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27III.

On the Veiling of Virgins.274274    [Written, possibly, as early as a.d. 204.]

[Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall.]

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Chapter I.—Truth Rather to Be Appealed to Than Custom, and Truth Progressive in Its Developments.

Having already undergone the trouble peculiar to my opinion, I will show in Latin also that it behoves our virgins to be veiled from the time that they have passed the turning-point of their age:  that this observance is exacted by truth, on which no one can impose prescription—no space of times, no influence of persons, no privilege of regions.  For these, for the most part, are the sources whence, from some ignorance or simplicity, custom finds its beginning; and then it is successionally confirmed into an usage, and thus is maintained in opposition to truth.  But our Lord Christ has surnamed Himself Truth,275275    John xiv. 6. not Custom.  If Christ is always, and prior to all, equally truth is a thing sempiternal and ancient.  Let those therefore look to themselves, to whom that is new which is intrinsically old.  It is not so much novelty as truth which convicts heresies.  Whatever savours of opposition to truth, this will be heresy, even (if it be an) ancient custom.  On the other hand, if any is ignorant of anything, the ignorance proceeds from his own defect.  Moreover, whatever is matter of ignorance ought to have been as carefully inquired into as whatever is matter of acknowledgment received.  The rule of faith, indeed, is altogether one, alone immoveable and irreformable; the rule, to wit, of believing in one only God omnipotent, the Creator of the universe, and His Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised again the third day from the dead, received in the heavens, sitting now at the right (hand) of the Father, destined to come to judge quick and dead through the resurrection of the flesh as well (as of the spirit).  This law of faith being constant, the other succeeding points of discipline and conversation admit the “novelty” of correction; the grace of God, to wit, operating and advancing even to the end.  For what kind of (supposition) is it, that, while the devil is always operating and adding daily to the ingenuities of iniquity, the work of God should either have ceased, or else have desisted from advancing? whereas the reason why the Lord sent the Paraclete was, that, since human mediocrity was unable to take in all things at once, discipline should, little by little, be directed, and ordained, and carried on to perfection, by that Vicar of the Lord, the Holy Spirit.  “Still,” He said, “I have many things to say to you, but ye are not yet able to bear them:  when that Spirit of truth shall have come, He will conduct you into all truth, and will report to you the supervening (things).”276276    John xvi. 12, 13.  See de Monog., c. ii.  But above, withal, He made a declaration concerning this His work.277277    See John xiv. 26.  What, then, is the Paraclete’s administrative office but this:  the direction of discipline, the revelation of the Scriptures, the reformation of the intellect, the advancement toward the “better things?”278278    Comp. Heb. xi. 40; xii. 24.  Nothing is without stages of growth:  all things await their season.  In short, the preacher says, “A time to everything.”279279    Eccles. iii. 1, briefly.  Look how creation itself advances little by little to fructification.  First comes the grain, and from the grain arises the shoot, and from the shoot struggles out the shrub:  thereafter boughs and leaves gather strength, and the whole that we call a tree expands:  then follows the swelling of the germen, and from the germen bursts the flower, and from the flower the fruit opens:  that fruit itself, rude for a while, and unshapely, little by little, 28keeping the straight course of its development, is trained to the mellowness of its flavour.280280    Comp. Mark iv. 28.  So, too, righteousness—for the God of righteousness and of creation is the same—was first in a rudimentary state, having a natural fear of God:  from that stage it advanced, through the Law and the Prophets, to infancy; from that stage it passed, through the Gospel, to the fervour of youth:  now, through the Paraclete, it is settling into maturity.  He will be, after Christ, the only one to be called and revered as Master;281281    Comp. Matt. xxiii. 8. for He speaks not from Himself, but what is commanded by Christ.282282    John xvi. 13.  He is the only prelate, because He alone succeeds Christ.  They who have received Him set truth before custom.  They who have heard Him prophesying even to the present time, not of old, bid virgins be wholly covered.


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