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On Continence by St. Augustine

Section 5. And on this account that, which, the parts that beget being bridled by modestyà

5. And on this account that, which, the parts that beget being bridled by modesty, is most chiefly and properly to be called Continence, is violated by no transgression, if the higher Continence, concerning which we have been some time speaking, be preserved in the heart. For this reason the Lord, after He had said, |For from the heart go forth evil thoughts,| then went on to add what it is that belongs to evil thoughts, |murders, adulteries,| and the rest. He spake not of all; but, having named certain by way of instance, He taught that we are to understand others also. Of which there is no one that can take place, unless an evil thought have gone before, whereby that is prepared within which is done without, and going forth out of the mouth of the heart already defiles the man, although, through no power being granted, it be not done without by means of the members of the body. When therefore a door of Continence hath been set in the mouth of the heart, whence go out all that defile the man, if nothing such be permitted to go out thence, there followeth a purity, wherein now the conscience may rejoice; although there be not as yet that perfection, wherein Continence shall not strive with vice. But now, so long as |the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh,| it is enough for us not to consent unto the evils which we feel in us. But, when that consent takes place, then there goeth out of the mouth of the heart what defileth the man. But when through Continence consent is withheld, the evil of the lust of the flesh, against which the lust of the spirit fights, is not suffered to harm.


Gal. v.17 c6. But it is one thing to fight well, which now is, when the strife of death is resisted; another thing not to have an adversary, which will then be, when death, |the last enemy,| shall be destroyed. For Continence also itself, when it curbs and restrains lusts, at once both seeks the good unto the immortality of which we aim, and rejects the evil with which in this mortality we contend. Of the one it is forsooth the lover and beholder, but of the other both the enemy and witness: both seeking what becomes, and fleeing what misbecomes. Assuredly Continence would not labor in curbing lusts, if we had no wishes contrary to what is becoming, if there were no opposition on the part of evil lust unto our good will. The Apostle cries aloud, |I know,| saith he, |that there dwelleth not in me, that is in my flesh, good. For to will lieth near to me, but to accomplish good I find not.| For now good can be done, so far as that there be no assent given unto evil lust: but good will be accomplished, when the evil lust itself shall come to an end. And also the same teacher of the Gentiles cries aloud, |I take pleasure together with the law of God after the inner man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.|


(Reading neikos.) 1 Cor. xv.55; ib.26

Rom. vii.18

Rom. vii.22, 23

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