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Chapter XIII.—If Unveiling Be Proper, Why Not Practise It Always, Out of the Church as Well as in It?

If on account of men318318    As distinguished from the “on account of the angels” of c. xi. they adopt a false garb, let them carry out that garb fully even for that end;319319    i.e., for the sake of the brethren, who (after all) are men, as the heathens are (Oehler, after Rig.). and as they veil their head in presence of heathens, let them at all events in the church conceal their virginity, which they do veil outside the church.  They fear strangers:  let them stand in awe of the brethren too; or else let them have the consistent hardihood to appear as virgins in the streets as well, as they have the hardihood to do in the churches.  I will praise their vigour, if they succeed in selling aught of virginity among the heathens withal.320320    i.e., as Rig. quoted by Oehler explains it, in inducing the heathens to practise it.  Identity of nature abroad as at home, identity of custom in the presence of men as of the Lord, consists in identity of liberty.  To what purpose, then, do they thrust their glory out of sight abroad, but expose it in the church?  I demand a reason.  Is it to please the brethren, or God Himself?  If God Himself, He is as capable of beholding whatever is done in secret, as He is just to remunerate what is done for His sole honour.  In fine, He enjoins us not to trumpet forth321321    See Matt. vi. 2. any one of those things which will merit reward in His sight, nor get compensation for them from men.  But if we are prohibited from letting “our left hand know” when we bestow the gift of a single halfpenny, or any eleemosynary bounty whatever, how deep should be the darkness in which we ought to enshroud ourselves when we are offering God so great an oblation of our very body and our very spirit—when we are consecrating to Him our very nature!  It follows, therefore, that what cannot appear to be done for God’s sake (because God wills not that it be done in such a way) is done for the sake of men,—a thing, of course, primarily unlawful, as betraying a lust of glory.  For glory is a thing unlawful to those whose probation consists in humiliation of every kind.  And if it is by God that the virtue of continence is conferred, “why gloriest thou, as if thou have not received?”322322    1 Cor. iv. 7.  If, however, you have not received it, “what hast thou which has not been given thee?”  But by this very fact it is plain that it has not been given you by God—that it is not to God alone that you offer it.  Let us see, then, whether what is human be firm and true.


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