Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Marriage and Concupiscence/Book II/Chapter 27
Chapter 27.—The Pelagians Argue that God Sometimes Closes the Womb in Anger, and Opens It When Appeased.
Carefully consider the rest of his remarks: “This likewise,” says he, “is confirmed by the apostle’s authority. For when the blessed Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead, he said, “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened.” And afterwards, ‘But God giveth it a body as it pleaseth Him, and to every seed its own body.’ If, therefore, God,” says he, “has assigned to human seed, as to every thing else, its own proper body, which no wise or pious man will deny, how will you prove that any person is born guilty? Do, I beg of you, reflect with what a noose this assertion of natural sin is choked. But come,” he says, “deal more gently with yourself, I pray you. Believe me, God made even you: it must, however, be confessed, that a serious error has infected you. For what profaner opinion can be broached than that either God did not make man, or else that He made him for the devil; or, at any rate, that the devil framed God’s image, that is, man,—which clearly is a statement not more absurd than impious? Is then,” says he, “God so poor in resources, so lacking in all sense of propriety, as not to have had aught which He could confer on holy men as their reward, except what the devil, after making them his dupes, might infuse into them for their vitiation? Would you like to know, however, that even in the case of those who are no saints, God can be proved to have bestowed this power of procreation of children? When Abraham, struck with fear among a foreign nation, said that Sarah, his wife, was his sister, it is said that Abimelech, the king of the country, abducted her for a night’s enjoyment of her. But God, who had the holy woman’s honour in His keeping, appeared to Abimelech in his sleep, and restrained the royal audacity; threatening him with death if he went to the length of violating the wife. Then Abimelech said: ‘Wilt thou, O Lord, slay an innocent and righteous nation? Did they not tell me that they were brother and sister? Therefore Abimelech arose early in the morning, and took a thousand pieces of silver, and sheep, and oxen, and men-servants, and women-servants, and gave them to Abraham, and sent away his wife untouched. But Abraham prayed unto God for Abimelech; and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maid-servants.’” Now why he narrated all this at so great a length, you may find in these few words which he added: “God,” he says, “at the prayer of Abraham, restored their potency of generation, which had been taken away from the wombs of even the meanest servants; because God had closed up every womb in the house of Abimelech. Consider now,” says he, “whether that ought to be called a natural evil which sometimes God when angry takes away, and when appeased restores. He,” says he, “makes the children both of the pious and of the ungodly, inasmuch as the circumstance of their being parents appertains to that nature which rejoices in God as its Author, whilst the fact of their impiety belongs to the depravity of their desires, and this comes to every person whatever as the consequence of free will.”
- 1 Cor. xv. 36.
- The translation adopts the conjecture of the Benedictine editors: in vitium, instead of in vitio or initio, as the mss. read.
- See Gen. xx. 2, 4, 5, 8, 14, 17.
- Gen. xx. 18.