It is good for a man not to touch a woman… For I would that all men were even as myself [that is, chaste]: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that. But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, even as I. But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt. But to them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband.”
Haydock Commentary on the same verses of First Corinthians 7:7-10 quoted above says: “Verse 7-9.I would, or I could wish you all were even as myself, and as it is said in the next verse, to continue unmarried as I do. From hence it is evident, that St. Paul was not then married, who according to the opinion of the ancient fathers, was never married. --- But every one hath his proper gift from God, so that some prudently embrace a single life, and also make a religious vow of always living so, as it has been practiced by a great number both of men and women in all ages, ever since Christ’s time. Others have not this more perfect gift: they find themselves not disposed to lead, or vow a single life, they marry lawfully: it is better to marry than to burn, or be burnt by violent temptations of concupiscence [or to be burnt in Hell], by which they do not contain themselves from disorders of that kind. It is against both the Latin and Greek text to translate, they cannot contain themselves, as in the Protestant [translation]… But let it be observed, that when St. Paul allows of marriage, he speaks not of those who have already made a vow of living always a single life. Vows made to God must be kept. (Psalm lxxv. 12.; Ecclesiastes v. 3.) And St. Paul expressly says of such persons, who have made a vow of perpetual continency, and afterwards marry, that they incur damnation, because they violate their first faith, or vow made to God. See 1 Timothy v. 12. This saying, therefore, it is better to marry than to burn, cannot justify the sacrilegious marriages of priests, or of any others who were under such vows. There are other remedies which they are bound to make use of, and by which they may obtain the gift of continency and chastity. They must ask this gift by fervent prayers to God, who gives agood spirit to them that ask it. (Luke xi. [13.]) They must join fasting, alms, and the practice of self-denials, so often recommended in the gospel. See the annotations on Matthew xix. The like remedies, and no others, must they use, who being already in wedlock, are under such violent temptations, that they are continually in danger of violating, or do violate the chastity of the marriage-bed. For example, when married persons are divorced from bed and board, when long absent from one another, when sick and disabled, when one has an inveterate aversion to the other: they cannot marry another, but they can, and must use other remedies. (Witham) --- If they do not contain [let them marry]. . .God will never refuse the gift of continency. Some translators have corrupted this text, by rendering it, if they cannot contain. (Challoner)”
St. Paul continues in his discourse on First Corinthians 7:25-35, saying: “… Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment of the Lord; but I give counsel, as having obtained mercy of the Lord, to be faithful. I think therefore that this is good for the present necessity, that it is good for a man so to be [that is, to be chaste]. Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife. But if thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned. And if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned: nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh. But I spare you. This therefore I say, brethren; the time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.”
Haydock Commentary explains First Corinthians 7:25-35: “Verses 25-28.Now concerning virgins, &c. He turns his discourse again to the unmarried, who (if they have made no vow) may lawfully marry, though he is far from commanding every one to marry, as when he says, seek not a wife. And such shall have tribulation of the flesh, cares, troubles, vexations [and sexual temptations] in the state of marriage, but I spare you, I leave you to your liberty of marrying, or not marrying, and will not discourage you by setting forth the crosses of a married life. (Witham) --- Ver. 30.And they who weep. In this passage the apostle teaches us, in the midst of our greatest afflictions not to suffer ourselves to be overwhelmed with grief, but to recollect that the time of this life is short, and that temporary pains will be recompensed with the never-fading joys of eternity. (Estius) --- Ver. 33.[But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided]. It is far easier to give our whole heart and application without any the least reserve to God, than to divide them without injustice.”
In First Corinthians 7:38-40, Our Lord through St. Paul continues to admonish his chaste servants to adopt the angelic life of chastity and purity, teaching us that the chaste life is better than the marital life: “Therefore, both he that giveth his virgin in marriage, doth well; and he that giveth her not, doth better. A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord. But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain [in chastity], according to my counsel; and I think that I also have the spirit of God.”
Haydock Commentary explains First Corinthians 7:38-40: “Verse 38. &c.He that giveth her not, doth better. And more blessed shall she be, if she so remains, according to my counsel. It is very strange if any one, who reads this chapter without prejudices, does not clearly see, that St. Paul advises, and prefers the state of virginity to that of a married life. --- I think that I also have the spirit of God. He puts them in mind, by this modest way of speaking, of what they cannot doubt of, as to so great an apostle. (Witham)”
In truth, the level of dishonesty that a Protestant or a heretic must sink to in order to deny that Holy Scripture places chastity or virginity above the marital life is simply said satanic and inexcusable. It cannot be doubted that they must have had their conscience thoroughly seared by a hot iron of Satan in order to be able to pervert such clear and unambiguous words of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
God could not be clearer than when He said that “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Corinthians 7:1), thus directly contradicting the heretical viewpoint that marriage is the same as the chaste life; showing us very clearly that the marital life is below the chaste and pure life of the angels and saints in Heaven that those virtuous men and women imitates. And if still someone could misunderstand Our Lord’s words, St. Paul adds that he wishes “that all men were even as myself” that is, chaste (1 Corinthians 7:7) and He further teaches both the unmarried and widowed to continue to live a single and chaste life, saying: “But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: It is good for them if they so continue, [that is, it is good for them to continue to live a single and chaste life] even as I.” (1 Corinthians 7:8) And if that was not clear enough, Our Lord Jesus Christ through St. Paul continues to urge all unmarried to stay chaste and pure as they are, saying that, “I think therefore that this is good for the present necessity, that it is good for a man so to be [that is, chaste]. Art thou bound to a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:26-27)
In addition, St. Paul also teaches in Holy Scripture that a widow will become “more blessed” if she do not remarry and stay continent: “But more blessed shall she be, if she so remain, [that is, a widow] according to my counsel; and I think that I also have the spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 7:40) If one becomes “more blessed” by not marrying, then it obviously means that one becomes less blessed by embracing the marital life. St. Ephrem the Syrian writes, “Chastity’s wings are greater and lighter than the wings of marriage. Intercourse… is lower. Its house of refuge is modest darkness. Confidence belongs entirely to chastity, which light enfolds.” (Hymn 28, On the Nativity)
St. Paul also warns those who would marry as opposed to those who would remain virgins that spouses “shall have tribulation of the flesh”: “But if thou take a wife, thou hast not sinned. And if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned: nevertheless, such shall have tribulation of the flesh. But I spare you.” (1 Corinthians 7:28). It is certain that St. Paul does not refer to the desire to procreate as a tribulation of the flesh. Consequently, he can be referring only to one thing—sexual pleasure. Indeed, sexual pleasure is a tribulation of the flesh that must hence be fought against in thought and deed in some way or the Devil will succeed in tempting a spouse to fall into mortal sins of impurity either with their spouse, with himself or with someone other than his spouse.
The reason why St. Paul specifically warns those who choose to get married of the dangers inherent in the marital life is because those people who choose not to get married, by choosing to remain in the angelic state of chastity, will not get sexually tempted to commit sin in the same way or in the same measure as the married man or woman will, either with their spouse, their self, or some other person, since the sexual pleasure that has never been indulged in, will always remain more of an abstract or theoretical pleasure for those who remain chaste and unmarried, and thus, will always be easier to control for them. Indeed, since the temptation to indulge the flesh and the sensuality is not physically present tempting them all the time, as in the case of those who are married and who can perform the marital act every day with their spouse, their sensual temptations are also much smaller than the others who indulge their flesh more often.
When St. Paul mentions “that they also who have wives, be as if they had none” (1 Corinthians 7:29), he is speaking about how spouses must not place the carnal love they have for each other above their love for Our Lord. St. Paul’s words are clear: The spouses must act as though they were not married (within due limits of course) since the married man “is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.” (1 Corinthians 7:33). This division of the married man and woman makes it a great necessity that even married people consider themselves in their own thought processes as though they are unmarried and chaste, although their external and physical marital duties hinders them from pursuing this endeavor to the fullest. As St. Paul says: “it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none”.
St. Paul also explains how married men and women thinks more on the world and of carnal things, while the chaste and pure people thinks more on the things of the Lord, of Heaven, and of spiritual things. Again, the Holy Bible is clear that: “He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34)
And so, it is perfectly clear that the Holy Scripture infallibly and unambiguously teaches that marriage and the marital life is an impediment to the spiritual life, while the life of chastity and purity “give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment” (1 Cor. 7:35). Thus, “if a man wishes to be uninstructed, and prefers to avoid begetting children because of the business it involves, "let him remain unmarried," says the apostle, "even as I am." [1 Cor. 7:8]” (St. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata or Miscellanies, Book III, Chapter X, Section 68)
It is also remarkable and noteworthy that St. Paul calls those who are married “bondmen”, which means “slaves” or “serfs”, thus indicating the inherent spiritual danger and enslavement of worldly, fleshly and sensual cares, troubles and worries that constantly will plague all those who choose to enter into the married state. “Wast thou called, being a bondman? care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a bondman, is the freeman of the Lord. Likewise he that is called, being free, is the bondman of Christ. You are bought with a price; be not made the bondslaves of men.” (1Cor. 7:21-23) In truth, those who are called to a higher and more pure life and who wish to save their souls should meditate often on these words of St. Paul in order to discern the height and greater security from sin that the chaste and unmarried life offers when compared to the marital life.
All those who choose to get married are in truth slaves and enchained by the marriage bond, and what is worse—if they have a weak will—enslaved and bound with the cruel fetters of an addiction to the sexual pleasure that is very hard to get free from! Indeed, married people do not even have the power to command over their own body and remain in chastity against the other spouse’s will, but must give the marital debt to the other spouse whenever he or she asks for it (the only exception being in the case of sickness or other lawful necessities) while also having to fulfill all other duties of the marital life that constantly disturbs and distracts us from our spiritual life, and the thought of God. This is the exact reason why “The same Paul also in the same chapter, when discussing the subjects of virginity and marriage, calls those who are married slaves of the flesh, but those not under the yoke of wedlock freemen who serve the Lord in all freedom [1 Cor. 7:21-23].” (St. Jerome, Letter CXXVIII, To Gaudentius, Section 3, written in A.D. 413)
One must obviously love all of one’s family, friends as well as all others in the world as much as one can, but one must also remember that most people, whether wife, family or friends, however dear or near, often reject God and hinder one’s own spiritual advancement. The only one who will always remain true to us and that we know with a certainty will never become evil is God, and with God, His Angels and Saints in Heaven. But humans, however dear or near, often fall away or makes us fall away from the truth, or tries to tempt us to commit sins of various kinds, and this rejection of God by our family, wife, children or friends requires us to exclude them from our communion and familiarity in order for us to save our souls. Our Lord Jesus Christ explicitly mentions that such acts are necessary sometimes: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
Douay Rheims Commentary explains Luke 14:26: “Hate not: The law of Christ does not allow us to hate even our enemies, much less our parents: but the meaning of the text is, that we must be in that disposition of soul, as to be willing to renounce, and part with every thing, how near or dear soever it may be to us, that would keep us from following Christ.”
If there ever arises a time that we become aware of the fact that our family or friends are trying to tempt or lead us into sin, we are obliged by the direct command of Our Lord to abstain from their company and unnecessary familiarity in order to save our eternal souls—lest we fall and tumble into sin and lose our souls. For “you are bought with a price; be not made the bondslaves of men.” (1 Cor. 7:23) In truth, “To be subjected, then, to the passions, and to yield to them, is the extremest slavery; as to keep them in subjection is the only liberty. The divine Scripture accordingly says, that those who have transgressed the commandments are sold to strangers, that is, to sins alien to nature, till they return and repent. Marriage, then, as a sacred image, must be kept pure from those things which defile it.” (St. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, Book II, Chapter XXIII, On Marriage)
Can a married Christian be saved? Yes, says St. Chrysostom, “But they must expend greater effort if they wished to be saved, because of the constraint imposed on them. For the person who is free of bonds will run more easily than the one who is enchained [by marriage]. Will the latter [the married] then receive a greater reward and more glorious crown [for his struggle than the unmarried and chaste]? Not at all! For he placed this constraint upon himself when he was free not to.” (Oppugn., III; PG 47.376.) Again St. John asks, “Cannot the person who lives in the city and has a house and wife be saved?” He answers that certainly there are many ways to salvation. This is evident from our Savior saying that in Heaven there are many mansions (John 14:2). St. Paul affirms the same when he suggests that in the Resurrection there will be many types and degrees of glory, one of the sun, another of the moon, and another of the stars (1 Cor. 15:41). Certainly the monk and the married Christian can both be saved, but they will not possess the same eternal glory. As the sun is brighter than the moon, and as one star is brighter than another, so shall it be at the general resurrection. But all the bodies of the elect shall be happily changed to a state of incorruption (Oppugn., III; PG 47.356). “There are choirs of virgins, there are assemblies of widows, there are fraternities of those who shine in chaste wedlock; in short, many are the degrees of virtue.” (Hom. XXX in 1 Cor.; PG 61.254; NPNF, p. 178-179.)
In truth, “Marriage is honorable; but I cannot say that it is more lofty than virginity; for virginity were no great thing if it were not better than a good thing. Do not however be angry, ye women that are subject to the yoke. We must obey God rather than man. But be ye bound together, both virgins and wives, and be one in the Lord, and each others adornment. There would be no celibate if there were no marriage. For whence would the virgin have passed into this life? Marriage would not have been venerable unless it had borne virgin fruit to God and to life. … Hast thou chosen the life of Angels? Art thou ranked among the unyoked? Sink not down to the flesh; sink not down to matter; be not wedded to matter, while otherwise thou remainest unwedded.” (St. Gregory Nazianzen, Orations of St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration XXXVII, Section X)
St. Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins (c. 311 A.D.): “Come, now, and let us examine more carefully the very words which are before us, [1 Cor. 7] and observe that the apostle did not grant these things unconditionally to all, but first laid down the reason on account of which he was led to this. For, having set forth that "it is good for a man not to touch a woman," he added immediately, "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife", that is, "on account of the fornication which would arise from your being unable to restrain your voluptuousness" -- "and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." And this is very carefully considered. "By permission" he says, showing that he was giving counsel, "not of command;" for he receives command respecting chastity and the not touching of a woman, but permission respecting those who are unable, as I said, to chasten their appetites. These things, then, he lays down concerning men and women who are married to one spouse, or who shall hereafter be so...” (Discourse III, Chapter XII.--Paul an Example to Widows, and to Those Who Do Not Live with Their Wives)
St. Francis de Sales classic "Introduction to the Devout Life", confirms this teaching of St. Paul in the Holy Bible: “Married people ought not to keep their affections fixed on the sensual pleasures of their vocation, but ought afterwards to wash their hearts to purify them as soon as possible, so that they may then with a calm mind devote themselves to other purer and higher activities. In this way they will perfectly carry out St. Paul’s excellent teaching that they who have wives should be as though they had none [1 Cor. 7:29]. St. Gregory the Great says that a husband or wife carries out this instruction by taking bodily consolation with the spouse in such a way as not to be turned aside from spiritual demands. St. Paul also says, "Let those who use the world be as though they used it not" [1 Cor. 7:31]. Everyone should use the things of this world according to his calling, but in such manner that he does not engage his affection in it, but rather remains as free and ready to serve God as if he did not use it. We should place our joy in spiritual things, but only use corporal ones. When we make bodily pleasures our joy, our rational soul becomes debased and brutish.” (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, pg. 266)
Indeed, contrary to what many lustful people nowadays impiously claim, St. Augustine’s Commentary on Matthew 22:30 explains that a good Christian spouse ought to hate conjugal connection and carnal intercourse with his wife: “And the Lord Himself says: "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." Hence it is necessary that whoever wishes here and now to aim after the life of that kingdom, should hate not the persons themselves, but those temporal relationships by which this life of ours, which is transitory and is comprised in being born and dying, is upheld; because he who does not hate them, does not yet love that life where there is no condition of being born and dying, which unites parties in earthly wedlock. Therefore, if I were to ask any good Christian who has a wife, and even though he may still be having children by her, whether he would like to have his wife in that kingdom; mindful in any case of the promises of God, and of that life where this incorruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality; though at present hesitating from the greatness, or at least from a certain degree of love, he would reply with execration that he is strongly averse to it. Were I to ask him again, whether he would like his wife to live with him there, after the resurrection, when she had undergone that angelic change which is promised to the saints, he would reply that he desired this as strongly as he reprobated the other. Thus a good Christian is found to love in one and the same woman the creature of God, whom he desires to be transformed and renewed; but to hate the corruptible and mortal conjugal connection and carnal intercourse: i.e. to love in her what is characteristic of a human being, to hate what belongs to her as a wife. … It is necessary, therefore, that the disciple of Christ should hate these things which pass away, in those whom he desires along with himself to reach those things which shall for ever remain; and that he should the more hate these things in them, the more he loves themselves.” (St. Augustine, On the Sermon on the Mount, Book I, Chapter 15, Section 40-41, c. 394 A.D.)
What is the life of the perfect Christian couple? St. Augustine answers that their life consists in living together as a brother and sister, having his wife as though he had her not, except for when they come together for the procreation of children: “A Christian may therefore live in concord with his wife… providing for the procreation of children, which may be at present in some degree praiseworthy; or providing for a brotherly and sisterly fellowship, without any corporeal connection, having his wife as though he had her not, as is most excellent and sublime in the marriage of Christians: yet so that in her he hates the name of temporal relationship, and loves the hope of everlasting blessedness.” (St. Augustine, On the Sermon on the Mount, Book I, Chapter 15, Section 42, c. 394 A.D.)