17. This is the righteousness of man in the blood of the Redeemer: which this son of perdition, by his scoffs and insinuations, is attempting to render vain; so much so, that he thinks and argues that the whole fact that the Lord of Glory emptied Himself, that He was made lower than the angels, that He was born of a woman, that He lived in the world, that He made trial of our infirmities, that He suffered indignities, that at last He returned to His own place by the way of the Cross, that all this is to be reduced to one reason alone, viz., that it was done merely that He might give man by His life and teaching a rule of life, and by His suffering and death might set before him a goal of charity. Did He, then, teach righteousness and not bestow it? Did He show charity and not infuse it, and did He so return to His heaven? Is this, then, the whole of the great mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (1 Tim. iii.16). O, incomparable doctor! he lays bare to himself the deep things of God, he makes them clear and easy to every one, and by his false teaching he so renders plain and evident the most lofty sacrament of grace, the mystery hidden from the ages, that any uncircumcised and unclean person can lightly penetrate to the heart of it: as though the wisdom of God knew not how to guard or neglected to guard against what Itself forbade, but had Itself given what is holy to the dogs and cast its pearls before swine. But it is not so. For though it was manifested in the flesh, yet it was justified in the Spirit: so that spiritual things are bestowed upon spiritual men, and the natural man does not perceive the things which are of the Spirit of God. Nor does our faith consist in wisdom of words but in the power of God. And, therefore, the Saviour says: I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes (S. Matt. xi.25). And the Apostle says: If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost (2 Cor. iv.3).
18. But see this man scoffing at the things which are of the Spirit of God, because they seem to him folly, and insulting the Apostle who speaks the hidden wisdom of God in a mystery, inveighing against the Gospel and even blaspheming the Lord. How much more prudent would he be if he would deign to believe what he has no power to comprehend, and would not dare to despise or tread under foot this sacred and holy mystery! It is a long task to reply to all the follies and calumnies which he charges against the Divine counsel. Yet I take a few, from which the rest may be estimated. "Since," he says, "Christ set free the elect only, how were they more than now, whether in this world or the next, under the power of the devil?" I answer: It was just because they were under the power of the devil, by whom, says the Apostle, they were taken captive at his will (2 Tim. ii.26), that there was need of a liberator in order that the purpose of God concerning them might be fulfilled. But it behoved Him to set them free in this world, that He might have them as freeborn sons in the next. Then he rejoins: "Well, did the devil also torture the poor man who was in the bosom of Abraham as he did the rich man who was condemned, or had he power over Abraham himself and the rest of the elect?" No, but he would have had if they had not been set free by their faith in a future Deliverer, as of Abraham it is written: Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Gen. xv.6). Again: Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad (S. John viii.56). Therefore even then the Blood of Christ was bedewing Lazarus, that he might not feel the flames, because he had believed on Him who should suffer. So are we to think of all the saints of that time, that they were born just as ourselves under the power of darkness, because of original sin, but rescued before they died, and that by nothing else but the blood of Christ. For it is written: The multitudes that went before and that followed, cried saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord (S. Matt. xxi.9). Therefore blessing was given to Christ coming in the flesh, both before He came and afterwards, by multitudes of those who had been blessed by Him, although those who went before did not obtain a full blessing, this, of course, having been kept as the prerogative of the time of grace.