Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 16
Chapter 16.—The Remains of Death and the Evil Things of the World Turn to Good for the Elect. How Fitly the Death of Christ Was Chosen, that We Might Be Justified in His Blood. What the Anger of God is.
20. For although the death, too, of the flesh itself came originally from the sin of the first man, yet the good use of it has made most glorious martyrs. And so not only that death itself, bat all the evils of this world, and the griefs and labors of men, although they come from the deserts of sins, and especially of original sin, whence life itself too became bound by the bond of death, yet have fitly remained, even when sin is forgiven; that man might have wherewith to contend for truth, and whereby the goodness of the faithful might be exercised; in order that the new man through the new covenant might be made ready among the evils of this world for a new world, by bearing wisely the misery which this condemned life deserved, and by rejoicing soberly because it will be finished, but expecting faithfully and patiently the blessedness which the future life, being set free, will have for ever. For the devil being cast forth from his dominion, and from the hearts of the faithful, in the condemnation and faithlessness of whom he, although himself also condemned, yet reigned, is only so far permitted to be an adversary according to the condition of this mortality, as God knows to be expedient for them: concerning which the sacred writings speak through the mouth of the apostle: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 834 And those evils which the faithful endure piously, are of profit either for the correction of sins, or for the exercising and proving of righteousness, or to manifest the misery of this life, that the life where will be that true and perpetual blessedness may be desired more ardently, and sought out more earnestly. But it is on their account that these evils are still kept in being, of whom the apostle says: “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called to be holy according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” It is of these who are predestinated, that not one shall perish with the devil; not one shall remain even to death under the power of the devil. And then follows what I have already cited above: 835 “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; how has He not with Him also freely given us all things?” 836
21. Why then should the death of Christ not have come to pass? Nay, rather, why should not that death itself have been chosen above all else to be brought to pass, to the passing by of the other innumerable ways which He who is omnipotent could have employed to free us; that death, I say, wherein neither was anything diminished or changed from His divinity, and so great benefit was conferred upon men, from the humanity which He took upon Him, that a temporal death, which was not due, was rendered by the eternal Son of God, who was also the Son of man, whereby He might free them from an eternal p. 179 death which was due? The devil was holding fast our sins, and through them was fixing us deservedly in death. He discharged them, who had none of His own, and who was led by him to death undeservedly. That blood was of such price, that he who even slew Christ for a time by a death which was not due, can as his due detain no one, who has put on Christ, in the eternal death which was due. Therefore “God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Justified, he says, in His blood,—justified plainly, in that we are freed from all sin; and freed from all sin, because the Son of God, who knew no sin, was slain for us. Therefore “we shall be saved from wrath through Him;” from the wrath certainly of God, which is nothing else but just retribution. For the wrath of God is not, as is that of man, a perturbation of the mind; but it is the wrath of Him to whom Holy Scripture says in another place, “But Thou, O Lord, mastering Thy power, judgest with calmness.” 837 If, therefore, the just retribution of God has received such a name, what can be the right understanding also of the reconciliation of God, unless that then such wrath comes to an end? Neither were we enemies to God, except as sins are enemies to righteousness; which being forgiven, such enmities come to an end, and they whom He Himself justifies are reconciled to the Just One. And yet certainly He loved them even while still enemies, since “He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” when we were still enemies. And therefore the apostle has rightly added: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son,” by which that remission of sins was made, “much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved in His life.” Saved in life, who were reconciled by death. For who can doubt that He will give His life for His friends, for whom, when enemies, He gave His death? “And not only so,” he says, “but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” “Not only,” he says, “shall we be saved,” but “we also joy;” and not in ourselves, but “in God;” nor through ourselves, “but through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement,” as we have argued above. Then the apostle adds, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned;” 838 etc.: in which he disputes at some length concerning the two men; the one the first Adam, through whose sin and death we, his descendants, are bound by, as it were, hereditary evils; and the other the second Adam, who is not only man, but also God, by whose payment for us of what He owed not, we are freed from the debts both of our first father and of ourselves. Further, since on account of that one the devil held all who were begotten through his corrupted carnal concupiscence, it is just that on account of this one he should loose all who are regenerated through His immaculate spiritual grace.
1 Cor. 10.131 Cor. x. 13178:835
Rom. 8.28-32Rom. viii. 28-32179:837
Wisdom 12.18Wisd. xii. 18179:838
Rom. 5:8, 12Rom. 5:8, 12
Next: Chapter 17
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