15. Moreover,—to touch briefly some of the more recondite topics,—when God made the world in the beginning, He set over it and appointed certain powers of celestial virtues by whom the race of mortal men might be governed and directed. That this was so done Moses signifies in the Song in Deuteronomy, “When the Most High divided the nations, He appointed the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God.” 3287 But some of these, as he who is called the Prince of this world, did not exercise the power which God had committed to them according to the laws by which they had received it, nor did they teach mankind to obey Gods commandments, but taught them rather to follow their own perverse guidance. Thus we were brought under the bonds of sin, because, as the Prophet saith, “We were sold under our sins.” 3288 For every man, when he yields to lust, is receiving the purchase-money of his soul. Under that bond then every man was held by those most wicked rulers, which same bond Christ, when He came, tore down and stripped them of this their power. This Paul signifies under a great mystery, when he says of Him, “He destroyed the hand-writing which was against us, nailing it to His cross, and led away principalities and powers, triumphing over them in Himself.” 3289 Those rulers, then, whom God had set over mankind, having become contumacious and tyrannical, took in hand to assail the men who had been committed to their charge and to rout them utterly in the conflicts of sin, as the Prophet Ezekiel mystically intimates when he says, “In that day angels 3290 shall come forth hastening to exterminate Ethiopia, and there shall be perturbation among them in the day of Egypt; for behold He comes.” 3291 Having stript them then of their almighty power, Christ is said to have triumphed, and to have delivered to men the power which was taken from them, as also Himself saith to His disciples in the Gospel, “Behold I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the might of the enemy.” 3292 The Cross of Christ, then, brought those who had wrongfully abused the authority which they had received into subjection to those who had before been in subjection to them. But us, that is, mankind, it teaches first of all to resist sin even unto death, and willingly to die for the sake of religion. Next, this same Cross sets before us an example of obedience, in like manner as it hath punished the contumacy of those who were once our rulers. Hear, therefore, how the Apostle would teach us obedience by the Cross of Christ: “Let this mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking upon Him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and, being found in fashion as a man, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.” 3293 As, then, a consummate master teaches both by example and precept, so Christ taught the obedience, which good men are to render even at the cost of death, by Himself first dying in rendering it.
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