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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 38

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 38 [XXIV.]—What Benefit Has Been Conferred on Us by the Incarnation of the Word; Christ’s Birth in the Flesh, Wherein It is Like and Wherein Unlike Our Own Birth.

He goes on to add, “And the Word was made p. 60 flesh, and dwelt among us;” 598 as much as to say, A great thing indeed has been done among them, even that they are born again to God of God, who had before been born of the flesh to the world, although created by God Himself; but a far more wonderful thing has been done that, although it accrued to them by nature to be born of the flesh, but by the divine goodness to be born of God,—in order that so great a benefit might be imparted to them, He who was in His own nature born of God, vouchsafed in mercy to be also born of the flesh;—no less being meant by the passage, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Hereby, he says in effect, it has been wrought that we who were born of the flesh as flesh, by being afterwards born of the Spirit, may be spirit and dwell in God; because also God, who was born of God, by being afterwards born of the flesh, became flesh, and dwelt among us. For the Word, which became flesh, was in the beginning, and was God with God. 599 But at the same time His participation in our inferior condition, in order to our participation in His higher state, held a kind of medium 600 in His birth of the flesh; so that we indeed were born in sinful flesh, but He was born in the likeness of sinful flesh,—we not only of flesh and blood, but also of the will of man, and of the flesh, but He was born only of flesh and blood, not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God: we, therefore, to die on account of sin, He, to die on our account without sin. So also, just as His inferior circumstances, into which He descended to us, were not in every particular exactly the same with our inferior circumstances, in which He found us here; so our superior state, into which we ascend to Him, will not be quite the same with His superior state, in which we are there to find Him. For we by His grace are to be made the sons of God, whereas He was evermore by nature the Son of God; we, when we are converted, shall cleave to God, though not as His equals; He never turned from God, and remains ever equal to God; we are partakers of eternal life, He is eternal life. He, therefore, alone having become man, but still continuing to be God, never had any sin, nor did he assume a flesh of sin, though born of a maternal 601 flesh of sin. For what He then took of flesh, He either cleansed in order to take it, or cleansed by taking it. His virgin mother, therefore, whose conception was not according to the law of sinful flesh (in other words, not by the excitement of carnal concupiscence), but who merited by her faith that the holy seed should be framed within her, He formed in order to choose her, and chose in order to be formed from her. How much more needful, then, is it for sinful flesh to be baptized in order to escape the judgment, when the flesh which was untainted by sin was baptized to set an example for imitation?


Footnotes

60:598

John i. 14.

60:599

John i. 1.

60:600

Medietatem.

60:601

De maternâ carne peccati, which is the reading of the best and oldest Mss. Another reading has, De naturâ carnis peccati (“of the nature of sinful flesh”); and a third, De materiâ carnis peccati (“of the matter of sinful flesh”). Compare Contr. Julianum, v. 9, and De Gen. ad. Lit. x. 18–20.


Next: Chapter 39

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