Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
City of God: Chapter 27
Chapter 27.—Of the Male, Who Was to Lose His Soul If He Was Not Circumcised on the Eighth Day, Because He Had Broken Gods Covenant.
When it is said, “The male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people, because he hath broken my covenant,” 922 some may be troubled how that ought to be understood, since it can be no fault of the infant whose life it is said must perish; nor has the covenant of God been broken by him, but by his parents, who have not taken care to circumcise him. But even the infants, not personally in their own life, but according to the common origin of the human race, have all broken Gods covenant in that one in whom all have sinned. 923 Now there are many things called Gods covenants besides those two great ones, the old and the new, which any one who pleases may read and know. For the first covenant, which was made with the first man, is just this: “In the day ye eat thereof, ye shall surely die.” 924 Whence it is written in the book called Ecclesiasticus, “All flesh waxeth old as doth a garment. For the covenant from the beginning is, Thou shall die the death.” 925 Now, as the law was more plainly given afterward, and the apostle says, “Where no law is, there is no prevarication,” 926 on what supposition is what is said in the psalm true, “I accounted all the sinners of the earth prevaricators,” 927 except that all who are held liable for any sin are accused of dealing deceitfully (prevaricating) with some law? If on this account, then, even the infants are, according to the true belief, born in sin, not actual but original, so that we confess they have need of grace for the remission of sins, certainly it must be acknowledged that in the same sense in which they are sinners they are also prevaricators of that law which was given in Paradise, according to the truth of both scriptures, “I accounted all the sinners of the earth prevaricators,” and “Where no law is, there is no prevarication.” And thus, be p. 327 cause circumcision was the sign of regeneration, and the infant, on account of the original sin by which Gods covenant was first broken, was not undeservedly to lose his generation unless delivered by regeneration, these divine words are to be understood as if it had been said, Whoever is not born again, that soul shall perish from his people, because he hath broken my covenant, since he also has sinned in Adam with all others. For had He said, Because he hath broken this my covenant, He would have compelled us to understand by it only this of circumcision; but since He has not expressly said what covenant the infant has broken, we are free to understand Him as speaking of that covenant of which the breach can be ascribed to an infant. Yet if any one contends that it is said of nothing else than circumcision, that in it the infant has broken the covenant of God because, he is not circumcised, he must seek some method of explanation by which it may be understood without absurdity (such as this) that he has broken the covenant, because it has been broken in him although not by him. Yet in this case also it is to be observed that the soul of the infant, being guilty of no sin of neglect against itself, would perish unjustly, unless original sin rendered it obnoxious to punishment.
Rom. 5:12, 19.326:924
Ps. 119.119. Augustin and the Vulgate follow the LXX.
Next: Chapter 28
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