And the LORD smelled a sweet odor; and the LORD said in his heart,
I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done.
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Ambrose of Milan
Let us examine with greater attention the meaning of the words “the Lord said in his heart, I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” He will not add that he intends to destroy again, as he had already done, every living creature for the entire duration of earth. Even though he had punished the whole of mankind, he knew that the punishment of the law is more suitable to raise fear and to teach the doctrine than to change the nature that can be corrected in some people but not changed in everybody. Therefore God punished so that we might fear and forgave so that we might be preserved. He punished once in order to give an example that would have raised fear, but he forgave for the future, so that the bitterness of sin would have not prevailed. One who is intent upon punishing sins too often is considered to be more obstinate than strict. Therefore God says, “I will never again curse the ground because of man,” that is, he punishes a few, forgives many, because he intended to show his mercy for the whole of mankind without the necessity of producing in human hearts a false security mixed with a kind of neglect.