Even so you also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
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But that they should be such persons is not so dreadful a thing (although it be dreadful), but that you, that have been counted worthy to become temples of God, should of a sudden have become sepulchers, having as much ill savor, this is extreme wretchedness. He in whom Christ dwells, and the Holy Spirit has worked, and such great mysteries, that this man should be a sepulchre, what wretchedness is this? What mournings and lamentations does this call for, when the members of Christ have become a tomb of uncleanness? Consider how you were born, of what things you have been counted worthy, what manner of garment you have received, how you were built a temple without a breach! How fair! not adorned with gold, neither with pearls, but with the spirit that is more precious than these.
Consider that no sepulchre is made in a city, so then neither shall you be able to appear in the city above. For if here this is forbidden, much more there. Or rather even here you are an object of scorn to all, bearing about a dead soul, and not to be scorned only, but also to be shunned. For tell me, if any one were to go round, bearing about a dead body, would not all have rushed away? Would not all have fled? Think this now likewise. For you go about, bearing a spectacle far more grievous than this, a soul deadened by sins, a soul paralyzed.
Who now will pity such a one? For when thou dost not pity your own soul, how shall another pity him that is so cruel, such an enemy to himself? If any one, where you slept and eat, had buried a dead body, what would you not have done? But you are burying a dead soul, not where you dine, nor where you sleep, but in the members of Christ: and are you not afraid lest a thousand lightnings and thunderbolts be hurled from above upon your head?
And how do you even dare to set foot in the churches of God, and in holy temples, having within you the savor of so much abomination? For if one bearing a dead body into the king's courts and burying it would have suffered the utmost punishment, thou setting your foot in the sacred courts, and filling the house with so much ill savor, consider what a punishment you will undergo.
Imitate that harlot who anointed with ointment the feet of Christ, and filled the whole house with the odor, the opposite to which you do to His house! For what though thou be not sensible of the ill savor? For this most of all is the grievous part of the disease; wherefore also you are incurably diseased, and more grievously than they that are maimed in their bodies, and become fetid. For that disease indeed is both felt by the sick and is without any blame, nay even is deserving of pity; but this of hatred and punishment.
Since then both in this respect it is more grievous, and from the sick not being sensible of it as he ought to be; come, give yourself to my words, that I may teach you plainly the mischief of it.
But first listen to what you say in the Psalm, Let my prayer be set forth in Your sight as incense. When then not incense, but a stinking smoke arises from you, and from your deeds, what punishment do you not deserve to undergo?
What then is the stinking smoke? Many come in gazing about at the beauty of women; others curious about the blooming youth of boys. After this, do you not marvel, how bolts are not launched, and all things are not plucked up from their foundations? For worthy both of thunderbolts and hell are the things that are done; but God, who is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forbears awhile His wrath, calling you to repentance and amendment.
What doest thou, O man? Are you curiously looking after women's beauty, and do you not shudder at thus doing despite unto the temple of God? Does the church seem to you a brothel, and less honorable than the market-place. For in a market-place indeed you are afraid and ashamed to appear to be looking after any woman, but in God's temple, when God Himself is discoursing unto you, and threatening about these things, you are committing whoredom and adultery at the very time in which you are being told not to do this. And do you not shudder, nor stand amazed?
These things do the spectacles of wantonness teach you, the pest that is so hard to put down, the deleterious sorceries, the grievous snares of the thoughtless, the pleasurable destruction of the unchaste.
Therefore the prophet also blaming you, said, Your eyes are not good, neither is your heart.
It were better for such men to be blind; it were better to be diseased, than to abuse your eyes for these purposes.
It were meet indeed that you had within you the wall to part you from the women; but since you are not so minded, our fathers thought it necessary by these boards to wall you off; since I hear from the elder ones, that of old there were not so much as these partitions; For in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female. And in the apostle's time also both men and women were together. Because the men were men, and the women women, but now altogether the contrary; the women have urged themselves into the manners of courtezans, but the men are in no better state than frantic horses.
Heard ye not, that the men and women were gathered together in the upper room, and that congregation was worthy of the heavens? And very reasonably. For even women then practised much self-denial, and the men gravity and chastity. Hear, for instance, the seller of purple saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come in, and abide with me. Hear the women, who went about with the apostles, having taken unto themselves manly courage, Priscilla, Persis, and the rest; from whom our present women are as far removed as our men from their men.
For then indeed even travelling into far countries women brought not on themselves evil report; but now even though brought up in a chamber, they hardly escape this suspicion. But these things arise from their decking of themselves, and their luxury. Then the business of those women was to spread the word; but now to appear beauteous, and fair, and comely in countenance. This is glory to them, this salvation; but of lofty and great works they do not even dream.
What woman exerts herself to make her husband better? What man has taken to himself this care to amend his wife? There is not one: but the woman's whole study is upon the care of ornaments of gold, and raiment, and the other adornments of the person, and how to increase their substance; but the man's both this, and others more than this, all however worldly.
Who, when about to marry, inquires about the disposition and nurture of the damsel? No one; but straightway about money, and possessions, and measures of property of various and different kinds; like as if he were about to buy something, or to settle some common contract.
Therefore they do even so call marriage. For I have heard many say, such a man has contracted with such a woman, that is, has married. And they offer insult to the gifts of God, and as though buying and selling, so do they marry, and are given in marriage.
And writings there are, requiring greater security than those about buying and selling. Learn how those of old married, and imitate them. How then did they marry? They inquired about ways of life, and morals, and virtue of the soul. Therefore they had no need of writings, nor of security by parch ment and ink; for the bride's disposition sufficed them in the place of all.
I therefore entreat you likewise not to seek after wealth and affluence, but a good disposition, and gentleness. Seek for a pious and self-denying damsel, and these will be to you better than countless treasures. If you seek the things of God, these others will come also; but if you pass by those, and hasten unto these, neither will these follow.
But such a man, one will say, became rich by his wife! Are you not ashamed of bringing forward such examples? I had ten thousand times sooner become a poor man, as I have heard many say, than gain wealth from a wife. For what can be more unpleasing than that wealth? What more painful than the abundance? What more shameful than to be notorious from thence, and for it to be said by all, such a man became rich by a wife? For the domestic discomforts I pass by, all that must needs result from hence, the wife's pride, the servility, the strifes, the reproaches of the servants. The beggar, the ragged one, the base one, and sprung of base. Why, what had he when he came in? Do not all things belong to our mistress? But thou dost not care at all about these sayings, for neither are you a freeman. Since the parasites likewise hear worse things than these, and are not pained wherefore neither are these, but rather pride themselves in their disgrace; and when we tell them of these things, Let me have, says one of them, something pleasant and sweet, and let it choke me. Alas! The devil, what proverbs has he brought into the world, of power to overturn the whole life of such persons. See at least this self-same devilish and pernicious saying; of how much ruin it is full. For it means nothing else than these words, Have thou no regard to what is honorable; have thou no regard to what is just; let all those things be cast aside, seek one thing alone, pleasure. Though the thing stifle you, let it be your choice; though all that meet you spurn you, though they smear your face with mire, though they drive you away as a dog, bear all. And what else would swine say, if they had a voice? What else would filthy dogs? But perhaps not even they would have said such things, as the devil has persuaded men to rave.
Wherefore I entreat you, being conscious of the senselessness of such words as these, to flee such proverbs, and to choose out those in the Scriptures that are contrary to them.
But what are these? Go not, it is said, after your lusts, and refrain yourself from your appetites. Sirach 18:30 And, touching an harlot again, it is said in opposition to this proverb, Give not heed to a bad woman: for honey drops from the lips of a woman that is an harlot, which, for a season, is luscious unto your throat; but afterwards you shall find it more bitter than gall, and sharper than a two-edged sword. Unto these last then let us listen, not unto those. For hence indeed spring our mean, hence our slavish thoughts, hence men become brutes, because in everything they will follow after pleasure according to this proverb, which, even without arguments of ours, is of itself ridiculous. For after one is choked, what is the gain of sweetness?
Cease, therefore, to set up such great absurdity, and to kindle hell and unquenchable fire; and let us look steadfastly (at length though late) as we ought, unto the things to come, having put away the film on our eyes, that we may both pass the present life honestly, and with much reverence and godly fear, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory world without end. Amen.