Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Exhortation to Chastity/Chapter 10

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Exhortation to Chastity
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
Chapter 10
155802Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Exhortation to Chastity — Chapter 10Sydney ThelwallTertullian

Chapter X.—Application of the Subject.  Advantages of Widowhood.

Renounce we things carnal, that we may at length bear fruits spiritual.  Seize the opportunity—albeit not earnestly desired, yet favourable—of not having any one to whom to pay a debt, and by whom to be (yourself) repaid!  You have ceased to be a debtor.  Happy man!  You have released[1] your debtor; sustain the loss.  What if you come to feel that what we have called a loss is a gain?  For continence will be a mean whereby you will traffic in[2] a mighty substance of sanctity; by parsimony of the flesh you will gain the Spirit.  For let us ponder over our conscience itself, (to see) how different a man feels himself when he chances to be deprived of his wife.  He savours spiritually.  If he is making prayer to the Lord, he is near heaven.  If he is bending over the Scriptures, he is “wholly in them.”[3]  If he is singing a psalm, he satisfies himself.[4]  If he is adjuring a demon, he is confident in himself.  Accordingly, the apostle added (the recommendation of) a temporary abstinence for the sake of adding an efficacy to prayers,[5] that we might know that what is profitable “for a time” should be always practised by us, that it may be always profitable.  Daily, every moment, prayer is necessary to men; of course continence (is so) too, since prayer is necessary.  Prayer proceeds from conscience.  If the conscience blush, prayer blushes.  It is the spirit which conducts prayer to God.  If the spirit be self-accused of a blushing[6] conscience, how will it have the hardihood to conduct prayer to the altar; seeing that, if prayer blush, the holy minister (of prayer) itself is suffused too?  For there is a prophetic utterance of the Old Testament:  “Holy shall ye be, because God is holy;”[7] and again:  “With the holy thou shalt be sanctified; and with the innocent man thou shalt be innocent; and with the elect, elect.”[8]  For it is our duty so to walk in the Lord’s discipline as is “worthy,”[9] not according to the filthy concupiscences of the flesh.  For so, too, does the apostle say, that “to savour according to the flesh is death, but to savour according to the spirit is life eternal in Jesus Christ our Lord.”[10]  Again, through the holy prophetess Prisca[11] the Gospel is thus preached:  that “the holy minister knows how to minister sanctity.”  “For purity,” says she, “is harmonious, and they see visions; and, turning their face downward, they even hear manifest voices, as salutary as they are withal secret.”  If this dulling (of the spiritual faculties), even when the carnal nature is allowed room for exercise in first marriage, averts the Holy Spirit; how much more when it is brought into play in second marriage!

Footnotes edit

  1. Dimisisti, al. amisisti ="you have lost.”
  2. Or, “amass”—negotiaberis.  See Luke xix. 15.
  3. Comp. 1 Tim. iv. 15.
  4. Placet sibi.
  5. See 1 Cor. vii. 5.
  6. i.e., guilty.
  7. See Lev. xi. 44, 45; xix. 2; xx. 7, LXX. and Vulg.
  8. See Ps. xviii. 25, 26, esp. in Vulg. and LXX., where it is xvii. 26, 27.
  9. See Eph. iv. 1; Col. i. 10; 1 Thess. ii. 12.
  10. See Rom. viii. 5, 6, esp. in Vulg.
  11. A Marcionite prophetess, also called Priscilla.