But, inasmuch as there are not wanting persons of such character, just as we say in answer to those who raise this question, that those things are punishments of sins before remission, which after remission become contests and exercises of the righteous; so again to such persons as are similarly perplexed about the death of the body, our answer ought to be so drawn as to show both that we acknowledge it to have accrued because of sin, and that we are not discouraged by the punishment of sins having been bequeathed to us for an exercise of discipline, in order that our great fear of it may be overcome by us as we advance in holiness. For if only small virtue accrued to the faith which works by love in conquering the fear of death, there would be no great glory for the martyrs; nor could the Lord say, Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends; John 15:13 which John in his epistle expresses in these terms: As He laid down His life for us, so ought we to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 In vain, therefore, would commendation be bestowed on the most eminent suffering in encountering or despising death for righteousness' sake, if there were not in death itself a really great and very severe trial. And the man who overcomes the fear of it by his faith, procures a great glory and just recompense for his faith itself. Wherefore it ought to surprise no one, either that the death of the body could not possibly have happened to man unless sin had been previously committed, since it was of this that it was to become the punishment; nor that after the remission of their sins it comes to the faithful, in order that in their triumphing over the fear of it, the fortitude of righteousness may be exercised.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
St. Augustine on Why Punishment is Still Inflicted, After Sin Has Been Forgiven.
From Book II, chapter 54 of On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD):