Lo, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many devices.
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Athanasius the Apostolic
For [the soul] is made to see God and to be enlightened by him; but of its own accord in God’s stead it has sought corruptible things and darkness, as the Spirit says somewhere in writing, “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.” Thus it has been then that people from the first discovered and contrived and imagined evil for themselves. But it is now time to say how they came down to the madness of idolatry, that you may know that the invention of idols is wholly due not to good but to evil. But what has its origin in evil can never be pronounced good in any point—being evil altogether. –.
The reason that we, being bad, have a good Father is in order that we may not always remain bad. No bad person can make a good one. If no bad person can make a good one, how can a bad man make himself good? The only one who can make a good person out of a bad one is the one who is always good. “Heal me, Lord,” he says, “and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved.” Why do they say to me, silly people saying silly things, “You can save yourself if you want to”? “Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed.” We were created good by the good God, seeing that “God made man upright.” But by our own decision we became bad. We were able to change from good to bad, and we shall be able to change from bad to good. But it is the one who is always good that can change bad to good, because man, by his own will, cannot heal himself. You don’t look for a doctor to wound you; but when you have wounded yourself, you look for one to heal you.
The Manichaeans deny that to a good man the beginning of evil came from free will; the Pelagians say that even a bad man has free will sufficiently to perform the good commandment. The Catholic church condemns both, saying to the former, “God made man upright,” and saying to the latter, “If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Let us be displeased with ourselves when we sin, because sins displease God. And because we are not in fact without sin, let us at least be like God in this respect, that what displeases him displeases us. Now you are displeased with that in yourself which he also hates who made you. He designed and constructed you; but take a look at yourself and eliminate from yourself everything that does not come from his workshop. For God, as it says, “created man upright.”
There is also a good world consisting of people, but made so out of a bad one. The whole world, you see, if you take the world as meaning people, leaving aside world in the sense of heaven and earth and all things that are in them; if you mean people by world, then the whole world was made bad by the one who first sinned. The whole mass is vitiated in its root. God made man good; that is what Scripture says: “God made man upright, and they themselves have sought out many devices.”
Our struggle against the vices has not been naturally implanted in us by God our Father and Creator but is proved to have befallen us from our love of this world, which we preferred to our Creator. For God made human beings upright, and they have involved themselves in endless questions, as Solomon bears witness. Hence James also says, “Let no one, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not the instigator of evil, for he himself tempts no one. Each one, in fact, is tempted, drawn on and lured by his own concupiscence.”
God has created human beings straightforward, that is, morally perfect without anything crooked or oblique. But they themselves found many thoughts.… They did not devise one thought but many. Evil, thus, is manifold.… There is only one single human form that makes a person like God, but there are many into which he can transform himself. If he is cunning, he has the face of a fox; if he shows a poisonous, dangerous face, he has the face of a snake; if he looks wild, he has the face of a lion; if his face is ungovernable, flattering and desiring pleasures, he has the face of a dog. Generally out of one human being and one form emerge a whole plurality of characters and forms. Thus it is the goal to get rid of all forms—even if some people do not share this opinion—in order to show that he has the face that God created.
But because [God] knows that some humans act according to his will and some do not, for that very reason he proclaims the virtue of the one part in order to incite the others to a zeal for the good from the womb. In the same way too, concerning those others, he proclaims their worthlessness. It is not as if he creates one worthless from the womb, and another useful. And if such were the case, why would it be necessary to praise the worthy and to blame the worthless if he himself is the creator of worthiness and worthlessness? Thus one ought not to be held blameable for that worthlessness if he had created him so from the womb. And now it is clear that God’s saying beforehand, “Jacob I have loved and Esau have I hated” means that this one will become beloved by his conduct, and that one hateful.… As it also says elsewhere: “God made man upright, and they thought a thought of evil.”
Man. The superior part of the soul rarely thinks of good; but the sensual part always inclines to evil. (Worthington)
Solomon found danger from all women, (St. Jerome) and there is none who may not prove fatal to those who are off their guard. (Calmet)
Yet some are doubtless innocent, like the blessed Virgin . (Haydock)