Tertullian Refers Again to the Question of the Origin of all These Ornaments and Embellishments.

It was God, no doubt, who showed the way to dye wools with the juices of herbs and the humours of conchs! It had escaped Him, when He was bidding the universe to come into being, [234] to issue a command for (the production of) purple and scarlet sheep! It was God, too, who devised by careful thought the manufactures of those very garments which, light and thin (in themselves), were to be heavy in price alone; God who produced such grand implements of gold for confining or parting the hair; God who introduced (the fashion of) finely-cut wounds for the ears, and set so high a value upon the tormenting of His own work and the tortures of innocent infancy, learning to suffer with its earliest breath, in order that from those scars of the body -- born for the steel! -- should hang I know not what (precious) grains, which, as we may plainly see, the Parthians insert, in place of studs, upon their very shoes! And yet even the gold itself, the "glory" of which carries you away, serves a certain race (so Gentile literature tells us) for chains! So true is it that it is not intrinsic worth, [235] but rarity, which constitutes the goodness (of these things): the excessive labour, moreover, of working them with arts introduced by the means of the sinful angels, who were the revealers withal of the material substances themselves, joined with their rarity, excited their costliness, and hence a lust on the part of women to possess (that) costliness. But, if the self-same angels who disclosed both the material substances of this kind and their charms -- of gold, I mean, and lustrous [236] stones -- and taught men how to work them, and by and by instructed them, among their other (instructions), in (the virtues of) eyelid-powder and the dyeings of fleeces, have been condemned by God, as Enoch tells us, how shall we please God while we joy in the things of those (angels) who, on these accounts, have provoked the anger and the vengeance of God?

Now, granting that God did foresee these things; that God permitted them; that Esaias finds fault with no garment of purple, [237] represses no coil, [238] reprobates no crescent-shaped neck ornaments; [239] still let us not, as the Gentiles do, flatter ourselves with thinking that God is merely a Creator, not likewise a Downlooker on His own creatures. For how far more usefully and cautiously shall we act, if we hazard the presumption that all these things were indeed provided [240] at the beginning and placed in the world [241] by God, in order that there should now be means of putting to the proof the discipline of His servants, in order that the licence of using should be the means whereby the experimental trials of continence should be conducted? Do not wise heads of families purposely offer and permit some things to their servants [242] in order to try whether and how they will use the things thus permitted; whether (they will do so) with honesty, or with moderation? But how far more praiseworthy (the servant) who abstains entirely; who has a wholesome fear [243] even of his lord's indulgence! Thus, therefore, the apostle too: "All things," says he, "are lawful, but not all are expedient." [244] How much more easily will he fear [245] what is unlawful who has a reverent dread [246] of what is lawful?


[233] Comp. i. cc. ii. iii. v. vii. viii.

[234] Universa nasci.

[235] Veritate.

[236] Illustrium.

[237] De conchylio.

[238] kosumbous. Isaiah 3:18 (in LXX.).

[239] Lunulas = meniskous, ib.

[240] Or, "foreseen."

[241] Sæculo.

[242] Or, "slaves."

[243] Timuerit.

[244] 1 Corinthians 10:23.

[245] Timebit.

[246] Verebitur.

chapter ix excess in dress as
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