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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 15

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 321

Chapter 15 [XII.]—God Does Not Judge Any One for What He Might Have Done If His Life Had Been Prolonged, But Simply for the Deeds He Actually Commits.

For my own part, indeed, I affirm that neither of the alternative cases ought to be admitted, nor that third opinion which would have it that souls sinned in some other state previous to the flesh, and so deserved to be condemned to the flesh; for the apostle has most distinctly stated that “the children being not yet born, had done neither good nor evil.” 2352 So it is evident that infants can have contracted none but original sin to require remission of sins. Nor, again, that fourth position, that the souls of infants who will die without baptism are by the righteous God banished and condemned to sinful flesh, since He foreknew that they would lead evil lives if they grew old enough for the use of free will. But this not even he has been daring enough to affirm, though embarrassed in such perplexities. On the contrary, he has declared, briefly indeed, yet manifestly, against this vain opinion in these words: “God would have been unrighteous if He had willed to judge any man yet unborn, who had done nothing whatever of his own free will.” This was his answer when treating a question in opposition to those persons who ask why God made man, when in His foreknowledge He knew that he would not be good? He would be judging a man before he was born if He had been unwilling to create him because He knew beforehand that he would not turn out good. And there can be no doubt about it, even as this person himself thought, that the proper course would be for the Almighty to judge a man for his works when accomplished, not for such as might be foreseen, nor such as might be permitted to be done some time or other. For if the sins which a man would have committed if he were alive are condemned in him when dead, even when they have not been committed, no benefit is conferred on him when he is taken away that no wickedness might change his mind; inasmuch as judgment will be given upon him according to the wickedness which might have developed in him, not according to the uprightness which was actually found in him. Nor will any man possibly be safe who dies after baptism, because even after baptism men may, I will not say sin in some way or other, but actually go so far as to commit apostasy. What then? Suppose a man who has been taken away after baptism should, if he had lived, have become an apostate, are we to think that no benefit was conferred even upon him in that he was removed and was saved from the misery of his mind being changed by wickedness? And are we to imagine that he will have to be judged, by reason of God’s foreknowledge, as an apostate, and not as a faithful member of Christ? How much better, to be sure, would it have been—if sins are punished not as they have been committed or contemplated by the human agent, but foreknown and to happen in the cognizance of the Almighty—if the first pair had been cast forth from paradise previous to their fall, and so sin have been prevented in so holy and blessed a place! What, too, is to be said about the entire nullification of foreknowledge itself, when what is foreknown is not to happen? How, indeed, can that be rightly called the prescience of something to be, which in fact will not come to pass? And how are sins punished which are none, that is to say, which are not committed before the assumption of flesh, since life itself is not yet begun; nor after the assumption, since death has prevented?



Rom. ix. 11.

Next: Chapter 16

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