Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Moral Treatises of St. Augustin/Of Holy Virginity/Section 20
20. Far be it, therefore, that the Apostle so said, unto such as are married or are about to marry, “But I spare you,” as if he were unwilling to say what punishment is due to the married in another life. Far be it that she, whom Daniel set free from temporal judgment, be cast by Paul into hell! Far be it that her husband’s bed be unto her punishment before the judgment seat of Christ, keeping faith to which she chose, under false charge of adultery, to meet either danger, or death! To what effect that speech, “It is better for me to fall into your hands, than to sin in the sight of God:” if God had been about, not to set her free because she kept married chastity, but to condemn her because she had married? And now so often as married chastity is by truth of holy Scripture justified against such as bring calumnies and charges against marriage, so often is Susanna by the Holy Spirit defended against false witnesses, so often is she set free from a false charge, and with much greater ado. For then against one married woman, now against all; then of hidden and untrue adultery, now of true and open marriage, an accusation is laid. Then one woman, upon what the unjust elders said, now all husbands and wives, upon what the Apostle would not say, are accused. It was, forsooth, your condemnation, say they, that he was silent on, when he said, “But I spare you.” Who (saith) this? Surely he, who had said above; “And, if thou shalt have taken a wife, thou hast not sinned; and, if a virgin shall have been married, she sinneth not.” Why, therefore, wherein he hath been silent through modesty, suspect ye a charge against marriage; and wherein he hath spoken openly, recognize ye not a defense of marriage? What, doth he condemn by his silence them whom he acquitted by his words? Is it not now a milder charge, to charge Susanna, not with marriage, but with adultery itself, than to charge the doctrine of the Apostle with falsehood? What in so great peril could we do, were it not as sure and plain that chaste marriage ought not to be condemned, as it is sure and plain that holy Scripture cannot lie?
- Hist. of Sus. 23
- 1 Cor. vii. 28