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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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Sec. II.—Commandments to Men.

Concerning the Adornment of Ourselves, and the Sin Which Arises from Thence.

Let the husband not be insolent nor arrogant towards his wife; but compassionate, bountiful, willing to please his own wife alone,25532553     Omitted in V. mss.   and treat her honourably and obligingly, endeavouring to be agreeable to her; (III.) not adorning thyself in such a manner as may entice another woman to thee. For if thou art overcome by her, and sinnest with her, eternal death will overtake thee from God; and thou wilt be punished with sensible and bitter torments. Or if thou dost not perpetrate such a wicked act, but shakest her off, and refusest her, in this case thou art not wholly innocent, even though thou art not guilty of the crime itself, but only in so far as through thy adorning thou didst entice the woman to desire thee. For thou art the cause that the woman was so affected, and by her lusting after thee was guilty of adultery with thee: yet art thou not so guilty, because thou didst not send to her, who was ensnared by thee; nor didst thou desire her. Since, therefore, thou didst not deliver up thyself to her, thou shalt find mercy with the Lord thy God, who hath said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and, “Thou shalt not covet.”25542554     Ex. xx. 14, 17.   For if such a woman, upon sight of thee, or unseasonable meeting with thee, was smitten in her mind, and sent to thee, but thou as a religious person didst refuse her,25552555     The V. mss. add: “didst abstain from her, and didst not sin against her.”   if she was wounded in her heart by thy beauty, and youth, and adorning, and fell in love with thee, thou wilt be found guilty of her transgressions, as having been the occasion of scandal to her,25562556     Matt. xviii. 7.   and shalt inherit a woe.25572557     Not in V. mss.   Wherefore pray thou to the Lord God that no mischief may befall thee upon this account: for thou art not to please men, so as to commit sin; but God, so as to attain holiness of life, and be partaker of everlasting rest. That beauty which God and nature has bestowed on thee, do not further beautify; but modestly diminish it before men. Thus, do not thou permit the hair of thy head to grow too long, but rather cut it short; lest by a nice combing thy hair, and wearing it long, and anointing thyself, thou draw upon thyself such ensnared or ensnaring women. Neither do thou wear over-fine garments to seduce any; neither do thou, with an evil subtilty, affect over-fine stockings or shoes for thy feet, but only such as suit the measures of decency and usefulness. Neither do thou put a gold ring upon thy fingers; for all these ornaments are the signs of lasciviousness, which if thou be solicitous about in an indecent manner, thou wilt not act as becomes a good man: for it is not lawful for thee, a believer and a man of God, to permit the hair of thy head to grow long, and to brush it up together, nor to suffer it to spread abroad, nor to puff it up, nor by nice combing and platting to make it curl and shine; since that is contrary to the law, which says thus, in its additional precepts: “You shall not make to yourselves curls and round rasures.”25582558     Lev. xix. 27, xxi. 5   Nor may men destroy the hair of their beards, and unnaturally change the form of a man. For the law says: “Ye shall not mar your beards.”25592559     Lev. xix. 27, xxi. 5   For God the Creator has made this decent for women, but has determined that it is unsuitable for men. But if thou do these things to please men, in contradiction to the law, thou wilt be abominable with God, who created thee after His own image. If, therefore, thou wilt be acceptable to God, abstain from all those things which He hates, and do none of those things that are unpleasing to Him.  

That We Ought Not to Be Over-Curious About Those Who Live Wickedly, But to Be Intent Upon Our Own Proper Employment.

IV. Thou shalt not be as a wanderer and gadder abroad, rambling about the streets, without just cause, to spy out such as live wickedly. But by minding thy own trade and employment, endeavour to do what is acceptable to God. And keeping in mind the oracles of Christ, meditate in the same continually. For so the Scripture says to thee: “Thou shalt meditate in His law day and night; when thou walkest in the field, and when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up, that thou mayest have understanding in all things.”25602560     Josh. i. 8; Deut. vi. 7.   Nay, although thou beest rich, and so dost not want a trade for thy maintenance, be not one that gads about, and walks abroad at random; but either go to some that are believers, and of the same religion, and confer and discourse with them about the lively oracles of God:—  

What Books of Scripture We Ought to Read.

V. Or if thou stayest at home, read the books of the Law, of the Kings, with the Prophets; sing the hymns of David; and peruse diligently the Gospel, which is the completion of the other.  

That We Ought to Abstain from All the Books of Those that are Out of the Church.

VI. Abstain from all the heathen books. For what hast thou to do with such foreign discourses, or laws, or false prophets, which subvert the faith of the unstable? For what defect dost thou find in the law of God, that thou shouldest have recourse to those heathenish fables? For if thou hast a mind to read history, thou hast the books of the Kings; if books of wisdom or poetry, thou hast those of the Prophets, of Job, and the Proverbs, in which thou wilt find greater depth of sagacity than in all the heathen poets and sophisters, because these are the words of the Lord, the only wise God. If thou desirest something to sing, thou hast the Psalms; if the origin of things, thou hast Genesis; if laws and statutes, thou hast the glorious law of the Lord God. Do thou therefore utterly abstain from all strange and diabolical books. Nay, when thou readest the law, think not thyself bound to observe the additional precepts; though not all of them, yet some of them. Read those barely for the sake of history, in order to the knowledge of them, and to glorify God that He has delivered thee from such great and so many bonds. Propose to thyself to distinguish what rules were from the law of nature, and what were added afterwards, or were such additional rules as were introduced and given in the wilderness to the Israelites after the making of the calf; for the law contains those precepts which were spoken by the Lord God before the people fell into idolatry, and made a calf like the Egyptian Apis—that is, the ten commandments. But as to those bonds which were further laid upon them after they had sinned, do not thou draw them upon thyself: for our Saviour came for no other reason but that He might deliver those that were obnoxious thereto from the wrath which was reserved far them, that25612561     Omitted in V mss.   He might fulfil the Law and the Prophets, and that He might abrogate or change those secondary bonds which were superadded to the rest of the law. For therefore did He call to us and say, “Come unto me,25622562     Omitted in V mss.   all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”25632563     Matt. xi. 28.   When, therefore, thou hast read the Law, which is agreeable to the Gospel and to the Prophets, read also the books of the Kings, that thou mayest thereby learn which of the kings were righteous, and how they were prospered by God, and how the promise of eternal life continued with them from Him; but those kings which went a-whoring from God did soon perish in their apostasy by the righteous judgment of God, and were deprived of His life, inheriting, instead of rest, eternal punishment. Wherefore by reading these books thou wilt be mightily strengthened in the faith, and edified in Christ, whose body and member thou art. Moreover, when thou walkest abroad in public, and hast a mind to bathe, make use of that bath which is appropriated to men, lest, by discovering thy body in an unseemly manner to women, or by seeing a sight not seemly for men, either thou beest ensnared, or thou ensnarest and enticest to thyself those women who easily yield to such temptations.25642564     Omitted in V mss.   Take care, therefore, and avoid such things, lest thou admit a snare upon thy own soul.  

Concerning a Bad Woman.

VII. For let us learn what the sacred word says in the book of Wisdom: “My son, keep my words, and hide my commandments with thee. Say unto Wisdom, Thou art my sister; and make understanding familiar with thee: that she may keep thee from the strange and wicked woman, in case such a one accost thee with sweet words. For from the window of her house she looks into the street, to see if she can espy some young man among the foolish children, without understanding, walking in the market-place, in the meeting of the street near her house, and talking in the dusk of the evening, or in the silence and darkness of the night. A woman meets him in the appearance of an harlot, who steals away the hearts of young persons. She rambles about, and is dissolute; her feet abide not in her house: sometimes she is without, sometimes in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner. Then she catches him, and kisses him, and with an impudent face says unto him, I have peace-offerings with me; this day do I pay my vows: therefore came I forth to meet thee; earnestly I have desired thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings; with tapestry from Egypt have I adorned it. I have perfumed my bed with saffron, and my house with cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning; come, let us solace ourselves with love,” etc. To which he adds: “With much discourse she seduced him, with snares from her lips she forced him. He goes after her like a silly bird.”25652565     Prov. vii. 1, etc.   And again: “Do not hearken to a wicked woman; for though the lips of an harlot are like drops from an honey-comb, which for a while is smooth in thy throat, yet afterwards thou wilt find her more bitter than gall, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”25662566     Prov. v. 3, 4   And again: “But get away quickly, and tarry not; fix not thine eyes upon her: for she hath thrown down many wounded; yea, innumerable multitudes have been slain by her.”25672567     Prov. vii. 25, 26   “If not,” says he, “yet thou wilt repent at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and wilt say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart has avoided the reproofs of the righteous! I have not hearkened to the voice of my instructor, nor inclined mine ear to my teacher. I have almost been in all evil.”25682568     Prov. v. 11, etc.   But we will make no more quotations; and if we have omitted any, be so prudent as to select the most valuable out of the Holy Scriptures, and confirm yourselves with them, rejecting all things that are evil, that so you may be found holy with God in eternal life.  


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