Life And Writings Of Sulpitius Severus by Sulpitius Severus
Chapter XI. I believe that I have now set forth, briefly indeed√†
I believe that I have now set forth, briefly indeed, but, at the same time, fully, what is implied in a woman's purity of body: it remains that we should learn what it is to be pure also in spirit; i.e. that what it is unlawful for one to do in act, it is also unlawful for one even to imagine in thought. For she is holy, alike in body and in spirit, who sins neither in mind nor heart, knowing that God is one who examines also the heart; and, therefore, she takes every pains to possess a mind as well as a body free from sin. Such a person is aware that it is written, |Keep thy heart with all diligence|; and again, |God loveth holy hearts, and all the undefiled are acceptable to him|; and elsewhere, |Blessed are those of a pure heart; for they shall see God.| I think that this last statement is made regarding those whom conscience accuses of the guilt of no sin; concerning whom I think that John also spoke in his Epistle when he said, |If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God, and whatsoever we ask we shall receive from him.| I do not wish you to think that you have escaped the accusation of sin, although act does not follow desire, since it is written, |Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.| And do not say, |I had the thought, indeed, but I did not carry it out in act|; for it is unlawful even to desire that which it is unlawful to do. Wherefore also blessed Peter issues a precept to this effect: |purify your souls|; and if he had not been aware of such a thing as defilement of the soul, he would not have expressed a desire that it should be purified. But we should also very carefully consider that passage which says, |These are they who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins, and they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth|; and should reflect whether, if these are joined to the Divine retinue, and traverse all the regions of the heavens, through the merit of chastity and purity alone, there may be also other means by which virginity being assisted may attain to the glory of so great blessedness. But whence shall we be able to know this? From the following passages (if I mistake not) in which it is written, |These were purchased from among men as the first fruits to God and the Lamb, and in their mouth there was found no falsehood, for they are without spot before the throne of God.| You see, then, that they are spoken of as closely following in the footsteps of the Lord, not in virtue of one member only, but those are said to do so, who, besides virginity, had passed a life freed from all the pollution of sin. Wherefore, let the virgin especially despise marriage on this account, that, while she is safer than others, she may the more easily accomplish what is also required from those who are married; viz. keep herself from all sin, and obey all the commandments of the law. For if she does not marry, and nevertheless indulges in those things from which even married women are enjoined to keep themselves free, what will it profit her not to have married? For although it is not allowed to any Christian to commit sin, and it befits all without exception who are purified through the sanctification of the spiritual bath, to lead an unstained life, that they may be thoroughly identified with the Church, which is described as being |without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,| much more is it requisite that a virgin should reach this standard, whom neither the existence of a husband, nor of sons, nor of any other necessity, prevents from fully carrying out the demands of holy Scripture; nor shall she be able, if she fail, to defend herself by any sort of excuse.