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Chapter XXIV.

Of the fact that they were justly punished, who sinned before the flood.

And so then we see that from the beginning God created everything perfect, nor would there have been need for anything to have been added to His original arrangement—as if it were shortsighted and imperfect—if everything had continued in that state and condition in which it had been created by Him. And therefore in the case of those who sinned before the law and even before the flood we see that God visited them with a righteous judgment, because they deserved to be punished without any excuse, for having transgressed the law of nature; nor should we fall into the blasphemous slanders of those who are ignorant of this reason, and so depreciate the God of the Old Testament, and run down our faith, and say with a sneer: Why then did it please your God to will to promulgate the law after so many thousand years, while He suffered such long ages to pass without any law? But if He afterwards discovered something better, then it appears that at the beginning of the world His wisdom was inferior and poorer, and that afterwards as if taught by experience He began to provide for something better, and to amend and improve His original arrangements. A thing which certainly cannot happen to the infinite foreknowledge of God, nor can these assertions be made about Him by the mad folly of heretics without grievous blasphemy, as Ecclesiastes says: “I have learnt that all the words which God hath made from the beginning shall continue forever: nothing can be added to them, and nothing can be taken away from them,”15681568    Eccl. iii. 14. (LXX.). and therefore “the law is not made for the righteous, but for the unrighteous, and insubordinate, for the ungodly and sinners, for the wicked and profane.”15691569    1 Tim. i. 9. For as they had the sound and complete system of natural laws implanted in them they had no need of this external law in addition, and one committed to writing, and what was given as an aid to that natural law. From which we infer by the clearest of reasonings that that law committed to writing need not have been given at the beginning (for it was 386unnecessary for this to be done while the natural law still remained, and was not utterly violated) nor could evangelical perfection have been granted before the law had been kept. For they could not have listened to this saying: “If a man strikes thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,”15701570    S. Matt. v. 39. who were not content to avenge wrongs done to them with the even justice of the lex talionis, but repaid a very slight touch with deadly kicks and wounds with weapons, and for a single truth sought to take the life of those who had struck them. Nor could it be said to them, “love your enemies,”15711571    Ib. ver. 44. among whom it was considered a great thing and most important if they loved their friends, but avoided their enemies and dissented from them only in hatred without being eager to oppress and kill them.


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