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The "neighbour" of the Jew was one of the chosen people, and even of him rigorous justice was to be exacted; it was an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.In the Christian dispensation the neighbour is not only one of the true faith, but the schismatic, the outcast, and the pagan.
It is not to be relied upon for serious efforts and may easily give way under the strain of weariness or temptation.Its object is the subordination of the lower appetites to the dictates of right reason and the law of God, with the continued and necessary cultivation of the virtues which the Creator intended man to possess.Absolutely speaking, the will of God in this matter is discoverable by human reason, but it is explicitly laid down for us in the Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, which furnishes a complete code of ethical conduct.It is only a help; a disposition; a means though a fitting one, for the attainment oftrue perfection. Jerome, is an effort to attain true perfection, penance being only an auxiliary virtue thereto.It should be noted also that the expression " fasting and abstinence " is commonly used in Scripture and by ascetic writers as a generic term for all sorts of penance.For he is endeavouring to subject the material part of his nature to the spiritual, or in other words, he is striving for natural perfection.
The defect of this kind of asceticism is that, besides being prone to error in the acts it performs and the means it adopts, its motive is imperfect, or bad.
Love is extended even to one's enemies, and we are bidden to pray for, and to do good to them who revile and persecute us.
This supernatural love for even the vilest and most repellent representatives of humanity constitutes one of the distinctive marks of Christian asceticism.
Even the works of penance to which they were subjected in the many fasts and abstinences, as well as the requirements of their ceremonial observances were much more severe than those imposed up the Christians who succeeded them.
In the New Dispensation the binding force of the Commandments continued, but the practice of virtue took on another aspect, in as much as the dominant motive presented to man for the service of God was not fear, but love, though fear was no means eliminated.
Moreover although asceticism is generally associated with the objectionable features of religion, and is regarded by some as one of them, it may be and is practised by those who affect to be swayed by no religious motives whatever.