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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 18

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 18 [X.]—Is the Soul Derived by Natural Propagation?

Well, but “if the soul is not propagated, but the flesh alone, then the latter alone has propagation of sin, and it alone deserves punishment:” this is what they think, saying “that it is unjust that the soul which is only recently produced, and that not out of Adam’s substance, should bear the sin of another committed so long ago.” Now observe, I pray you, how the circumspect Pelagius felt the question about the soul to be a very difficult one, and acted accordingly,—for the words which I have just quoted are copied from his book. He does not say absolutely, “Because the soul is not propagated,” but hypothetically, If the soul is not propagated, rightly determining on so obscure a subject (on which we can find in Holy Scriptures no certain and obvious testimonies, or with very great difficulty discover any) to speak with hesitation rather than with confidence. Wherefore I too, on my side, answer this proposition with no hasty assertion: If the soul is not propagated, where is the justice that, what has been but recently created and is quite free from the contagion of sin, should be compelled in infants to endure the passions and other torments of the flesh, and, what is more terrible still, even the attacks of evil spirits? For never does the flesh so suffer anything of this kind that the living and feeling soul does not rather undergo the punishment. If this, indeed, is shown to be just, it may be shown, on the same terms, with what justice original sin comes to exist in our sinful flesh, to be subsequently cleansed by the sacrament of baptism and God’s gracious mercy. If the former point cannot be shown, I imagine that the latter point is equally incapable of demonstration. We must therefore either bear with both positions in silence, and remember that we are human, or else we must prepare, at some other time, another work on the soul, if it shall appear necessary, discussing the whole question with caution and sobriety.

Next: Chapter 19