Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?
Read Chapter 6
Caesarius of Arles
“The price of a loose woman is scarcely a loaf of bread; but if she is married, she is a trap for your life.” Notice how great sin is, that on account of the space of one hour, in which an unhappy soul is joined to a prostitute, he renders himself alien to eternal life and makes himself liable to punishment by eternal fire. Even if that unfortunate delight of pleasure should stretch out over the space of a hundred years, it would not be right, and the unhappy soul would suffer eternal punishments in return for the pleasure of a hundred years.
Solomon warns us against familiarity with such people when he says, “Can a man hide fire in his bosom, and his garments not burn? Or can he walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” And again: “The price of a harlot is scarce the half of one loaf: but the woman catches the precious soul of a man.” Oh, how great is the wickedness and how deplorable the perversity, when a dissolute man for the sake of momentary lustful pleasure sells to the devil the soul which Christ redeemed with his blood! Truly lamentable and miserable is the condition whereby what brings delight passes away at once, while what causes torture endures without end. The assault of passion disappears in a moment, but the shame of the unfortunate soul abides.
Do not voluntarily make trial of your mind with lewd reflections which tempt you, because in this way wise men have been darkened and made fools. Do not store a flame in your bosom. Without harsh tribulations of the flesh it is difficult for untrained youth to be held under the yoke of sanctification. The beginning of the intellect’s darkening (once a sign of it is visible in the soul) is to be seen, first of all, in slothfulness with regard to the services and prayer. For except the soul first fall away from these, she cannot be led in the way of error; but as soon as she is deprived of God’s help, she easily falls into the hands of her adversaries. And again, whenever the soul becomes heedless of virtue’s labours, she is inevitably drawn to what is opposed to them.
We must notice the apostle’s prudence. He did not say, it is good not to have a wife, but it is good not to touch a woman: as though there were danger even in the touch, as though he who touched her would not escape from her who “hunts for the precious life” and causes the young man’s understanding to fly away. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be scorched? As then he who touches fire is instantly burned, so by the mere touch the peculiar nature of man and woman is perceived, and the difference of sex is understood.
We read in Proverbs, “The eyes of the harlot, the snare of the sinner.” “Anyone who even looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.” There are as many snares as there are sins; as many hunters as there are snares. Homilies on the Psalms, Alternate Series (Psalm ).
When different sexes are placed together, they derive pleasure from those instincts with which they were born, and the natural flame is lighted by unnatural contact if it touches something inflammable. Who can ever take fire to his bosom and not be burned? Fire and tow are as objects naturally opposite, but when brought together, they nourish flames. The sex of a man and of a woman is different, but, if they are brought together, the result will be what is provoked by the law of nature.