Part 4
Chapter 3—Of Original Sin

Section 14—Macarius Egyptus. A.D. 350.

Macarius frequently asserts the corruption of human nature, as derived from the sin and disobedience of Adam, and the impotence of it to that which is good: “We have received,” he says,[1] “within ourselves the vitiosity of the affections, dia thV parkohV tou prwtou anqrwpou, ‘through the disobedience of the first man,' which, by custom and much use, is, as it were, become our nature.” And in another place he says,[2] “The whole sinful race of Adam possesses the same condemnation secretly,” meaning that which Cain was under; “for as from one Adam all mankind are multiplied upon the earth, so one certain vitiosity of the affections sits upon the sinful race of men.” Again:[3] “By him (Adam) death hath reigned over every soul, and has destroyed the whole image of Adam, ek thV ekeinou parakohV, ‘through that man's disobedience;' so that men were turned aside, and came into the worshipping of devils.” Moreover he observes,[4] that “all that contrariety in things open and secret hath come upon us apo tes parabaseos tou protou anthropou, from the transgression of the first man. He farther observes,[5] that “as Adam transgressing received into himself the leaven of the evil of the affections, so by participation they that are born of him, even the whole race of Adam, ekeines tea zumes meteche, partake of that leaven.” Once more, he says,[6] “We are all the children of that dark generation, and all partake of the same evil savor; wherefore the same suffering that that man (Adam) endured, pantes ek tou spermatos Adam ontes, we all, being of the seed of Adam, endure.” And elsewhere he says,[7] that through “the transgression of the first man, wickedness entered into the soul, and darkened it;” hence he affirms,[8] “that the soul has need of the divine lamp, the Holy Spirit, who beautifies the darkened house, and of that bright Sun of righteousness, that arises upon and enlightens the heart.” Nay, he asserts,[9] that “as it is not possible that a fish should live without water, or that any one should walk without feet, or see the light without eyes, or speak without a tongue, or hear without ears; so without the Lord Jesus, kai tea energeias tes theias dunameos, ‘and the energy of divine power,' it is not possible to know the mysteries and wisdom of God, or to be rich and a Christian.” And, as he elsewhere says,[10] “A soul naked and destitute of the Spirit, and under the hard poverty of sin, ouden dunatai k an thele, it cannot, even though it would,' bring forth truly any fruit of the spirit of righteousness before it partakes of the Spirit.” Or as he expresses himself in another place:[11] “With out his vessels, that is grace, adunaton tina to Theo diakonesai, ‘it is impossible that any one should serve God,' that is, be acceptable to him, with respect to his whole will.” Agreeable to which are those words of his[12] “Without that heavenly leaven, which is the power of the divine Spirit, it is impossible that a soul should be leavened with the goodness of God, and attain to life.” And a little after:[13] “That soul that thinks to do any thing of itself with care and diligence, relying alone on its own strength, and thinking that it is able by itself, without the cooperation of the Spirit, to perform a perfect work, polu planatai, is greatly mistaken.”

He observes,[14] that those who have the divine law not written with ink and letters, but planted in hearts of flesh, these having the eyes of the understanding enlightened, and always desiring not a sensible and visible hope, but the invisible and intellectual one, are able to overcome the stumbling-blocks of the evil one; au' ek tes aettetou dunameos, “but that is by an insuperable power.” They, indeed, who are not honored with the word of God, nor instructed in the divine law, being vainly puffed up, think, did tou idiou autexousiou,by their own free will,” to abolish the occasions of sin, which is condemned by the mystery in the cross only; for the free will which is in the power of man, can resist the devil, but cannot wholly have power over the affections (Ps. 77:1). For if human nature, “without the whole armor of the Holy Spirit,” could “stand against the wiles of the devil,” it could not be said by the apostle, what is in Romans 16:20, 2 Thessalonians 2:8; wherefore we are commanded to pray the Lord, that he would “not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil;” for unless being delivered from the fiery darts of the evil one, dia tes kreittonos boetheias, “by a better help,” we should have the adoption of children vouchsafed to us, we have our conversation in vain, os porro tes dunameos tou Theou tugchanontes, “as being afar off from the power of God.” Then he goes on to exhort to seek the powerful help of God, and represents fallen men as comparable to beasts without understanding, as become through disobedience douloi tes sarkos pathon, “servants to the affections of the flesh.” He sometimes sets forth the case of men by a bird without wings, or having but one; “As,” says he,[15] “a bird that has but one wing, cannot fly with that one; so human nature, if it remains naked by itself, and does not receive the mixture and communication of the heavenly nature, ouden diorthothe, ‘can do nothing aright,' but continues naked and blamable in its nature, with much filth.” Yea, though a man may have a will, he denies that he has a power; his words are these[16] “As when any one sees a bird fly, he would fly also, but he cannot, because he has no wings; so, though to will is with man, to be pure, unblameable, unspotted, and not to have any evil in him, but to be always with God, to dunasthai de ouk echei, ‘he has not a power;' he would fly into the divine air, and the liberty of the Holy Spirit, but if he does not receive wings, he cannot; let us therefore beseech God, that he would give us the wings of the dove, the Holy Spirit, that we may fly unto him, and be at rest.” Yea, he represents man as dead, and so incapable of doing any thing unless quickened; “As the body,” says he,[17] “without the soul is dead, and cannot do any thing, so the soul, without the divine Spirit, is dead from the kingdom, nor can it do any of the things of God, aneu tou Pneumatos, without the Spirit.” Also he signifies,[18] that “man is so wounded, that it is impossible he should be healed but by the Lord alone, to him only it is possible.” And also,[19] that “it is impossible for any man of himself to deliver himself from contrariety, the error of reasoning, the invisible affections, and the machinations of the evil one.” And elsewhere, having observed,[20] that a man cannot bring forth fruits worthy of the Lord without the wind of the Spirit, and clouds and rains of heaven, he adds; “This is the duty of man, that whether he fasts, or watches, or prays, or does any good thing, that he ascribes all to the Lord; thus saying, Unless God had strengthened me, I could not have fasted nor prayed, nor have left the world.”

There are indeed two passages in this writer, cited and referred to by Dr. Whitby,[21] in favor of free will; though they seem to be leveled against such who held, that some men are by nature good, and others evil, and cannot possibly be otherwise, being under a necessity of nature to be one or the other, a doctrine held by none that I know of. However, it must be owned, that Macarius, in those places, says such things of man's free will as are not easily reconciled to his many sessions to the contrary which have been produced.


[1] Homil. 4, p. 20.

[2] Ibid. 5, p. 32.

[3] Ibid. 11, p. 59, vide etiam, p. 61.

[4] Ibid. 21, p. 131.

[5] Ibid. 24, p. 136.

[6] Ibid. 30, p. 178.

[7] Ibid. 45, p. 220.

[8] Ibid. 11, p. 58.

[9] Ibid. 17, p. 118.

[10] Ibid. 18, p. 118.

[11] Ibid. 15, p. 118.

[12] Homil. 24, p. 137.

[13] Ibid. p. 138.

[14] Ibid. 25, p. 139.

[15] Ibid. 82, p. 185.

[16] Ibid. 2, p. 11.

[17] Ibid. 30, p. 175.

[18] Homil. 20, p. 128.

[19] Ibid. 21, p. 132.

[20] Ibid. 26, p. 152.

[21] Discourse, etc. p. 97, 379, 381; ed. 2. 95, 96, 369, 371.