Fathers_of_the_ChurchHear St Paul, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Grace (he says) through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what is grace? The remission of sin, that is, a free gift. For grace is a free gift.

Christ therefore, coming and taking upon Him the nature of man, first presented before God this very human nature pure from the power of sin and innocent.

Isaiah says, Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall He eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 

And of Him again, Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. 

When, under this guardianship of innocence, Christ first undertook the defence of man in the very flesh of sin, forthwith that father of the disobedience of sin, who had once deceived our first parents, began to be excited, to be troubled, to tremble.

For he was to be overcome by the loosening of that law by which alone he had retained possession of man, or could retain it.

He arms himself therefore for a spiritual contest with the Immaculate, and first he attacks Him with that artifice with which he had overcome Adam in Paradise, under the pretence of dignity.

And as if perplexed about His heavenly power, he [the devil] says, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread; that so ashamed or unwilling to conceal that He was the Son of God, He might fulfil the commands of the tempter.

Behold still he is not silent, suggesting that if He would cast Himself down from above, He would be received in the hands of angels, to whom The Father had entrusted that on their hands they should bear Him up, lest by any means He should dash His foot against a stone; that so, while the Lord wished to prove that He it was of Whom the Father had given this command, He might do what the tempter urged.

Last of all the serpent being now crushed, as if he were now giving up, promises Him those very kingdoms of the world, which he had taken from the first man: that so whilst the Advocate of man believes that he has overcome, He by receiving the empire (which He was to recover), might incline towards the dignity offered by the evil one, and so at last sin.

But in all these attacks the Enemy is overcome, and destroyed by the heavenly power, as says the Prophet unto the Lord, That thou mightest still the enemy, and the avenger. For I shall behold the heavens, the works of Thy fingers.

Pacian of Barcelona (c.310-391): Discourse on Baptism, 3-4.

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