Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 10
Chapter 10 [IX.]—He Could Not Be Justified, Who Had Not Heard of the Name of Christ; Rendering the Cross of Christ of None Effect.
But they say: “He is not condemned; because the statement that all sinned in Adam, was not made because of the sin which is derived from one’s birth, but because of imitation of him.” If, therefore, Adam is said to be the author of all the sins which followed his own, because he was the first sinner of the human race, then how is it that Abel, rather than Christ, is not placed at the head of all the righteous, because he was the first righteous man? But I am not speaking of the case of an infant. I take the instance of a young man, or an old man, who has died in a region where he could not hear of the name of Christ. Well, could such a man have become righteous by nature and free will; or could he not? If they contend that he could, then see what it is to render the cross of Christ of none effect, to contend that any man without it, can be justified by the law of nature and the power of his will. We may here also say, then is Christ dead in vain forasmuch as all might accomplish so much as this, even if He had never died; and if they should be unrighteous, they would be so because they wished to be, not because they were unable to be righteous. But even though a man could not be justified at all without the grace of Christ, he would absolve him, if he dared, in accordance with his words, to the effect that, “if a man were of such a character, because he could not possibly have been of any other, he would be free from all blame.”
- 1 Cor. i. 1.
- Gal. ii. 21.