Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lactantius: Chap. XXVII.—Of the creation, sin, and punishment of man; and of angels, both good and bad
Chap. XXVII.—Of the Creation, Sin, and Punishment of Man; And of Angels, Both Good and Bad.
One subject remains, and that the last: that, since it usually happens, as we read in histories, that the gods appear to have displayed their majesty by auguries, by dreams, by oracles, and also by the punishments of those who had committed sacrilege, I may show what cause produced this effect, so that no one even now may fall into the same snares into which those of old fell. When God, according to His excellent majesty, had framed the world out of nothing, and had decked the heaven with lights, and had filled the earth and the sea with living creatures, then He formed man out of clay, and fashioned him after the resemblance of His own likeness, and breathed into him that he might live, 1480 and placed him in a garden 1481 which He had planted with every kind of fruit-bearing tree, and commanded him not to eat of one tree in which He had placed the knowledge of good and evil, warning him that it would come to pass, that if he did so he would lose his life, but that if he observed the command of God he would remain immortal. Then the serpent, who was one of the servants of God, envying man because he was made immortal, enticed him by stratagem to transgress the command and law of God. And in this manner he did indeed receive the knowledge of good and evil, but he lost the life which God had given him to be for ever.
Therefore He drove out the sinner from the sacred place, and banished him into this world, that he might seek sustenance by labour, that he might according to his deserts undergo difficulties and troubles; and He surrounded the garden itself with a fence of fire, that none of men even till the day of judgment might attempt secretly 1482 to enter into that place of perpetual blessedness. Then death came upon man according to the sentence of God; and yet his life, though it had begun to be temporary, had as its boundary a thousand years, and that was the extent of human life even to the deluge. For after the flood the life of men was gradually shortened, and was reduced to a hundred and twenty years. But that serpent, who from his deeds received the name of devil, that is, accuser or informer, did not cease to persecute the seed of man, whom he had deceived from the beginning. At length he urged him who was first born in this world, under the impulse of envy, to the murder of his brother, that of the two men who were first born he might destroy the one, and make the other a parricide. 1483 Nor did he cease upon this from infusing the venom of malice into the breasts of men through each generation, from corrupting and depraving them; in short, from overwhelming them with such crimes, that an instance of justice was now rare, but men lived after the manner of the beasts.
But when God saw this, He sent His angels to instruct the race of men, and to protect them from all evil. He gave these a command to abstain from earthly things, lest, being polluted by any taint, they should be deprived of the honour of angels. But that wily accuser, while they tarried among men, allured these also to p. 232 pleasures, so that they might defile themselves with women. Then, being condemned by the sentence of God, and cast forth on account of their sins, they lost both the name and substance of angels. Thus, having become ministers of the devil, that they might have a solace of their ruin, they betook themselves to the ruining of men, for whose protection they had come. 1484
Inspiravit ad vitam.231:1481
Parricidam. The word first means the murderer of a parent or near relative; then simply a murderer.232:1484
[This is a curious enlargement of the idea as taught elsewhere. See vol. ii. p. 142, this series.]
Next: Chap. XXVIII.—Of the demons, and their evil practices
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