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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 50

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 50.—The Rise and Origin of Evil. The Exorcism and Exsufflation of Infants, a Primitive Christian Rite.

As to the passage, which he seemed to himself to indite in a pious vein, as it were, “If nature is of God, there cannot be original sin in it,” would not another person seem even to him to give a still more pious turn to it, thus: “If nature is of God, there cannot arise any sin in it?” And yet this is not true. The Manicheans, indeed, meant to assert this, and they endeavoured to steep in all sorts of evil the very nature of God itself, and not His creature, made out of nothing. For evil arose in nothing else than what was good—not, however, the supreme and unchangeable good which is God’s nature, but that which was made out of nothing by the wisdom of God. This, then, is the reason why man is claimed for a divine work; for he would not be man unless he were made by the operation of God. But evil would not exist in infants, if evil had not been committed by the wilfulness of the first man, and original sin derived from a nature thus corrupted. It is not true, then, as he puts it, “He is completely a Manichean who maintains original sin;” but rather, he is completely a Pelagian who does not believe in original sin. For it is not simply from the time when the pestilent opinions of Manichæus began to grow that in the Church of God infants about to be baptized were for the first time exorcised with exsufflation,—which ceremonial was intended to show that they were not removed into the kingdom of Christ without first being delivered from the power of darkness; 2302 nor is it in the books of Manichæus that we read how “the Son of man come to seek and to save that which was lost,” 2303 or how “by one man sin entered into the world,” 2304 with those other similar passages which we have quoted above; or how God “visits the sins of the fathers upon the children;” 2305 or how it is written in the Psalm, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me;” 2306 or again, how “man was made like unto vanity: his days pass away like a shadow;” 2307 or again, “behold, Thou hast made my days old, and my existence as nothing before Thee; nay, every man living is altogether vanity;” 2308 or how the apostle says, “every creature was made subject to vanity;” 2309 or how it is written in the book of Ecclesiastes, “vanity of vanities; all is vanity: what profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” 2310 and in the book of Ecclesiasticus, “a heavy yoke is upon the sons of Adam from the day that they go out of their mother’s womb to the day that they return to the mother of all things;” 2311 or how again the apostle writes, “in Adam all die;” 2312 or how holy Job says, when speaking about his own sins, “for man that is born of a woman is short-lived and full of wrath: as p. 304 the flower of grass, so does he fall; and he departs like a shadow, nor shall he stay. Hast Thou not taken account even of him, and caused him to enter into judgment in Thy sight? For who shall be pure from uncleanness? Not even one, even if his life should be but of one day upon the earth.” 2313 Now when he speaks of uncleanness here, the mere perusal of the passage is enough to show that he meant sin to be understood. It is plain from the words, of what he is speaking. The same phrase and sense occur in the prophet Zechariah, in the place where “the filthy garments” are removed from off the high priest, and it is said to him, “I have taken away thy sins.” 2314 Well now, I rather think that all these passages, and others of like import, which point to the fact that man is born in sin and under the curse, are not to be read among the dark recesses of the Manicheans, but in the sunshine of catholic truth.


Footnotes

303:2302

Col. i. 13.

303:2303

Luke xix. 10.

303:2304

Rom. v. 12.

303:2305

Ex. xx. 5.

303:2306

Ps. li. 5.

303:2307

Ps. cxliv. 4.

303:2308

Ps. xxxix. 5.

303:2309

Rom. viii. 20.

303:2310

Eccl. 1:2, 3.

303:2311

Ecclesiasticus 40.1.

303:2312

1 Cor. xv. 22.

304:2313

Job xiv. 1-5.

304:2314

Zech. iii. 4.


Next: Chapter 51

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