Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume XI/Sulpitius Severus/Doubtful Letters/Letter II/Chapter X
Wherefore, I beseech you, O virgin, do not flatter yourself on the ground of your purity alone, and do not trust in the perfection of one member; but according to the Apostle, maintain the sanctity of your body throughout. Cleanse thy head from all defilement, because it is a disgrace that it, after the sanctifying oil has been applied to it, should be polluted with the juice or powder of either crocus, or any other pigment, or should be adorned with gold or gems or any other earthly ornament, because it already shines with the radiance of heavenly adornment. It is undoubtedly a grave insult to Divine grace to prefer to it any mundane and worldly ornament. And next, cleanse thy forehead, that it may blush at human, and not at Divine works, and may display that shame which gives rise not to sin, but to the favor of God, as the sacred Scripture declares, “There is a shame that causes sin, and there is a shame that brings with it the favor of God.” Cleanse, too, thy neck, that it may not carry thy locks in a golden net and necklaces hung round it,
but may rather bear about it those ornaments of which the Scripture says, “Let not mercy and faith depart from thee,” and hang them upon thy heart as upon thy neck. Cleanse thine eyes, whilst thou dost withdraw them from all concupiscence, and dost never turn them away from the sight of the poor, and dost keep them from all dyes, in that purity in which they were made by God. Cleanse thy tongue from falsehood, because “a mouth which tells lies destroys the soul”: cleanse it from detraction, from swearing, and from perjury. I beg you not to think it is an inverted order that I have said the tongue should be cleansed from swearing before perjury, for one will then the more easily escape perjury, if he swears not at all, so that there may be fulfilled in him that statement, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.” And be mindful of the Apostle who says, “Bless, and curse not.” But often call to mind the following words, “See that no one render evil for evil to any man, or cursing for cursing, but on the contrary, do ye bless them, because to this ye have been called, that ye should possess a blessing by inheritance”; and this other passage, “If any one offend not in tongue, he is a perfect man.” For it is shameful that those lips, by which you confess God, pray to him, bless him, and praise him, should be defiled by the pollution of any sin. I know not with what conscience any one can pray to God with that tongue with which he either speaks falsehood, or calumniates, or detracts. God listens to holy lips, and speedily answers those prayers which an unpolluted tongue pours forth. Cleanse also thine ears, so that they may not listen except to holy and true discourse, that they never admit into them obscene, or infamous, or worldly words, or tolerate any one detracting from another, on account of that which is written, “Hedge up thine ears with thorns, and do not listen to a wicked tongue, that you may have your part with him, of whom it is said, that he was righteous in hearing and seeing; i.e. he sinned neither with his eyes nor his ears. Cleanse, too, thy hands, “that they be not stretched out to receive, but shut against giving,” and that they be not prompt to strike, but ever ready for all the works of mercy and piety. In fine, cleanse thy feet, that they follow not the broad and ample way which leads to grand and costly worldly banquets, but that they tread rather the difficult and narrow path, which guides to heaven, for it is written, “Make a straight path for your feet.” Acknowledge that your members were formed for you by God the Maker, not for vices, but for virtues; and, when you have cleansed the whole of your limbs from every stain of sin, and they have become sanctified throughout your whole body, then understand that this purity will profit you, and look forward with all confidence to the prize of virginity.
- Eccl. iv. 21.
- The text here is most uncertain; Halm’s “ut non aurea reticula capillus portet” is “that thy hair may not carry golden nets.”
- Prov. iii. 3.
- Wisd. i. 11.
- Ps. xxxiv. 13.
- Rom. xii. 14.
- 1 Thess. v. 15; 1 Pet. iii. 9.
- James iii. 2.
- Eccl. xxviii. 24.
- 2 Pet. ii. 8.
- Eccles. iv. 31.
- Prov. iv. 26.