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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter.: Chapter 34

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 34.—The Law; Grace.

After saying, “Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt,” observe what He adds: “Because they continued not in my covenant.” He reckons it as their own fault that they did not continue in God’s covenant, lest the law, which they received at that time, should seem to be deserving of blame. For it was the very law that Christ “came not to destroy, but to fulfil.”  854 Nevertheless, it is not by that law that the ungodly are made righteous, but by grace; and this change is effected by the life-giving Spirit, without whom the letter kills. “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” 855 Out of this promise, that is, out of the kindness of God, the law is fulfilled, which without the said promise only makes men transgressors, either by the actual commission of some sinful deed, if the flame of concupiscence have greater power than even the restraints of fear, or at least by their mere will, if the fear of punishment transcend the pleasure of lust. In what he says, “The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe,” it is the benefit of this “conclusion” itself which is asserted. For what purposes “hath it concluded,” except as it is expressed in the next sentence: “Before, indeed, faith came, we were kept under the law, concluded for the faith which was afterwards revealed?” 856 The law was therefore given, in order that grace might be sought; grace was given, in order that the law might be fulfilled. Now it was not through any fault of its own that the law was not fulfilled, but by the fault of the carnal mind; and this fault was to be demonstrated by the law, and healed by grace. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 857 Accordingly, in the passage which we cited from the prophet, he says, “I will consummate a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah,” 858 —and what means I will consummate but I will fulfil?—“not, according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.” 859



Matt. v. 17.


Gal. 3:21, 22.


Gal. iii. 23.


Rom. 8:3, 4.


Jer. xxxi. 31.


Jer. xxxi. 32.

Next: Chapter 35

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