Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 2
Chapter 2 [II.]—Faith in Christ Not Necessary to Salvation, If a Man Without It Can Lead a Righteous Life.
Therefore the nature of the human race, generated from the flesh of the one transgressor, if it is self-sufficient for fulfilling the law and for perfecting righteousness, ought to be sure of its reward, that is, of everlasting life, even if in any nation or at any former time faith in the blood of Christ was unknown to it. For God is not so unjust as to defraud righteous persons of the reward of righteousness, because there has not been announced to them the mystery of Christ’s divinity and humanity, which was manifested in the flesh. For how could they believe what they had not heard of; or how could they hear without a preacher? For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” But I say (adds he): Have they not heard? “Yea, verily; their sound went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” Before, however, all this had been accomplished, before the actual preaching of the gospel reaches the ends of all the earth—because there are some remote nations still (although it is said they are very few) to whom the preached gospel has not found its way,—what must human nature do, or what has it done—for it had either not heard that all this was to take place, or has not yet learnt that it was accomplished—but believe in God who made heaven and earth, by whom also it perceived by nature that it had been itself created, and lead a right life, and thus accomplish His will, uninstructed with any faith in the death and resurrection of Christ? Well, if this could have been done, or can still be done, then for my part I have to say what the apostle said in regard to the law: “Then Christ died in vain.” For if he said this about the law, which only the nation of the Jews received, how much more justly may it be said of the law of nature, which the whole human race has received, “If righteousness come by nature, then Christ died in vain.” If, however, Christ did not die in vain, then human nature cannot by any means be justified and redeemed from God’s most righteous wrath—in a word, from punishment—except by faith and the sacrament of the blood of Christ.
- 1 Tim. iii. 16.
- Rom. x. 14.
- Rom. x. 17, 18.
- Gal. ii. 21.