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IRENÆUS: Chapter XXVIII.—Those persons prove...
Chapter XXVIII.—Those persons prove themselves senseless who exaggerate the mercy of Christ, but are silent as to the judgment, and look only at the more abundant grace of the New Testament; but, forgetful of the greater degree of perfection which it demands from us, they endeavour to show that there is another God beyond Him who created the world.
1. Inasmuch, then, as in both Testaments there is the same righteousness of God [displayed] when God takes vengeance, in the one case indeed typically, temporarily, and more moderately; but in the other, really, enduringly, and more rigidly: for the fire is eternal, and the wrath of God which shall be revealed from heaven from the face of our Lord (as David also says, “But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” 4198 ), entails a heavier punishment on those who incur it,—the elders pointed out that those men are devoid of sense, who, [arguing] from what happened to those who formerly did not obey God, do endeavour to bring in another Father, setting over against [these punishments] what great things the Lord had done at His coming to save those who received Him, taking compassion upon them; while they keep silence with regard to His judgment; and all those things which shall come upon such as have heard His words, but done them not, and that it were better for them if they had not been born, 4199 and that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the judgment than for that city which did not receive the word of His disciples. 4200
2. For as, in the New Testament, that faith of men [to be placed] in God has been increased, receiving in addition [to what was already revealed] the Son of God, that man too might be a partaker of God; so is also our walk in life required to be more circumspect, when we are directed not merely to abstain from evil actions, but even from evil thoughts, and from idle words, and empty talk, and scurrilous language: 4201 thus also the punishment of those who do not believe the Word of God, and despise His advent, and are turned away backwards, is increased; being not merely temporal, but rendered also eternal. For to whomsoever the Lord shall say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,” 4202 these shall be damned for ever; and to whomsoever He shall say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you for eternity,” 4203 these do receive the kingdom for ever, and make constant advance in it; since there is one and the same God the Father, and His Word, who has been always present with the human race, by means indeed of various dispensations, and has wrought out many things, and saved from the beginning those who are saved, (for these are they who love God, and follow the Word of God according to the class to which they belong,) and has judged those who are judged, that is, those who forget God, and are blasphemous, and transgressors of His word.
3. For the self-same heretics already mentioned by us have fallen away from themselves, by accusing the Lord, in whom they say that they believe. For those points to which they call attention with regard to the God who then awarded temporal punishments to the unbelieving, and smote the Egyptians, while He saved those that were obedient; these same [facts, I say,] shall nevertheless repeat themselves in the Lord, who judges for eternity those whom He doth judge, and lets go free for eternity those whom He does let go free: and He shall [thus] be discovered, according to the language used by these men, as having been the cause of their most heinous sin to those who laid hands upon Him, and pierced Him. For if He had not so come, it follows that these men could not have become the slayers of their Lord; and if He had not sent prophets to them, they certainly could not have killed them, nor the apostles either. To those, therefore, who assail us, and say, If the Egyptians had not been afflicted with plagues, and, when pursuing after Israel, been choked in the sea, God could not have saved His people, this answer may be given;—Unless, then, the Jews had become the slayers of the Lord (which did, indeed, take eternal life away from them), and, by killing the apostles and persecuting the Church, had fallen into an abyss of wrath, we could not have been saved. For as they were saved by means of the blindness of the Egyptians, so are we, too, by that of the Jews; if, indeed, the death of the Lord is the condemnation of those who fastened Him to the cross, and who did not believe His advent, but the salvation of those who believe in Him. For the apostle does also say in the Second [Epistle] to the Corinthians: “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them which are saved, and in them which perish: to the one indeed the savour of death unto death, p. 502 but to the other the savour of life unto life.” 4204 To whom, then, is there the savour of death unto death, unless to those who believe not neither are subject to the Word of God? And who are they that did even then give themselves over to death? Those men, doubtless, who do not believe, nor submit themselves to God. And again, who are they that have been saved and received the inheritance? Those, doubtless, who do believe God, and who have continued in His love; as did Caleb [the son] of Jephunneh and Joshua [the son] of Nun, 4205 and innocent children, 4206 who have had no sense of evil. But who are they that are saved now, and receive life eternal? Is it not those who love God, and who believe His promises, and who “in malice have become as little children?” 4207
Ps. xxxiv. 16.501:4199
Matt. xxvi. 24.501:4200
Matt. x. 15.501:4201
[Eph. v. 4. Even from the εὐτραπελία which might signify a bon-mot, literally, and which certainly is not “scurrility,” unless the apostle was ironical, reflecting on jokes with heathen considered “good.”]501:4202
Matt. xxv. 41.501:4203
Matt. xxv. 34.502:4204
2 Cor. 2:15, 16.502:4205
Num. xiv. 30.502:4206
[Jon. iv. 11. The tenderness of our author constantly asserts itself, as in this reference to children.]502:4207
1 Cor. xiv. 20.
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