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practice to be unreputable and offensive. Leontius, the Arian bishop of Antioch, is censured by Athanasius for cohabiting with a virgin. And he may be reckoned to be one of those, who gave proof of his freedom from carnal
We cannot dispute the truth of what St. Cyprian says, that in Africa some of these ecclesiastics and their virgins lay in the same room, and in the same bed. Nevertheless perhaps there were very few instances of this sort. St. Chrysostom has two homilies or orations upon this subject. One is, against those who had with them subintroduced virgins.' The other, that canonical women ought not to 'dwell [or cohabit] with men.' It may be allowed, that he treats those whom he reproves with a good deal of politeness and tenderness. Nevertheless his argument is very cogent. Nor can any imagine, that John Chrysostom would extenuate the guilt of those whom he blamed, or dissemble any part of their-fault. And yet I do not perceive, that he had received any intelligence of those last-mentioned aggravating circumstances. He speaks of their dwellingt under the same roof, of their cohabiting together, eating at the same table, sitting together, and discoursing freely and pleasantly in the day-time. But they did not lie together." He plainly supposeth, that they had different apartments, and that there were others, particularly women-servants, in the house with them. In that way of acting it may be reckoned, that their virtue would not be in any immediate danger. However, undoubtedly, notwithstanding such precautions, some would be suspicious; which was enough to render this practice offensive. And therefore the fathers of the council of Nice ordained in one of their canons, * that 'no bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any of the clergy, should ⚫ have an introduced woman, unless she be a mother, or sister, or aunt, or however a person liable to no suspicion.' But I need not enlarge further by way of introduction to my argument.
That this practice is referred to, and censured in these
Ο μεν γαρ Λεοντιος διαβαλλόμενος, μετά γυναικός τινος νεωτέρας, λεγόμενης Εντολις, και κωλυόμενος συνοικείν αυτή, δι' αυτὴν ἑαυτον απεκοψεν, ἵν' επ' άδειας exy diarpißeir pet' avrns. Apol. de fugà suâ. p. 335. E. Vid. et. Hist. Arian. ad Monach. p. 360. B. της ὁμοσκηνιας ταυτης. Contr. eos. ὁμοσκηνιας ταυτης. Ib. p. 233. B.
&c. T. I. p. 229. B.συνοικήσεως ταύτης. Ib. D.
- κορη συνοίκων παρθενῳ, και
συγκαθημένος, και συνδειπνων και συνδιαλεγόμενος δι' ἡμερας των γαρ αλλων
εδεν προτιθημι -Ib. p. 231. B.-
epistles, is manifest from some passages to be now produced. We are persuaded, says the writer, that you will mind 'these things, which are necessary to your salvation. But we speak as we do, because of the evil fame and report concerning imprudent men, who dwell with virgins under 'a pretence of piety, and put their souls in danger-It is 'altogether unfit, that they who are christians, and fear God, 'should act thus.'
Setting forth his own conduct, and that of others, whom he represents as exemplary, he says; Wey do not dwell 'with virgins, nor have we any concern with them. We do 'not eat and drink where a virgin is. Nor do we lie [sleep] where a virgin lies. Nor do women wash our feet, 6 or anoint us. We never lie [or sleep] where a virgin is, who is unmarried, and fit for marriage. Though she be ' alone, and in another place, [or part of the house,] we do 'not spend the night there.'
In another chapter. 'We' that are holy, do not eat and drink with women. Nor do women or virgins minister to 6 us, or wash our fect, or anoint us. Nor do we lie [sleep] 'where women lie, that we may be in all things without ' offence.'
Afterwards in another chapter, Even after the Lord was risen from the dead, when Mary came running to the
*sed ita loquimur de iis quæ loquimur, propter famam et rumorem malum de hominibus impudentibus, qui habitant cum virginibus, prætextu pietatis, et conjiciunt animam suam in periculum-Prorsus non decet christianos et timentes Deum ita conversari. Alii autem edunt et bibunt cum virginibus, &c. Ep. i. c. 10. Wetstein.
y Cum virginibus non habitamus, et inter illas nihil habemus negotii. Et cum virginibus nec edimus nec bibimus. Nec lavant mulieres pedes nostros, nec ungunt nos. Et prorsus ubi dormit virgo, quæ viri non est, aut filia nubilis, non dormimus: etiamsi sit in alio loco sola, non pernoctamus ibi. Ep. 2. c. 1. W.
* Nos sancti cum mulieribus nec edimus nec bibimus, nec ministrant nobis mulieres vel virgines. Et mulieres non lavant nobis pedes, nec ungunt nos; et non conveniunt nobis mulieres; neque dormimus, ubi dormiunt mulieres, ut simus sine reprehensione, &c. Ep. 2. c. 3. W.
• Nec hoc solum, sed etiam postquam surrexit Dominus a mortuis, et veniret Maria ad sepulchrum currens, et sedens ad pedes Domini, et adorans eum, et quærens eum apprehendere, ipse dixit ei: "Noli me tangere. Nondum enim adscendi ad patrem meum." Nonne igitur mirabile est de Domino, quod non permisit Mariæ, mulieri beatæ, ut tangeret pedes ejus; tu autem habitas cum illis, et tibi ministrant mulieres et virgines; et dormis, ubi illæ dormiunt; et lavant tibi pedes, et ungunt te mulieres?-Mulieres autem multæ sanctæ ministrârunt sanctis e possessionibus suis, sicut ministravit Sulamitis Elisæ; sed cum eo non habitavit; et ipse propheta in domo seorsim habitavitDomino Jesu Christo ministrârunt mulieres e possessionibus suis; sed cum illo non habitârunt. Etiam apostolis, etiam Paulo reperimus ministrâsse mulieres; sed cum illis non habitârunt. Ep. 2. c. 15. W.
'sepulchre, and falling down at his feet, and worshipping him, sought to touch him, he said unto her; "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father," John xx. 17. Is it not then wonderful, that the Lord permitted not that blessed woman Mary to touch his feet? And you 'dwell with them, and women and virgins minister to you, and you lie where they lie; and women wash your feet, ' and anoint you-Many holy women have ministered to the 'saints out of their substance, as the Shunamite woman 'ministered to Elisha. But she did not dwell with him ; ' for the prophet dwelt in a house by himself, 2 Kings iv. 8 '—10. Women ministered to the Lord Jesus Christ out of 'their substance, Luke viii. 3, but they did not dwell with him. We also find that women ministered to the other 'apostles, and to Paul; but they did not dwell with them.'
I need not transcribe any more; here is enough, to show the occasion and design of these epistles. However, there is still one thing more to be taken notice of, which will fully determine the point. The people complained of by St. Cyprian, and others, were ecclesiastics and women, who made profession of virginity. So it is here. Both these letters are addressed to virgins. And it is implied, that they were pure in body, or free from carnal pollutions. Whoever,' says the author, professeth before the Lord, that he will keep his chastity, ought to be clothed with 'every virtue; and if he has truly crucified his body for the sake of piety, he deprecates that saying," increase and multiply," and all concupiscence, and all the delights of this world, and shuns all those snares, by which he might be endangered.'
And presently afterwards, in the next chapter, For this 'cause he separates himself from the desires of the body, and not only deprecates that, "increase and multiply, 'but desires the promised hope, prepared and laid up in heaven, even a better place [or recompense] than that of those who have been holy in the state of marriage.'
Quicumque enim profitetur coram domino, se servaturum castitatem, debet cingi omni virtute sanctâ Dei, et si vere in timore crucifixit corpus suum propter pietatem, deprecatur verbum, dicens, Crescite et multiplicamini,' et totam mentem et cogitationem, et concupiscentiam mundi hujus, et delicias, et ebrietatem, et omnem amorem ejus, et otium ejuset exinanitus est ab omni conversatione mundi hujus, et ex laqueis et impedimentis ejus. Ep. i. c. 3. W. • Propterea separat se ab omnibus concupiscentiis corporis; et non solum deprecatur illud, fructificate et multiplicate,' sed desiderat spem promissam et præparatam et positam in cœlis Deo, qui promisit ore, et non mentitur- -locum celebrem in domo Dei excellentiorem filiis et filiabus, et excellentiorem illis, qui conjuges fuerunt in sanctitate. Ibid. c. 4.
Nor does this author any where charge those to whom he writes with any acts of uncleanness; but he advises them to keep more out of the way of temptation, and also to show a greater regard for the opinion of men, and avoid whatever might be an occasion of offence and scandal.
This being the case, we now see the reason of some things, which otherwise would not be easily accounted for. First, we see the reason of the address of these epistles, which at first seems odd and whimsical. They are addressed to virgins, and virgins.' So in the first chapter, and twice in the second, and frequently throughout the epistles. Which Mr. Wetstein, and rightly, as I suppose, renders 'virgins,' brethren, and virgins,' sisters. Chrysostom pronounced two orations for the sake of these people: one against those who had with them subintroduced virgins:' the other, that canonical women ought not to dwell with 'men.' But this writer applies to both together, and calls them virgins. Secondly, we now also see the reason why the good conduct of the preachers of the gospel is so much insisted upon in these epistles. They were clergymen who offended in this point, and therefore needed to be admonished to take more care both of their virtue, and their reputation, and not to give offence to other people. Thirdly, that expression, relating to this matter, which we saw just now, men, who dwell with virgins under a pretence of piety,' appears remarkable, and leads to the following observation. The ecclesiastics, now complained of, were generally, or for the most part, men of religion and virtue. Being desirous to have the attendance and assistance of a woman in their domestic affairs, they pitched upon such as were virgins by profession, whom they judged to be the most unexceptionable of any, and least liable to suspicion. Determined to keep themselves pure, they supposed, that if notwithstanding all their care an evil thought or desire should arise in d -et exinanitus est ab omni conversatione mundi hujus, et ex laqueis et retibus et impedimentis ejus. Ep. i. cap. 3. f.
---et conjiciunt animam suam in periculum; et eunt cum illis in semità et in deserto soli viam plenam periculis, et plenam offendiculis et laqueis et foveis. Ib. c. 10.
-ut simus sine reprehensione in omnibus, ne quis in nobis offendatur, &c. Ep. 2. c. 3.
et ne demus occasionem illis, qui volunt, ut teneant occasionem post nos, et loquantur de nobis mala, et ut nemini simus offendiculo, &c. lb. cap. 5. f Virginibus (fratribus') beatis, qui constituerunt servare virginitatem propter regnum cœlorum, et virginibus ( sororibus') sanctis in Deo, salutem. cap. 1. Unicuique virginum (fratrum') et virginum (* sororum ')- -Qui autem vere sunt virgines ('fratres') et virgines (sorores') audiunt eum qui dixitcap. 2. Vid. ep. i. c. 11, 12. et ep. ii. passim.
them, such persons would not encourage, but check and control it. So they dwelled with virgins under a pre'tence of piety,' as this writer says. It has often seemed strange to me, that these subintroduced women,' mentioned by ancient writers, were continually spoken of as virgins, and devoted to Christ, and the like. We here see the reason, why such were chosen and preferred to others. This observation first came into my mind upon reading these epistles; and it is referred to the consideration of the learned.
The time therefore of these epistles is to be collected from that of this practice. When it was first introduced, and when it ceased, may not be easily decided. It was taken notice of and censured by Cyprian about the middle of the third century. And not long after that time Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, and divers of the clergy of that diocese were charged with it. And if Chrysostom's orations upon occasion of it were not composed till after the commencement of his episcopate, as the Benedictine editors think, it subsisted to the end of the fourth century. And doubtless there were instances of it in the following century. Chrysostom speaks of it as a new thing, that had arisen in that age; but the expressions of orators may be understood with latitude. However, it is very probable, that it did not appear in the early days of christianity, nor till after the death of all the apostles, and their disciples, called apostolical men; consequently, not in the time of Clement bishop of Rome. And if the writer of these epistles refers to it, as I think he plainly does, he is not Clement disciple of the apostle Paul.
4. I observe, in the fourth place, that this writer exceeds in his praises of virginity, and in his recommendations of it. Mr. Wetstein is sensible, that what he says is not agreeable to the Protestant doctrine. Nevertheless he thinks it is not unreasonable, nor unscriptural. If I am not mistaken, I could easily show, that a great deal said upon this head by the writer of these epistles is destitute of support and countenance from the doctrine of the New Testament. But instead of doing that at present, I would observe, that he differs from Clement, who in the first chapter of his epistle
h Vide Monitum. T. i. p. 227. -Επι δε της γενεας ἡμετέρας και τρίτος επενοήθη τρόπος καινος τις και παραδοξος. Τ. i. p. 228. A. B. * Erunt fortasse, quibus, harum epistolarum scriptor videbitur et matrimonio esse iniquior, cœlibatum vero nimium extollere Aliterque, fateor, de cœlibatu et matrimonio sensit Clemens, quam M. Lutherus. At nondum probatum est, illum male sensisse. Wetst. Prolegom. p. vii.