Hilary of Poitiers
On the Trinity
I. When I was seeking an employment adequate to the powers of human life and righteous in itself, whether prompted by nature or suggested by the researches of the wise, whereby I might attain to some result worthy of that Divine gift of understanding which has been given us, many things occurred to me which in general esteem were thought to render life both useful and desirable. And especially that which now, as always in the past, is regarded as most to be desired, leisure combined with wealth, came before my mind.
The one without the other seemed rather a source of evil than an opportunity for good, for leisure in poverty is felt to be almost an exile from life itself, while wealth possessed amid anxiety is in itself an affliction, rendered the worse by the deeper humiliation which he must suffer who loses, after possessing, the things that most are wished and sought. And yet, though these two embrace the highest and best of the luxuries of life, they seem not far removed from the normal pleasures of the beasts which, as they roam through shady places rich in herbage, enjoy at once their safety from toil and the abundance of their food. For if this be regarded as the best and most perfect conduct of the life of man, it results that one object is common, though the range of feelings differ, to us and the whole unreasoning animal world, since all of them, in that bounteous provision and absolute leisure which nature bestows, have full scope for enjoyment without anxiety for possession.
2. I believe that the mass of mankind have spurned from themselves and censured in others this acquiescence in a thoughtless, animal life, for no other reason than that nature herself has taught them that it is unworthy of humanity to hold themselves born only to gratify their greed and their sloth, and ushered into life for no high aim of glorious deed or fair accomplishment, and that this very life was granted without the power of progress towards immortality; a life, indeed, which then we should confidently assert did not deserve to be regarded as a gift of God, since, racked by pain and laden with trouble, it wastes itself upon itself from the blank mind of infancy to the wanderings of age. I believe that men, prompted by nature herself, have raised themselves through teaching and practice to the virtues which we name patience and temperance and forbearance, under the conviction that right living means right action and right thought, and that Immortal God has not given life only to end in death; for none can believe that the Giver of good has bestowed the pleasant sense of life in order that it may be overcast by the gloomy fear of dying.
3. And yet, though I could not tax with folly and uselessness this counsel of theirs to keep the soul free from blame, and evade by foresight or elude by skill or endure with patience the troubles of life, still I could not regard these men as guides competent to lead me to the good and happy life. Their precepts were platitudes, on the mere level of human impulse; animal instinct could not fail to comprehend them, and he who understood but disobeyed would have fallen into an insanity baser than animal unreason. Moreover, my soul was eager not merely to do the things, neglect of which brings shame and suffering, but to know the God and Father Who had given this great gift, to Whom, it felt, it owed its whole self, Whose service was its true honor, on Whom all its hopes were fixed, in Whose lovingkindness, as in a safe home and haven, it could rest amid all the troubles of this anxious life. It was inflamed with a passionate desire to apprehend Him or to know Him.
4. Some of these teachers brought forward large households of dubious deities, and under the persuasion that there is a sexual activity in divine beings narrated births and lineages from god to god. Others asserted that there were gods greater and less, of distinction proportionate to their power. Some denied the existence of any gods whatever, and confined their reverence to a nature which, in their opinion owes its being to chance-led vibrations and collisions. On the other hand, many followed the common belief in asserting the existence of a God, but proclaimed Him heedless and indifferent to the affairs of men. Again, some worshipped in the elements of earth and air the actual bodily and visible forms of created things; and, finally, some made their gods dwell within images of men or of beasts, tame or wild, of birds or of snakes, and confined the Lord of the universe and Father of infinity within these narrow prisons of metal or stone or wood.
These, I was sure, could be no exponents of truth, for though they were at one in the absurdity, the foulness, the impiety of their observances, they were at variance concerning the essential articles of their senseless belief. My soul was distracted amid all these claims, yet still it pressed along that profitable road which leads inevitably to the true knowledge of God. It could not hold that neglect of a world created by Himself was worthily to be attributed to God, or that deities endowed with sex, and lines of begetters and begotten, were compatible with the pure and mighty nature of the Godhead. Nay, rather, it was sure that that which is Divine and eternal must be one without distinction of sex, for that which is self-existent cannot have left outside itself anything superior to itself. Hence omnipotence and eternity are the possession of One only, for omnipotence is incapable of degrees of strength or weakness, and eternity of priority or succession. In God we must worship absolute eternity and absolute power.
5. While my mind was dwelling on these and on many like thoughts, I chanced upon the books which, according to the tradition of the Hebrew faith, were written by Moses and the prophets, and found in these words spoken by God the Creator testifying of Himself "I Am that I Am," and again, "He that is hath sent me unto you." [Exodus 3:14]. I confess that I was amazed to find in them an indication concerning God so exact that it expressed in the terms best adapted to human understanding an unattainable insight into the mystery of the Divine nature. For no property of God which the mind can grasp is more characteristic of Him than existence, since existence, in the absolute sense, cannot be predicated of that which shall come to an end, or of that which has had a beginning, and He who now joins continuity of being with the possession of perfect felicity could not in the past, nor can in the future, be non-existent; for whatsoever is Divine can neither be originated nor destroyed. Wherefore, since God's eternity is inseparable from Himself, it was worthy of Him to reveal this one thing, that He is, as the assurance of His absolute eternity.
6. For such an indication of God's infinity the words 'I Am that I Am' were clearly adequate; but, in addition, we needed to apprehend the operation of His majesty and power. For while absolute existence is peculiar to Him Who, abiding eternally, had no beginning in a past however remote, we hear again an utterance worthy of Himself issuing from the eternal and Holy God, Who says, Who holdeth the heaven in His palm and the earth in His hand, and again, "The heaven is My throne and the earth is the footstool of My feet. What house will ye build Me or what shall be the place of My rest?" [Isaiah 66:1]. The whole heaven is held in the palm of God, the whole earth grasped, in His hand.
Now the word of God, profitable as it is to the cursory thought of a pious mind, reveals a deeper meaning to the patient student than to the momentary hearer. For this heaven which is held in the palm of God is also His throne, and the earth which is grasped in His hand is also the footstool beneath His feet. This was not written that from throne and footstool, metaphors drawn from the posture of one sitting, we should conclude that He has extension in space, as of a body, for that which is His throne and footstool is also held in hand and palm by that infinite Omnipotence. It was written that in all born and created things God might be known within them and without, overshadowing and indwelling, surrounding all and interfused through all, since palm and hand, which hold, reveal the might of His external control, while throne and footstool, by their support of a sitter, display the subservience of outward things to One within Who, Himself outside them, encloses all in His grasp, yet dwells within the external world which is His own.
In this wise does God, from within and from without, control and correspond to the universe; being infinite He is present in all things, in Him Who is infinite all are included. In devout thoughts such as these my soul, engrossed in the pursuit of truth, took its delight. For it seemed that the greatness of God so far surpassed the mental powers of His handiwork, that however far the limited mind of man might strain in the hazardous effort to define Him, the gap was not lessened between the finite nature which struggled and the boundless infinity that lay beyond its ken. I had come by reverent reflection on my own part to understand this, but I found it confirmed by the words of the prophet, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy face? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I go down into hell, Thou art there also; if I have taken my wings before dawn and made my dwelling in the uttermost parts of the sea (Thou art there). For thither Thy hand shall guide me and Thy right hand shall hold me." [Psalm 139:7-10]. There is no space where God is not; space does not exist apart from Him. He is in heaven, in hell, beyond the seas; dwelling in all things and enveloping all. Thus He embraces, and is embraced by, the universe, confined to no part of it but pervading all.
7. Therefore, although my soul drew joy from the apprehension of this august and unfathomable Mind, because it could worship as its own Father and Creator so limitless an Infinity, yet with a still more eager desire it sought to know the true aspect of its infinite and eternal Lord, that it might be able to believe that that immeasurable Deity was apparelled in splendor befitting the beauty of His wisdom. Then, while the devout soul was baffled and astray through its own feebleness, it caught from the prophet's voice this scale of comparison for God, admirably expressed, By the greatness of His works and the beauty of the things that He hath made the Creator of worlds is rightly discerned. The Creator of great things is supreme in greatness, of beautiful things in beauty. Since the work transcends our thoughts, all thought must be transcended by the Maker. Thus heaven and air and earth and seas are fair: fair also the whole universe, as the Greeks agree, who from its beautiful ordering call it kosmos, that is, order.
But if our thought can estimate this beauty of the universe by a natural instinct -- an instinct such as we see in certain birds and beasts whose voice, though it fall below the level of our understanding, yet has a sense clear to them though they cannot utter it, and in which, since all speech is the expression of some thought, there lies a meaning patent to themselves -- must not the Lord of this universal beauty be recognized as Himself most beautiful amid all the beauty that surrounds Him? For though the splendor of His eternal glory overtax our mind's best powers, it cannot fail to see that He is beautiful. We must in truth confess that God is most beautiful, and that with a beauty which, though it transcend our comprehension, forces itself upon our perception.
8. Thus my mind, full of these results which by its own reflection and the teaching of Scripture it had attained, rested with assurance, as on some peaceful watch-tower, upon that glorious conclusion, recognizing that its true nature made it capable of one homage to its Creator, and of none other, whether greater or less; the homage namely of conviction that His is a greatness too vast for our comprehension but not for our faith. For a reasonable faith is akin to reason and accepts its aid, even though that same reason cannot cope with the vastness of eternal Omnipotence.
9. Beneath all these thoughts lay an instinctive hope, which strengthened my assertion of the faith, in some perfect blessedness hereafter to be earned by devout thoughts concerning God and upright life; the reward, as it were, that awaits the triumphant warrior. For true faith in God would pass unrewarded, if the soul be destroyed by death, and quenched in the extinction of bodily life. Even unaided reason pleaded that it was unworthy of God to usher man into an existence which has some share of His thought and wisdom, only to await the sentence of life withdrawn and of eternal death; to create him out of nothing to take his place in the world, only that when he has taken it he may perish. For, on the only rational theory of creation, its purpose was that things non-existent should come into being, not that things existing should cease to be.
10. Yet my soul was weighed down with fear both for itself and for the body. It retained a firm conviction, and a devout loyalty to the true faith concerning God, but had come to harbor a deep anxiety concerning itself and the bodily dwelling which must, it thought, share its destruction. While in this state, in addition to its knowledge of the teaching of the Law and Prophets, it learned the truths taught by the Apostle in the Gospel; --
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made. That which was made in Him is life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness apprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light. That was the true light, which lighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own things, and they that were His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him He gave power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." [John 1:1-14].
Here the soul makes an advance beyond the attainment of its natural capacities, is taught more than it had dreamed concerning God. For it learns that its Creator is God of God; it hears that the Word is God and was with God in the beginning. It comes to understand that the Light of the world was abiding in the world and that the world knew Him not; that He came to His own possession and that they that were His own received Him not; but that they who do receive Him by virtue of their faith advance to be sons of God, being born not of the embrace of the flesh nor of the conception of the blood nor of bodily desire, but of God; finally, it learns that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and that His glory was seen, which, as of the Only-begotten from the Father, is perfect through grace and truth.
11. Herein my soul, trembling and distressed, found a hope wider than it had imagined. First came its introduction to the knowledge of God the Father. Then it learnt that the eternity and infinity and beauty which, by the light of natural reason, it had attributed to its Creator belonged also to God the Only-begotten. It did not disperse its faith among a plurality of deities, for it heard that He is God of God; nor did it fall into the error of attributing a difference of nature to this God of God, for it learnt that He is full of grace and truth. Nor yet did my soul perceive anything contrary to reason in God of God, since He was revealed as having been in the beginning God with God. It saw that there are very few who attain to the knowledge of this saving faith, though its reward be great, for even His own received Him not though they who receive Him are promoted to be sons of God by a birth, not of the flesh but of faith.
It learnt also that this sonship to God is not a compulsion but a possibility; for, while the Divine gift is offered to all, it is no heredity inevitably imprinted but a prize awarded to willing choice. And lest this very truth that whosoever will may become a son of God should stagger the weakness of our faith (for most we desire, but least expect, that which from its very greatness we find it hard to hope for), God the Word became flesh, that through His Incarnation our flesh might attain to union with God the Word. And lest we should think that this incarnate Word was some other than God the Word, or that His flesh was of a body different from ours, He dwelt among us that by His dwelling He might be known as the indwelling God, and, by His dwelling among us, known as God incarnate in no other flesh than our own, and moreover, though He had condescended to take our flesh, not destitute of His own attributes; for He, the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, is fully possessed of His own attributes and truly endowed with ours.
12. This lesson in the Divine mysteries was gladly welcomed by my soul, now drawing near through the flesh to God, called to new birth through faith, entrusted with liberty and power to win the heavenly regeneration, conscious of the love of its Father and Creator, sure that He would not annihilate a creature whom He had summoned out of nothing into life. And it could estimate how high are these truths above the mental vision of man; for the reason which deals with the common objects of thought can conceive of nothing as existent beyond what it perceives within itself or can create out of itself. My soul measured the mighty workings of God, wrought on the scale of His eternal omnipotence, not by its own powers of perception but by a boundless faith; and therefore refused to disbelieve, because it could not understand, that God was in the beginning with God, and that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, but bore in mind the truth that with the will to believe would come the power to understand.
13. And lest the soul should stray and linger in some delusion of heathen philosophy, it receives this further lesson of perfect loyalty to the holy faith, taught by the Apostle in words inspired:--
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the word, and not after Christ; for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are made full in Him, Which is the Head of all principality and power; in Whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in putting off the body, of the flesh, but with the circumcision of Christ; buried with Him in Baptism, wherein also ye have risen again through faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead. And you, when ye were dead in sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He hath quickened with Him, having forgiven you all your sins, blotting out the handwriting which was against us by its ordinances, which was contrary to us; and He hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the Cross; and having put off the flesh He made a show of powers openly, triumphing over them through confidence in Himself." [Colossians 2:8-15].
Steadfast faith rejects the vain subtleties of philosophic enquiry; truth refuses to be vanquished by these treacherous devices of human folly, and enslaved by falsehood. It will not confine God within the limits which barred our common reason, nor judge after the rudiments of the world concerning Christ, in Whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in such wise that the utmost efforts of the earthly mind to comprehend Him are baffled by that immeasurable Eternity and Omnipotence. My soul judged of Him as One Who, drawing us upward to partake of His own Divine nature, has loosened henceforth the bond of bodily observances Who, unlike the Symbolic Law, has initiated us into no rites of mutilating the flesh, but Whose purpose is that our spirit, circumcised from vice, should purify all the natural faculties of the body by abstinence from sin, that we being buried with His Death in Baptism may return to the life of eternity (since regeneration to life is death to the former life), and dying to our sins be born again to immortality, that even as He abandoned His immortality to die for us, so should we awaken from death to immortality with Him.
For He took upon Him the flesh in which we have sinned that by wearing our flesh He might forgive sins; a flesh which He shares with us by wearing it, not by sinning in it. He blotted out through death the sentence of death, that by a new creation of our race in Himself He might sweep away the penalty appointed by the former Law. He let them nail Him to the cross that He might nail to the curse of the cross and abolish all the curses to which the world is condemned. He suffered as man to the utmost that He might put powers to shame. For Scripture had foretold that He Who is God should die; that the victory and triumph of them that trust in Him lay in the fact that He, Who is immortal and cannot be overcome by death, was to die that mortals might gain eternity. These deeds of God, wrought in a manner beyond our comprehension, cannot, I repeat, be understood by our natural faculties, for the work of the Infinite and Eternal can only be grasped by an infinite intelligence. Hence, just as the truths that God became man, that the Immortal died, that the Eternal was buried, do not belong to the rational order but are an unique work of power, so on the other hand it is an effect not of intellect but of omnipotence that He Who is man is also God, that He Who died is immortal, that He Who was buried is eternal. We, then, are raised together by God in Christ through His death. But, since in Christ there is the fullness of the Godhead, we have herein a revelation of God the Father joining to raise us in Him Who died; and we must confess that Christ Jesus is none other than God in all the fullness of the Deity.
14. In this calm assurance of safety did my soul gladly and hopefully take its rest, and feared so little the interruption of death, that death seemed only a name for eternal life. And the life of this present body was so far from seeming a burden or affliction that it was regarded as children regard their alphabet, sick men their draught, shipwrecked sailors their swim, young men the training for their profession, future commanders their first campaign; that is, as an endurable submission to present necessities, bearing the promise of a blissful immortality. And further, I began to proclaim those truths in which my soul had a personal faith, as a duty of the episcopate which had been laid upon me, employing my office to promote the salvation of all men.
15. While I was thus engaged there came to light certain fallacies of rash and wicked men, hopeless for themselves and merciless towards others, who made their own feeble nature the measure of the might of God's nature. They claimed, not that they had ascended to an infinite knowledge of infinite things, but that they had reduced all knowledge, undefined before, within the scope of ordinary reason, and fixed the limits of the faith. Whereas the true work of religion is a service of obedience; and these were men heedless of their own weakness, reckless of Divine realities, who undertook to improve upon the teaching of God.
16. Not to touch upon the vain enquiries of other heretics -- concerning whom however, when the course of my argument gives occasion, I will not be silent -- there are those who tamper with the faith of the Gospel by denying, under the cloak of loyalty to the One God, the birth of God the Only-begotten. They [the Sabellians] assert that there was an extension of God into man, not a descent; that He, Who for the season that He took our flesh was Son of Man, had not been previously, nor was then, Son of God; that there was no Divine birth in His case, but an identity of Begetter and Begotten; and (to maintain what they consider a perfect loyalty to the unity of God) that there was an unbroken continuity in the Incarnation, the Father extending Himself into the Virgin, and Himself being born as His own Son.
Others [the Arians], on the contrary (heretics, because there is no salvation apart from Christ, Who in the beginning was God the Word with God), deny that He was born and declare that He was merely created. Birth, they hold, would confess Him to be true God, while creation proves His Godhead unreal; and though this explanation be a fraud against the faith in the unity of God, regarded as an accurate definition, yet they think it may pass muster as figurative language. They degrade, in name and in belief, His true birth to the level of a creation, to cut Him off from the Divine unity, that, as a creature called into being, He may not claim the fullness of the Godhead, which is not His by a true birth.
17. My soul has been burning to answer these insane attacks. I call to mind that the very center of a saving faith is the belief not merely in God, but in God as a Father; not merely in Christ, but in Christ as the Son of God; in Him, not as a creature, but as God the Creator, born of God. My prime object is by the clear assertions of prophets and evangelists to refute the insanity and ignorance of men who use the unity of God (in itself a pious and profitable confession) as a cloak for their denial either that in Christ God was born, or else that He is very God. Their purpose is to isolate a solitary God at the heart of the faith by making Christ, though mighty, only a creature; because, so they allege, a birth of God widens the believer's faith into a trust in more gods than one. But we, divinely taught to confess neither two Gods nor yet a solitary God, will adduce the evidence of the Gospels and the prophets for our confession of God the Father and God the Son, united, not confounded, in our faith. We will not admit Their identity nor allow, as a compromise, that Christ is God in some imperfect sense; for God, born of God, cannot be the same as His Father, since He is His Son, nor yet can He be different in nature.
18. And you, whose warmth of faith and passion for a truth unknown to the world and its philosophers shall prompt to read me, must remember to eschew the feeble and baseless conjectures of earthly minds, and in devout willingness to learn must break down the barriers of prejudice and half-knowledge. The new faculties of the regenerate intellect are needed; each must have his understanding enlightened by the heavenly gift imparted to the soul. First he must take his stand upon the sure ground [substantia = hypostasis] of God, as holy Jeremiah says, that since he is to hear about that nature [substantia] he may expand his thoughts till they are worthy of the theme, not fixing some arbitrary standard for himself, but judging as of infinity.
And again, though he be aware that he is partaker of the Divine nature, as the holy apostle Peter says in his second Epistle [2 Peter 1:4], yet he must not measure the Divine nature by the limitations of his own, but gauge God's assertions concerning Himself by the scale of His own glorious self-revelation. For he is the best student who does not read his thoughts into the book, but lets it reveal its own; who draws from it its sense, and does not import his own into it, nor force upon its words a meaning which he had determined was the right one before he opened its pages. Since then we are to discourse of the things of God, let us assume that God has full knowledge of Himself, and bow with humble reverence to His words. For He Whom we can only know through His own utterances is the fitting witness concerning Himself.
19. If in our discussion of the nature and birth of God we adduce certain analogies, let no one suppose that such comparisons are perfect and complete. There can be no comparison between God and earthly things, yet the weakness of our understanding forces us to seek for illustrations from a lower sphere to explain our meaning about loftier themes. The course of daily life shows how our experience in ordinary matters enables us to form conclusions on unfamiliar subjects. We must therefore regard any comparison as helpful to man rather than as descriptive of God, since it suggests, rather than exhausts, the sense we seek. Nor let such a comparison be thought too bold when it sets side by side carnal and spiritual natures, things invisible and things palpable, since it avows itself a necessary aid to the weakness of the human mind, and deprecates the condemnation due to an imperfect analogy. On this principle I proceed with my task, intending to use the terms supplied by God, yet coloring my argument with illustrations drawn from human life.
20. And first, I have so laid out the plan of the whole work as to consult the advantage of the reader by the logical order in which its books are arranged. It has been my resolve to publish no half-finished and ill-considered treatise, lest its disorderly array should resemble the confused clamor of a mob of peasants. And since no one can scale a precipice unless there be jutting ledges to aid his progress to the summit, I have here set down in order the primary outlines of our ascent leading our difficult course of argument up the easiest path; not cutting steps in the face of the rock, but levelling it to a gentle slope, that so the traveller, almost without a sense of effort, may reach the heights.
21. Thus, after the present first book, the second expounds the mystery of the Divine birth, that those who shall be baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost may know the true Names, and not be perplexed about their sense but accurately informed as to fact and meaning, and so receive full assurance that in the words which are used they have the true Names, and that those Names involve the truth.
22. After this short and simple discourse concerning the Trinity, the third book makes further progress, sure though slow. Citing the greatest instances of His power, it brings within the range of faith's understanding that saying, in itself beyond our comprehension, "I in the Father and the Father in Me" [John 14:10], which Christ utters concerning Himself. Thus truth beyond the dull wit of man is the prize of faith equipped with reason and knowledge; for neither may we doubt God's Word concerning Himself, nor can we suppose that the devout reason is incapable of apprehending His might.
23. The fourth book starts with the doctrines of the heretics, and disowns complicity in the fallacies whereby they are traducing the faith of the Church. It publishes that infidel creed which a number of them have lately promulgated, and exposes the dishonesty, and therefore the wickedness, of their arguments from the Law for what they call the unity of God. It sets out the whole evidence of Law and Prophets to demonstrate the impiety of asserting the unity of God to the exclusion of the Godhead of Christ, and the treason of alleging that if Christ be God the Only-begotten, then God is not one.
24. The fifth book follows in reply the sequence of heretical assertion. They had falsely declared that they followed the law in the sense which they assigned to the unity of God, and that they had proved from it that the true God is of one Person; and this in order to rob the Lord Christ of His birth by their conclusion concerning the One true God, for birth is the evidence of origin. In answer I assert, step by step, what they deny; for from the Law and the Prophets I demonstrate that there are not two gods, nor one isolated true God, neither perverting the faith in the Divine unity nor denying the birth of Christ. And since they say that the Lord Jesus Christ, created rather than born, bears the Divine Name by gift and not by right, I have proved His true Divinity from the Prophets in such a way that, He being acknowledged very God, the assurance of His inherent Godhead shall hold us fast to the certainty that God is One.
25. The sixth book reveals the full deceitfulness of this heretical teaching. To win credit for their assertions they denounce the impious doctrine of heretics:-- of Valentinus, to wit, and Sabellius and Manichaeus and Hieracas, and appropriate the godly language of the Church as a cover for their blasphemy. They reprove and alter the language of these heretics, correcting it into a vague resemblance to orthodoxy, in order to suppress the holy faith while apparently denouncing heresy. But we state clearly what is the language and what the doctrine of each of these men, and acquit the Church of any complicity or fellowship with condemned heretics. Their words which deserve condemnation we condemn, and those which claim our humble acceptance we accept. Thus that Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ, which is the object of their most strenuous denial, we prove by the witness of the Father, by Christ's own assertion, by the preaching of Apostles, by the faith of believers, by the cries of devils, by the contradiction of Jews, in itself a confession, by the recognition of the heathen who had not known God; and all this to rescue from dispute a truth of which Christ had left us no excuse for ignorance.
26. Next the seventh book, starting from the basis of a true faith now attained, delivers its verdict in the great debate. First, armed with its sound and incontrovertible proof of the impregnable faith, it takes part in the conflict raging between Sabellius and Hebion [Hilary assumes the 'Ebionites' -- 'the poor' -- were founded by a gentleman named 'Hebion'] and these opponents of the true Godhead. It joins issue with Sabellius on his denial of the pre-existence of Christ, and with his assailants on their assertion that He is a creature. Sabellius overlooked the eternity of the Son, but believed that true God worked in a human body. Our present adversaries deny that He was born, assert that He was created, and fail to see in His deeds the works of very God. What both sides dispute, we believe. Sabellius denies that it was the Son who was working, and he is wrong; but he proves his case triumphantly when he alleges that the work done was that of true God. The Church shares his victory over those who deny that in Christ was very God.
But when Sabellius denies that Christ existed before the worlds, his adversaries prove to conviction that Christ's activity is from everlasting, and we are on their side in this confutation of Sabellius, who recognizes true God, but not God the Son, in this activity. And our two previous adversaries join forces to refute Hebion, the second demonstrating the eternal existence of Christ, while the first proves that His work is that of very God. Thus the heretics overthrow one another, while the Church, as against Sabellius, against those who call Christ a creature, against Hebion, bears witness that the Lord Jesus Christ is very God of very God, born before the worlds and born in after times as man.
27. No one can doubt that we have taken the course of true reverence and of sound doctrine when, after proving from Law and Prophets first that Christ is the Son of God, and next that He is true God, and thus without breach of the mysterious unity, we proceed to support the Law and the Prophets by the evidence of the Gospels, and prove from them also that He is the Son of God and Himself very God. It is the easiest of tasks, after demonstrating His right to the Name of Son, to show that the Name truly describes His relation to the Father; though indeed universal usage regards the granting of the name of son as convincing evidence of sonship.
But, to leave no loophole for the trickery and deceit of these traducers of the true birth of God the Only-begotten, we have used His true Godhead as evidence of His true Sonship; to show that He Who (as is confessed by all) bears the Name of Son of God is actually God, we have adduced His Name, His birth, His nature, His power, His assertions. We have proved that His Name is an accurate description of Himself, that the title of Son is an evidence of birth, that in His birth He retained His Divine Nature, and with His nature His power, and that that power manifested itself in conscious and deliberate self-revelation. I have set down the Gospel proofs of each several point, showing how His self-revelation displays His power, how His power reveals His nature, how His nature is His by birthright, and from His birth comes His title to the name of Son. Thus every whisper of blasphemy is silenced, for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself by the witness of His own mouth has taught us that He is, as His Name, His birth, His nature, His power declare, in the true sense of Deity, very God of very God.
28. While its two predecessors have been devoted to the confirmation of the faith in Christ as Son of God and true God, the eighth book is taken up with the proof of the unity of God, showing that this unity is consistent with the birth of the Son, and that the birth involves no duality in the Godhead. First it exposes the sophistry with which these heretics have attempted to avoid, though they could not deny, the confession of the real existence of God, Father and Son; it demolishes their helpless and absurd plea that in such passages as, "And the multitude of them that believed were one soul and heart" [Acts 4:32], and again, "He that planteth and He that watereth are one" [1 Corinthians 3:8], and "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that shall believe on Me through their word, that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us" [John 17:20-21], a unity of will and mind, not of Divinity, is expressed. From a consideration of the true sense of these texts we show that they involve the reality of the Divine birth; and then, displaying the whole series of our Lord's self-revelations, we exhibit, in the language of Apostles and in the very words of the Holy Spirit, the whole and perfect mystery of the glory of God as Father and as Only-begotten Son. Because there is a Father we know that there is a Son; in that Son the Father is manifested to us, and hence our certainty that He is born the Only-begotten and that He is very God.
29. In matters essential to salvation it is not enough to advance the proofs which faith supplies and finds sufficient. Arguments which we have not tested may delude us into a misapprehension of the meaning of our own words, unless we take the offensive by exposing the hollowness of the enemy's proofs, and so establish our own faith upon the demonstrated absurdity of his. The ninth book, therefore, is employed in refuting the arguments by which the heretics attempt to invalidate the birth of God the Only-begotten;-- heretics who ignore the mystery of the revelation hidden from the beginning of the world, and forget that the Gospel faith proclaims the union of God and man.
For their denial that our Lord Jesus Christ is God, like unto God and equal with God as Son with Father, born of God and by right of His birth subsisting as very Spirit, they are accustomed to appeal to such words of our Lord as, "Why callest thou Me good? None is good save One, even God" [Mark 10:18]. They argue that by His reproof of the man who called Him good, and by His assertion of the goodness of God only, He excludes Himself from the goodness of that God Who alone is good and from that true Divinity which belongs only to One. With this text their blasphemous reasoning connects another, "And this is life eternal that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ" [John 17:3]. Here, they say, He confesses that the Father is the only true God, and that He Himself is neither true nor God, since this recognition of an only true God is limited to the Possessor of the attributes assigned. And they profess to be quite clear about His meaning in this passage, since He also says, "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He hath seen the Father doing" [John 5:19]. The fact that He can only copy is said to be evidence of the limitation of His nature. There can be no comparison between Omnipotence and One whose action is dependent upon the previous activity of Another; reason itself draws an absolute line between power and the want of power. That line is so clear that He Himself has avowed concerning God the Father, "The Father is greater than I" [John 14:28]. So frank a confession silences all demur; it is blasphemy and madness to assign the dignity and nature of God to One who disclaims them. So utterly devoid is He of the qualities of true God that He actually bears witness concerning Himself, "But of that day and hour knoweth no one, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but God only" [Mark 13:32]. A son who knows not his father's secret must, from his ignorance, be alien from the father who knows; a nature limited in knowledge cannot partake of that majesty and might which alone is exempt from the tyranny of ignorance.
30. We therefore expose the blasphemous misunderstanding at which they have arrived by distortion and perversion of the meaning of Christ's words. We account for those words by stating what manner of questions He was answering, at what times He was speaking, what partial knowledge He was deigning to impart; we make the circumstances explain the words, and do not force the former into consistency with the latter. Thus each case of variance, that for instance between "The Father is greater than I" [John 14:28], and "I and the Father are One" [John 10:30], or between "None is good save One, even God" [Matthew 19:17], and "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also" [John 14:9], or a difference so wide as that between "Father, all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine" [John 17:10], and "That they may know Thee, the only, true God" [John 17:3], or between "I in the Father and the Father in Me" [John 14:11], and "But of the day and hour knoweth no one, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father only" [Mark 13:32], is explained by a discrimination between gradual revelation and full expression of His nature and power. Both are utterances of the same Speaker, and an exposition of the real force of each group will show that Christ's true Godhead is no whit impaired because, to form the mystery of the Gospel faith, the birth and Name of Christ were revealed gradually, and under conditions which He chose of occasion and time.
31. The purpose of the tenth book is one in harmony with the faith. For since, in the folly which passes with them for wisdom, the heretics have twisted some of the circumstances and utterances of the Passion into an insolent contradiction of the Divine nature and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am compelled to prove that this is a blasphemous misinterpretation, and that these things were put on record by the Lord Himself as evidences of His true and absolute majesty. In their parody of the faith they deceive themselves with words such as, "My soul is sorrowful even unto death" [Mark 14:34]. He, they think, must be far removed from the blissful and passionless life of God, over Whose soul brooded this crushing fear of an impending woe, Who under the pressure of suffering even humbled Himself to pray, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me" [Matthew 26:39], and assuredly bore the appearance of fearing to endure the trials from which He prayed for release; Whose whole nature was so overwhelmed by agony that in those moments on the Cross He cried, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" [Mark 15:34], forced by the bitterness of His pain to complain that He was forsaken: Who, destitute of the Father's help, gave up the ghost with the words, "Father; into Thy hands I commend My Spirit" [Luke 23:46]. The fear, they say, which beset Him at the moment of expiring made Him entrust His Spirit to the care of God the Father: the very hopelessness of His own condition forced Him to commit His Soul to the keeping of Another.
32. Their folly being as great as their blasphemy, they fail to mark that Christ's words, spoken under similar circumstances, are always consistent; they cleave to the letter and ignore the purpose of His words. There is the widest difference between "My soul is sorrowful even unto death", and "Henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power" [Matthew 26:64]; so also between "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me", and "The cup which the Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" [John 18:11] and further between "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" and "Verily I say unto thee, Today shall thou be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:43], and between "Father into Thy hands I commend My Spirit", and "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" [Luke 23:34]; and their narrow minds, unable to grasp the Divine meaning, plunge into blasphemy in the attempt at explanation.
There is a broad distinction between anxiety and a mind at ease, between haste and the prayer for delay, between words of anguish and words of encouragement, between despair for self and confident entreaty for others; and the heretics display their impiety by ignoring the assertions of Deity and the Divine nature of Christ, which account for the one class, of His words, while they concentrate their attention upon the deeds and words which refer only to His ministry on earth. I have therefore set out all the elements contained in the mystery of the Soul and Body of the Lord Jesus Christ; all have been sought out, none suppressed. Next, casting the calm light of reason upon the question, I have referred each of His sayings to the class to which its meaning attaches it, and so have shown that He had also a confidence which never wavered, a will which never faltered, an assurance which never murmured, that, when He commended His own soul to the Father, in this was involved a prayer for the pardon of others. Thus a complete presentment of the teaching of the Gospel interprets and confirms all (and not some only) of the words of Christ.
33. And so -- for not even the glory of the Resurrection has opened the eyes of these lost men and kept them within the manifest bounds of the faith -- they have forged a weapon for their blasphemy out of a pretended reverence, and even perverted the revelation of a mystery into an insult to God, from the words, "I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God" [John 20:17]. For, so they say, subjection is evidence of want of power in the subject and of its possession by the sovereign. The eleventh book is employed in a reverent discussion of this argument; it proves from these very words of the Apostle not only that subjection is no evidence of want of power in Christ but that it actually is a sign of His true Divinity as God the Son; that the fact that His Father and God is also our Father and God is an infinite advantage to us and no degradation to Him, since He Who has been born as Man and suffered all the afflictions of our flesh has gone up on high to our God and Father, to receive His glory as Man our Representative.
34. In this treatise we have followed the course which we know is pursued in every branch of education. First come easy lessons and a familiarity, slowly attained by practice, with the groundwork of the subject; then the student may make proof, in the business of life, of the training which he has received. Thus the soldier, when he is perfect in his exercises, can go out to battle; the advocate ventures into the conflicts of the courts when he is versed in the pleadings of the school of rhetoric; the sailor who has learned to navigate his ship in the land-locked harbor of his home may be trusted amid the storms of open seas and distant climes. Such has been our proceeding in this most serious and difficult science in which the whole faith is taught. First came simple instruction for the untaught believer in the birth, the name, the Divinity, the true Divinity of Christ; since then we have quietly and steadily advanced till our readers can demolish every plea of the heretics; and now at last we have pitted them against the adversary in the present great and glorious conflict.
The mind of men is powerless with the ordinary resources of unaided reason to grasp the idea of an eternal birth, but they attain by study of things Divine to the apprehension of mysteries which lie beyond the range of common thought. They can explode that paradox concerning the Lord Jesus, which derives all its strength and semblance of cogency from a purblind pagan philosophy: the paradox which asserts, "There was a time when He was not," and "He was not before He was born, and He was made out of nothing;" as though His birth were proof that He had previously been non-existent and at a given moment came into being, and God the Only-begotten could thus be subjected to the conception of time, as if the faith itself [by conferring the title of 'Son'] and the very nature of birth proved that there was a time when He was not. Accordingly they argue that He was born out of nothing, on the ground that birth implies the grant of being to that which previously had no being. We proclaim in answer, on the evidence of Apostles and Evangelists, that the Father is eternal and the Son eternal, and demonstrate that the Son is God of all with an absolute, not a limited, pre-existence; that these bold assaults of their blasphemous logic -- He was born out of nothing, and He was not before He was born -- are powerless against Him; that His eternity is consistent with sonship, and His sonship with eternity; that there was in Him no unique exemption from birth but a birth from everlasting, for, while birth implies a Father, Divinity is inseparable from eternity.
35. Ignorance of prophetic diction and unskillfulness in interpreting Scripture has led them into a perversion of the point and meaning of the passage, "The Lord created Me for a beginning of His ways for His works" [Proverbs 8:22, LXX]. They labor to establish from it that Christ is created, rather than born, as God, and hence partakes the nature of created beings, though He excel them in the manner of His creation, and has no glory of Divine birth but only the powers of a transcendent creature. We in reply, without importing any new considerations or preconceived opinions, will make this very passage of Wisdom display its own true meaning and object. We will show that the fact that He was created for the beginning of the ways of God and for His works, cannot be twisted into evidence concerning the Divine and eternal birth, because creation for these purposes and birth from everlasting are two entirely different things. Where birth is meant, there birth, and nothing but birth, is spoken of; where creation is mentioned, the cause of that creation is first named. There is a Wisdom born before all things, and again there is a wisdom created for particular purposes; the Wisdom which is from everlasting is one, the wisdom which has come into existence during the lapse of time is another.
36. Having thus concluded that we must reject the word 'creation' from our confession of faith in God the Only-begotten, we proceed to lay down the teachings of reason and of piety concerning the Holy Spirit, that the reader, whose convictions have been established by patient and earnest study of the preceding books, may be provided with a complete presentation of the faith. This end will be attained when the blasphemies of heretical teaching on this theme also have been swept away, and the mystery, pure and undefiled, of the Trinity which regenerates us has been fixed in terms of saving precision on the authority of Apostles and Evangelists. Men will no longer dare, on the strength of mere human reasoning, to rank among creatures that Divine Spirit, Whom we receive as the pledge of immortality and source of fellowship with the sinless nature of God.
37. I know, O Lord God Almighty, that I owe Thee, as the chief duty of my life, the devotion of all my words and thoughts to Thyself. The gift of speech which Thou hast bestowed can bring me no higher reward than the opportunity of service in preaching Thee and displaying Thee as Thou art, as Father and Father of God the Only-begotten, to the world in its blindness and the heretic in his rebellion. But this is the mere expression of my own desire; I must pray also for the gift of Thy help and compassion, that the breath of Thy Spirit may fill the sails of faith and confession which I have spread, and a favoring wind be sent to forward me on my voyage of instruction. We can trust the promise of Him Who said, "Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you" [Matthew 7:7]; and we in our want shall pray for the things we need. We shall bring an untiring energy to the study of Thy Prophets and Apostles, and we shall knock for entrance at every gate of hidden knowledge, but it is Thine to answer the prayer, to grant the thing we seek, to open the door on which we beat. Our minds are born with dull and clouded vision, our feeble intellect is penned within the barriers of an impassable ignorance concerning things Divine; but the study of Thy revelation elevates our soul to the comprehension of sacred truth, and submission to the faith is the path to a certainty beyond the reach of unassisted reason.
38. And therefore we look to Thy support for the first trembling steps of this undertaking, to Thy aid that it may gain strength and prosper. We look to Thee to give us the fellowship of that Spirit Who guided the Prophets and the Apostles, that we may take their words in the sense in which they spoke and assign its right shade of meaning to every utterance. For we shall speak of things which they preached in a mystery; of Thee, O God Eternal, Father of the Eternal and Only-begotten God, Who alone art without birth, and of the One Lord Jesus Christ, born of Thee from everlasting. We may not sever Him from Thee, or make Him one of a plurality of Gods, on any plea of difference of nature. We may not say that He is not begotten of Thee, because Thou art One. We must not fail to confess Him as true God, seeing that He is born of Thee, true God, His Father. Grant us, therefore, precision of language, soundness of argument, grace of style, loyalty to truth. Enable us to utter the things that we believe, that so we may confess, as Prophets and Apostles have taught us, Thee, One God our Father, and One Lord Jesus Christ, and put to silence the gainsaying of heretics, proclaiming Thee as God, yet not solitary, and Him as God, in no unreal sense.
1. Believers have always found their satisfaction in that Divine utterance, which our ears heard recited from the Gospel at the moment when that power, which is its attestation, was bestowed upon us: -- "Go now and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" [Matthew 28:19-20]. What element in the mystery of man's salvation is not included in those words? What is forgotten, what left in darkness? All is full, as from the Divine fullness; perfect, as from the Divine perfection. The passage contains the exact words to be used, the essential acts, the sequence of processes, an insight into the Divine nature. He bade them baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that is with confession of the Creator and of the Only-begotten, and of the Gift. For God the Father is One, from Whom are all things; and our Lord Jesus Christ the Only-begotten, through Whom are all things, is One; and the Spirit, God's Gift to us, Who pervades all things, is also One. Thus all are ranged according to powers possessed and benefits conferred; -- the One Power from Whom all, the One Offspring through Whom all, the One Gift Who gives us perfect hope. Nothing can be found lacking in that supreme Union which embraces, in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, infinity in the Eternal, His Likeness in His express Image, our enjoyment of Him in the Gift.
2. But the errors of heretics and blasphemers force us to deal with unlawful matters, to scale perilous heights, to speak unutterable words, to trespass on forbidden ground. Faith ought in silence to fulfill the commandments, worshipping the Father, reverencing with Him the Son, abounding in the Holy Ghost, but we must strain the poor resources of our language to express thoughts too great for words. The error of others compels us to err in daring to embody in human terms truths which ought to be hidden in the silent veneration of the heart.
3. For there have risen many who have given to the plain words of Holy Writ some arbitrary interpretation of their own, instead of its true and only sense, and this in defiance of the clear meaning of words. Heresy lies in the sense assigned, not in the word written; the guilt is that of the expositor, not of the text. Is not truth indestructible? When we hear the name Father, is not sonship involved in that Name? The Holy Ghost is mentioned by name; must He not exist? We can no more separate fatherhood from the Father or sonship from the Son than we can deny the existence in the Holy Ghost of that gift which we receive. Yet men of distorted mind plunge the whole matter in doubt and difficulty, fatuously reversing the clear meaning of words, and depriving the Father of His fatherhood because they wish to strip the Son of His sonship. They take away the fatherhood by asserting that the Son is not a Son by nature; for a son is not of the nature of his father when begetter and begotten have not the same properties, and he is no son whose being is different from that of the father, and unlike it. Yet in what sense is God a Father (as He is), if He have not begotten in His Son that same substance and nature which are His own?
4. Since, therefore, they cannot make any change in the facts recorded, they bring novel principles and theories of man's device to bear upon them. Sabellius, for instance, makes the Son an extension of the Father, and the faith in this regard a matter of words rather than of reality, for he makes one and the same Person, Son to Himself and also Father. Hebion allows no beginning to the Son of God except from Mary, and represents Him not as first God and then man, but as first man then God; declares that the Virgin did not receive into herself One previously existent, Who had been in the beginning God the Word dwelling with God, but that through the agency of the Word she bore Flesh; the 'Word' meaning in his opinion not the nature of the pre-existent Only-begotten God, but only the sound of an uplifted voice.
Similarly certain teachers of our present day assert that the Image and Wisdom and Power of God was produced out of nothing, and in time. They do this to save God, regarded as Father of the Son, from being lowered to the Son's level. They are fearful lest this birth of the Son from Him should deprive Him of His glory, and therefore come to God's rescue by styling His Son a creature made out of nothing, in order that God may live on in solitary perfection without a Son born of Himself and partaking His nature.
What wonder that their doctrine of the Holy Ghost should be different from ours, when they presume to subject the Giver of that Holy Ghost to creation, and change, and non-existence. Thus do they destroy the consistency and completeness of the mystery of the faith. They break up the absolute unity of God by assigning differences of nature where all is clearly common to Each; they deny the Father by robbing he Son of His true Sonship; they deny the Holy Ghost in their blindness to the facts that we possess Him and that Christ gave Him. They betray ill-trained souls to ruin by their boast of the logical perfection of their doctrine; they deceive their hearers by emptying terms of their meaning, through the Names remain to witness to the truth.
I pass over the pitfalls of other heresies, Valentinian, Marcionite, Manichee and the rest. From time to time they catch the attention of some foolish souls and prove fatal by the very infection of their contact; one plague as destructive as another when once the poison of their teaching has found its way into the hearer's thoughts.
5. Their treason involves us in the difficult and dangerous position of having to make a definite pronouncement, beyond the statements of Scripture, upon this grave and abstruse matter. The Lord said that the nations were to be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The words of the faith are clear; the heretics do their utmost to involve the meaning in doubt. We may not on this account add to the appointed form, yet we must set a limit to their license of interpretation. Since their malice, inspired by the devil's cunning, empties the doctrine of its meaning while it retains the Names which convey the truth, we must emphasize the truth which those Names convey.
We must proclaim, exactly as we shall find them in the words of Scripture, the majesty and functions of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and so debar the heretics from robbing these Names of their connotation of Divine character, and compel them by means of these very Names to confine their use of terms to their proper meaning. I cannot conceive what manner of mind our opponents have, who pervert the truth, darken the light, divide the indivisible, rend the scatheless, dissolve the perfect unity. It may seem to them a light thing to tear up Perfection, to make laws for Omnipotence, to limit Infinity; as for me, the task of answering them fills me with anxiety; my brain whirls, my intellect is stunned, my very words must be a confession, not that I am weak of utterance, but that I am dumb. Yet a wish to undertake the task forces itself upon me; it means withstanding the proud, guiding the wanderer, warning the ignorant.
But the subject is inexhaustible; I can see no limit to my venture of speaking concerning God in terms more precise than He Himself has used. He has assigned the Names -- Father, Son and Holy Ghost, -- which are our information of the Divine nature. Words cannot express or feeling embrace or reason apprehend the results of enquiry carried further; all is ineffable, unattainable, incomprehensible. Language is exhausted by the magnitude of the theme, the splendor of its effulgence blinds the gazing eye, the intellect cannot compass its boundless extent. Still, under the necessity that is laid upon us, with a prayer for pardon to Him Whose attributes these are, we will venture, enquire and speak; and moreover -- it is the only promise that in so grave a matter we dare to make -- we will accept whatever conclusion He shall indicate.
6. It is the Father to Whom all existence owes its origin. In Christ and through Christ He is the source of all. In contrast to all else He is self-existent. He does not draw His being from without, but possesses it from Himself and in Himself. He is infinite, for nothing contains Him and He contains all things; He is eternally unconditioned by space, for He is illimitable; eternally anterior to time, for time is His creation. Let imagination range to what you may suppose is God's utmost limit, and you will find Him present there; strain as you will there is always a further horizon towards which to strain. Infinity is His property, just as the power of making such effort is yours. Words will fail you, but His being will not be circumscribed.
Or again, turn back the pages of history, and you will find Him ever present; should numbers fail to express the antiquity to which you have penetrated, yet God's eternity is not diminished. Gird up your intellect to comprehend Him as a whole; He eludes you, God, as a whole, has left something within your grasp, but this something is inextricably involved in His entirety. Thus you have missed the whole, since it is only a part which remains in your hands; nay, not even a part, for you are dealing with a whole which you have failed to divide. For a part implies division, a whole is undivided, and God is everywhere and wholly present wherever He is.
Reason, therefore, cannot cope with Him, since no point of contemplation can be found outside Himself and since eternity is eternally His. This is a true statement of the mystery of that unfathomable nature which is expressed by the Name 'Father:' God invisible, ineffable, infinite. Let us confess by our silence that words cannot describe Him; let sense admit that it is foiled in the attempt to apprehend, and reason in the effort to define. Yet He has, as we said, in 'Father' a name to indicate His nature; He is a Father unconditioned. He does not, as men do, receive the power of paternity from an external source. He is unbegotten, everlasting, inherently eternal. To the Son only is He known, for no one knoweth the Father save the Son and him to whom the Son willeth to reveal Him, nor yet the Son save the Father [Luke 10:22]. Each has perfect and complete knowledge of the Other. Therefore, since no one knoweth the Father save the Son, let our thoughts of the Father be at one with the thoughts of the Son, the only faithful Witness, Who reveals Him to us.
7. It is easier for me to feel this concerning the Father than to say it. I am well aware that no words are adequate to describe His attributes. We must feel that He is invisible, incomprehensible, eternal. But to say that He is self-existent and self-originating and self-sustained, that He is invisible and incomprehensible and immortal; all this is an acknowledgment of His glory, a hint of our meaning, a sketch of our thoughts, but speech is powerless to tell us what God is, words cannot express the reality. You hear that He is self-existent; human reason cannot explain such independence. We can find objects which uphold, and objects which are upheld, but that which thus exists is obviously distinct from that which is the cause of its existence.
Again, if you hear that He is self-originating, no instance can be found in which the giver of the gift of life is identical with the life that is given. If you hear that He is immortal, then there is something which does not spring from Him and with which He has, by His very nature, no contact; and, indeed, death is not the only thing which this word 'immortal' claims as independent of God. If you hear that He is incomprehensible, that is as much as to say that He is non-existent, since contact with Him is impossible. If you say that He is invisible, a being that does not visibly exist cannot be sure of its own existence. Thus our confession of God fails through the defects of language; the best combination of words we can devise cannot indicate the reality and the greatness of God. The perfect knowledge of God is so to know Him that we are sure we must not be ignorant of Him, yet cannot describe Him. We must believe, must apprehend, must worship; and such acts of devotion must stand in lieu of definition.
8. We have now exchanged the perils of a harborless coast for the storms of the open sea. We can neither safely advance nor safely retreat, yet the way that lies before us has greater hardships than that which lies behind. The Father is what He is, and as He is manifested, so we must believe. The mind shrinks in dread from treating of the Son; at every word I tremble lest I be betrayed into treason. For He is the Offspring of the Unbegotten, One from One, true from true, living from living, perfect from perfect; the Power of Power, the Wisdom of Wisdom, the Glory of Glory, the Likeness of the invisible God, the Image of the Unbegotten Father. Yet in what sense can we conceive that the Only-begotten is the Offspring of the Unbegotten? Repeatedly the Father cries from heaven, "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased" [Matthew 3:17, 17:5, Mark 1:11, 9:7, Luke 3:22, 9:35].
It is no rending or severance, for He that begat is without passions, and He that was born is the Image of the invisible God and bears witness, The Father is in Me and I in the Father. It is no mere adoption, for He is the true Son of God and cries, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also. Nor did He come into existence in obedience to a command as did created things, for He is the Only-begotten of the One God; and He has life in Himself, even as He that begot Him has life, for He says, "As the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave He to the Son to have life in Himself" [John 5:26]. Nor is there a portion of the Father resident in the Son, for the Son bears witness, "All things that the Father hath are Mine" [John 16:15], and again, And all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and the Apostle testifies, For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and by the nature of things a portion cannot possess the whole. He is the perfect Son of the perfect Father, for He Who has all has given all to Him. Yet we must not imagine that the Father did not give, because He still possesses, or that He has lost, because He gave to the Son.
9. The manner of this birth is therefore a secret confined to the Two. If any one lays upon his personal incapacity his failure to solve the mystery, in spite of the certainty that Father and Son stand to Each Other in those relations, he will be still more pained at the ignorance to which I confess. I, too, am in the dark, yet I ask no questions. I look for comfort to the fact that Archangels share my ignorance, that Angels have not heard the explanation, and worlds do not contain it, that no prophet has espied it and no Apostle sought for it, that the Son Himself has not revealed it. Let such pitiful complaints cease. Whoever you are that search into these mysteries, I do not bid you resume your exploration of height and breadth and depth; I ask you rather to acquiesce patiently in your ignorance of the mode of Divine generation, seeing that you know not how His creatures come into existence.
Answer me this one question: -- Do your senses give you any evidence that you yourself were begotten? Can you explain the process by which you became a father? I do not ask whence you drew perception, how you obtained life, whence your reason comes, what is the nature of your senses of smell, touch, sight, hearing; the fact that we have the use of all these is the evidence that they exist. What I ask is: -- How do you give them to your children? How do you ingraft the senses, lighten the eyes, implant the mind? Tell me, if you can. You have, then, powers which you do not understand, you impart gifts which you cannot comprehend. You are calmly indifferent to the mysteries of your own being, profanely impatient of ignorance concerning the mysteries of God's.
10. Listen then to the Unbegotten Father, listen to the Only-begotten Son. Hear His words, The Father is greater than I, and I and the Father are One, and He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also, and The Father is in Me and I in the Father, and I went out from the Father, and "Who is in the bosom of the Father" [John 1:18], and Whatsoever the Father hath He hath delivered to the Son, and The Son hath life in Himself, even as the Father hath in Himself. Hear in these words the Son, the Image, the Wisdom, the Power, the Glory of God. Next mark the Holy Ghost proclaiming "Who shall declare His generation" [Isaiah 53:8]? Note the Lord's assurance, No one knoweth the Son save the Father, neither doth any know the Father save the Son and He to whom the Son willeth to reveal Him. Penetrate into the mystery, plunge into the darkness which shrouds that birth, where you will be alone with God the Unbegotten and God the Only-begotten. Make your start, continue, persevere. I know that you will not reach the goal, but I shall rejoice at your progress. For He who devoutly treads an endless road, though he reach no conclusion, will profit by his exertions. Reason will fail for want of words, but when it comes to a stand it will be the better for the effort made.
11. The Son draws His life from that Father Who truly has life; the Only begotten from the Unbegotten, Offspring from Parent, Living from Living. "As the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave He to the Son also to have life in Himself" [John 5:36]. The Son is perfect from Him that is perfect, for He is whole from Him that is whole. This is no division or severance, for Each is in the Other, and the fullness of the Godhead is in the Son. Incomprehensible is begotten of Incomprehensible, for none else knows Them, but Each knows the Other; Invisible is begotten of Invisible, for the Son is the Image of the invisible God, and he that has seen the Son has seen the Father also.
There is a distinction, for They are Father and Son; not that Their Divinity is different in kind, for Both are One, God of God, One God Only begotten of One God Unbegotten. They are not two Gods, but One of One; not two Unbegotten, for the Son is born of the Unborn. There is no diversity, for the life of the living God is in the living Christ. So much I have resolved to say concerning the nature of their Divinity not imagining that I have succeeded in making a summary of the faith, but recognizing that the theme is inexhaustible. So faith, you object, has no service to render, since there is nothing that it can comprehend. Not so; the proper service of faith is to grasp and confess the truth that it is incompetent to comprehend its Object.
12. It remains to say something more concerning the mysterious generation of the Son; or rather this something more is everything. I quiver, I linger, my powers fail, I know not where to begin. I cannot tell the time of the Son's birth; it were impious not to be certain of the fact. Whom shall I entreat? Whom shall I call to my aid? From what books shall I borrow the terms needed to state so hard a problem? Shall I ransack the philosophy of Greece? No! I have read, "Where is the wise? Where is the enquirer of this world?" [1 Corinthians 1:20]. In this matter, then, the world's philosophers, the wise men of paganism, are dumb: for they have rejected the wisdom of God. Shall I turn to the Scribe of the law? He is in darkness, for the Cross of Christ is an offense to him. Shall I, perchance, bid you shut your eyes to heresy, and pass it by in silence, on the ground that sufficient reverence is shown to Him Whom we preach if we believe that lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, the lame ran, the palsied stood, the blind (in general) received sight, the blind from his birth had eyes given to him, devils were routed, the sick recovered, the dead lived. The heretics confess all this, and perish.
13. Look now to see a thing not less miraculous than lame men running, blind men seeing, the flight of devils, the life from the dead. There stands by my side, to guide me through the difficulties which I have enunciated, a poor fisherman, ignorant, uneducated, fishing-lines in hand, clothes dripping, muddy feet, every inch a sailor. Consider and decide whether it were the greater feat to raise the dead or impart to an untrained mind the knowledge of mysteries so deep as he reveals by saying, In the beginning was the Word. What means this In the beginning was? He ranges backward over the spaces of time, centuries are left behind, ages are cancelled. Fix in your mind what date you will for this beginning; you miss the mark, for even then He, of Whom we are speaking, was. Survey the universe, note well what is written of it, In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. This word beginning fixes the moment of creation; you can assign its date to an event which is definitely stated to have happened in the beginning. But this fisherman of mine, unlettered and unread, is untrammelled by time, undaunted by its immensity; he pierces beyond the beginning. For his was has no limit of time and no commencement; the uncreated Word was in the beginning.
14. But perhaps we shall find that our fisherman has been guilty of departure from the terms of the problem proposed for solution. He has set the Word free from the limitations of time; that which is free lives its own life and is bound to no obedience. Let us, therefore, pay our best attention to what follows: -- And the Word was with God. We find that it is with God that the Word, Which was before the beginning, exists unconditioned by time. The Word, Which was, is with God. He Who is absent when we seek for His origin in time is present all the while with the Creator of time. For this once our fisherman has escaped; perhaps he will succumb to the difficulties which await him.
15. For you will plead that a word is the sound of a voice; that it is a naming of things, an utterance of thoughts. This Word was with God, and was in the beginning; the expression of the eternal Thinker's thoughts must be eternal. For the present I will give you a brief answer of my own on the fisherman's behalf, till we see what defense he has to make for his own simplicity. The nature, then, of a word is that it is first a potentiality, afterwards a past event; an existing thing only while it is being heard. How can we say, In the beginning was the Word, when a word neither exists before, nor lives after, a definite point of time? Can we even say that there is a point of time in which a word exists? Not only are the words in a speaker's mouth non-existent until they are spoken, and perished the instant they are uttered, but even in the moment of utterance there is a change from the sound which commences to that which ends a word. Such is the reply that suggests itself to me as a bystander.
But your opponent the Fisherman has an answer of his own. He will begin by reproving you for your inattention. Even though your unpracticed ear failed to catch the first clause, In the beginning was the Word, why complain of the next, And the Word was with God? Was it And the Word was in God that you heard,-- the dictum of some profound philosophy? Or is it that your provincial dialect makes no distinction between in and with? The assertion is that Which was in the beginning was with, not in, Another. But I will not argue from the beginning of the sentence; the sequel can take care of itself. Hear now the rank and the name of the Word:-- And the Word was God. Your plea that the Word is the sound of a voice, the utterance of a thought, falls to the ground. The Word is a reality, not a sound, a Being, not a speech, God, not a nonentity.
16. But I tremble to say it; the audacity staggers me. I hear, And the Word was God; I, whom the prophets have taught that God is One. To save me from further fears, give me, friend Fisherman, a fuller imparting of this great mystery. Show that these assertions are consistent with the unity of God; that there is no blasphemy in them, no explaining away, no denial of eternity. He continues, He was in the beginning with God. This He was in the beginning removes the limit of time; the word God shows that He is more than a voice; that He is with God proves that He neither encroaches nor is encroached upon, for His identity is not swallowed up in that of Another, and He is clearly stated to be present with the One Unbegotten God as God, His One and Only-begotten Son.
17. We are still waiting, Fisherman, for your full description of the Word. He was in the beginning, it may be said, but perhaps He was not before the beginning. To this also I will furnish a reply on my Fisherman's behalf. The Word could not be other than He was; that was is unconditional and unlimited. But what says the Fisherman for himself? All things were made through Him. Thus, since nothing exists apart from Him through Whom the universe came into being, He, the Author of all things, must have an immeasurable existence. For time is a cognizable and divisible measure of extension, not in space, but in duration. All things are from Him, without exception; time then itself is His creature.
18. But, my Fisherman, the objection will be raised that you are reckless and extravagant in your language; that All things were made through Him needs qualification. There is the Unbegotten, made of none; there is also the Son, begotten of the Unborn Father. This All things is an unguarded statement, admitting no exceptions. While we are silent, not daring to answer or trying to think of some reply, do you break in with, And without Him was nothing made. You have restored the Author of the Godhead to His place, while proclaiming that He has a Companion. From your saying that nothing was made without Him, I learn that He was not alone. He through Whom the work was done is One; He without Whom it was not done is Another: a distinction is drawn between Creator and Companion.
19. Reverence for the One Unbegotten Creator distressed me, lest in your sweeping assertion that all things were made by the Word you had included Him. You have banished my fears by your Without Him was nothing made. Yet this same Without Him was nothing made brings trouble and distraction. There was, then, something made by that Other; not made, it is true, without Him. If the Other did make anything, even though the Word were present at the making, then it is untrue that through Him all things were made. It is one thing to be the Creator's Companion, quite another to be the Creator's Self. I could find answers of my own to the previous objections; in this case, Fisherman, I can only turn at once to your words, All things were made through Him. And now I understand, for the Apostle has enlightened me:-- "Things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all are through Him and in Him" [Colossians 1:16].
20. Since, then, all things were made through Him, come to our help and tell us what it was that was made not without Him. That which was made in Him is life. That which was made in Him was certainly not made without Him; for that which was made in Him was also made through Him. All things were created in Him and through Him. They were created in Him, for He was born as God the Creator. Again, nothing that was made in Him was made without Him, for the reason that God the Begotten was life, and was born as Life, not made life after His birth; for there are not two elements in Him, one inborn and one afterwards conferred. There is no interval in His case between birth and maturity. None of the things that were created in Him was made without Him, for He is the Life which made their creation possible.
Moreover God, the Son of God, became God by virtue of His birth, not after He was born. Being born the Living from the Living, the True from the True, the Perfect from the Perfect, He was born in full possession of His powers. He needed not to learn in after time what His birth was, but was conscious of His Godhead by the very fact that He was born as God of God. I and the Father are One, are the words of the Only-begotten Son of the Unbegotten. It is the voice of the One God proclaiming Himself to be Father and Son; Father speaking in the Son and Son in the Father. Hence also He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also; hence All that the Father hath, He hath given to the Son; hence As the Father hath life in Himself so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; hence No one knoweth the Father save the Son, nor the Son save the Father; hence In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
21. This Life is the Light of men, the Light which lightens the darkness. To comfort us for that powerlessness to describe His generation of which the prophet speaks, the Fisherman adds, And the darkness comprehended Him not. The language of unaided reason was baffled and silenced; the Fisherman who lay on tile bosom of the Lord was taught to express the mystery. His language is not the world's language, for He deals with things that are not of the world. Let us know what it is, if there be any teaching that you can extract from his words, more than their plain sense conveys; if you can translate into other terms the truth we have elicited, publish them abroad. If there be none -- indeed, because there are none -- let us accept with reverence this teaching of the fisherman, and recognize in his words the oracles of God. Let us cling in adoration to the true confession of Father and Son, Unbegotten and Only-begotten ineffably, Whose majesty defies all expression and all perception. Let us, like John, lie on the bosom of the Lord Jesus, that we too may understand and proclaim the mystery.
22. This faith, and every part of it, is impressed upon us by the evidence of the Gospels, by the teaching of the Apostles, by the futility of the treacherous attacks which heretics make on every side. The foundation stands firm and unshaken in face of winds and rains and torrents; storms cannot overthrow it, nor dripping waters hollow it, nor floods sweep it away. Its excellence is proved by the failure of countless assaults to impair it. Certain remedies are so compounded as to be of value not merely against some single disease but against all; they are of universal efficacy. So it is with the Catholic faith. It is not a medicine for some special malady, but for every ill; virulence cannot master, nor numbers defeat, nor complexity baffle it. One and unchanging it faces and conquers all its foes.
Marvellous it is that one form of words should contain a remedy for every disease, a statement of truth to confront every contrivance of falsehood. Let heresy muster its forces and every sect come forth to battle. Let our answer to their challenge be that there is One Unbegotten God the Father, and One Only-begotten Son of God, perfect Offspring of perfect Parent; that the Son was begotten by no lessening of the Father or subtraction from His Substance, but that He Who possesses all things begot an all-possessing Son; a Son not emanating nor proceeding from the Father, but compact of, and inherent in, the whole Divinity, of Him Who wherever He is present is present eternally; One free from time, unlimited in duration, since by Him all things were made, and, indeed, He could not be confined within a limit created by Himself. Such is the Catholic and Apostolic Faith which the Gospel has taught us and we avow.
23. Let Sabellius, if he dare, confound Father and Son as two names with one meaning, making of them not Unity but One Person. He shall have a prompt answer from the Gospels, not once or twice, but often repeated, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. He shall hear the words, The Father is greater than I, and I go to the Father, and Father, I thank Thee, and "Glorify Me, Father" [John 17:5], and Thou art the Son of the living God. Let Hebion try to sap the faith, who allows the Son of God no life before the Virgin's womb, and sees in Him the Word only after His life as flesh had begun. We will bid him read again, "Father, glorify Me with Thine own Self with that glory which I had with Thee before the world was" [John 17:5], and In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and All things were made through Him, and He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world knew Him not.
Let the preachers whose apostleship is of the newest fashion -- an apostleship of Antichrist -- come forward and pour their mockery and insult upon the Son of God. They must hear, I came out from the Father and The Son in the Father's bosom, and I and the Father are One, and I in the Father, and the Father in Me. And lastly, if they be wroth, as the Jews were, that Christ should claim God for His own Father, making Himself equal with God, they must take the answer which He gave the Jews, "Believe My works, that the Father is in Me and I in the Father." [John 10:38]. Thus our one immovable foundation, our one blissful rock of faith, is the confession from Peter's mouth, "Thou art the Son of the living God." [Matthew 16:16]. On it we can base an answer to every objection with which perverted ingenuity or embittered treachery may assail the truth.
24. In what remains we have the appointment of the Father's will. The Virgin, the birth, the Body, then the Cross, the death, the visit to the lower world; these things are our salvation. For the sake of mankind the Son of God was born of the Virgin and of the Holy Ghost. In this process He ministered to Himself; by His own power -- the power of God -- which overshadowed her He sowed the beginning of His Body, and entered on the first stage of His life in the flesh. He did it that by His Incarnation He might take to Himself from the Virgin the fleshly nature, and that through this commingling there might come into being a hallowed Body of all humanity; that so through that Body which He was pleased to assume all mankind might be hid in Him, and He in return, through His unseen existence, be reproduced in all. Thus the invisible Image of God scorned not the shame which marks the beginnings of human life. He passed through every stage; through conception, birth, wailing, cradle and each successive humiliation.
25. What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension? The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God, entered the Virgin's womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity. He Who upholds the universe, within Whom and through Whom are all things, was brought forth by common childbirth; He at Whose voice Archangels and Angels tremble, and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted, was heard in childish wailing. The Invisible and Incomprehensible, Whom sight and feeling and touch cannot gauge, was wrapped in a cradle. If any man deem all this unworthy of God, the greater must he own his debt for the benefit conferred the less such condescension befits the majesty of God. He by Whom man was made had nothing to gain by becoming Man; it was our gain that God was incarnate and dwelt among us, making all flesh His home by taking upon Him the flesh of One. We were raised because He was lowered; shame to Him was glory to us. He, being God, made flesh His residence, and we in return are lifted anew from the flesh to God.
26. But lest perchance fastidious minds be exercised by cradle and wailing, birth and conception, we must render to God the glory which each of these contains, that we may approach His self-abasement with souls duly filled with His claim to reign, and not forget His majesty in His condescension. Let us note, therefore, who were attendant on His conception. An Angel speaks to Zacharias; fertility is given to the barren; the priest comes forth dumb from the place of incense; John bursts forth into speech while yet confined within his mother's womb; an Angel blesses Mary and promises that she, a virgin, shall be the mother of the Son of God. Conscious of her virginity, she is distressed at this hard thing; the Angel explains to her the mighty working of God, saying, "The Holy Ghost shall come from above into thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee" [Luke 1:35]. The Holy Ghost, descending from above, hallowed the Virgin's womb, and breathing therein (for "The Spirit bloweth where it listeth" [John 3:8]), mingled Himself with the fleshly nature of man, and annexed by force and might that foreign domain. And, lest through weakness of the human structure failure should ensue, the power of the Most High overshadowed the Virgin, strengthening her feebleness in semblance of a cloud cast round her, that the shadow, which was the might of God, might fortify her bodily frame to receive the procreative power of the Spirit. Such is the glory of the conception.
27. And now let us consider the glory which accompanies the birth, the wailing and the cradle. The Angel tells Joseph that the Virgin shall bear a Son, and that Son shall be named Emmanuel, that is, God with us. The Spirit foretells it through the prophet, the Angel bears witness; He that is born is God with us. The light of a new star shines forth for the Magi; a heavenly sign escorts the Lord of heaven. An Angel brings to the shepherds the news that Christ the Lord is born, the Savior of the world. A multitude of the heavenly host flock together to sing the praise of that childbirth; the rejoicing of the Divine company proclaims the fulfillment of the mighty work. Then glory to God in heaven, and peace an earth to men of good will is announced.
And now the Magi come and worship Him wrapped in swaddling clothes; after a life devoted to mystic rites of vain philosophy they bow the knee before a Babe laid in His cradle. Thus the Magi stoop to reverence the infirmities of Infancy; its cries are saluted by the heavenly joy of angels; the Spirit Who inspired the prophet, the heralding Angel, the light of the new star, all minister around Him. In such wise was it that the Holy Ghost's descent and the overshadowing power of the Most High brought Him to His birth. The inward reality is widely different from the outward appearance; the eye sees one thing, the soul another. A virgin bears; her child is of God. An Infant wails; angels are heard in praise. There are coarse swaddling clothes; God is being worshipped. The glory of His Majesty is not forfeited when He assumes the lowliness of flesh.
28. So was it also during His further life on earth. The whole time which He passed in human form was spent upon the works of God. I have no space for details; it must suffice to say that in all the varied acts of power and healing which He wrought, the fact is conspicuous that He was man by virtue of the flesh He had taken, God by the evidence of the works He did.
29. Concerning the Holy Spirit I ought not to be silent, and yet I have no need to speak; still, for the sake of those who are in ignorance, I cannot refrain. There is no need to speak, because we are bound to confess Him, proceeding, as He does, from Father and Son. For my own part, I think it wrong to discuss the question of His existence. He does exist, inasmuch as He is given, received, retained; He is joined with Father and Son in our confession of the faith, and cannot he excluded from a true confession of Father and Son; take away a part, and the whole faith is marred. If any man demand what meaning we attach to this conclusion, he, as well as we, has read the words of the Apostle, "Because ye are sons of God, God hath sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father," [Galatians 4:6], and "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in Whom ye have been sealed," [Ephesians 4:30], and again, "But we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are given unto us by God," [1 Corinthians 2:12], and also "But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God is in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" [Romans 8:9], and further, "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies for the sake of His Spirit which dwelleth in you." [Romans 8:11].
Wherefore since He is, and is given, and is possessed, and is of God, let His traducers take refuge in silence. When they ask, Through Whom is He? To what end does He exist? Of what nature is He? We answer that He it is through Whom all things exist, and from Whom are all things, and that He is the Spirit of God, God's gift to the faithful. If our answer displease them, their displeasure must also fall upon the Apostles and the Prophets, who spoke of Him exactly as we have spoken. And furthermore, Father and Son must incur the same displeasure.
30. The reason, I believe, why certain people continue in ignorance or doubt is that they see this third Name, that of the Holy Spirit, often used to signify the Father or the Son. No objection need be raised to this; whether it be Father or Son, He is Spirit, and He is holy.
31. But the words of the Gospel, "For God is Spirit" [John 4:24], need careful examination as to their sense and their purpose. For every saying has an antecedent cause and an aim which must be ascertained by study of the meaning. We must bear this in mind lest, on the strength of the words, God is Spirit, we deny not only the Name, but also the work and the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Lord was speaking with a woman of Samaria, for He had come to be the Redeemer for all mankind. After He had discoursed at length of the living water, and of her five husbands, and of him whom she then had who was not her husband, the woman answered, Lord, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. The Lord replied,
"Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father. Ye worship that which ye know not; we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. For God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in the Spirit and in truth, for God is Spirit" [John 4:21-24].
We see that the woman, her mind full of inherited tradition, thought that God must be worshipped either on a mountain, as at Samaria, or in a temple, as at Jerusalem; for Samaria in disobedience to the Law had chosen a site upon the mountain for worship, while the Jews regarded the temple founded by Solomon as the home of their religion, and the prejudices of both confined the all-embracing and illimitable God to the crest of a hill or the vault of a building. God is invisible, incomprehensible, immeasurable; the Lord said that the time had come when God should be worshipped neither on mountain nor in temple. For Spirit cannot be cabined or confined; it is omnipresent in space and time, and under all conditions present in its fullness.
Therefore, He said, they are the true worshippers who shall worship in the Spirit and in truth. And these who are to worship God the Spirit in the Spirit shall have the One for the means, the Other for the object, of their reverence: for Each of the Two stands in a different relation to the worshipper. The words, God is Spirit, do not alter the fact that the Holy Spirit has a Name of His own, and that He is the Gift to us. The woman who confined God to hill or temple was told that God contains all things and is self-contained: that He, the Invisible and Incomprehensible, must be worshipped by invisible and incomprehensible means. The imparted gift and the object of reverence were clearly shown when Christ taught that God, being Spirit, must be worshipped in the Spirit, and revealed what freedom and knowledge, what boundless scope for adoration, lay in this worship of God, the Spirit, in the Spirit.
32. The words of the Apostle are of like purport; "For the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." [2 Corinthians 3:17]. To make his meaning clear he has distinguished between the Spirit, Who exists, and Him Whose Spirit He is Proprietor and Property; He and His are different in sense. Thus when he says, The Lord is Spirit he reveals the infinity of God; when He adds, Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, he indicates Him Who belongs to God; for He is the Spirit of the Lord, and Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. The Apostle makes the statement not from any necessity of his own argument, but in the interests of clearness. For the Holy Ghost is everywhere One, enlightening all patriarchs and prophets and the whole company of the Law, inspiring John even in his mother's womb, given in due time to the Apostles and other believers, that they might recognize the truth vouchsafed them.
33. Let us hear from our Lord's own words what is the work of the Holy Ghost within us. He says, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." [John 16:12]. For "it is expedient for you that I go: if I go I will send you the Advocate." [John 16:7]. And again, "I will ask the Father and He shall send you another Advocate, that He may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth." [John 14:16-17]; "He shall guide you into all truth, for He shall not speak from Himself, but whatsoever things He shall hear He shall speak, and He shall declare unto you the things that are to come. He shall glorify Me, for He shall take of Mine." [John 16:13-14]. These words were spoken to show how multitudes should enter the kingdom of heaven; they contain an assurance of the goodwill of the Giver, and of the mode and terms of the Gift. They tell how, because our feeble minds cannot comprehend the Father or the Son, our faith which finds God's incarnation hard of credence shall be illumined by the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Bond of union and the Source of light.
34. The next step naturally is to listen to the Apostle's account of the powers and functions of this Gift. He says, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God. For ye received not the Spirit of bondage again unto fear, but ye received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father" [Romans 8:14-15]; and again, "For no man by the Spirit of God saith anathema to Jesus, and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit" [1 Corinthians 12:3]; and he adds,
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, and diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord, and diversities of workings, but the same God, Who worketh all things in all. But to each one is given the enlightenment of the Spirit, to profit withal. Now to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith in the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings in the One Spirit, to another workings of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh the One and same Spirit. " [1 Corinthians 12:4-11].
Here we have a statement of the purpose and results of the Gift; and I cannot conceive what doubt can remain, after so clear a definition of His Origin, His action and His powers.
35. Let us therefore make use of this great benefit, and seek for personal experience of this most needful Gift. For the Apostle says, in words I have already cited, But we have not received the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know tire the things that are given unto us by God. We receive Him, then, that we may know. Faculties of the human body, if denied their exercise, will lie dormant. The eye without light, natural or artificial, cannot fulfill its office; the ear will be ignorant of its function unless some voice or sound be heard; the nostrils unconscious of their purpose unless some scent be breathed. Not that the faculty will be absent, because it is never called into use, but that there will be no experience of its existence.
So, too, the soul of man, unless through faith it have appropriated the gift of the Spirit, will have the innate faculty of apprehending God, but be destitute of the light of knowledge. That Gift, which is in Christ, is One, yet offered, and offered fully, to all; denied to none, and given to each according to the measure of his willingness to receive; its stores the richer, the more earnest the desire to earn them. This gift is with us unto the end of the world, the solace of our waiting, the assurance, by the favors which He bestows, of the hope that shall be ours, the light of our minds, the sun of our souls. This Holy Spirit we must seek and must earn, and then hold fast by faith and obedience to the commands of God.