Wherefore Christ undertook a method of setting us free so painful and laborious, when a word from Him, or an act of His will, would alone have sufficed.
19. Then he labours to teach and persuade us that the devil could not and ought not to have claimed for himself any right over man, except by the permission of God, and that, without doing any injustice to the devil, God could have called back His deserter, if He wished to show him mercy, and have rescued him by a word only, as though any one denies this; oxen after much more he proceeds: |And so what necessity, or what reason, or what need was there, when the Divine compassion by a simple command could have freed man from sin, for the Son of God to take flesh for our redemption, to suffer so many and such great privations, scorn, scourgings, and spittings on, in short, the pain and ignominy of the cross itself, and that with evil doers?| I reply: The necessity was ours, the hard necessity of those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. The need, equally ours, and God's, and the Holy Angels! Ours, tat He might remove the yoke of our captivity; His own, that He might fulfil the purpose of His will; the Angels', that their number might be filled up. Further, the reason of this deed was the good pleasure of the Doer. Who denies that there were ready for the Almighty other and yet other ways to redeem us, to justify us, to set us free? But this takes nothing from the efficacy of the one which He chose out of many. And, perhaps, the greatest excellence of the way chosen is that in a land of forgetfulness, of slowness of spirit, and of constant offending, we are more forcibly and more vividly warned by so many and such great sufferings of our Restorer. Beyond that no man knows, nor can know to the full, what treasures of grace, what harmony with wisdom, what increase of glory, what advantages for salvation the inscrutable depth of this holy mystery contains within itself, that mystery which the Prophet when considering trembled at, but did not penetrate (Habak. iii.2 in LXX), and which the forerunner of the Lord thought himself unworthy to unloose (S. John i.27).
20. But though it is not allowed us to scrutinize the mystery of the Divine Will, yet we may feel the effect of its work and perceive the fruit of its usefulness. And what we may know we may not keep to ourselves, for to conceal their word is to give glory to kings, but God is glorified by our investigating His sayings. [Prov. xxv.2. But the sense of the text is the reverse of this.] Faithful is the saying and worthy of all acceptation, that while we were yet sinners we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Rom. v.10). |Where there is reconciliation there is also remission of sins. For if, as the Scripture says, our sins separate between us and God| (Is. lix.2), there is no reconciliation while sin remains. In what, then, is remission of sins? This cup, He says, is the new testament in My Blood which shall be shed for you for the remission of sins (S. Matt. xxvi.28). Therefore where there is reconciliation there is remission of sins. And what is that but justification? Whether, therefore, we call it reconciliation, or remission of sins, or justification, or, again, redemption, or liberation from the chains of the devil, by whom we were taken captive at his will, at all events by the death of the Only Begotten, we obtain that we have been justified freely by His blood, in whom, as S. Paul says again, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Eph. i.7). You say, Why by His blood when He could have wrought it by His Word? Ask Himself. It is only allowed me to know that it is so, not why it is so. Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, |Why hast Thou made me thus?|
21. But these things seem to him foolishness, he, cannot restrain his laughter; listen to his jeering. |Why does the Apostle say,| he asks, |that we are justified, or reconciled to God by the death of His Son, when He ought to have been the more angry with man, as he sinned more deeply in crucifying Ibis Son, than in transgressing His first command by tasting of the apple?| As if the iniquity of the malignant were not able to displease, and the godliness of the sufferer to please God, and that in one and the same act. |But,| he replies, |if that sin of Adam was so heinous that it could not be expiated but by the death of Christ, what expiation shall suffice for that homicide which was perpetrated upon Christ?| I answer in two words, That very Blood which they shed, and the prayer of Him whom they slew. Ire asks again: |Did the death of His innocent Son so please God the Father that by it He was reconciled to us, who had committed such a sin in Adam, that because of it our innocent Lord was slain? Would He not have been able to forgive us much more easily if so heinous a sin had not been committed?| It was not His death alone that pleased the Father, but His voluntary surrender to death; and by that death destroying death, working salvation, restoring innocence, triumphing over principalities and powers, spoiling hell, enriching heaven, making peace between things in heaven and things on earth, and renewing all things. And since this so precious death to be voluntarily submitted to against sin could not take place except through sin, He did not indeed delight in, but He made good use of, the malice of the wrong-doers, and found the means to condemn death and sin by the death of His Son, and the sin [of those who condemned Him]. And the greater their iniquity, the more holy His will, and the more powerful to salvation; because, by the interposition of so great a power, that ancient sin, however great, would necessarily give way to that committed against Christ, as the less to the greater. Nor is this victory to be ascribed to the sin or to the sinners, but to Him who extracted good from their sin, and who bore bravely with the sinners, and turned to a godly purpose whatever the cruelty of the impious ventured on against Himself.
22. Thus the Blood which was shed was so powerful for pardoning that it blotted out that greatest sin of all, by which it came to pass that it was shed; and, therefore, left no doubt whatever about the blotting out of that ancient and lighter sin. Thus he rejoins: |Is there any one to whom it does not seem cruel and unjust, that any one should require the blood of an innocent man as the price of some thing, or that the death of an innocent man should in any way give him pleasure, not to say that God should hold so acceptable the death of His Son as by it to be reconciled to the whole world?| God the Father did not require the Blood of His Son, but, nevertheless, He accepted it when offered; it was not blood He thirsted for, but salvation, for salvation was in the blood. He died, in short, for our salvation, and not for the mere exhibition of charity, as this man thinks and writes. For he so concludes the numerous calumnies and reproaches, which he as impiously as ignorantly belches out against God, as to say that |the whole reason why God appeared in the flesh was for our education by His word and example,| or, as he afterwards says, for our instruction; that the whole reason why He suffered and died was to exhibit or commend to us charity.