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Cause of God and Truth The

Cause of God and Truth The

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Published by: itisme_angela on Nov 02, 2010
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11/05/2011

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Lactantius embraced and maintained the same doctrine his
master Arnobius did; he seems to be very sensible of the
proneness of human nature to sin, and of its weakness and frailty,
and how many ways it becomes subject to it. “No man,” says he,

“can be without sin as long as he is burdened with the clothing of
the flesh, whose infirmity is subject three ways to the dominion of
sin, by deeds, words, and thoughts; therefore just men, who can
restrain themselves from every unjust work, yet sometimes are
overcome through frailty itself, that either they say that which is
evil in anger, or upon sight of things delightful, lust after them in
secret thought.” And to the same effect he says in another place,
“There is none who sins not at all, and there are many things
which provoke to sin, as age, oppression, want, occasion, reward,
adeo subjecta est peccato fragilitas carnis qua induti sumus, ‘the
frailty of the flesh with which ye are clothed, is so subject to sin,
that unless God should spare this necessity, very few, perhaps,
would live.” He sometimes represents man as in a state of
blindness and darkness, and suggests, that it is impossible he
should have a knowledge of spiritual and heavenly things without
divine teachings; “We,” says he, “who before as blind men, and as
shut up in the prison of folly, sat in darkness, ignorant of God and
truth, are enlightened by God, who hath adopted us in his
covenant, and being delivered from evil bonds, and brought into
the light of wisdom, he hath took into the inheritance of the
heavenly kingdom.” And elsewhere he says, that “the mind shut
up in earthly bowels, and hindered by the corruption of the body,

aut comprehendere per se potest aug capere veritatem nisi
aliunde doceater
, can neither by itself comprehend nor receive
truth, unless it be taught from some other person:” yea, he
expressly says in another place, that “man cannot himself come
to this knowledge, nisi doceatur a Deo, ‘unless he is taught of
God:’ “ by which he means the knowledge of spiritual and
heavenly things; for elsewhere he observes, that “the knowledge
of truth, and of heavenly things, non potest esse in homine, nissi
Deo docente
, percepta, ‘cannot be perceived in man, unless God

teaches it;’ for if man could understand divine things, he could do
them; for to understand is, as it were, to follow them closely; but
he cannot do what God can, because he is clothed with a mortal
body, therefore neither can he understand what God has done.”
There are some things which he denies are in the power of man;
“To undertake a thing,” he observes, “is easy, to fulfill is difficult;
for when thou committest thyself to a combat and conflict, in
arbitrio Dei
, non tuo, posita Victoria est, the victory lies in the will
of God, not in thine own.” Hence he says in another place, “It is
not the part of a wise and good man to will, to strive, and to
commit himself to danger, because to overcome, non est in nostra
potestat
e, is not in our power.” The appeasing of conscience and
healing the wounds which sin has made in it, are by him ascribed
alone to the power and grace of God; his words are these: “It is
better therefore either to avoid conscience, or that we should
willingly open our minds, and pour out the deadliness thereof
through the lanced wound, quibus nemo altus mederi potest,
‘which no other can heal,’ but he alone who has given to the lame
to walk, and sight to the blind, hath cleansed spotted members,
and hath raised the dead; he will extinguish the heat of lust, he
will root out unlawful desires, he will draw away envy, he will
mitigate anger, he will give true and perpetual soundness.” In one
place, indeed, he seems to take too much upon him, and what is
beyond the power of a mere man, when he says, “Give me a man
that is angry, reproaching, and unruly, with a very few words of
God I will make him as quiet as a lamb; give me one greedy,
covetous, and tenacious, by and by I will return him to thee liberal,
freely giving his money with his own hands, and those full; give
me one fearful of pain and death, he shall immediately despise
crosses, fires, and Phalaris’s bull; give me one lustful, adulterous,
a haunter of stews, you shall presently see him sober, chaste,

and continent; give me one cruel and thirsting after blood, at once
his fury shall be changed into true clemency; give me one unjust,
foolish, a sinner, forthwith he shall be just, and prudent, and
innocent.” But then all this he ascribes to the power of divine
grace attending the word and ordinances of the gospel; “for by
one laver,” adds he, “all wickedness shall be abolished, fanta
divinae sapientiae vis est
, ut in hominis pectus infusa, such is the
power of divine wisdom, that being infused into the breast of man,
at once, by one effort, it expels folly, the mother of sin; to effect
which, there is no need of hire of books or lucubrations; these
things are done freely, easily, quickly, so that the ears be open,
and the breast thirsts after wisdom.” This he opposes to the
maxims, notions, and wisdom of the philosophers, with all the art
of moral suasion they were masters of; “their wisdom,” says he,
“the most that it can do, can hide vices, but not root them out; but
the few precepts of God so change the whole man, and polishing
the old man, make the man new, that you cannot know him to be
the same.”

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