(53) Why does he offer his sacrifice to the beneficent virtue of God, but the acceptance of it takes place by means of both the qualities of the Lord and God, for Moses says, “And the Lord God smelled a savour of sweetness?” (#Ge 8:20). He says this since, when unexpectedly, after all hope is gone, we are preserved from dangers which are coming over us, we then, looking solely at the beneficence of him who has preserved us, do, on account of our joy, display ingratitude, and prefer the benefits which we have received rather to the beneficent power than to the Lord. But the beneficent preserver himself, by means of both his attributes, looks down upon and honourably accepts grateful minds, that he may not appear to halt in rewarding them; but he declares that such a display of gratitude is pleasing to both attributes of the one God.{5}{or, “But the one God very much likes to act by means of both his attributes.”ùNote to the Latin version.}

(54) What is the meaning of the words, “And the Lord God said, repenting him, I will not again proceed to curse the earth for the works of man, for the thoughts of the mind of man are toward, and are diligently and ceaselessly exercised in, wickedness from his youth up; therefore I will not now proceed to smite all living flesh as I have done at other times?” (#Ge 8:21). The reasons alleged appear to indicate a change of purpose, which is an affection not usual nor akin to the divine virtue; for the dispositions of mankind are variable and inconstant, so that all affairs among them are altogether uncertain; but with God nothing is uncertain, nothing incomprehensible, for he is a being of mighty and consistent determination; how then, when reasons of the same kind are present to him, because he was forsooth aware from the very beginning that the mind of man was deliberately inclined to wallow in wickedness from his youth on, could he have originally intended to destroy the human race by a flood; and yet afterwards say, that he did not intend to destroy it any more, when the same evils still exist in the mind? But we must think that every kind of expression of this sort is, by law, connected with learning and the utility of instruction rather than with the nature of truth, since there are, as it were, two kinds which occur in the whole course of the law; in the first place, as it is said, “Not as a man;” and in the second place, as it is said, “As a man,” the one God is believed to instruct his son. That first expression relates to the actual truth; for, in real fact, God is not as a man, nor again, as the sun, nor as the heaven, nor as the world, which is perceptible by the outward senses, but as God, if it is justifiable to assert that also; since that most happy and blessed being will not endure similitude, or comparison, or enigmatical description; nay, rather he surpasses even blessedness and felicity itself, and whatever can be imagined as better than and preferable to them. But the second expression relates to instruction and direction, I mean the express words, “As a man,” in order that it may be observed, that he is willing to impress us beings, born of the earth, lest perchance we should unceasingly incur his anger and his chastisement by our implacable hostility to him, without any peace; for it is sufficient for him to be roused and embittered against us once, and once to exact vengeance against sinners; but to inflict punishment over and over again for the same thing is the conduct of a savage and ferocious disposition: since, says he, “when I shall inflict deserved retribution, as is possible, on every one, I will cause a burning recollection of my design to be preserved.” Therefore behold, the sacred historian has excellently expressed himself, saying, “That God observed in his mind,” for his mind and disposition rejoice in a superior degree of constancy; but our wills are found to be inconsistent and vacillating, on which account we cannot be properly said to observe and think with our minds, since it is by the thoughts that the passage of the mind is allowed to take place, {6}{“if you connect the Armenian words in a different manner, the sense will be ‘meditation is the purification of the course of the mind,’ and this is perhaps better.”ùNote by the Latin Translator.} but the human intellect is unable to be extended over everything, since it is incapable of penetrating all things in a perfect and suitable manner. But that expression, “I will not proceed any more to curse the earth,” is used with great propriety, for it is not becoming to add more curses to what has already been done, because the evils that have been inflicted are already complete; because, although they are in some sense imperfect, inasmuch as the Father is kind and merciful, and most humane, still he is rather inclined to alleviate the evil than to add to men’s misery. But that is as it were the same thing, according to a common proverb, to wash a brick, or to draw water properly, and wholly to eradicate wickedness, with all its deeply imprinted tokens from the mind of man; for if it is implanted in it at first, it does not exist accidentally, but is engraven deeply on it and clings to it. But since the mind is a potential and principal part of the soul, he introduces that word “diligently;” but that which has been weighed with diligence and care is exquisite thought, examined more certainly than certainty itself. But this diligence does not tend to any one evil, but as is plain, to mischief, and to all mischief; nor does it exist in a perfunctory manner; but man is devoted to it from his youth, not only in a manner, but from his very cradle, as if he were in some degree united to, and nourished, and bred up with sin. But yet God says, “I will not any more smite all flesh;” giving notice that he will not, at any future time, destroy every portion of mankind altogether, but only single individuals, in ever such great numbers, who perpetrate unspeakable wickednesses; for he does not leave wickedness unpunished, nor does he grant it liberty or impunity, but indulging his care for the human race on account of his original design, he of necessity fixes destruction as a punishment for sinners.