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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 38

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 38.—What “Lighteth” Means.

But why, after saying, “which lighteth every man,” should he add, “that cometh into the world,” 326 —the clause which has suggested the opinion that He enlightens the minds of newly-born babes while the birth of their bodies from their mother’s womb is still a recent thing? The words, no doubt, are so placed in the Greek, that they may be understood to express that the light itself “cometh into the world.” 327 If, nevertheless, the clause must be taken as expressing the man who cometh into this world, I suppose that it is either a simple phrase, like many others one finds in the Scriptures, which may be removed without impairing the general sense; or else, if it is to be regarded as a distinctive addition, it was perhaps inserted in order to distinguish spiritual illumination from that bodily one which enlightens the eyes of the flesh either by means of the luminaries of the sky, or by the lights of ordinary fire. So that he mentioned the inner man as coming into the world, because the outward man is of a corporeal nature, just as this world itself; as if he said, “Which lighteth every man that cometh into the body,” in accordance with that which is written: “I obtained a good spirit, and I came in a body undefiled.” 328 Or again, the passage, “Which lighteth every one that cometh into the world,”—if it was added for the sake of expressing some distinction,—might perhaps mean: Which lighteth every inner man, because the inner man, when he becomes truly wise, is enlightened only by Him who is the true Light. Or, once more, if the intention was to designate reason herself, which causes the human soul to be called rational (and this reason, although as yet quiet and as it were asleep, for all that lies hidden in p. 30 infants, innate and, so to speak, implanted), by the term illumination, as if it were the creation of an inner eye, then it cannot be denied that it is made when the soul is created; and there is no absurdity in supposing this to take place when the human being comes into the world. But yet, although his eye is now created, he himself must needs remain in darkness, if he does not believe in Him who said: “I am come a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” 329 And that this takes place in the case of infants, through the sacrament of baptism, is not doubted by mother Church, which uses for them the heart and mouth of a mother, that they may be imbued with the sacred mysteries, seeing that they cannot as yet with their own heart “believe unto righteousness,” nor with their own mouth make “confession unto salvation.” 330 There is not indeed a man among the faithful, who would hesitate to call such infants believers merely from the circumstance that such a designation is derived from the act of believing; for although incapable of such an act themselves, yet others are sponsors for them in the sacraments.



John i. 9.


῝Ο [scil. τὸ φῶς] φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον.


Wis. 8:19, 20.


John xii. 46.


Rom. x. 10.

Next: Chapter 39

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