On the Dress of Virgins
On the Dress of Virgins.1
Argument.--Cyprian Celebrates the Praises of Discipline, and Proves Its Usefulness from Scripture. Then, Describing the Glory, Honour, and Merits of Virginity, and of Those Who Had Vowed and Dedicated Their Virginity to Christ, He Teaches that Continence Not Only Consists in Fleshly Purity, But Also in Seemliness of Dress and Ornament, and that Even Wealth Did Not Excuse Superfluous Care for Dress on the Part of Those Who Had Already Renounced the World. Rather, Since the Apostle Prescribes Even to Married Women a Dress to Be Regulated by Fitting Limits, Moderation Ought Even More to Be Observed by a Virgin. Therefore, Even If She Be Wealthy, She Should Consider Certainly How to Use Wealth, But for Good Purposes, for Those Things Which God Has Commanded, to Wit, for Being Spent on the Poor. 2 Moreover, Also, He Forbids to Virgins Those Things Which Had Negligently Come into Use, as Being Present at Weddings, as Well as Going to Promiscuous Bathing-Places. Finally, in a Brief Epilogue, 3 Declaring What Benefit the Virtue of Continency Affords, and What Evil It is Without, He Concludes the Book.
The deacon Pontius, in his life of Cyprian, in few words comprises the argument of the following treatise. "Who," says he, "would restrain virgins into a fitting discipline of modesty, and a dress meet for holiness, as if with a bridle of the Lord's lessons?" ↩
After this he teaches from the Apostle, and from the third chapter of Isaiah also, that distinctions of dress and ornaments are more suited to prostitutes than to virgins; and he infers that, while so many things are offensive to God, more especially are the sumptuous ornaments of women; and therefore making a transition from superfluous ornament to the different kinds of dyes and paints, he forbids such things, not only to virgins, but absolutely also to married women, who assuredly cannot with impunity strive to improve, to transfigure, and to adulterate God's work. ↩
[Written, a.d. 248. Compare Tertullian, vol. iv. p. 14.] ↩