Friday, November 8, 2013

Origen of Alexandria on the Purification of Man

On First Principles, Chap. X, Sec. 6. Page 146-47.
6. There are many other matters too, which are hidden from us, and are known only to him who is the physician of our souls. For if in regard to bodily health we occasionally find it necessary to take some very unpleasant and bitter medicine as a cure for the ills we have brought on through eating and drinking, and sometimes, if the character of the ill demands it, we need the severe treatment of the knife and a painful operation, yes, and should the disease have extended beyond the reach even of these remedies, in the last resort the lilies burnt out by fire, how much more should we realize that God our physician, in his desire to wash away the ills of our souls, which they have brought on themselves through a variety of sins and chimes, makes us of penal remedies of a similar sort, even to the infliction of a punishment of fire on those who have lost their soul's health.

Allusions to this are found also in the holy scriptures. For instance, in Deuteronomy the divine word threatens that sinners are to be punished with 'fevers and cold and pallor', and tortured with 'feebleness of eyes and insanity and paralysis and blindness and weakness of the reigns' (Deut. 28:22, 28-29). And so if anyone will gather at his leisure from the whole of scripture all the references to sufferings which in threats against sinners are called by the names of bodily sicknesses, he will find that through them allusion is being made to either the ills of the punishments of souls. And to help us understand that as physicians supply aids to sufferers with the object of restoring them to health through careful treatment, so with the same motive God acts towards those who have lapsed and fallen into sin, there is proof in that passage in which, through the prophet Jeremiah, God's 'cup of fury' is commanded 'to be set before all nations' that 'they may drink it and become mad and spew it out' (Jerem. 25:15,16,27). In this passage there is a threat which says, 'if anyone refuses to drink, he shall not be cleansed' (Jerem. 25:28,29); from which certainly we understand that the fury of God's vengeance ministers to the purification of souls.

Isaiah teaches that even the punishments which are said to be inflicted by fire are meant to be applied as a help, when he speaks thus about Israel: 'The Lord will wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Sion, and will purge away the blood from the midst of them by the spirit of burning' (Is. 4:4). And of the Chaldaeans he speaks thus: ' Thou hast coals of fire, sit upon them; they shall be to thee for a help' (Is. 47:14,15: LXX), and in other places he says: "The Lord shall sanctify them in burning fire' (Is. 66:16,17), and in the prophet Malachi it speaks as follows: 'The Lord shall sift and refine his people as gold and silver; he shall refine and purify and pour forth purified the sons of Judah' (Mal. 3:3).

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