Chapter II.—A Difficulty.
To this Niceta answered: “My lord Peter, I say nothing against your right and good counsels; but I wish to say one thing, that thereby I may learn something that I do not know. What if my father should die within the year p. 193 during which you recommend that he should be put off? He will go down to hell helpless, and so be tormented for ever.” Then said Peter: “I embrace your kindly purpose towards your father, and I forgive you in respect of things of which you are ignorant. For do you suppose that, if any one is thought to have lived righteously, he shall forthwith be saved? Do you not think that he must be examined by Him who knows the secrets of men, as to how he has lived righteously, whether perchance according to the rule of the Gentiles, obeying their institutions and laws; or for the sake of the friendship of men; or merely from custom, or any other cause; or from necessity, and not on account of righteousness itself, and for the sake of God? For those who have lived righteously, for the sake of God alone and His righteousness, they shall come to eternal rest, and shall receive the perpetuity of the heavenly kingdom. For salvation is not attained by force, but by liberty; and not through the favour of men, but by the faith of God. Then, besides, you ought to consider that God is prescient, and knows whether this man is one of His. But if He knows that he is not, what shall we do with respect to those things which have been determined by Him from the beginning? But wherein I can, I give counsel: when he is awake, and we sit down together, then do you, as if you wished to learn something, ask a question about those matters which it is fitting for him to learn; and while we speak to one another, he will gain instruction. But yet wait first to see if he himself ask anything; for if he do so, the occasion of discourse will be the fitter. But if he do not ask anything, let us by turns put questions to one another, wishing to learn something, as I have said. Such is my judgment, state what is yours.”