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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 22

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 22.—Of Those Who Fancy that the Sins Which are Intermingled with Alms-Deeds Shall Not Be Charged at the Day of Judgment.

I have also met with some who are of opinion that such only as neglect to cover their sins with alms-deeds shall be punished in everlasting fire; and they cite the words of the Apostle James, “He shall have judgment without mercy who hath shown no mercy.” 1537   Therefore, say they, he who has not amended his ways, but yet has intermingled his profligate and wicked actions with works of mercy, shall receive mercy in the judgment, so that he shall either quite escape condemnation, or shall be liberated from his doom after some time shorter or longer.  They suppose that this was the reason why the Judge Himself of quick and dead declined to mention anything else than works of mercy done or omitted, when awarding to those on His right hand life eternal, and to those on His left everlasting punishment. 1538   To the same purpose, they say, is the daily petition we make in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” 1539   For, no doubt, whoever pardons the person who has wronged him does a charitable action.  And this has been so highly commended by the Lord Himself, that He says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 1540   And so it is to this kind of alms-deeds that the saying of the Apostle James refers, “He shall have judgment without mercy that hath shown no mercy.”  And our Lord, they say, made no distinction of great and small sins, but “Your Father will forgive your sins, if ye forgive men theirs.”  Consequently they conclude that, though a man has led an abandoned life up to the last day of it, yet whatsoever his sins have been, they are all remitted by virtue of this daily prayer, if only he has been mindful to attend to this one thing, that when they who have done him any injury ask his pardon, he forgive them from his heart.

When, by God’s help, I have replied to all these errors, I shall conclude this (twenty-first) book.



Jas. 2.13.


Matt. 25.33.


Matt. 6.12.


Matt. 6:14, 15.

Next: Chapter 23

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