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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 13

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 13 [VII.]—The Error of Jovinianus Did Not Extend So Far.

A few years ago there lived at Rome one Jovinian, 678 who is said to have persuaded nuns of even advanced age to marry,—not, indeed, by seduction, as if he wanted to make any of them his wife, but by contending that virgins who dedicated themselves to the ascetic life had no more merit before God than believing wives. It never entered his mind, however, along with this conceit, to venture to affirm that children of men are born without original sin. If, indeed, he had added such an opinion, the women might have more readily consented to marry, to give birth to such pure offspring. When this man’s writings (for he dared to write) were by the brethren forwarded to Jerome to refute, he not only discovered no such error in them, but, while looking out his conceits for refutation, he found among other passages this very clear testimony to the doctrine of man’s original sin, from which Jerome indeed felt satisfied of the man’s belief of that doctrine. 679 These are his words when treating of it: “He who says that he abides in Christ, ought himself also to walk even as He walked. 680 We give our opponent the option to choose which alternative he likes. Does he abide in Christ, or does he not? If he does, then, let him walk like Christ. If, however, it is a rash thing to undertake to resemble the excellences of Christ, he abides not in Christ, because he walks not as Christ did. He did no sin, neither was any guile found in His mouth; 681 who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; and as a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so He opened not His mouth; 682 to whom the prince of this world came, and found nothing in Him; 683 whom, though He had done no sin, God made sin for us. 684 We, however, according to the Epistle of James, all commit many sins; 685 and none of us is pure from uncleanness, even if his life should be but of one day. 686 For who shall boast that he has a clean heart? Or who shall be confident that he is pure from sins? We are held guilty according to the likeness of Adam’s transgression. Accordingly David also says: ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.’” 687



[This “Christian Epicurus,” as he is called by the intemperate zeal of the asceticism of his day, was condemned as a heretic by councils at Rome and Milan in 390. According to Jerome, who wrote a book against him, he not only opposed asceticism, but also contended for the essential equality of all sins and of the punishments and rewards of the next world, and for the sinlessness of those baptized by the Spirit.—W.]


See Jerome’s work Against Jovinian, ii. near the beginning.


John ii. 6.


Isa. liii. 9.


Isa. liii. 7.


John xiv. 30.


2 Cor. v. 21.


Jas. iii. 2.


Job xiv. 5.


Ps. li. 5.

Next: Chapter 14

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