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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 54

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 54.—By the Sacrifices of the Old Testament, Men Were Convinced of Sins and Led to the Saviour.

And yet it is perhaps better to advance a few testimonies out of the Old Testament also, which ought to have a supplementary, or rather a cumulative value. The Lord Himself, speaking by the Psalmist, says: “As for my saints which are upon earth, He hath caused all my purposes to be admired in them.” 392 Not their merits, but “my purposes.” For what is theirs except that which is afterwards mentioned,—“their weaknesses are multiplied,” 393 —above the weakness that they had? Moreover, the law also entered, that the offence might abound. But why does the Psalmist immediately add: “They hastened after?” 394 When their sorrows and infirmities multiplied (that is, when their offence abounded), they then sought the Physician more eagerly, in order that, where sin abounded, grace might much more abound. He then says: “I will not gather their assemblies together [with their offerings] of blood;” for by their many sacrifices of blood, when they gathered their assemblies into the tabernacle at first, and then into the temple, they were rather convicted as sinners than cleansed. I shall no longer, He says, gather their assemblies of blood-offerings together; because there is one blood-shedding given for many, whereby they may be truly cleansed. Then it follows: “Neither will I make mention of their names with my lips,” as if they were the names of renewed ones. For these were their names at first: children of the flesh, children of the world, children of wrath, children of the devil, unclean, sinners, impious; but afterwards, children of God,—a new name to the new man, a new song to the singer of what is new, by means of the New Testament. Men must not be ungracious with God’s grace, mean with great things; [but be ever rising] from the less to the greater. The cry of the whole Church is, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” 395 From all the members of Christ the voice is heard: “All we, as sheep, have gone astray; and He hath Himself been delivered up for our sins.” 396 The whole of this passage of prophecy is that famous one in Isaiah which was expounded by Philip to the eunuch of Queen Candace, and he believed in Jesus. 397 See how often he commends this very subject, and, as it were, inculcates it again and again on proud and contentious men: “He was a man under misfortune, and one who well knows to bear infirmities; wherefore also He turned away His face, He was dishonoured, and was not much esteemed. He it is that bears our weaknesses, and for us is involved in pains: and we accounted Him to be in pains, and in misfortune, and in punishment. But it was He who was wounded for our sins, was weakened for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His bruise we are healed. All we, as sheep, have gone astray; and the Lord delivered Him up for our sins. And although He was evilly entreated, yet He opened not His mouth: as a sheep was He led to the slaughter, and as a lamb is dumb before the shearer, so He opened not His mouth. In p. 36 His humiliation His judgment was taken away: His generation who shall declare? For His life shall be taken away from the earth, and for the iniquities of my people was He led to death. Therefore I will give the wicked for His burial, and the rich for His death; because He did no iniquity, nor deceit with His mouth. The Lord is pleased to purge Him from misfortune. If you could yourselves have given your soul on account of your sins, ye should see a seed of a long life. And the Lord is pleased to rescue His soul from pains, to show Him light, and to form it through His understanding; to justify the Just One, who serves many well; and He shall Himself bear their sins. Therefore He shall inherit many, and He shall divide the spoils of the mighty; and He was numbered amongst the transgressors; and Himself bare the sins of many, and He was delivered for their iniquities.” 398 Consider also that passage of this same prophet which Christ actually declared to be fulfilled in Himself, when He recited it in the synagogue, in discharging the function of the reader: 399 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me: to preach glad tidings to the poor hath He sent me, that so I may refresh all who are broken-hearted,—to preach deliverance to the captives, and to the blind sight.” 400 Let us then all acknowledge Him; nor should there be one exception among persons like ourselves, who wish to cleave to His body, to enter through Him into the sheepfold, and to attain to that life and eternal salvation which He has promised to His own.—Let us, I repeat, all of us acknowledge Him who did no sin, who bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we might live with righteousness separate from sins; by whose scars we are healed, when we were weak  401 —like wandering sheep.



Ps. xvi. 3.


Ps. xvi. 4.


Ps. xvi. 4.


Ps. cxix. 176.


Isa. liii. 6.


Acts viii. 30-37.


Isa. liii. 3-12.


See Luke iv. 16-21.


Isa. lxi. 1.


There seems to be here some omission.—Benedictine Note.

Next: Chapter 55