Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
City of God: Chapter 25
Chapter 25.—Of Malachis Prophecy, in Which He Speaks of the Last Judgment, and of a Cleansing Which Some are to Undergo by Purifying Punishments.
The prophet Malachi or Malachias, who is also called Angel, and is by some (for Jerome 1456 tells us that this is the opinion of the Hebrews) identified with Ezra the priest, 1457 others of whose writings have been received into the canon, predicts the last judgment, saying, “Behold, He cometh, saith the Lord Almighty; and who shall abide the day of His entrance? . . . for I am the Lord your God, and I change not.” 1458 From these words it more evidently appears that some shall in the last judgment suffer some kind of purgatorial punishments; for what else can be understood by the word, “Who shall abide the day of His entrance, or who shall be able to look p. 446 upon Him? for He enters as a moulders fire, and as the herb of fullers: and He shall sit fusing and purifying as if over gold and silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and pour them out like gold and silver?” Similarly Isaiah says, “The Lord shall wash the filthiness of the sons and daughters of Zion, and shall cleanse away the blood from their midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.” 1459 Unless perhaps we should say that they are cleansed from filthiness and in a manner clarified, when the wicked are separated from them by penal judgment, so that the elimination and damnation of the one party is the purgation of the others, because they shall henceforth live free from the contamination of such men. But when he says, “And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and pour them out like gold and silver, and they shall offer to the Lord sacrifices in righteousness; and the sacrifices of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasing to the Lord,” he declares that those who shall be purified shall then please the Lord with sacrifices of righteousness, and consequently they themselves shall be purified from their own unrighteousness which made them displeasing to God. Now they themselves, when they have been purified, shall be sacrifices of complete and perfect righteousness; for what more acceptable offering can such persons make to God than themselves? But this question of purgatorial punishments we must defer to another time, to give it a more adequate treatment. By the sons of Levi and Judah and Jerusalem we ought to understand the Church herself, gathered not from the Hebrews only, but from other nations as well; nor such a Church as she now is, when “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” 1460 but as she shall then be, purged by the last judgment as a threshing-floor by a winnowing wind, and those of her members who need it being cleansed by fire, so that there remains absolutely not one who offers sacrifice for his sins. For all who make such offerings are assuredly in their sins, for the remission of which they make offerings, that having made to God an acceptable offering, they may then be absolved.
In his Proem. ad Mal.445:1457
See Smiths Bible Dict.445:1458
Mal. 3.1-6. Whole passage quoted.446:1459
1 John 1.8.
Next: Chapter 26
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