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External penances even in the saints, are regarded with suspicion. Jerome, whose proneness to austerity makes him an especially valuable authority on this point, thus writes to Celantia: Be on your guard when you begin to mortify your body by abstinence and fasting, lest you imagine yourself to be perfect and a saint; for perfection does not consist in thisvirtue.
Such were the virtues practised by the mass of the people of God under the Old Law, and this may be considered as the first step in true asceticism.
He will be commonly described as an ascetic, as in fact he is.
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.
They are distinct from each other, though mutually co-operative.
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.