Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Moral Treatises of St. Augustin/Of Holy Virginity/Section 45

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45. Wherefore what shall we say? is there any thought which a virgin of God may truly have, by reason of which she dare not to set herself before a faithful woman, not only a widow, but even married? I say not a reprobate virgin; for who knows not that an obedient woman is to be set before a disobedient virgin? But where both are obedient unto the commands of God, shall she so tremble to prefer holy virginity even to chaste marriage, and continence to wedded life, the fruit an hundred-fold to go before the thirty-fold? Nay, let her not doubt to prefer this thing to that thing; yet let not this or that virgin, obeying and fearing God, dare to set herself before this or that woman, obeying and fearing God; otherwise she will not be humble, and “God resisteth the proud!”[1] What, therefore, shall she have in her thoughts? Forsooth the hidden gifts of God, which nought save the questioning of trial makes known to each, even in himself. For, to pass over the rest, whence doth a virgin know, although careful of the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord[2] but that haply, by reason of some weakness of mind unknown to herself, she be not as yet ripe for martyrdom, whereas that woman, whom she rejoiced to set herself before, may already be able to drink the Cup of the Lord’s humiliation,[3] which He set before His disciples, to drink first, when enamored of high place? Whence, I say, doth she know but that she herself be not as yet Thecla, that other be already Crispina.[4] Certainly unless there be present trial, there takes place no proof of this gift.


  1. James iv. 6
  2. 1 Cor. vii. 32
  3. Matt. xx. 22
  4. A married woman, who was beheaded in the persecution under Diocletian and Maximian at Thebeste in Africa. See Ser. 354, ad Continentes, n. 5. where he says, “bethink you that in the time of persecution not only Agnes the Virgin was crowned, but likewise Crispina, the wife; and perchance, as there is no doubt, some of the continent then failed, and many of the wedded fought and conquered.” Ben. ed.