Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Moral Treatises of St. Augustin/On Continence/Section 28

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28. Far be it therefore that we say of continence, of which Scripture saith. “And this very thing was wisdom, to know whose gift it was,”[1] that even they possess it, who, by containing, either serve errors, or overcome any lesser desires for this purpose, that they may fulfill others, by the greatness of which they are overcome. But that continence which is true, coming from above, wills not to repress some evils by other evils, but to heal all evils by goods. And, briefly to comprehend its mode of action, it is the place of continence to keep watch to restrain and heal all delights whatsoever of lust, which are opposed to the delight of wisdom. Whence without doubt they set it within too narrow bounds, who limit it to restraining the lusts of the body alone: certainly they speak better, who say that it pertains to Continence to rule in general lust or desire. Which desire is set down as a fault, nor is it only of the body, but also of the soul. For, if the desire of the body be in fornications and drunkennesses; hard enmities, strifes, emulations, lastly, hatreds, their exercise in the pleasure of the body, and not rather in the motion and troubled states of the soul? Yet the Apostle called all these “works of the flesh,” whether what pertained to the soul, or what pertained properly to the flesh, calling forsooth the man himself by the name of the flesh.[2] Forsooth they are the works of man, whatsoever are not called works of God; forasmuch as man, who does these, lives after himself, not after God, so far as he does these. But there are other works of man, which are rather to be called works of God. “For it is God,”[3] saith the Apostle, “Who worketh in you both to will and to do, according to His good pleasure.” Whence also is that, “For as many as are led by the spirit of God, these are sons of God.”[4]


  1. Wisd. viii. 21
  2. Gal. v. 19, 20, 21
  3. Phil. ii. 13
  4. Rom. viii. 14