Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume III/Moral Treatises of St. Augustin/On the Good of Widowhood/Section 19
19. These discussions, therefore, concerning the different deserts of married women, and of different widows, I would not in this work enter upon, if, what I am writing unto you, I were writing only for you. But, since there are in this kind of discourse certain very difficult questions, it was my wish to say something more than what properly relates to you, by reason of certain, who seem not to themselves learned, unless they essay, not by passing judgment to discuss, but by rending to cut in pieces the labors of others: in the next place, that you yourself also may not only keep what you have vowed, and make advance in that good; but also know more carefully and more surely, that this same good of yours is not distinguished from the evil of marriage, but is set before the good of marriage. For let not such, as condemn the marriage of widowed females, although they exercise their continence in abstaining from many things, which you make use of, on this account lead you astray, to think what they think, although you cannot do what they do. For no one would be a madman, although he see that the strength of a madman is greater than of men in their sound senses. Chiefly, therefore, let sound doctrine both adorn and guard goodness of purpose. Forsooth it is from this cause that catholic females, even after that they have been married more than once, are by just judgment preferred, not only to the widows who have had one husband, but also to the virgins of heretics. There are indeed on these three matters, of marriage, widowhood, and virginity, many winding recesses of questions, many perplexities; and in order by discussion to enter deeply into and solve these, there is required both greater care, and a fuller discourse; that either we may have a right mind in all those things, or, if in any matter we be otherwise minded, this also God may reveal unto us. However, what there also the Apostle saith next after, “Whereunto we have arrived, in that let us walk.” But we have arrived, in what relates to this matter on which we are speaking, so far as to set continence before marriage, but holy virginity even before widowed continence; and not to condemn any marriages, which yet are not adulteries but marriages, by praise of any purpose whatever of our own or of our friends. Many other things on these matters we have said in a Book concerning the Good of Marriage, and in another Book concerning Holy Virginity, and in a Book which we composed with as great pains as we could against Faustus the Manichee; since, by most biting reproaches in his writings of the chaste marriages of Patriarchs and Prophets, he had turned aside the minds of certain unlearned persons from soundness of faith.
- Phil. iii. 15, 16