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On The Good Of Widowhood by St. Augustine

Section 11. But thou who both hast sons, and livest in that end of the worldà

11. But thou who both hast sons, and livest in that end of the world, wherein now is the time not of casting stones, but of gathering; not of embracing, but of abstaining from embracing; when the Apostle cries out, |But this I say, brethren, the time is short; it remains, that both they who have wives be as not having;| assuredly if thou hadst sought a second marriage, it would have been no obedience of prophecy or law, no carnal desire even of family, but a mark of incontinence alone. For you would have done what the Apostle says, after he had said, |It is good for them, if they shall have so continued, even as I;| forsooth he straightway added, |But if they contain not themselves, let them marry; for I had rather that they marry than be burned.| For this he said, in order that the evil of unbridled desire might not be carried headlong into criminal baseness, being taken up by the honest estate of marriage. But thanks be to the Lord, in that thou hast given birth to what thou wouldest not be, and the virginity of thy child hath compensated for the loss of thy virginity. For Christian doctrine, having diligent question made of it, makes answer, that a first marriage also now at this time is to be despised, unless incontinence stand in the way. For he, who said, |If they contain not themselves, let them marry,| could have said, |If they have not sons, let them marry,| if, when now after theResurrection and Preaching of Christ, there is unto all nations so great and abundant supply of sons to be spiritually begotten, it were any such duty to beget sons after the flesh as it was in the first times. And, whereas in another place he saith, |But I will that the younger marry, bear children, be mothers of families,| he commends with apostolic sobriety and authority the good of marriage, but doth not impose the duty of bearing, as though in order to obey the law, even on those who |receive| the good of continence. Lastly, why he had said this, he unfolds, when he adds and says, |To give no occasion of speaking evil to the adversary; for already certain have turned back after Satan:| that by these words of his we may understand, that those, whom he would have marry, could have done better to contain than marry; but better to marry than to go back after Satan, that is, to fall away from that excellent purpose of virginal or widowed chastity, by looking back to things that are behind, and perish. Wherefore, such as contain not themselves, let them marry before they make profession of continence, before they vow unto God, what, if they pay not, they are justly condemned. Forsooth in another place he saith of such, |For when they have lived in delights in Christ, they wish to marry: having condemnation, in that they have made of none effect their first faith;| that is, they have turned aside their will from the purpose of continence unto marriage. Forsooth they have made of none effect the faith, whereby they formerly vowed what they were unwilling by perseverance to fulfill. Therefore the good of marriage is indeed ever a good: but in the people of God it was at one time an act of obedience unto the law; now it is a remedy for weakness, but in certain a solace of human nature. Forsooth to be engaged in the getting of children, not after the fashion of dogs by promiscuous use of females, but by honest order of marriage, is not an affection such as we are to blame in a man; yet this affection itself the Christian mind, having thoughts of heavenly things, in a more praiseworthy manner surpasses and overcomes.


Eccl. iii.5 1 Cor. vii.29. [See R.V.]

1 Cor. vii.8, 9

1 Tim. v.14, 15

1 Tim. v.11, 12. [See R.V.]

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