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Chapter IX.—Excess in Dress, as Well as in Personal Culture, to Be Shunned.  Arguments Drawn from I Cor. VII.

Wherefore, with regard to clothing also, and all the remaining lumber of your self-elaboration,214214    Impedimenta compositionis. the like pruning off and retrenchment of too redundant splendour must be the object of your care.  For what boots it to exhibit in your face temperance and unaffectedness, and a simplicity altogether worthy of the divine discipline, but to invest all the other parts of the body with the luxurious absurdities of pomps and delicacies?  How intimate is the connection which these pomps have with the business of voluptuousness, and how they interfere with modesty, is easily discernible from the fact that it is by the allied aid of dress that they prostitute the grace of personal comeliness:  so plain is it that if (the pomps) be wanting, they render (that grace) bootless and thankless, as if it were disarmed and wrecked.  On the other hand, if natural beauty fails, the supporting aid of outward embellishment supplies a grace, as it were, from its own inherent power.215215    De suo.  Comp. de Bapt., c. xvii. (sub. fin.), de Cult. Fem., b. i. c. v. (med.).  Those times of life, in fact, which are at last blest with quiet and withdrawn into the harbour of modesty, the splendour and dignity of dress lure away (from that rest and that harbour), and disquiet seriousness by seductions of appetite, which compensate for the chill of age by the provocative charms of apparel.  First, then, blessed (sisters), (take heed) that you admit not to your use meretricious and prostitutionary garbs and garments:  and, in the next place, if there are any of you whom the exigencies of riches, or birth, or past dignities, compel to appear in public so gorgeously arrayed as not to appear to have attained wisdom, take heed to temper an evil of this kind; lest, under the pretext of necessity, you give the rein without stint to the indulgence of 23licence.  For how will you be able to fulfil (the requirements of) humility, which our (school) profess,216216    See c. iii. if you do not keep within bounds217217    Repastinantes. the enjoyment of your riches and elegancies, which tend so much to “glory?”  Now it has ever been the wont of glory to exalt, not to humble.  “Why, shall we not use what is our own?”  Who prohibits your using it?  Yet (it must be) in accordance with the apostle, who warns us “to use this world218218    Mundo; κόσμῳ.  See 1 Cor. vii. 31. as if we abuse it not; for the fashion219219    Habitus; σχῆμα, ib. of this world220220    Κόσμου, ib. is passing away.”  And “they who buy are so to act as if they possessed not.”221221    1 Cor. vii. 30.  Why so?  Because he had laid down the premiss, saying, “The time is wound up.”222222    1 Cor. vii. 29.  If, then he shows plainly that even wives themselves are so to be had as if they be not had,223223    1 Cor. vii. 29. on account of the straits of the times, what would be his sentiments about these vain appliances of theirs?  Why, are there not many, withal, who so do, and seal themselves up to eunuchhood for the sake of the kingdom of God,224224    Matt. xix. 12. spontaneously relinquishing a pleasure so honourable,225225    Fortem. and (as we know) permitted?  Are there not some who prohibit to themselves (the use of) the very “creature of God,”226226    Comp. 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5. abstaining from wine and animal food, the enjoyments of which border upon no peril or solicitude; but they sacrifice to God the humility of their soul even in the chastened use of food?  Sufficiently, therefore, have you, too, used your riches and your delicacies; sufficiently have you cut down the fruits of your dowries, before (receiving) the knowledge of saving disciplines.  We are they “upon whom the ends of the ages have met, having ended their course.”227227    1 Cor. x. 11, εἰς οὕς τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰωνων κατήντησεν.  We have been predestined by God, before the world228228    Mundum. was, (to arise) in the extreme end of the times.229229    In extimatione temporali.  See Eph. i. 4 and 1 Pet. i. 20.  And so we are trained by God for the purpose of chastising, and (so to say) emasculating, the world.230230    Sæculo.  We are the circumcision231231    Comp. Phil. iii. 3.—spiritual and carnal—of all things; for both in the spirit and in the flesh we circumcise worldly232232    Sæcularia. principles.


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