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Book II.

Chapter I.—Introduction.  Modesty to Be Observed Not Only in Its Essence, But in Its Accessories.

Handmaids of the living God, my fellow-servants and sisters, the right which I enjoy with you—I, the most meanest134134    Postremissimus. in that right of fellow-servantship and brotherhood—emboldens me to address to you a discourse, not, of course, of affection, but paving the way for affection in the cause of your salvation.  That salvation—and not (the salvation) of women only, but likewise of men—consists in the exhibition principally of modesty.  For since, by the introduction into an appropriation135135    Consecrato. (in) us of the Holy Spirit, we are all “the temple of God,”136136    See 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17; vi. 19, 20. Modesty is the sacristan and priestess of that temple, who is to suffer nothing unclean or profane to be introduced (into it), for fear that the God who inhabits it should be offended, and quite forsake the polluted abode.  But on the present occasion we (are to speak) not about modesty, for the enjoining and exacting of which the divine precepts which press (upon us) on every side are sufficient; but about the matters which pertain to it, that is, the manner in which it behoves you to walk.  For most women (which very thing I trust God may permit me, with a view, of course, to my own personal censure, to censure in all), either from simple ignorance or else from dissimulation, have the hardihood so to walk as if modesty consisted only137137    Comp. de Idol., c. ii. in the (bare) integrity of the flesh, and in turning away from (actual) fornication; and there were no need for anything extrinsic to boot—in the matter (I mean) of the arrangement of dress and ornament,138138    Cultus et ornatus.  For the distinction between them, see b. i. c. iv. the studied graces of form and brilliance:—wearing in their gait the self-same appearance as the women of the nations, from whom the sense of true modesty is absent, because in those who know not God, the Guardian and Master of truth, there is nothing true.139139    Comp. de Pæn., c. i.  For if any modesty can be believed (to exist) in Gentiles, it is plain that it must be imperfect and undisciplined to such a degree that, although it be actively tenacious of itself in the mind up to a certain point, it yet allows itself to relax into licentious extravagances of attire; just in accordance with Gentile perversity, in craving after that of which it carefully shuns the effect.140140    Or, “execution.”  How many a one, in short, is there who does not earnestly desire even to look pleasing to strangers? who does not on that very account take care to have herself painted out, and denies that she has (ever) been 19an object of (carnal) appetite?  And yet, granting that even this is a practice familiar to Gentile modesty—(namely,) not actually to commit the sin, but still to be willing to do so; or even not to be willing, yet still not quite to refuse—what wonder? for all things which are not God’s are perverse.  Let those women therefore look to it, who, by not holding fast the whole good, easily mingle with evil even what they do hold fast.  Necessary it is that you turn aside from them, as in all other things, so also in your gait; since you ought to be “perfect, as (is) your Father who is in the heavens.”141141    See Matt. v. 48.


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