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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
the freedom of anything from foreign admixture; but more particularly it signifies the temper directly opposite to criminal sensualities, or the ascendency of irregular passions. (See CHASTITY).
Purity implies —
1. A fixed, habitual abhorrence of all forbidden indulgences of the flesh.
2. All past impurities, either of heart or life, will be reflected on with shame and sorrow.
3. The heart will be freed, in a great measure, from impure and irregular desires.
4. It will discover itself by a cautious fear of the least degree of impurity.
5. It implies a careful and habitual guard against everything wihich tends to pollute the mind. In the relations of the sexes purity was strictly guarded in the early Church. It needed to be so, for heathenism around it was one mass of defilement, as the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, the satires of Juvenal, the poems of Catullhts, Petronius Arbiter, Johannes Secundus, etc., ablundantly show. Women were, therefore, forbidden to wash in the same bath with men. If a clergyman bathed with women, he was to be deposed, and a layman so guilty was to be excommunicated. A man, by one of the laws of Justinialm, might divorce his wife if she had been found bathing with men. Certain kinds of dancing and songs were also strictly forbidden, especially at marriage feasts, for they were the remains of old pagan obscenities. Women, also, were not allowed to keep vigils in churches under pretence of devotion, because the practice led to secret wickedness, as the council of Elvira intimates. Lascivious books were condemned, and these at the period must have been common. Stage-plays were no less put under ban. Cyprian says, "Adultery was learned by seeing it acted." To know what this means, the reader has only to be referred to the English comedies of the reign of Charles II. The heathen deities in those primitive times were brought upon the stage — the wanton Venus and the rake Jupiter — and men, as Cyprian says again, "imitate the gods whom they worship." The impurities of the stage were virtually the "pomps of Satan," which Christians renounced at baptism. For similar reasons intemperance was reprobated. "Drunkenness and lust," said Tertullian, "are two devils combining." Changing of their respective dresses on the part of the sexes was also condemned. "If any woman," said the council of Gangra, "on pretence of living a religious life, take the apparel of men, let her be anathema." Similar enactments may be found in more recent times. "The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, by their act, July 19, 1649, finding that scandal and abuse arose from promiscuous dancing, do therefore discharge the same; the censure is referred to the several presbyteries." By the Church discipline of France, c. 14 art. 27, "those who make account to dance, or are present at dancing, after having been several times admonished, shall be excommunicated upon their growing obstinate and rebellious, and all Church judicatures are to see this act put to execution." By art. 26, "all persons who wear habits to have open marks of dissoluteness, shame, and too much newness, as painting, naked breasts, and the like, the consistory shall use all possible means to suppress such badges of immodesty by censures. All obscene pictures, which are apt to dispose and incite to unclean thoughts and desires, are declared to be most improper furniture for the houses of Christians, and therefore the users of them may fall under Church censure, if they be not removed." See Taylor, Holy Living; Evans, Sermons on the Christian Temper, ser. 23; and Watts, Sermons, ser. 27; Meth Qu. Rev. April, 1873, art. ii. — Buck, Theol. Dict. s.v.; Eadie, Eccleso Dict. s.v.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Purity'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/purity.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.