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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 19

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 19 [XV.]—Sin is from Natural Descent, as Righteousness is from Regeneration; How “All” Are Sinners Through Adam, and “All” Are Just Through Christ.

Now if it is imitation only that makes men sinners through Adam, why does not imitation likewise alone make men righteous through Christ? “For,” he says, “as by the offence of one upon all men to condemnation; even so by the justification of one upon all men unto justification of life.” 267 [On the theory of imitation], then, the “one” and the “one,” here, must not be regarded as Adam and Christ, but Adam and Abel. For although many sinners have preceded us in the time of this present life, and have been imitated in their sin by those who have sinned at a later date, yet they will have it, that only Adam is mentioned as he in whom all have sinned by imitation, since he was the first of men who sinned. And on the same principle, Abel ought certainly to have been mentioned, as he “in which one” all likewise are justified by imitation, inasmuch as he was himself the first man who lived justly. If, however, it be thought necessary to take into the account some critical period having relation to the beginning of the New Testament, and Christ be taken as the leader of the righteous and the object of their imitation, then Judas, who betrayed Him, ought to be set down as the leader of the class of sinners. Moreover, if Christ alone is He in whom all men are justified, on the ground that it is not simply the imitation of His example which makes men just, but His grace which regenerates men by the Spirit, then also Adam is the only one in whom all have sinned, on the ground that it is not the mere following of his evil example that makes men sinners, but the penalty which generates through the flesh. Hence the terms “all men” and “all men.” For not they who are generated through Adam are actually the very same as those who are regenerated through Christ; but yet the language of the apostle is strictly correct, because as none partakes of carnal generation except through Adam, so no one shares in the spiritual except through Christ. For if any could be generated in the flesh, yet not by Adam; and if in like manner any could be generated in the Spirit, and not by Christ; clearly “all” could not be spoken of either in the one class or in the other. But these “all” 268 the apostle afterwards describes as “many;” 269 for obviously, under certain circumstances, the “all” may be but a few. The carnal generation, however, embraces “many,” and the spiritual generation also includes “many;” although the “many” of the spiritual are less numerous than the “many” of the carnal. But as the one embraces all men whatever, so the other includes all righteous men; because as in the former case none can be a man without the carnal generation, so in the other class no one can be a righteous man without the spiritual generation; in both instances, therefore, there are “many:” “For as by the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” 270



Rom. v. 18.


The word is “all” in Rom. 5.18.


Rom. 5.19.


Rom. v. 19.

Next: Chapter 20

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