XVI. (74) On which account God now says, that Noah found grace in his sight, when all the rest of mankind appearing ungrateful were about to receive punishment, in order that he might mingle saving mercy with judgment against sinners. As the psalmist has said somewhere, “My song shall be of mercy and judgment.”16 (75) For if God were to choose to judge the race of mankind without mercy, he would pass on them a sentence of condemnation; since there has never been a single man who, by his own unassisted power, has run the whole course of his life, from the beginning to the end, without stumbling; but since some men have fallen into voluntary, and some into involuntary sins, (76) that therefore the human race might still subsist, even though many of the subordinate members of it go to destruction. God mingles mercy with his justice, which he exercises towards the good actions of even the unworthy; and he not only pities them while judging, but judges them while pitying them, for mercy is older than justice in his sight, inasmuch as he knew the man who deserved punishment, not after he had passed sentence on him, but also before sentence.
XVII. (77) On which account he says in another passage, “The cup is in the hand of the Lord; full of the mixture of unmixed wine;”17 and yet that which is mixed is not unmixed; but these words are spoken in a sense in the strictest accordance with natural philosophy and in one perfectly consistent with what has been said before; for God exerts his power in an untempered degree towards himself, but in a mixed character towards his creatures; for it is impossible for a mortal nature to endure his power unmitigated. (78) Do you think that you would be unable to look at the unmodified light of the sun? If you were to try to do so, your sight would be extinguished by the brilliancy of his rays, and be wholly blinded by a close approach to that luminary, before it could perceive anything, and yet the sun is only one of the works of God, a portion of the heaven, a fragment of compressed aether, but you are nevertheless able to gaze upon those uncreated powers which exist around him, and emit the most dazzling light, without any veil or modification. (79) As, therefore, the sun extends his rays from heaven to the boundaries of the earth, tempering and dissolving the exceeding violence of the heat that is in them by cool air, for he mixes his rays with that, in order that that portion of them which gives light being separated from that portion which gives heat, he may remit somewhat of his power of burning, but retain the power by which he gives light, and so be received with welcome, when meeting that kindred and friendly light which is situated in the eyes of man; for the meeting of these two lights in the same place, coming from an opposite direction, and the reception of the one by the other, is what causes that comprehension which we arrive at by our faculty of sight: but what mortal could possibly receive in this manner the knowledge, and wisdom, and prudence, and justice, and all the other virtues of God, in an unalloyed state? The whole heaven, the whole world, could not do so. (80) Therefore the Creator, knowing the way in which he exceeded in all things that were most excellent, and the inherent natural weakness of created beings, even though they boast loudly, does not think either to benefit them or to chastise them to the extremity of his power, but only as far as he sees that those who are to be the objects of his benefits or of his chastisements have power to receive either. (81) If, then, we are able to drink of and to enjoy a gentle and moderate mixture of his powers, we might receive sufficient happiness therefrom, than which the race of man ought not to seek to receive any more complete enjoyment. We have now explained what the mixed and unmixed powers and what those really supreme faculties are which exist in the living God alone.