in your way. But if you are perfect in wisdom, you know, of course, that the course which is the more useful is the course which you must keep. But, inasmuch as that course is difficult, and not without its embarrassments, and on this account is the highest aim of (widowed) life, I have paused somewhat (in my urging you to it); nor would there have been any causes for my recurring to that point also in addressing you, had I not by this time taken up a still graver solicitude. For the nobler is the continence of the flesh which ministers to widowhood, the more pardonable a thing it seems if it be not persevered in. For it is then when things are difficult that their pardon is easy. But in as far as marrying |in the Lord| is permissible, as being within our power, so far more culpable is it not to observe that which you can observe. Add to this the fact that the apostle, with regard to widows and the unmarried, advises them to remain permanently in that state, when he says, |But I desire all to persevere in (imitation of) my example:| but touching marrying |in the Lord,| he no longer advises, but plainly bids. Therefore in this case especially, if we do not obey, we run a risk, because one may with more impunity neglect an |advice| than an |order;| in that the former springs from counsel, and is proposed to the will (for acceptance or rejection): the other descends from authority, and is bound to necessity. In the former case, to disregard appears liberty, in the latter, contumacy.