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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 70

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 70 [XXXIX.]—How Far Sin is Done Away in Infants by Baptism, Also in Adults, and What Advantage Results Therefrom.

In infants it is certain that, by the grace of God, through His baptism who came in the likeness of sinful flesh, it is brought to pass that the sinful flesh is done away. This result, however, is so effected, that the concupiscence which is diffused over and innate in the living flesh itself is not removed all at once, so as to exist in it no longer; but only that that might not be injurious to a man at his death, which was inherent at his birth. For should an infant live after baptism, and arrive at an age capable of obedience to a law, he finds there somewhat to fight against, and, by God’s help, to overcome, if he has not received His grace in vain, and if he is not willing to be a reprobate. For not even to those who are of riper years is it given in baptism (except, perhaps, by an unspeakable miracle of the almighty Creator), that the law of sin which is in their members, warring against the law of their mind, should be entirely extinguished, and cease to exist; but that whatever of evil has been done, said, or thought by a man whilst he was servant to a mind subject to its concupiscence, should be abolished, and regarded as if it had never occurred. The concupiscence itself, however, (notwithstanding the loosening of the bond of guilt in which the devil, by it, used to keep the soul, and the destruction of the barrier which separated man from his Maker,) remains in the contest in which we chasten our body and bring it into subjection, whether to be relaxed for lawful and necessary uses, or to be restrained by continence. 442 But inasmuch as the Spirit of God, who knows so much better than we do all the past, and present, and future of the human race, foresaw and foretold that the life of man would be such that “no man living should be justified in God’s sight,” 443 it happens that through ignorance or infirmity we do not exert all the powers of our will against it, and so yield to it in the commission of sundry unlawful things,—becoming worse in proportion to the greatness and frequency of our surrender; and better, in proportion to its unimportance and infrequency. The investigation, however, of the point in which we are now interested—whether there could possibly be (or whether in fact there is, has been, or ever will be) a man without sin in this present life, except Him who said, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” 444 —requires a much fuller discussion; and the arrangement of the present treatise is such as to make us postpone the question to the commencement of another book.



1 Cor. ix. 27.


Ps. cxliii. 2.


John xiv. 30.

Next: Book II