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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter.: Chapter 56

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 56.—The Faith of Those Who are Under the Law Different from the Faith of Others.

But there is yet another distinction to be observed,—since they who are under the law both attempt to work their own righteousness through fear of punishment, and fail to do God’s righteousness, because this is accomplished by the love to which only what is lawful is pleasing, and never by the fear which is forced to have in its work the thing which is lawful, although it has something else in its will which would prefer, if it were only possible, that to be lawful p. 108 which is not lawful. These persons also believe in God; for if they had no faith in Him at all, neither would they of course have any dread of the penalty of His law. This, however, is not the faith which the apostle commends. He says: “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” 1019 The fear, then, of which we speak is slavish; and therefore, even though there be in it a belief in the Lord, yet righteousness is not loved by it, but condemnation is feared. God’s children, however, exclaim, “Abba, Father,”—one of which words they of the circumcision utter; the other, they of the uncircumcision,—the Jew first, and then the Greek; 1020 since there is “one God, which justifieth the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.” 1021 When indeed they utter this call, they seek something; and what do they seek, but that which they hunger and thirst after? And what else is this but that which is said of them, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled?” 1022 Let, then, those who are under the law pass over hither, and become sons instead of slaves; and yet not so as to cease to be slaves, but so as, while they are sons, still to serve their Lord and Father freely. For even this have they received; for the Only-begotten “gave them power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name;” 1023 and He advised them to ask, to seek, and to knock, in order to receive, to find, and to have the gate opened to them, 1024 adding by way of rebuke, the words : “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” 1025 When, therefore, that strength of sin, the law, 1026 inflamed the sting of death, even sin, to take occasion and by the commandment work all manner of concupiscence in them, 1027 of whom were they to ask for the gift of continence but of Him who knows how to give good gifts to His children? Perhaps, however, a man, in his folly, is unaware that no one can be continent except God give him the gift. To know this, indeed, he requires Wisdom herself. 1028 Why, then, does he not listen to the Spirit of his Father, speaking through Christ’s apostle, or even Christ Himself, who says in His gospel, “Seek and ye shall find;” 1029 and who also says to us, speaking by His apostle: “If any one of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given to him. Let him, however, ask in faith, nothing wavering?” 1030 This is the faith by which the just man lives; 1031 this is the faith whereby he believes on Him who justifies the ungodly; 1032 this is the faith through which boasting is excluded, 1033 either by the retreat of that with which we become self-inflated, or by the rising of that with which we glory in the Lord. This, again, is the faith by which we procure that largess of the Spirit, of which it is said: “We indeed through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” 1034 But this admits of the further question, Whether he meant by “the hope of righteousness” that by which righteousness hopes, or that whereby righteousness is itself hoped for? For the just man, who lives by faith, hopes undoubtedly for eternal life; and the faith likewise, which hungers and thirsts for righteousness, makes progress therein by the renewal of the inward man day by day, 1035 and hopes to be satiated therewith in that eternal life, where shall be realized that which is said of God by the psalm: “Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.” 1036 This, moreover, is the faith whereby they are saved to whom it is said: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” 1037 This, in short, is the faith which works not by fear, but by love; 1038 not by dreading punishment, but by loving righteousness. Whence, therefore, arises this love,—that is to say, this charity,—by which faith works, if not from the source whence faith itself obtained it? For it would not be within us, to what extent soever it is in us, if it were not diffused in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us. 1039 Now “the love of God” is said to be shed abroad in our hearts, not because He loves us, but because He makes us lovers of Himself; just as “the righteousness of God” 1040 is used in the sense of our being made righteous by His gift; and “the salvation of the Lord,” 1041 in that we are saved by Him; and “the faith of Jesus Christ,” 1042 because He makes us believers in Him. This is that righteousness of God, which He not only teaches us by the precept of His law, but also bestows upon us by the gift of His Spirit.



Rom. viii. 15.


Rom. ii. 9.


Rom. iii. 30.


Matt. v. 6.


John i. 12.


See Matt. vii. 7.


Matt. vii. 11.


1 Cor. xv. 56.


Rom. vii. 8.


Wisdom 8.21.


Matt. vii. 7.


Jas. 1:5, 6.


Rom. i. 17.


Rom. iv. 5.


Rom. iii. 27.


Gal. v. 5.


2 Cor. iv. 16.


Ps. ciii. 5.


Eph. ii. 8-10.


Gal. v. 6.


Rom. v. 5.


Rom. iii. 21.


Ps. iii. 8.


Gal. ii. 16.

Next: Chapter 57

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