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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius.: Chapter 11

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 11.—The Same Continued.

But how this judgment is to be accomplished, it is not easy to understand from Holy Scripture; for there are many modes therein of describing that which is to come to pass only in one mode. In one place the Lord declares that He will “shut the door” against those whom He does not admit into His kingdom; and that, on their clamorously demanding admission, “Open unto us, . . . we have eaten and drunk in Thy presence,” and so forth, as the Scripture describes, “He will say unto them in answer, I know you not, . . . all ye workers of iniquity.” 1633 In another passage He reminds us that He will command “all which would not that He should reign over them to be brought to Him, and be slain in His presence.” 1634 In another place, again, He tells us that He will come with His angels in His majesty; and before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate them one from another; some He will set on His right hand, and after enumerating their good works, will award to them eternal life; and others on His left hand, whose barrenness in all good works He will expose, will He condemn to everlasting fire. 1635 In two other passages He deals with that wicked and slothful servant, who neglected to trade with His money, 1636 and with the man who was found at the feast without the wedding garment,—and He orders them to be bound hand and foot, and to be cast into outer darkness. 1637 And in yet another scripture, after admitting the five virgins who were wise, He shuts the door against the other five foolish ones. 1638 Now these descriptions,—and there are others which at the instant do not occur to me,—are all intended to represent to us the future judgment, which of course will be held not over one, or over five, but over multitudes. For if it were a solitary case only of the man who was cast into outer darkness for not having on the wedding garment, He would not have gone on at once to give it a plural turn, by saying: “For many are called, but few are chosen;”  1639 whereas it is plain that, after the one was cast out and condemned, many still remained behind in the house. However, p. 188 it would occupy us too long to discuss all these questions to the full. This brief remark, however, I may make, without prejudice (as they say in pecuniary affairs) to some better discussion, that by the many descriptions which are scattered throughout the Holy Scriptures there is signified to us but one mode of final judgment, which is inscrutable to us,—with only the variety of deservings preserved in the rewards and punishments. Touching the particular point, indeed, which we have before us at present, it is sufficient to remark that, if Pelagius had actually said that all sinners whatever without exception would be punished in an eternity of punishment by everlasting fire, then whosoever had approved of this judgment would, to begin with, have brought the sentence down on his own head. “For who will boast that he is pure from sins?” 1640 Forasmuch, however, as he did not say all, nor certain, but made an indefinite statement only,—and afterwards, in explanation, declared that his meaning was according to the words of the Gospel,—his opinion was affirmed by the judgment of the bishops to be true; but it does not even now appear what Pelagius really thinks on the subject, and in consequence there is no indecency in inquiring further into the decision of the episcopal judges.


Footnotes

187:1633

Luke xiii. 25-27.

187:1634

Luke xix. 27.

187:1635

Matt. xxv. 33.

187:1636

Luke xix. 20-24.

187:1637

Matt. xxii. 11-13.

187:1638

Matt. xxv. 1-10.

187:1639

Matt. xxii. 14.

188:1640

Prov. xx. 9.


Next: Chapter 12

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