Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 4
Chapter 4 [IV.]—Concupiscence, How Far in Us; The Baptized are Not Injured by Concupiscence, But Only by Consent Therewith.
Concupiscence, therefore, as the law of sin which remains in the members of this body of death, is born with infants. In baptized infants, it is deprived of guilt, is left for the struggle [of life], 451 but pursues with no condemnation, such as die before the struggle. Unbaptized infants it implicates as guilty and as children of wrath, even if they die in infancy, draws into condemnation. In baptized adults, however, endowed with reason, whatever consent their mind gives to this concupiscence for the commission of sin is an act of their own will. After all sins have been blotted out, and that guilt has been cancelled which by nature 452 bound men in a conquered condition, it still remains,—but not to hurt in any way those who yield no consent to it for unlawful deeds,—until death is swallowed up in victory 453 and, in that perfection of peace, nothing is left to be conquered. Such, however, as yield consent to it for the commission of unlawful deeds, it holds as guilty; and unless, through the medicine of repentance, and through works of mercy, by the intercession in our behalf of the heavenly High Priest, they be healed, it conducts us to the second death and utter condemnation. It was on this account that the Lord, when teaching us to pray, advised us, besides other petitions, to say: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into tempation, but deliver us from evil.” 454 For evil remains in our flesh, not by reason of the nature in which man was created by God and wisdom, but by reason of that offence into which he fell by his own will, and in which, since its powers are lost, he is not healed with the same facility of will as that with which he was wounded. Of this evil the apostle says: “I know that in my flesh dwelleth no good thing;” 455 and it is likewise to the same evil that he counsels us to give no obedience, when he says: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to obey the lusts thereof.” 456 When, therefore, we have by an unlawful inclination of our will yielded consent to these lusts of the flesh, we say, with a view to the cure of this fault, “Forgive us our debts;” 457 and we at the same time apply the remedy of a work of mercy, in that we add, “As we forgive our debtors.” That we may not, however, yield such consent, let us pray for assistance, and say, “And lead us not into temptation;”—not that God ever Himself tempts any one with such temptation, “for God is not a tempter to evil, neither tempteth He any man;” 458 but in order that whenever we feel the rising of temptation from our concupiscence, we may not be deserted by His help, in order that thereby we may be able to conquer, and not be carried away by enticement. We then add our request for that which is to be perfected at the last, when mortality shall be swallowed up of life: 459 “But deliver us from evil.” 460 For then there will exist no longer a concupiscence which we are bidden to struggle against, and not to consent to. The whole substance, accordingly, of these three petitions may be thus briefly expressed: “Pardon us for those things in which we have been drawn away by concupiscence; help us not to be drawn away by concupiscence; take away concupiscence from us.”
See above, Book i. chap. 70 (xxxix.)45:452
Originaliter, i.e. owing to birth-sin.45:453
1 Cor. xv. 54.45:454
Matt. 6:12, 13.45:455
Rom. vii. 18.45:456
Rom. vi. 12.45:457
Matt. vi. 12.45:458
Jas. i. 13.45:459
2 Cor. v. 4.45:460
Matt. vi. 13.
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