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Chapter II.—Before Proceeding Farther, Let the Question of Custom Itself Be Sifted.

But I will not, meantime, attribute this usage to Truth.  Be it, for a while, custom:  that to custom I may likewise oppose custom.

Throughout Greece, and certain of its barbaric provinces, the majority of Churches keep their virgins covered.  There are places, too, beneath this (African) sky, where this practice obtains; lest any ascribe the custom to Greek or barbarian Gentilehood.  But I have proposed (as models) those Churches which were founded by apostles or apostolic men; and antecedently, I think, to certain (founders, who shall be nameless).  Those Churches therefore, as well (as others), have the self-same authority of custom (to appeal to); in opposing phalanx they range “times” and “teachers,” more than these later (Churches do).  What shall we observe?  What shall we choose?  We cannot contemptuously reject a custom which we cannot condemn, inasmuch as it is not “strange,” since it is not among “strangers” that we find it, but among those, to wit, with whom we share the law of peace and the name of brotherhood.  They and we have one faith, one God, the same Christ, the same hope, the same baptismal sacraments; let me say it once for all, we are one Church.283283    Comp. Eph. iv. 1–6.  Thus, whatever belongs to our brethren is ours:  only, the body divides us.

Still, here (as generally happens in all cases of various practice, of doubt, and of uncertainty), examination ought to have been made to see which of two so diverse customs were the more compatible with the discipline of God.  And, of course, that ought to have been chosen which keeps virgins veiled, as being known to God alone; who (besides that glory must be sought from God, not from men284284    Comp. John v. 44 and xii. 43.) ought to blush even at their own privilege.  You put a virgin to the blush more by praising than by blaming her; because the front of sin is more hard, learning shamelessness from and in the sin itself.  For that custom which belies virgins while it exhibits them, would never have been approved by any except by some men who must have been similar in character to the virgins themselves.  Such eyes will wish that a virgin be seen as has the virgin who shall wish to be seen.  The same kinds of eyes reciprocally crave after each other.  Seeing and being seen belong to the self-same lust.  To blush if he see a virgin is as much a mark of a chaste285285    Sancti. man, as of a chaste286286    Sanctæ. virgin if seen by a man.


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