Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Apologetic Works.: Chapter XL
But, as far as what has been already said, the instruction of this Catechism does not seem to me to be yet complete. For we ought, in my opinion, to take into consideration the sequel of this matter; which many of those who come to the grace of baptism 2052 overlook, being led astray, and self-deceived, and indeed only seemingly, and not really, regenerate. For that change in our life which takes place through regeneration will not be change, if we continue in the state in which we were. I do not see p. 508 how it is possible to deem one who is still in the same condition, and in whom there has been no change in the distinguishing features of his nature, to be any other than he was, it being palpable to every one that it is for a renovation and change of our nature that the saving birth is received. And yet human nature does not of itself admit of any change in baptism; neither the reason, nor the understanding, nor the scientific faculty, nor any other peculiar characteristic of man is a subject for change. Indeed the change would be for the worse if any one of these properties of our nature were exchanged away 2053 for something else. If, then, the birth from above is a definite refashioning of the man, and yet these properties do not admit of change, it is a subject for inquiry what that is in him, by the changing of which the grace of regeneration is perfected. It is evident that when those evil features which mark our nature have been obliterated a change to a better state takes place. If, then, by being “washed,” as says the Prophet 2054 , in that mystic bath we become “clean” in our wills and “put away the evil” of our souls, we thus become better men, and are changed to a better state. But if, when the bath has been applied to the body, the soul has not cleansed itself from the stains of its passions and affections, but the life after initiation keeps on a level with the uninitiate life, then, though it may be a bold thing to say, yet I will say it and will not shrink; in these cases the water is but water, for the gift of the Holy Ghost in no ways appears in him who is thus baptismally born; whenever, that is, not only the deformity of anger 2055 , or the passion of greed, or the unbridled and unseemly thought, with pride, envy, and arrogance, disfigures the Divine image, but the gains, too, of injustice abide with him, and the woman he has procured by adultery still even after that ministers to his pleasures. If these and the like vices, after, as before, surround the life of the baptized, I cannot see in what respects he has been changed; for I observe him the same man as he was before. The man whom he has unjustly treated, the man whom he has falsely accused, the man whom he has forcibly deprived of his property, these, as far as they are concerned, see no change in him though he has been washed in the laver of baptism. They do not hear the cry of Zacchæus from him as well: “If I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore fourfold 2056 .” What they said of him before his baptism, the same they now more fully declare; they call him by the same names, a covetous person, one who is greedy of what belongs to others, one who lives in luxury at the cost of mens calamities. Let such an one, therefore, who remains in the same moral condition as before, and then babbles to himself of the beneficial change he has received from baptism, listen to what Paul says: “If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself 2057 .” For what you have not become, that you are not. “As many as received Him,” thus speaks the Gospel of those who have been born again, “to them gave He power to become the sons of God 2058 .” Now the child born of any one is entirely of a kindred nature with his parent. If, then, you have received God, if you have become a child of God, make manifest in your disposition the God that is in you, manifest in yourself Him that begot you. By the same marks whereby we recognize God, must this relationship to God of the son so born be exhibited. “He openeth His hand and filleth every living thing with His good pleasure.” “He passeth over transgressions.” “He repenteth Him of the evil.” “The Lord is good to all, and bringeth not on us His anger every day.” “God is a righteous Lord, and there is no injustice in Him 2059 ;” and all other sayings of the like kind which are scattered for our instruction throughout the Scripture;—if you live amidst such things as these, you are a child of God indeed; but if you continue with the characteristic marks of vice in you, it is in vain that you babble to yourself of your birth from above. Prophecy will speak against you and say, “You are a son of man, not a son of the Most High. You love vanity, and seek after leasing. Know you not in what way man is made admirable 2060 ? In no other way than by becoming holy.”
It will be necessary to add to what has been said this remaining statement also; viz. that those good things which are held out in the Gospels to those who have led a godly life, are not such as can be precisely described. For how is that possible with things which “eye hath not seen, neither ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man 2061 ”? Indeed, the sinners life of torment presents no equivalent to anything that pains the sense here. Even if some one of the punishments in that other world be named in terms that are well known here, the distinction is still p. 509 not small. When you hear the word fire, you have been taught to think of a fire other than the fire we see, owing to something being added to that fire which in this there is not; for that fire is never quenched, whereas experience has discovered many ways of quenching this; and there is a great difference between a fire which can be extinguished, and one that does not admit of extinction. That fire, therefore, is something other than this. If, again, a person hears the word “worm,” let not his thoughts, from the similarity of the term, be carried to the creature here that crawls upon the ground; for the addition that it “dieth not” suggests the thought of another reptile than that known here. Since, then, these things are set before us as to be expected in the life that follows this, being the natural outgrowth according to the righteous judgment of God, in the life of each, of his particular disposition, it must be the part of the wise not to regard the present, but that which follows after, and to lay down the foundations for that unspeakable blessedness during this short and fleeting life, and by a good choice to wean themselves from all experience of evil, now in their lifetime here, hereafter in their eternal recompense 2062 .
We need not consider this passage about Regeneration as an interpolation, with Aubertin, De Sacram. Eucharist. lib. ii. p. 487, because Gregory has already dealt with Baptism in ch. xxxv.–xxxvi.; and then with the Eucharist: his view of the relation between the two Sacraments, that the Eucharist unites the body, as Baptism the soul to God, quite explains this return to the preliminaries of this double union.508:2053
ὑπαμειφθείη. A word almost peculiar to this Gregory.508:2054
Is. i. 16.508:2055
τὸ κατὰ τὸν θυμὸν αἶσχος. Quite wrongly the Latin translators, “animi turpitudo,” i.e. baseness of mind, which is mentioned just below.508:2056
S. Luke xix. 8508:2057
Gal. vi. 3.508:2058
S. John i. 12508:2059
These quotations are from the LXX. of Ps. 145:16, Ps. 103:12, Isa. 43:25, Joel 2:13, Ps. 7:11, Ps. 92:15.508:2060
Ps. 4:2, 3. In the last verse the LXX. has ἐθαυμάστωσε; which the Vulgate follows, i.e. “He hath made his Saint wonderful” (the Hebrew implies, “hath wonderfully separated”). That θαυμαστοῦται (three of Krabingers Codd., and Morells) is the reading here (omitted in Editt.), is clear from the whole quotation from the LXX. of this Psalm.508:2061
Is. lxiv. 4; 1 Cor. ii. 9.509:2062
The section beginning here, which one Cod. (Vulcobius), used by Hervetus, exhibits, is “evidently the addition of some blundering copyist.” P. Morell considers it the portion of a preface to a treatise against Severus, head of the heretics called Acephali. But Severus was condemned under Justinian, a.d. 536: and the Acephali themselves were no recognized party till after the Council of Ephesus (those who would follow neither S. Cyril, nor John of Damascus, in one meaning of the term, i.e. “headless”), or after the Council of Chalcedon (those who rejected the Henoticon of the Emperor Zeno, addressed to the orthodox and the Monophysites, in the other meaning). It is quoted by Krabinger, none of whose Codd. recognize it.
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