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12. Having discussed marriage and continency he at length comes to virginity and says "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: but I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful. I think therefore that this is good by reason of the present distress, namely, that it is good for a man to be as he is," Here our opponent goes utterly wild with exultation: this is his strongest battering-ram with which he shakes the wall of virginity. "See," says he, "the Apostle confesses that as regards virgins he has no commandment of the Lord, and he who had with authority laid down the law respecting husbands and wives, does not dare to command what the Lord has not enjoined. And rightly too. For what is enjoined is commanded, what is commanded must be done, and that which must be done implies punishment if it be not done. For it is useless to order a thing to be done and yet leave the individual free to do it or not do it. If the Lord had commanded virginity He would have seemed to condemn marriage, and to do away with the seed-plot of mankind, of which virginity itself is a growth. If He had cut off the root, how was He to expect fruit ? If the foundations were not first laid, how was He to build the edifice, and put on the roof to cover all ! Excavators toil hard to remove mountains; the bowels of the earth are pierced in the search for gold. And, when the tiny particles, first by the blast of the furnace, then by the hand of the cunning workman have been fashioned into an ornament, men do not call him blessed who has separated the gold from the dross but him who wears the beautiful gold. Do not marvel then if, placed as we are, amid temptations of the flesh and incentives to vice, the angelic life be not exacted of us, but merely recommended. If advice be given, a man is free to proffer obedience; if there be a command, he is a servant bound to compliance. "I have no commandment," he says, "of the Lord: but I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful." If you have no commandment of the Lord, how dare you give judgement without orders ? The Apostle will reply: Do you wish me to give orders where the Lord has offered a favour rather than laid down a law ? The great Creator and Fashioner, knowing the weakness of the vessel which he made, left virginity open to those whom He addressed; and shall I, the teacher of the Gentiles, who have become all things to all men that I might gain all, shall I lay upon the necks of weak believers from the very first the burden of perpetual chastity ? Let them begin with short periods of release from the marriage bond, and give themselves unto prayer, that when they have tasted the sweets of chastity they may desire the perpetual possession of that wherewith they were temporarily delighted. The Lord, when tempted by the Pharisees, and asked whether according to the law of Moses it was permitted to put away a wife, forbade the practice altogether. After weighing His words the disciples said to Him: " If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry. But He said unto them, all men cannot receive this saying, but they to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are eunuchs, which were made eunuchs by men: and there are eunuchs, which made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." The reason is plain why the Apostle said, "concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord." Surely; because the Lord had previously said "All men cannot receive the word, but they to whom it is given," and "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." The Master of the Christian race offers the reward, invites candidates to the course, holds in His hand the prize of virginity, points to the fountain of purity, and cries aloud" If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." He does not say, you must drink, you must run, willing or unwilling: but whoever is willing and able to run and to drink, he shall conquer, he shall be satisfied. And therefore Christ loves virgins more than others, because they willingly give what was not commanded them. And it indicates greater grace to offer what you are not bound to give, than to render what is exacted of you. The apostles, contemplating the burden of a wife, exclaimed, "If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." Our Lord thought well of their view. You rightly think, said He, that it is not expedient for a man who is hastening to the kingdom of heaven to take a wife: but it is a hard matter, and all men do not receive the saying, but they to whom it has been given. Some are eunuchs by nature, others by the violence of men. Those eunuchs please Me who are such not of necessity, but of free choice. Willingly do I take them into my bosom who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake, and in order to worship Me have renounced the condition of their birth. We must now explain the words, "Those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake." If they who have made themselves eunuchs have the reward of the kingdom of heaven, it follows that they who have not made themselves such cannot be placed with those who have. He who is able, he says, to receive it, let him receive it. It is a mark of great faith and of great virtue, to be the pure temple of God, to offer oneself a whole burnt-offering, and, according to the same apostle, to be holy both in body and in spirit. These are the eunuchs, who thinking themselves dry trees because of their impotence, hear by the mouth of Isaiah that they have a place prepared in heaven for sons and daughters. Their type is Ebedmelech the eunuch in Jeremiah, and the eunuch of Queen Candace in the Acts of the Apostles, who on account of the strength of his faith gained the name of a man. These are they to whom Clement, who was the successor of the Apostle Peter, and of whom the Apostle Paul makes mention, wrote letters, directing almost the whole of his discourse to the subject of virgin purity. After them there is a long series of apostolic men, martyrs, and men illustrious no less for holiness than for eloquence, with whom we may very easily become acquainted through their own writings. "I think, therefore," he says, "that this is good for the present distress." What is this distress which, in contempt of the marriage tie, longs for the liberty of virginity ? "Woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days." We have not here a condemnation of harlots and brothels, of whose damnation there is no doubt, but of the swelling womb, and wailing infancy, the fruit as well as the work of marriage. "For it is good for a man so to be." If it is good for a man so to be, it is bad for a man not so to be. "Art thou bound unto a wife ? Seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife ? Seek not a wife." Each one of us has his appointed bounds; let me have what is mine, and keep your own. If thou art bound to a wife, give her not a bill of divorce. If I am loosed from a wife, I will not seek a wife. As I do not dissolve marriages once contracted: so you should not bind what is loosed. And at the same time the meaning of the words must be taken into account. He who has a wife is regarded as a debtor, and is said to be uncircumcised, to be the servant of his wife, and like bad servants to be bound. But he who has no wife, in the first place owes no man anything, then is circumcised, thirdly is free, lastly, is loosed.