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Chasity (Abstinence)

Early Church Fathers Quotes on Chastity

Ignatius: to Polycarp

If any one is able to abide in chastity to the honor of the flesh of the Lord, let him so abide without boasting. If he boast, he is lost; and if it be known beyond the bishop, he is polluted.

Shepherd of Hermas 

“I charge you,” said he, “to guard your chastity, and let no thought enter your heart of another man’s wife, or of fornication, or of similar iniquities; for by doing this you commit a great sin. But if you always remember your own wife, you will never sin. For if this thought enter your heart, then you will sin; and if, in like manner, you think other wicked thoughts, you commit sin. For this thought is great sin in a servant of God. But if any one commit this wicked deed, he works death for himself. Attend, therefore, and refrain from this thought; for where purity dwells, there iniquity ought not to enter the heart of a righteous man.” I said to him, – Book II, Commandments

Give ear unto me, O Sons: I have brought you up in much simplicity, and guilelessness, and chastity, on account of the mercy of the Lord, who has dropped His righteousness down upon you, that ye may be made righteous and holy from all your iniquity and depravity; but you do not wish to rest from your iniquity. Now, therefore, listen to me, and be at peace one with another, and visit each other, and bear each other’s burdens, and do not partake of God’s creatures alone, but give abundantly of them to the needy. – Book I, Visions

Justin Martyr

And many, both men and women, who have been Christ’s disciples from childhood, remain pure at the age of sixty or seventy years; and I boast that I could produce such from every race of men. For what shall I say, too, of the countless multitude of those who have reformed intemperate habits, and learned these things? – First Apology

Irenaeus

And again: “Now, as concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” But further, in another place he says: “That Satan tempt you not for your incontinence.” If, therefore, even in the New Testament, the apostles are found granting certain precepts in consideration of human infirmity, because of the incontinence of some, lest such persons, having grown obdurate, and despairing altogether of their salvation, should become apostates from God, – Against Heresies, Book IV

Tertullian

All proof of abstinence is lost when excess is impossible; for sundry things have thus their evidence in their contraries. Just as “strength is made perfect in weakness,” so likewise is continence made manifest by the permission to marry. Who indeed will be called continent, if that be taken away which gives him the opportunity of pursuing a life of continence? What room for temperance in appetite does famine give? What repudiation of ambitious projects does poverty afford? What bridling of lust can the eunuch merit? – Against Marcion, Book I

We have also in the Scriptures robes mentioned as allegorizing the hope of the flesh. Thus in the Revelation of John it is said: “These are they which have not defiled their clothes with women,”–indicating, of course, virgins, and such as have become “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” Therefore they shall be “clothed in white garment,” that is, in the bright beauty of the unwedded flesh. In the gospel even, “the wedding garment” may be regarded as the sanctity of the flesh. – On the Resurrection of the Flesh

In short, there is no place at all where we read that nuptials are prohibited; of course on the ground that they are “a good thing.” What, however, is better than this “good,” we learn from the apostle, who permits marrying indeed, but prefers abstinence; the former on account of the insidiousnesses of temptations, the latter on account of the straits of the times. Now, by looking into the reason thus given for each proposition, it is easily discerned that the ground on which the power of marrying is conceded is necessity; but whatever necessity grants, she by her very nature depreciates. In fact, in that it is written, “To marry is better than to burn,” what, pray, is the nature of this “good” which is (only) commended by comparison with “evil,” so that the reason why “marrying” is good is (merely) that “burning” is less? Nay, but how far better is it neither to marry nor to burn? – To His Wife

Cyprian 

The children of this world beget and are begotten; but they who are counted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage: neither shall they die any more: for they are equal to the angels of God, being the children of the resurrection. Luke 20:35-36 That which we shall be, you have already begun to be. You possess already in this world the glory of the resurrection. You pass through the world without the contagion of the world; in that you continue chaste and virgins, you are equal to the angels of God. Only let your virginity remain and endure substantial and uninjured; and as it began bravely, let it persevere continuously, and not seek the ornaments of necklaces nor garments, but of conduct. Let it look towards God and heaven, and not lower to the lust of the flesh and of the world, the eyes uplifted to things above, or set them upon earthly things. – Treatises of Cyprian – Treatise II

Methodius

For consider, O virgins, how he,(Paul) desiring with all his might that believers in Christ should be chaste, endeavours by many arguments to show them the dignity of chastity, as when he says,
Now, concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” thence showing already very clearly that it is good not to touch(3) a woman, laying it down. and setting it forth unconditionally. But afterwards, being aware of the weakness of the less continent, and their passion for intercourse, he permitted those who are unable to govern the flesh to use their own wives, rather than, shamefully transgressing, to give themselves tip to fornication. Then, after having given this permission, he immediately added these words,(4) “that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency;” which means, “if you, such as you are, cannot, on account of the incontinence and softness of your bodies, be perfectly continent, I will rather permit you to have intercourse with your own wives, lest, professing perfect continence, ye be constantly tempted by the evil one, and be inflamed with lust after other men’s wives.” – The Banquet of the Ten Virgins

Lactantius

For the soul even in opposition to the body desires the worship of God, which consists in abstinence from desires and lusts, in the enduring of pain, in the contempt of death. From which it is credible that the soul does not perish, but is separated from the body, because the body can do nothing without the soul, but the soul can do many and great things without the body. – The Divine Institutes, Book VII

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