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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 11

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 11 [X.]—Distinction Between Actual and Original Sin. 242

Again, in the clause which follows, “In which all have sinned,” how cautiously, rightly, and unambiguously is the statement expressed! For if you understand that sin to be meant which by one man entered into the world, “In which [sin] all have sinned,” it is surely clear enough, that the sins which are peculiar to every man, which they themselves commit and which belong simply to them, mean one thing; and that the one sin, in and by which all have sinned, means another thing; since all were that one man. If, however, it be not the sin, but that one man that is understood, “In which [one man] all have sinned,” what again can be plainer than even this clear statement? We read, indeed, of those being justified in Christ who believe in Him, by reason of the secret communion and inspiration of that spiritual grace which makes every one who cleaves to the Lord “one spirit” with Him, 243 although His saints also imitate His example; can I find, however, any similar statement made of those who have imitated His saints? Can any man be said to be justified in Paul or in Peter, or in any one whatever of those excellent men whose authority stands high among the people of God? We are no doubt said to be blessed in Abraham, according to the passage in which it was said to him, “In thee shall all nations be blessed” 244 —for Christ’s sake, who is his seed according to the flesh; which is still more clearly expressed in the parallel passage: “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” I do not believe that any one can find it anywhere stated in the Holy Scriptures, that a man has ever sinned or still sins “in the devil,” although all wicked and impious men “imitate” him. The apostle, however, has declared concerning the first man, that “in him all have sinned;” 245 and yet there is still a contest about the propagation of sin, and men oppose to it I know not what nebulous theory of “imitation.” 246



See below, Book iii. c. vii.; also in the De Nuptiis, c. v.; also Epist. 186, and Serm. 165.


1 Cor. vi. 17.


Gal. 3:8, Gen. 12:3, Gen. 18:18, Gen. 22:18.


Rom. v. 12.


This was the Pelagian term, expressive of their dogma that original sin stands in the following [or “imitation”] of Adam, instead of being the fault and corruption of the nature of every man who is naturally engendered of Adam’s offspring; which doctrine is expressed by Augustin’s word, propagatio, “propagation.”

Next: Chapter 12

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