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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 15

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 15.—Man, by Birth, is Placed Under the Dominion of the Devil Through Sin; We Were All One in Adam When He Sinned.

He then proceeds to ask: “Why, then, are they in the devil’s power whom God created?” And he finds an answer to his own question apparently from a phrase of mine. “Because of sin,” says he, “not because of nature.” Then framing his answer in reference to mine, he says: “But as there cannot be offspring without the sexes, so there cannot be sin without the will.” Yes, indeed, such is the truth. For even as “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so also has death passed through to all men, for in him all have sinned.” 2230 By the evil will of that one man all sinned in him, since all were that one man, from whom, therefore, they individually derived original sin. “For you allege,” says he, “that the reason why they are in the devil’s power is because they are born of the union of the two sexes.” I plainly aver that it is by reason of transgression that they are in the devil’s power, and that their participation, moreover, of this transgression is due to the circumstance that they are born of the said union of the sexes, which cannot even accomplish its own honourable function without the incident of shameful lust. This has also, in fact, been said by Ambrose, of most blessed memory, bishop of the church in Milan, when he gives as the reason why Christ’s birth in the flesh was free from all sinful fault, that His conception was not the result of a union of the two sexes; whereas there is not one among human beings conceived in such union who is without sin. These are his precise words: “On that account, and being man, He was tried by every sort of temptation, and in the likeness of man He bore them all; inasmuch, however, as He was born of the Spirit, He abstained from all sin. For every man is a liar, and none is without sin, but God only. It has accordingly,” adds he, “been constantly observed, that clearly no one who is born of a man and a woman, that is to say, through the union of their bodies, is free from sin; for whoever is free from sin is free also from conception of this kind.” 2231 Well now, will you dare, ye disciples of Pelagius and Cœlestius, to call this man a Manichean? as the heretic Jovinian did, when the holy bishop maintained the permanent virginity of the blessed Mary even after child-bearing, in opposition to this man’s impiety. If, however, you do not dare to call him a Manichean, why do you call us Manicheans when we defend the catholic faith in the self-same cause and with the self same opinions? But if you will taunt that most faithful man with having entertained Manichean error in this matter, there is no help for it, you must enjoy your taunts as best you may, and so fill up Jovinian’s measure more fully; as for ourselves, we can patiently endure along with p. 289 such a man of God your taunts and jibes. And yet your heresiarch Pelagius commends Ambrose’s faith and extreme purity in the knowledge of the Scriptures so greatly, as to declare that not even an enemy could venture to find fault with him. Observe, then, to what length you have gone, and refrain from following any further in the audacious steps of Jovinian. And yet that man, although by his excessive commendation of marriage he put it on a par with holy virginity, never denied the necessity of Christ to save those who are born of marriage even fresh from their mother’s womb, and to redeem them from the power of the devil. This, however, you deny; and because we oppose you in defence of those who cannot yet speak for themselves, and in defence of the very foundations of the catholic faith, you taunt us, with being Manicheans. But let us now see what comes next.



Rom. v. 12.


Ambrose On Isaiah; see also his Epistle (81) to Siricius.

Next: Chapter 16

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