a man supposes and says that, just as some people at times pardon other people's offences without punishing them or exacting any penalty, and as sometimes a king takes pity on a thief or other criminal and passes him over without punishment, and as a father occasionally forgives his son's misconduct, in the very same way God also, whose kindness and mercy are certainly in no degree less, nay rather are immeasurably greater than theirs, will of His great mercy pass over men's sins without inquiry or punishment and will draw through them all the pen of forgiveness. By the puff, as it were, of the passing breeze of this cursory thought the candle of the judgement of many persons has been put out, and they, seated in a careless corner, remain thoughtless of their sins and free from dread, thinking that without doubt the Merciful and Gracious One will pardon all their sins.

But, although this idea commends itself to the man who has not really thought about the matter, yet to men of understanding who have devoted even a little consideration to the subject it is clear that such a fancy is devoid of all foundation in fact. For a father who passes over his son's offence and a king who sometimes pardons an offender and does not always adequately punish every crime do this for reasons which do not come into operation at all in reference to God Most High. For in the cases we have mentioned one reason why some offences are passed over is because the father's and


the king's justice and judgement and righteousness are defective. A perfectly just ruler could not act thus; for, unless some favourable circumstance intervene, adequate punishment must follow the offence. Again, since both the father and the king are themselves also imperfect and sinful, it is right and fitting that they should sometimes pass over the faults of those who are obedient to them and should forgive them.

But suppose that the king always pardoned offenders and never punished any one, but through mercifulness time after time let them off, in that way would not the very foundation of law and justice be overthrown? Would not the king be giving permission and encouragement to every kind of wrong and injustice? And would he not thus be desolating his realm and throwing it into confusion? It is evident that no wise and just monarch would ever be guilty of such conduct. And were a father to overlook his son's disobedience and always to forgive his offences, and never to punish him at all, would not his son become day by day more spoiled? Of course, if a man during his whole life were to transgress the divine will only once or twice, or a few times at most, perhaps something might be said in support of this opinion. But since all men are sinners in God's sight, and since every person by unworthy thoughts and evil desires and improper words and deeds has committed many sins during his lifetime, and still commits them;