Hilary of Poitiers
On the Trinity
1. The words of the Lord, I in the Father, and the Father in Me, confuse many minds, and not unnaturally, for the powers of human reason cannot provide them with any intelligible meaning. It seems impossible that one object should be both within and without another, or that (since it is laid down that the Beings of whom we are treating, though They do not dwell apart, retain their separate existence and condition) these Beings can reciprocally contain One Another, so that One should permanently envelope, and also be permanently enveloped by, the Other, whom yet He envelopes. This is a problem which the wit of man will never solve, nor will human research ever find an analogy for this condition of Divine existence.
But what man cannot understand, God can be. I do not mean to say that the fact that this is an assertion made by God renders it at once intelligible to us. We must think for ourselves, and come to know the meaning of the words, I in the Father, and the Father in Me: but this will depend upon our success in gasping the truth that reasoning based upon Divine verities can establish its conclusions, even though they seem to contradict the laws of the universe.
2. In order to solve as easily as possible this most difficult problem, we must first master the knowledge which the Divine Scriptures give of Father and of Son, that so we may speak with more precision, as dealing with familiar and accustomed matters. The eternity of the Father, as we concluded after full discussion in the last Book, transcends space, and time, and appearance, and all the forms of human thought. He is without and within all things, He contains all and can be contained by none, is incapable of change by increase or diminution, invisible, incomprehensible, full, perfect, eternal, not deriving anything that He has from another, but, if aught be derived from Him, still complete and self-sufficing.
3. He therefore, the Unbegotten, before time was begot a Son from Himself; not from any pre-existent matter, for all things are through the Son; not from nothing, for the Son is from the Father's self; not by way of childbirth, for in God there is neither change nor void; not as a piece of Himself cut or torn off or stretched out, for God is passionless and bodiless, and only a passible and embodied being could so be treated, and, as the Apostle says, in Christ "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" [Colossians 2:9]. Incomprehensibly, ineffably, before time or worlds, He begat the Only-begotten from His own unbegotten substance, bestowing through love and power His whole Divinity upon that Birth. Thus He is the Only-begotten, perfect, eternal Son of the unbegotten, perfect, eternal Father. But those properties which He has in consequence of the Body which He took, are the fruit of His goodwill toward our salvation. For He, being invisible and bodiless and incomprehensible, as the Son of God, took upon Him such a measure of matter and of lowliness as was needed to bring Him within the range of our understanding, and perception, and contemplation. It was a condescension to our feebleness rather than a surrender of His own proper attributes.
4. He, therefore, being the perfect Father's perfect Son, the Only-begotten Offspring of the unbegotten God, who has received all from Him Who possesses all, being God from God, Spirit from Spirit, Light from Light, says boldly, The Father in Me, and I in the Father. For as the Father is Spirit, so is the Son Spirit; as the Father is God, so is the Son God; as the Father is Light, so is the Son Light. Thus those properties which are in the Father are the source of those wherewith the Son is endowed; that is, He is wholly Son of Him Who is wholly Father; not imported from without, for before the Son nothing was; not made from nothing, for the Son is from God; not a son partially, for the fullness of the Godhead is in the Son; not a Son in some respects, but in all; a Son according to the will of Him who had the power, after a manner which He only knows. What is in the Father is in the Son also; what is in the Unbegotten is in the Only-begotten also.
The One is from the Other, and they Two are a Unity; not Two made One, yet One in the Other, for that which is in Both is the same. The Father is in the Son, for the Son is from Him; the Son is in the Father, because the Father is His sole Origin; the Only-begotten is in the Unbegotten, because He is the Only-begotten from the Unbegotten. Thus mutually Each is in the Other, for as all is perfect in the Unbegotten Father, so all is perfect in the Only-begotten Son. This is the Unity which is in Son and Father, this the power, this the love; our hope, and faith, and truth, and way, and life is not to dispute the Father's powers or to depreciate the Son, but to reverence the mystery and majesty of His birth; to set the unbegotten Father above all rivalry, and count the Only-begotten Son as His equal in eternity and might, confessing concerning God the Son that He is from God.
5. Such powers are there in God; powers which the methods of our reason cannot comprehend, but of which our faith, on the sure evidence of His action, is convinced. We shall find instances of this action in the bodily sphere as well as in the spiritual, its manifestation taking, not the form of an analogy which might illustrate the Birth, but of a deed marvellous yet comprehensible. On the wedding day in Galilee water was made wine. Have we words to tell or senses to ascertain what methods produced the change by which the tastelessness of water disappeared, and was replaced by the full flavor of wine? It was not a mixing; it was a creation, and a creation which was not a beginning, but a transformation. A weaker liquid was not obtained by admixture of a stronger element; an existing thing perished and a new thing came into being. The bridegroom was anxious. the household in confusion, the harmony of the marriage feast imperilled. Jesus is asked for help. He does not rise or busy Himself; He does the work without an effort. Water is poured into the vessels, wine drawn out in the cups. The evidence of the senses of the pourer contradicts that of the drawer. They who poured expect water to be drawn; they who draw think that wine must have been poured in. The intervening time cannot account for any gain or loss of character in the liquid. The mode of action baffles sight and sense, but the power of God is manifest in the result achieved.
6. In the case of the five loaves a miracle of the same type excites our wonder. By their increase five thousand men and countless women and children are saved from hunger; the method eludes our powers of observation. Five loaves are offered and broken; while the Apostles are dividing them a succession of new-created portions passes, they cannot tell how, through their hands. The loaf which they are dividing grows no smaller, yet their hands are continually full of the pieces. The swiftness of the process baffles sight; you follow with the eye a hand-full of portions, and meantime you see that the contents of the other hand are not diminished, and all the while the heap of pieces grows. The carvers are busy at their task, the eaters are hard at work; the hungry are satisfied, and the fragments fill twelve baskets. Sight or sense cannot discover the mode of so noteworthy a miracle. What was not existent is created; what we see passes our understanding. Our only resource is faith in God's omnipotence.
7. There is no deception in these miracles of God, no subtle pretense to please or to deceive. These works of the Son of God were done from no desire for self-display; He Whom countless myriads of angels serve never deluded man. What was there of ours that He could need, through Whom all that we have was created? Did He demand praise from us who now are heavy with sleep, now sated with lust, now laden with the guilt of riot and bloodshed, now drunken from revelling;-- He Whom Archangels, and Dominions, and Principalities, and Powers, without sleep or cessation or sin, praise in heaven with everlasting and unwearied voice? They praise Him because He, the Image of the Invisible God, created all their host in Himself, made the worlds, established the heavens, appointed the stars, fixed the earth, laid the foundations of the deep; because in after time He was born, He conquered death, broke the gates of hell, won for Himself a people to be His fellow-heirs, lifted flesh from corruption up to the glory of eternity. There was nothing, then, that He might gain from us, that could induce Him to assume the splendor of these mysterious and inexplicable works, as though He needed our praise. But God foresaw how human sin and folly would be misled, and knew that disbelief would dare to pass its judgment even on the things of God, and therefore He vanquished presumption by tokens of His power which must give pause to our boldest.
8. For there are many of those wise men of the world whose wisdom is folly with God, who contradict our proclamation of God from God, True from True, Perfect from Perfect, One from One, as though we taught things impossible. They pin their faith to certain conclusions which they have reached by process of logic:-- Nothing can be born of one, for every birth requires two parents, and If this Son be born of One He has received a part of His Begetter: if He be a part, then Neither of the Two is perfect, for something is missing from Him from Whom the Son issued, and there cannot be fullness in One Who consists of a portion of Another. Thus Neither is perfect, for the Begetter has lost His fullness, and the Begotten has not acquired it.
This is that wisdom of the world which was foreseen by God even in the prophet's days, and condemned through him in the words, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and reject the understanding of the prudent." [1 Corinthians 1:19]. And the apostle says:
"Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the inquirer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For because in the wisdom of God the world through wisdom knew not God, it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews seek signs, and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews indeed a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness, but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." [1 Corinthians 1:20-25].
9. The Son of God, therefore, having the charge of mankind, was first made man, that men might believe on Him; that He might be to us a witness, sprung from ourselves, of things Divine, and preach to us, weak and carnal as we are, through the weakness of the flesh concerning God the Father, so fulfilling the Father's will, even as He says, "I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me." [John 6:38]. It was not that He Himself was unwilling, but that He might manifest His obedience as the result of His Father's will, for His own will is to do His Father's. This is that will to carry out the Father's will of which He testifies in the words: "Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee; even as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him, He should give it eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ. I have glorified Thee upon earth, having accomplished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. I have manifested Thy Name unto the men whom Thou hast given Me" [John 17:1-6]. In words short and few He has revealed the whole task to which He was appointed and assigned. Yet those words, short and few as they are, are the true faith's safeguard against every suggestion of the devil's cunning. Let us briefly consider the force of each separate phrase.
10. He says, Father the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee. He says that the hour, not the day nor the time, is come. An hour is a fraction of a day. What hour must this be? The hour, of course, of which He speaks, to strengthen His disciples, at the time of His passion:-- "Lo, the hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified." [John 12:23]. This then is the hour in which He prays to be glorified by the Father, that He Himself may glorify the Father. But what does He mean? Does One who is about to give glory look to receive it? Does One who is about to confer honor make request for Himself? Is He in want of the very thing which He is about to repay? Here let the world's philosophers, the wise men of Greece, beset our path, and spread their syllogistic nets to entangle the truth. Let them ask How? and Whence? and Why? When they can find no answer, let us tell them that it is because God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. That is the reason why we in our foolishness understand things incomprehensible to the world's philosophers.
The Lord had said, Father, the hour is come; He had revealed the hour of His passion, for these words were spoken at the very moment; and then He added, Glorify Thy Son. But how was the Son to be glorified? He had been born of a virgin, from cradle and childhood He had grown to man's estate, through sleep and hunger and thirst and weariness and tears He had lived man's life: even now He was to be spitted on, scourged, crucified. And why? These things were ordained for our assurance that in Christ is pure man. But the shame of the cross is not ours; we are not sentenced to the scourge, nor defiled by spitting.
The Father glorifies the Son; how? He is next nailed to the cross. Then what followed? The sun, instead of setting, fled. How so? It did not retire behind a cloud, but abandoned its appointed orbit, and all the elements of the world felt that same shock of the death of Christ. The stars in their courses, to avoid complicity in the crime, escaped by self-extinction from beholding the scene. What did the earth? It quivered beneath the burden of the Lord hanging on the tree, protesting that it was powerless to confine Him who was dying. Yet surely rock and stone will not refuse Him a resting-place. Yes, they are rent and cloven, and their strength fails. They must confess that the rock-hewn sepulchre cannot imprison the Body which awaits its burial.
11. And next? The centurion of the cohort, the guardian of the cross, cries out, "Truly this was the Son of God." [Matthew 27:54]. Creation is set free by the mediation of this Sin-offering; the very rocks lose their solidity and strength. They who had nailed Him to the cross confess that truly this is the Son of God. The outcome justifies the assertion. The Lord had said, Glorify Thy Son. He had asserted, by that word Thy, that He was God's Son not in name only, but in nature. Multitudes of us are sons of God; He is Son in another sense. For He is God's true and own Son, by origin and not by adoption, not by name only but in truth, born and not created. So, after He was glorified, that confession touched the truth; the centurion confessed Him the true Son of God, that no believer might doubt a fact which even the servant of His persecutors could not deny.
12. But perhaps some may suppose that He was destitute of that glory for which He prayed, and that His looking to be glorified by a Greater is evidence of want of power. Who, indeed, would deny that the Father is the greater; the Unbegotten greater than the Begotten, the Father than the Son, the Sender than the Sent, He that wills than He that obeys? He Himself shall be His own witness:-- "The Father is greater than I." [John 14:28]. It is a fact which we must recognize, but we must take heed lest with unskilled thinkers the majesty of the Father should obscure the glory of the Son. Such obscuration is forbidden by this same glory for which the Son prays; for the prayer, Father glorify Thy Son, is completed by, That the Son may glorify Thee. Thus there is no lack of power in the Son, Who, when He has received this glory, will make His return for it in glory.
But why, if He were not in want, did He make the prayer? No one makes request except for something which he needs. Or can it be that the Father too is in want? Or has He given His glory away so recklessly that He needs to have it returned Him by the Son? No; the One has never been in want, nor the Other needed to ask, and yet Each shall give to the Other. Thus the prayer for glory to be given and to be paid back is neither a robbery of the Father nor a depreciation of the Son, but a demonstration of the power of one Godhead resident in Both. The Son prays that He may be glorified by the Father; the Father deems it no humiliation to be glorified by the Son, The exchange of glory given and received proclaims the unity of power in Father and in Son.
13. We must next ascertain what and whence this glorifying is. God, I am sure, is subject to no change; His eternity admits not of defect or amendment, of gain or of loss. It is the character of Him alone, that what He is, He is from everlasting. What He from everlasting is, it is by His nature impossible that He should ever cease to be. How then can He receive glory, a thing which He fully possesses, and of which His store does not diminish; there being no fresh glory which He can obtain, and none that He has lost and can recover? We are brought to a standstill. But the Evangelist does not fail us, though our reason has displayed its helplessness. To tell us what return of glory it was that the Son should make to the Father, he gives the words: Even as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him He may give it eternal life. And this is life eternal that they should know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.
The Father, then, is glorified through the Son, by His being made known to us. And the glory was this, that the Son, being made flesh, received from Him power over all flesh, and the charge of restoring eternal life to us, ephemeral beings burdened with the body. Eternal life for us was the result not of work done, but of innate power; not by a new creation, but simply by knowledge of God, was the glory of that eternity to be acquired. Nothing was added to God's glory; it had not decreased, and so could not be replenished. But He is glorified through the Son in the sight of us, ignorant, exiled, defiled, dwelling in hopeless death and lawless darkness; glorified inasmuch as the Son, by virtue of that power over all flesh which the Father gave Him, was to bestow on us eternal life. It is through this work of the Son that the Father is glorified. So when the Son received all things from the Father, the Father glorified Him; and conversely, when all things were made through the Son, He glorified the Father. The return of glory given lies herein, that all the glory which the Son has is the glory of the Father, since everything He has is the Father's gift. For the glory of Him who executes a charge redounds to the glory of Him Who gave it, the glory of the Begotten to the glory of the Begetter.
14. But in what does eternity of life consist? His own words tell us:-- That they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. Is there any doubt or difficulty here, or any inconsistency? It is life to know the true God; but the bare knowledge of Him does not give it. What, then, does He add? And Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. In Thee, the only true God, the Son pays the honor due to His Father; by the addition, And Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent, He associates Himself with the true Godhead. The believer in his confession draws no line between the Two, for his hope of life rests in Both, and indeed, the true God is inseparable from Him Whose Name follows in the creed. Therefore when we read, That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent, these terms of Sender and of Sent are not intended, under any semblance of distinction or discrimination, to convey a difference between the true Godhead of Father and of Son, but to be a guide to the devout confession of Them as Begetter and Begotten.
15. And so the Son glorifies the Father fully and finally in the words which follow, I have glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. All the Father's praise is from the Son, for every praise bestowed upon the Son is praise of the Father, since all that He accomplished is what the Father had willed. The Son of God is born as man; but the power of God is in the virgin-birth. The Son of God is seen as man; but God is president in His human actions. The Son of God is nailed to the cross; but on the cross God conquers human death. Christ, the Son of God, dies; but all flesh is made alive in Christ. The Son of God is in hell; but man is carried back to heaven. In proportion to our praise of Christ for these His works, will be the praise we bring to Him from Whom Christ's Godhead is.
These are the ways in which the Father glorifies the Son on earth; and in return the Son reveals by works of power to the ignorance of the heathen and to the foolishness of the world, Him from Whom He is. This exchange of glory, given and received, implies no augmentation of the Godhead, but means the praises rendered for the knowledge granted to those who had lived in ignorance of God. What, indeed, could there be which the Father, from Whom are all things, did not richly possess? In what was the Son lacking, in Whom all the fullness of the Godhead had been pleased to dwell? The Father is glorified on earth because the work which He had commanded is finished.
16. Next let us see what this glory is which the Son expects to receive from the Father; and then our exposition will be complete. The sequel is, I have glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. I have manifested Thy name unto men. It is, then, by the Son's works that the Father is glorified, in that He is recognized as God, as Father of God the Only-begotten, Who for our salvation willed that His Son should be born as man, even of a virgin; that Son Whose whole life, consummated in the Passion, was consistent with the humiliation of the virgin birth. Thus, because the Son of God, all-perfect and born from everlasting in the fullness of the Godhead, had now by incarnation become Man and was ready for His death, He prays that He may be glorified with God, even as He was glorifying His Father on the earth; for at that moment the powers of God were being glorified in the flesh before the eyes of a world that knew Him not.
But what is this glory with the Father, for which He looks? It is that, of course, which He had with Him before the world was. He had the fullness of the Godhead; He has it still, for He is God's Son. But He Who was the Son of God had become the Son of man also, for "The Word was made flesh." [John 1:14]. He had not lost His former being, but He had become what He was not before; He had not abdicated His own position, yet He had taken ours; He prays that the nature which He had assumed may be promoted to the glory which He had never renounced.
Therefore, since the Son is the Word, and the Word was made flesh, and the Word was God, and was in the beginning with God, and the Word was Son before the foundation of the world; this Son, now incarnate, prayed that flesh might be to the Father what the Son had been. He prayed that flesh, born in time, might receive the splendor of the everlasting glory, that the corruption of the flesh might be swallowed up, transformed into the power of God and the purity of the Spirit. It is His prayer to God, the Son's confession of the Father, the entreaty of that flesh wherein all shall see Him on the Judgment-day, pierced and bearing the marks of the cross; of that flesh wherein His glory was foreshown upon the Mount, wherein He ascended to heaven and is set down at the right hand of God, wherein Paul saw Him, and Stephen paid Him worship.
17. The name Father has thus been revealed to men; the question arises, What is this Father's own name? Yet surely the name of God has never been unknown. Moses heard it from the bush, Genesis announces it at the beginning of the history of creation, the Law has proclaimed and the prophets extolled it, the history of the world has made mankind familiar with it; the very heathen have worshipped it under a veil of falsehood. Men have never been left in ignorance of the name of God.
And yet they were, in very truth, in ignorance. For no man knows God unless He confess Him as Father, Father of the Only-begotten Son, and confess also the Son a Son by no partition or extension or procession, but born of Him, as Son of Father, ineffably and incomprehensibly, and retaining the fullness of that Godhead from which and in which He was born as true and infinite and perfect God. This is what the fullness of the Godhead means. If any of these things be lacking, there will not be that fullness which was pleased to dwell in Him. This is the message of the Son, His revelation to men in their ignorance. The Father is glorified through the Son when men recognize that, He is Father of a Son so Divine.
18. The Son, wishing to assure us of the truth of this, His Divine birth, has appointed His works to serve as an illustration, that from the ineffable power displayed in ineffable deeds we may learn the lesson of the ineffable birth. For instance, when water was made wine, and five loaves satisfied five thousand men, beside women and children, and twelve baskets were filled with the fragments, we see a fact though we cannot understand it; a deed is done though it baffles our reason; the process cannot be followed, though the result is obvious. It is folly to intrude in the spirit of carping, when the matter into which we enquire is such that we cannot probe it to the bottom.
For even as the Father is ineffable because He is Unbegotten, so is the Son ineffable because He is the Only-begotten, since the Begotten is the Image of the Unbegotten. Now it is by the use of our senses and of language that we have to form our conception of an image; and it must be by the same means that we form our idea of that which the image represents. But in this case we, whose faculties can deal only with visible and tangible things, are straining after the invisible, and striving to grasp the impalpable. Yet we take no shame to ourselves, we reproach ourselves with no irreverence, when we doubt and criticize the mysteries and powers of God. How is He the Son? Whence is He? What did the Father lose by His birth? Of what portion of the Father was He born? So we ask; yet all the while there has been confronting us the evidence of works done to assure us that God's action is not limited by our power of comprehending His methods.
19. You ask what was the manner in which, as the Spirit teaches, the Son was born? I will put a question to you as to things corporal. I ask not in what manner He was born of a virgin; I ask only whether her flesh, in the course of bringing His flesh to readiness for birth, suffered any loss. Assuredly she did not conceive Him in the common way, or suffer the shame of human intercourse, in order to bear Him: yet she bore Him, complete in His human Body, without loss of her own completeness. Surely piety requires that we should regard as possible with God a thing which we see became possible through his power in the case of a human being.
20. But you, whoever you are that would seek into the unsearchable, and in all seriousness form an opinion upon the mysteries and powers of God;-- I turn to you for counsel, and beg you to enlighten me, an unskilled and simple believer of all that God says, as to a circumstance which I am about to mention. I listen to the Lord's words and, since I believe what is recorded, I am sure that after His Resurrection He offered Himself repeatedly in the Body to the sight of multitudes of unbelievers. At any rate, He did so to Thomas who had protested that he would not believe unless he handled His wounds. His words are, "Unless I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." [John 20:25]. The Lord stoops to the level even of our feeble understanding; to satisfy the doubts of unbelieving minds He works a miracle of His invisible power.
Do you, my critic of the ways of heaven, explain His action if you can. The disciples were in a closed room; they had met and held their assembly in secret since the Passion of the Lord. The Lord presents Himself to strengthen the faith of Thomas by meeting his challenge; He gives him His Body to feel, His wounds to handle. He, indeed, who would be recognized as having suffered wounds must needs produce the body in which those wounds were received. I ask at what point in the walls of that closed house the Lord bodily entered. The Apostle has recorded the circumstances with careful precision; "Jesus came when the doors were shut, and stood in the midst." [John 20:26]. Did He penetrate through bricks and mortar, or through stout woodwork, substances whose very nature it is to bar progress? For there He stood in bodily presence; there was no suspicion of deceit. Let the eye of your mind follow His path as He enters; let your intellectual vision accompany Him as He passes into that closed dwelling. There is no breach in the walls, no door has been unbarred; yet lo, He stands in the midst Whose might no barrier can resist.
You are a critic of things invisible; I ask you to explain a visible event. Everything remains firm as it was; no body is capable of insinuating itself through the interstices of wood and stone. The Body of the Lord does not disperse itself, to come together again after a disappearance; yet whence comes He Who is standing in the midst? Your senses and your words are powerless to account for it; the fact is certain, but it lies beyond the region of human explanation. If, as you say, our account of the Divine birth is a lie, then prove that this account of the Lord's entrance is a fiction.
If we assume that an event did not happen, because we cannot discover how it was done, we make the limits of our understanding into the limits of reality. But the certainty of the evidence proves the falsehood of our contradiction. The Lord did stand in a closed house in the midst of the disciples; the Son was born of the Father. Deny not that He stood, because your puny wits cannot ascertain how He came there; renounce a disbelief in God the Only-begotten and perfect Son of God the Unbegotten and perfect Father, which is based only on the incapacity of sense and speech to comprehend the transcendent miracle of that birth.
21. Nay more, the whole constitution of nature would bear us out against the impiety of doubting the works and powers of God. And yet our disbelief fights even against obvious truth; we strive in our fury to pluck even God from His throne. If we could, we would climb by bodily strength to heaven, would fling into confusion the ordered courses of sun and stars, would disarrange the ebb and flow of tides, check rivers at their source or make their waters flow backward, would shake the foundations of the world, in the utter irreverence of our rage against the paternal work of God. It is well that our bodily limitations confine us within more modest bounds. Assuredly, there is no concealment of the mischief we would do if we could. In one respect we are free; and so with blasphemous insolence we distort the truth and turn our weapons against the words of God.
22. The Son has said, Father, I have manifested Thy Name unto men. What reason is there for denunciation or fury here? Do you deny the Father? Why, it was the primary purpose of the Son to enable us to know the Father. But in fact you do deny Him when, according to you, the Son was not born of Him. Yet why should He have the name of Son if He be, as others are, an arbitrary creation of God? I could feel awe of God as Creator of Christ as well as Founder of the universe; it were an exercise of power worthy of Him to be the Maker of Him Who made Archangels and Angels, things visible and things invisible, heaven and earth and the whole creation around us.
But the work which the Lord came to do was not to enable you to recognize the omnipotence of God as Creator of all things, but to enable you to know Him as the Father of that Son Who addresses you. In heaven there are Powers beside Himself, Powers mighty and eternal; there is but one Only-begotten Son, and the difference between Him and them is not one of mere degree of might, but that they all were made through Him. Since He is the true and only Son, let us not make Him a bastard by asserting that He was made out of nothing. You hear the name Son; believe that He is the Son. You hear the name Father; fix it in your mind that He is the Father. Why surround these names with doubt and ill-will and hostility?
The things of God are provided with names which give a true indication of the realities; why force an arbitrary meaning upon their obvious sense. Father and Son are spoken of; doubt not that the words mean what they say. The end and aim of the revelation of the Son is that you should know the Father. Why frustrate the labors of the Prophets, the Incarnation of the Word, the Virgin's travail, the effect of miracles, the cross of Christ? It was all spent upon you, it is all offered to you, that through it all Father and Son may be manifest to you. And you replace the truth by a theory of arbitrary action, of creation or adoption. Turn your thoughts to the warfare, the conflict waged by Christ. He describes it thus:-- Father, I have manifested Thy Name unto men. He does not say, Thou hast created the Creator of all the heavens, or Thou hast made the Maker of the whole earth. He says, Father, I have manifested Thy Name unto men. Accept your Savior's gift of knowledge. Be assured that there is a Father Who begot, a Son Who was born; born in the truth of His Nature of the Father, Who is. Remember that the revelation is not of the Father manifested as God, but of God manifested as the Father.
23. You hear the words, "I and the Father are one." [John 10:30]. Why do you rend and tear the Son away from the Father? They are a unity: an absolute Existence having all things in perfect communion with that absolute Existence, from Whom He is. When you hear the Son saying, I and the Father are one, adjust your view of facts to the Persons; accept the statement which Begetter and Begotten make concerning Themselves. Believe that They are One, even as They are also Begetter and Begotten. Why deny the common nature? Why impugn the true Divinity?
You hear again, The Father in Me, and I in the Father. That this is true of Father and of Son is demonstrated by the Son's works. Our science cannot envelope body in body, or pour one into another, as water into wine; but we confess that in Both is equivalence of power and fullness of the Godhead. For the Son has received all things from the Father; He is the Likeness of God, the Image of His substance. The words, "Image of His substance" [Hebrews 1:3], discriminate between Christ and Him from Whom He is but only to establish Their distinct existence, not to teach a difference of nature; and the meaning of Father in Son and Son in Father is that there is the perfect fullness of the Godhead in Both.
The Father is not impaired by the Son's existence, nor is the Son a mutilated fragment of the Father. An image implies its original; likeness is a relative term. Now nothing can be like God unless it have its source in Him; a perfect likeness can be reflected only from that which it represents; an accurate resemblance forbids the assumption of any element of difference. Disturb not this likeness; make no separation where truth shows no variance, for He Who said, "Let us make man after our image and likeness" [Genesis 1:26], by those words Our likeness revealed the existence of Beings, Each like the Other. Touch not handle not, pervert not. Hold fast the Names which teach the truth, hold fast the Son's declaration of Himself. I would not have you flatter the Son with praises of your own invention; it is well with you if you be satisfied with the written word.
24. Again, we must not repose so blind a confidence in human intellect as to imagine that we have complete knowledge of the objects of our thought, or that the ultimate problem is solved as soon as we have formed a symmetrical and consistent theory. Finite minds cannot conceive the Infinite; a being dependent for its existence upon another cannot attain to perfect knowledge either of its Creator or of itself, for its consciousness of self is colored by its circumstances, and bounds are set which its perception cannot pass. Its activity is not self-caused, but due to the Creator, and a being dependent on a Creator has perfect possession of none of its faculties, since its origin lies outside itself. Hence by an inexorable law it is folly for that being to say that it has perfect knowledge of any matter; its powers have limits which it cannot modify, and only while it is under the delusion that its petty bounds are coterminous with infinity can it make the empty boast of possessing wisdom. For of wisdom it is incapable, its knowledge being limited to the range of its perception, and sharing the impotence of its dependent existence.
And therefore this masquerade of a finite nature boasting that it possesses the wisdom which springs only from infinite knowledge earns the scorn and ridicule of the Apostle, who calls its wisdom folly. He says,
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, not in the language of wisdom, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but unto them that are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent I will reject. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the enquirer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, God decreed through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews indeed a stumbling-block and to Gentiles foolishness, but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the weakness of God is stronger than men, and the foolishness of God is wiser than men." [1 Corinthians 1:17-25].
Thus all unbelief is foolishness, for it takes such wisdom as its own finite perception can attain, and, measuring infinity by that petty scale, concludes that what it cannot understand must be impossible. Unbelief is the result of incapacity engaged in argument. Men are sure that an event never happened, because they have made up their minds that it could not happen.
25. Hence the Apostle, familiar with the narrow assumption of human thought that what it does not know is not truth, says that he does not speak in the language of knowledge, lest his preaching should be in vain. To save himself from being regarded as a preacher of foolishness he adds that the word of the cross is foolishness to them that perish. He knew that the unbelievers held that the only true knowledge was that which formed their own wisdom, and that, since their wisdom was cognizant only of matters which lay within their narrow horizon, the other wisdom, which alone is Divine and perfect, seemed foolishness to them. Thus their foolishness actually consisted, in that feeble imagination which they mistook for wisdom.
Hence it is that the very things which to them that perish are foolishness are the power of God to them that are saved; for these last never use their own inadequate faculties as a measure, but attribute to the Divine activities the omnipotence of heaven. God rejects the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent in this sense, that just because they recognize their own foolishness, salvation is granted to them that believe. Unbelievers pronounce the verdict of foolishness on everything that lies beyond their ken, while believers leave to the power and majesty of God the choice of the mysteries wherein salvation is bestowed. There is no foolishness in the things of God; the foolishness lies in that human wisdom which demands of God, as the condition of belief, signs and wisdom.
It is the foolishness of the Jews to demand signs; they have a certain knowledge of the Name of God through long acquaintance with the Law, but the offense of the cross repels them. The foolishness of the Greeks is to demand wisdom; with Gentile folly and the philosophy of men they seek the reason why God was lifted up on the cross. And because, in consideration for the weakness of our mental powers, these things have been hidden in a mystery, this foolishness of Jews and Greeks turns to unbelief; for they denounce, as unworthy of reasonable credence, truths which their mind is inherently incapable of comprehending. But, because the world's wisdom was so foolish,-- for previously through God's wisdom it knew not God, that is, the splendor of the universe, and the wonderful order which He planned for His handiwork, taught it no reverence for its Creator -- God was pleased through the preaching of foolishness to save them that believe, that is, through the faith of the cross to make everlasting life the lot of mortals; that so the self-confidence of human wisdom might be put to shame, and salvation found where men had thought that foolishness dwelt. For Christ, Who is foolishness to Gentiles, and offense to Jews, is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God; because what seems weak and foolish to human apprehension in the things of God transcends in true wisdom and might the thoughts and the powers of earth.
26. And therefore the action of God must not be canvassed by human faculties; the Creator must not be judged by those who are the work of His hands. We must clothe ourselves in foolishness that we may gain wisdom; not in the foolishness of hazardous conclusions, but in the foolishness of a modest sense of our own infirmity, that so the evidence of God's power may teach us truths to which the arguments of earthly philosophy cannot attain. For when we are fully conscious of our own foolishness, and have felt the helplessness and destitution of our reason, then through the counsels of Divine Wisdom we shall be initiated into the wisdom of God; setting no bounds to boundless majesty and power, nor tying the Lord of nature down to nature's laws; sure that for us the one true faith concerning God is that of which He is at once the Author and the Witness.
1. The earlier books of this treatise, written some time ago, contain, I think, an invincible proof that we hold and profess the faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which is taught by the Evangelists and Apostles, and that no commerce is possible between us and the heretics, inasmuch as they deny unconditionally, irrationally, and recklessly, the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet certain points remained which I have felt myself bound to include in this and the following books, in order to make our assurance of the faith even more certain by exposure of every one of their falsehoods and blasphemies. Accordingly, we will enquire first: what are the dangers of their teaching, the risks involved by such irreverence; next, what principles they hold, and what arguments they advance against the apostolic faith to which we adhere, and by what sleight of language they impose upon the candor of their hearers; and lastly, by what method of comment they disarm the words of Scripture of their force and meaning.
2. We are well aware that neither the speech of men nor the analogy of human nature can give us a full insight into the things of God. The ineffable cannot submit to the bounds and limits of definition; that which is spiritual is distinct from every class or instance of bodily things. Yet, since our subject is that of heavenly natures, we must employ ordinary natures and ordinary speech as our means of expressing what our mind apprehends; a means no doubt unworthy of the majesty of God, but forced upon us by feebleness of our intellect, which can use only our own circumstances and our own words to convey to others our perceptions and our conclusions. This truth has been enforced already in the first book, but is now repeated in order that, in any analogies from human affairs which we adduce, we may not be supposed to think of God as resembling embodied natures, or to compare spiritual Beings with our passible selves, but rather be regarded as advancing the outward appearance of visible things as a clue to the inward meaning of things invisible.
3. For the heretics say that Christ is not from God, that is, that the Son is not born from the Father, and is God not by nature but by appointment; in other words, that He has received an adoption which consists in the giving of a name, being God's Son in the sense in which many are sons of God; again, that Christ's majesty is an evidence of God's widespread bounty, He being God in the sense in which there are gods many; although they admit that in His adoption and naming as God a more liberal affection than in other cases was shown, His adoption being the first in order of time, and He greater than other adopted sons, and first in rank among the creatures because of the greater splendor which accompanied His creation. Some add, by way of confessing the omnipotence of God, that He was created into God's likeness, and that it was out of nothing that He, like other creatures, was raised up to be the Image of the eternal Creator, bidden at a word to spring from non-existence into being by the power of God, Who can frame out of nothing the likeness of Himself.
4. Moreover, they use their knowledge of the historical fact that bishops of a former time have taught that Father and Son are of one substance, to subvert the truth by the ingenious plea that this is a heretical notion. They say that this term 'of one substance,' in the Greek homoousion, is used to mean and express that the Father is the same as the Son; that is, that He extended Himself out of infinity into the Virgin, and took a body from her, and gave to Himself, in the body which He had taken, the name of Son. This is their first lie concerning the homoousion. Their next lie is that this word homoousion implies that Father and Son participate in something antecedent to Either and distinct from Both, and that a certain imaginary substance, or ousia, anterior to all matter whatsoever, has existed heretofore and been divided and wholly distributed between the Two; which proves, they say, that Each of the Two is of a nature pre-existent to Himself, and Each identical in matter with the Other.
And so they profess to condemn the confession of the homoousion on the ground that term does not discriminate between Father and Son, and makes the Father subsequent in time to that matter which He has in common with the Son. And they have devised this third objection to the word homoousion, that its meaning, as they explain it, is that the Son derives His origin from a partition of the Father's substance, as though one object had been cut in two and He were the severed portion. The meaning of 'one substance,' they say, is that the part cut off from the whole continues to share the nature of that from which it has been severed; but God, being impassible, cannot be divided, for, if He must submit to be lessened by division, He is subject to change, and will be rendered imperfect if His perfect substance leave Him to reside in the severed portion.
5. They think also that they have a compendious refutation of Prophets, Evangelists and Apostles alike, in their assertion that the Son was born within time. They pronounce us illogical for saying that the Son has existed from everlasting; and, since they reject the possibility of His eternity, they are forced to believe that He was born at a point in time. For if He has not always existed, there was a time when He was not; and if there be a time when He was not, time was anterior to Him. He who has not existed everlastingly began to exist within time, while He Who is free from the limits of time is necessarily eternal. The reason they give for their rejection of the eternity of the Son is that His everlasting existence contradicts the faith in His birth; as though by confessing that He has existed eternally, we made His birth impossible.
6. What foolish and godless fears! What impious anxiety on God's behalf! The meaning which they profess to detect in the word homoousion, and in the assertion of the eternity of the Son, is detested, rejected, denounced by the Church. She confesses one God from Whom are all things; she confesses one Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom are all things; One from Whom, One through Whom; One the Source of all, One the Agent through Whom all were created. In the One from Whom are all things she recognizes the Majesty which has no beginning, and in the One through Whom are all things she recognizes a might coequal with His Source; for Both are jointly supreme in the work of creation and in rule over created things. In the Spirit she recognizes God as Spirit, impassible and indivisible, for she has learnt from the Lord that Spirit has neither flesh nor bones; a warning to save her from supposing that God, being Spirit, could be burdened with bodily suffering and loss. She recognizes one God, unborn from everlasting; she recognizes also one Only-begotten Son of God. She confesses the Father eternal and without beginning; she confesses also that the Son's beginning is from eternity. Not that He has no beginning, but that He is Son of the Father Who has none; not that He is self-originated, but that He is from Him Who is unbegotten from everlasting; born from eternity, receiving, that is, His birth from the eternity of the Father.
Thus our faith is free from the guesswork of heretical perversity; it is expressed in fixed and published terms, though as yet no reasoned defense of our confession has been put forth. Still, lest any suspicion should linger around the sense in which the Fathers have used the word homoousion and around our confession of the eternity of the Son, I have set down the proofs whereby we may be assured that the Son abides ever in that substance wherein He was begotten from the Father, and that the birth of His Son has not diminished aught of that Substance wherein the Father was abiding; that holy men, inspired by the teaching of God, when they said that the Son is homoousios with the Father pointed to no such flaws or defects as I have mentioned. My purpose has been to counteract the impression that this ousia, this assertion that He is homoousios with the Father, is a negation of the nativity of the Only-begotten Son.
7. To assure ourselves of the needfulness of these two phrases, adopted and employed as the best of safeguards against the heretical rabble of that day, I think it best to reply to the obstinate misbelief of our present heretics, and refute their vain and pestilent teaching by the witness of the evangelists and apostles. They flatter themselves that they can furnish a proof for each of their propositions; they have, in fact, appended to each some passages or other from holy Writ; passages so grossly misinterpreted as to ensnare none but the illiterate by the semblance of truth with which perverted ingenuity has masked their explanation.
8. For they attempt, by praising the Godhead of the Father only, to deprive the Son of His Divinity, pleading that it is written, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One" [Deuteronomy 6:4], and that the Lord repeats this in His answer to the doctor of the Law who asked Him what was the greatest commandment in the Law;-- "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One." [Mark 12:29]. Again, they say that Paul proclaims, "For there is One God, and One Mediator between God and men." [1 Timothy 2:5]. And furthermore, they insist that God alone is wise, in order to leave no wisdom for the Son, relying upon the words of the Apostle,
"Now to Him that is able to stablish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through age-long times, but now is manifested through the scriptures of the prophets according to the commandment of the eternal God Who is made known unto all nations unto obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory far ever and ever." [Romans 16:25-27].
They argue also that He alone is true, for Isaiah says, "They shall bless Thee, the true God," [Isaiah 65:16], and the Lord Himself has borne witness in the Gospel, saying, And this is life eternal that they should know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. Again they reason that He alone is good, to leave no goodness for the Son, because it has been said through Him, "There is none good save One, even God" [Mark 10:18]; and that He alone has power, because Paul has said, "Which in His own times He shall show to us, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords." [1 Timothy 6:15]. And further, they profess themselves certain that in the Father there is no change nor turning, because He has said through the prophet, "I am the Lord your God, and I am not changed" [Malachi 3:6], and the apostle James, "With Whom there is no change" [James 1:17]; certain also that He is the righteous Judge, for it is written, God is the righteous Judge, strong and patient; that He cares for all, because the Lord has said, speaking of the birds, "And your heavenly Father feedeth them" [Matthew 6:26], and, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them falleth upon the ground without the will of your Father; but the very hairs of your head are numbered." [Matthew 10:29-30].
They say that the Father has prescience of all things, as the blessed Susanna says, O eternal God, that knowest secrets, and knowest all things before they be; that He is incomprehensible, as it is written, "The heaven is My throne, and the earth is the footstool of My feet. What house will ye build Me, or what is the place of My rest? For these things hath My hand made, and all these things are mine" [Isaiah 66:1-2]; that He contains all things, as Paul bears witness, "For in Him we live and move and have our being" [Acts 17:28], and the psalmist, "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, and whither shall I fly from Thy face? I f I climb up into heaven, Thou art there; if I go down to hell, Thou art present. If I take my wings before the light and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even thither Thy hand shall lead me and Thy right hand shall hold me" [Psalm 139:7-10]; that He is without body, for it is written, "For God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth" [John 4:24]; that He is immortal and invisible, as Paul says, "Who only hath immortality, and dwelleth in light unapproachable, whom no man hath seen nor can see" [1 Timothy 6:16], and the Evangelist, "No one hath seen God at any time, except the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father" [John 1:18]; that He alone abides eternally unborn, for it is written, "I Am That I Am" [Exodus 3:14], and Thus shall thou say to the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you, and through Jeremiah, O Lord, Who art Lord.
9. Who can fail to observe that these statements are full of fraud and fallacy? Cleverly as issues have been confused and texts combined, malice and folly is the character indelibly imprinted upon this laborious effort of cunning and clumsiness. For instance, among their points of faith they have included this, that they confess the Father only to be unborn; as though any one on our side could suppose that He, Who begot Him through Whom are all things, derived His being from any external source. The very fact that He bears the name of Father reveals Him as the cause of His Son's existence. That name of Father gives no hint that He who bears it is Himself descended from another, while it tells us plainly from Whom it is that the Son is begotten.
Let us therefore leave to the Father His own special and incommunicable property, confessing that in Him reside the eternal powers of an omnipotence without beginning. None, I am sure, can doubt that the reason why, in their confession of God the Father, certain attributes are dwelt upon as peculiarly and inalienably His own, is that He may be left in isolated possession of them. For when they say that He alone is true, alone is righteous, alone is wise, alone is invisible, alone is good, alone is mighty, alone is immortal, they are raising up this word alone as a barrier to cut off the Son from His share in these attributes. He Who is alone, they say, has no partner in His properties. But if we suppose that these attributes reside in the Father only, and not in the Son also, then we must believe that God the Son has neither truth nor wisdom; that He is a bodily being compact of visible and material elements, ill-disposed and feeble and void of immortality; for we exclude Him from all these attributes of which we make the Father the solitary Possessor.
10. We, however, who propose to discourse of that most perfect majesty and fullest Divinity which appertains to the Only-begotten Son of God, have no fear lest our readers should imagine that amplitude of phrase in speaking of the Son is a detraction from the glory of God the Father, as though every praise assigned to the Son had first been withdrawn from Him. For, on the contrary, the majesty of the Son is glory to the Father; the Source must be glorious from which He Who is worthy of such glory comes. The Son has nothing but by virtue of His birth; the Father shares all veneration received by that birthright. Thus the suggestion that we diminish the Father's honor is put to silence, for all the glory which, as we shall teach, is inherent in the Son will be reflected back, to the increased glory of Him who has begotten a Son so great.
11. Now that we have exposed their plan of belittling the Son under cover of magnifying the Father, the next step is to listen to the exact terms in which they express their own belief concerning the Son. For, since we have to answer in succession each of their allegations and to display on the evidence of Holy Scripture the impiety of their doctrines, we must append, to what they say of the Father, the decisions which they have put on record concerning the Son, that by a comparison of their confession of the Father with their confession of the Son we may follow a uniform order in our solution of the questions as they arise. They state as their verdict that the Son is not derived from any pre-existent matter, for through Him all things were created, nor yet begotten from God, for nothing can be withdrawn from God; but that He was made out of what was non-existent, that is, that He is a perfect creature of God, though different from His other creatures. They argue that He is a creature, because it is written, "The Lord hath created Me for a beginning of His ways" [Proverbs 8:22]; that He is the perfect handiwork of God, though different from His other works, they prove, as to the first point, by what Paul writes to the Hebrews, "Being made so much better than the angels, as He possesseth a more excellent name than they," [Hebrews 1:4], and again, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus Christ, who is faithful to Him that made Him." [Hebrews 3:1]. For their depreciation of the might and majesty and Godhead of the Son they rely chiefly on His own words, The Father is greater than I. But they admit that He is not one of the common herd of creatures on the evidence of "All things were made through Him" [John 1:3]. And so they sum up the whole of their blasphemous teaching in these words which follow: --
12. "We confess One God, alone unmade, alone eternal, alone unoriginate, alone true, alone possessing immortality, alone good, alone mighty, Creator, Ordainer and Disposer of all things, unchangeable and unalterable, righteous and good, of the Law and the Prophets and the New Testament. We believe that this God gave birth to the Only-begotten Son before all worlds, through Whom He made the world and all things; that He gave birth to Him not in semblance, but in truth, following His own Will, so that He is unchangeable and unalterable, God's perfect creature but not as one of His other creatures, His handiwork, but not as His Other works; not, as Valentinus maintained, that the Son is a development of the Father; nor, as Manichaeus has declared of the Son, a consubstantial part of the Father; nor, as Sabellius, who makes two out of one, Son and Father at once; nor, as Hieracas, a light from a light, or a lamp with two flames; nor as if He was previously in being and afterwards born or created afresh to be a Son, a notion often condemned by thyself, blessed Pope, publicly in the Church and in the assembly of the brethren. But, as we have affirmed, we believe that He was created by the will of God before times and worlds, and has His life and existence from the Father, Who gave Him to share His own glorious perfections. For, when the Father gave to Him the inheritance of all things, He did not thereby deprive Himself of attributes which are His without origination, He being the source of all things.
13. "So there are three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. God, for His part, is the cause of all things, utterly unoriginate and separate from all; while the Son, put forth by the Father outside time, and created and established before the worlds, did not exist before He was born, but, being born outside time before the worlds, came into being as the Only Son of the Only Father. For He is neither eternal, nor co-eternal, nor co-uncreate with the Father, nor has He an existence collateral with the Father, as some say, who postulate two unborn principles. But God is before all things, as being indivisible and the beginning of all. Wherefore He is before the Son also, as indeed we have learnt from thee in thy public preaching. Inasmuch then as He hath His being from God, and His glorious perfections, and His life, and is entrusted with all things, for this reason God is His source, and hath rule over Him, as being His God, since He is before Him. As to such phrases as from Him, and from the womb, and I went out from the Father and am come, if they be understood to denote that the Father extends a part and, as it were, a development of that one substance, then the Father will be of a compound nature and divisible and changeable and corporeal, according to them; and thus, as far as their words go, the incorporeal God will be subjected to the properties of matter."
14. Such is their error, such their pestilent teaching; to support it they borrow the words of Scripture, perverting its meaning and using the ignorance of men as their opportunity of gaining credence for their lies. Yet it is certainly by these same words of God that we must come to understand the things of God. For human feebleness cannot by any strength of its own attain to the knowledge of heavenly things; the faculties which deal with bodily matters can form no notion of the unseen world. Neither our created bodily substance, nor the reason given by God for the purposes of ordinary life, is capable of ascertaining and pronouncing upon the nature and work of God. Our wits cannot rise to the level of heavenly knowledge, our powers of perception lack the strength to apprehend that limitless might.
We must believe God's word concerning Himself, and humbly accept such insight as He vouchsafes to give. We must make our choice between rejecting His witness, as the heathen do, or else believing in Him as He is, and this in the only possible way, by thinking of Him in the aspect in which He presents Himself to us. Therefore let private judgment cease; let human reason refrain from passing barriers divinely set. In this spirit we eschew all blasphemous and reckless assertion concerning God, and cleave to the very letter of revelation. Each point in our enquiry shall be considered in the light of His instruction, Who is our theme; there shall be no stringing together of isolated phrases whose context is suppressed, to trick and misinform the unpracticed listener. The meaning of words shall be ascertained by considering the circumstances under which they were spoken; words must be explained by circumstances, not circumstances forced into conformity will words. We, at any rate, will treat our subject completely; we will state both the circumstances under which words were spoken, and the true purport of the words. Each point shall be considered in orderly sequence.
15. Their starting-point is this; We confess, they say, One only God, because Moses says, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One" [Deuteronomy 6:4]. But is this a truth which anyone has ever dared to doubt? Or was any believer ever known to confess otherwise than that there is One God from Whom are all things, One Majesty which has no birth, and that He is that unoriginated Power? Yet this fact of the Unity of God offers no chance for denying the Divinity of His Son. For Moses, or rather God through Moses, laid it down as His first commandment to that people, devoted both in Egypt and in the desert to idols and the worship of imaginary gods, that they must believe in One God. There was truth and reason in the commandment, for God, from Whom are all things, is One.
But let us see whether this Moses have not confessed that He, through Whom are all things, is also God. God is not robbed, He is still God, if His Son share the Godhead. For the case is that of God from God, of One from One, of God Who is One because God is from Him. And conversely the Son is not less God because God the Father is One, for He is the Only-begotten Son of God; not eternally unborn, so as to deprive the Father of His Oneness, nor yet different from God, for He is born from Him. We must not doubt that He is God by virtue of that birth from God which proves to us who believe that God is One; yet let us see whether Moses, who announced to Israel, The Lord thy God is One, has also proclaimed the Godhead of the Son. To make good our confession of the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ we must employ the evidence of that same witness on whom the heretics rely for the confession of One Only God, which they imagine to involve the denial of the Godhead of the Son.
16. Since, therefore, the words of the Apostle, "One God the Father, from Whom are all things, and one Jesus Christ, our Lord, through Whom are all things" [1 Corinthians 8:6], form an accurate and complete confession concerning God, let us see what Moses has to say of the beginning of the world. His words are, "And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water, and let it divide the water from the water. And it was so, and God made the firmament and God divided the water through the midst." [Genesis 1:6-7]. Here, then, you have the God from Whom, and the God through Whom. If you deny it, you must tell us through whom it was that God's work in creation was done, or else point for your explanation to an obedience in things yet uncreated, which, when God said Let there be a firmament, impelled the firmament to establish itself. Such suggestions are inconsistent with the clear sense of Scripture.
For all things, as the Prophet says, were made out of nothing; it was no transformation of existing things, but the creation into a perfect form of the non-existent. Through whom? Hear the Evangelist: All things were made through Him. If you ask Who this is, the same Evangelist will tell you: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him." [John 1:1-3]. If you are minded to combat the view that it was the Father Who said, Let there be a firmament, the prophet will answer you: "He spake, and they were made; He commanded, and they were created." [Psalm 33:9]. The recorded words, Let there be a firmament, reveal to us that the Father spoke. But in the words which follow, And it was so, in the statement that God did this thing, we must recognize the Person of the Agent. He spake, and they, were made; the Scripture does not say that He willed it, and did it. He commanded, and they were created; you observe that it does not say they came into existence, because it was His pleasure.
In that case there would be no office for a Mediator between God and the world which was awaiting its creation. God, from Whom are all things, gives the order for creation which God, through Whom are all things, executes. Under one and the same Name we confess Him Who gave and Him Who fulfilled the command. If you dare to deny that God made is spoken of the Son, how do you explain All things were made through Him? Or the Apostle's words, One Jesus Christ, our Lord, through, Whom are all things? Or, He spake, and they were made? If these inspired words succeed in convincing your stubborn mind, you will cease to regard that text, Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One, as a refusal of Divinity to the Son of God, since at the very foundation of the world He Who spoke it proclaimed that His Son also is God. But let us see what increase of profit we may draw from this distinction of God Who commands and God Who executes. For though it is repugnant even to our natural reason to suppose that in the words, He commanded, and they were made, one single and isolated Person is intended, yet, for the avoidance of all doubts, we must expound the events which followed upon the creation of the world.
17. When the world was complete and its inhabitant was to be created, the words spoken concerning him were, "Let Us make man after Our image and likeness" [Genesis 1:26]. I ask you, Do you suppose that God spoke those words to Himself? Is it not obvious that He was addressing not Himself, but Another? If you reply that He was alone, then out of His own mouth He confutes you, for He says, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness. God has spoken to us through the Lawgiver in the way which is intelligible to us; that is, He makes us acquainted with His action by means of language, the faculty with which He has been pleased to endow us. There is, indeed, an indication of the Son of God, through Whom all things were made, in the words, And God said, Let there be a firmament, and in, And God made the firmament, which follows; but lest we should think these words of God were wasted and meaningless, supposing that He issued to Himself the command of creation, and Himself obeyed it, -- for what notion could be further from the thought of a solitary God than that of giving a verbal order to Himself, when nothing was necessary except an exertion of His will? -- He determined to give us a more perfect assurance that these words refer to Another beside Himself.
When He said, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness, His indication of a Partner demolishes the theory of His isolation. For an isolated being cannot be partner to himself; and again, the words, Let Us make, are inconsistent with solitude, while Our cannot be used except to a companion. Both words, Us and Our are inconsistent with the notion of a solitary God speaking to Himself, and equally inconsistent with that of the address being made to a stranger who has nothing in common with the Speaker. If you interpret the passage to mean that He is isolated, I ask you whether you suppose that He was speaking with Himself? If you do not understand that He was speaking with Himself, how can you assume that He was isolated? If He were isolated, we should find Him described as isolated; if He had a companion, then as not isolated. I and Mine would describe the former state; the latter is indicated by Us and Our.
18. Thus, when we read, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness, these two words Us and Our reveal that there is neither one isolated God, nor yet one God in two dissimilar Persons; and our confession must be framed in harmony with the second as well as with the first truth. For the words Our image -- not Our images -- prove that there is one nature possessed by Both. But an argument from words is an insufficient proof; unless its result be confirmed by the evidence of facts; and accordingly it is written, And God made man; after the image of God made He him. If the words He spoke, I ask, were the soliloquy of an isolated God, what meaning shall we assign to this last statement? For in it I see a triple allusion, to the Maker, to the being made, and to the image. The being made is man; God made him, and made him in the image of God. If Genesis were speaking of an isolated God, it would certainly have been And made him after His own image. But since the book was foreshowing the Mystery of the Gospel, it spoke not of two Gods, but of God and God, for it speaks of man made through God in the image of God. Thus we find that God wrought man after an image and likeness common to Himself and to God; that the mention of an Agent forbids us to assume that He was isolated; and that the work, done after an image and likeness which was that of Both, proves that there is no difference in kind between the Godhead of the One and of the Other.
19. It may seem waste of time to bring forward further arguments, for truths concerning God gain no strength by repetition; a single statement suffices to establish them. Yet it is well for us to know all that has been revealed upon the subject, for though we are not responsible for the words of Scripture, yet we shall have to render an account for the sense we have assigned to them. One of the many commandments which God gave to Noah is, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood for his blood shall his life be shed, for after the image of God made I man." [Genesis 9:6]. Here again is the distinction between likeness, creature, and Creator. God bears witless that He made man after the image of God. When He was about to make man, because He was speaking of Himself, yet not to Himself, God said, After our image; and again, after man was made, God made man after the image of God. It would have been no inaccuracy of language, had He said, addressing Himself, I have made man after My image, for He had shown that the Persons are one in nature by, "Let us make man after Our image" [Genesis 1:26]. But for the more perfect removal of all doubt as to whether God be, or be not, a solitary Being, when He made man He made him, we are told, After the image of God.
20. If you still wish to assert that God the Father in solitude said these words to Himself, I can go with you as far as to admit the possibility that He might in solitude have spoken to Himself as if He were conversing with a companion, and that it is credible that He wished the words I have made man after the image of God to be equivalent to I have made man after My own image. But your own confession of faith will refute you. For you have confessed that all things are from the Father, but all through the Son; and the words, Let Us make man, show that the Source from Whom are all things is He Who spoke thus, while God made him after the image of God clearly points to Him through Whom the work was done.
21. And furthermore, to make all self-deception unlawful, that Wisdom, which you have yourself confessed to be Christ, shall confront you with the words, "When He was establishing the fountains under the heaven, when He was making strong the foundations of the earth, I was with Him, setting them in order. It was I, over Whom He rejoiced. Moreover, I was daily rejoicing in His sight, all the while that He was rejoicing in the world that He had made, and in the sons of men." [Proverbs 8:29-31]. Every difficulty is removed; error itself must recognize the truth. There is with God Wisdom, begotten before the worlds; and not only present with Him, but setting in order, for She was with Him, setting them in order. Mark this work of setting in order, or arranging. The Father, by His commands, is the Cause; the Son, by His execution of the things commanded, sets in order.
The distinction between the Persons is marked by the work assigned to Each. When it says Let us make, creation is identified with the word of command; but when it is written, I was with Him, setting them in order, God reveals that He did not do the work in isolation. For He was rejoicing before Him, Who, He tells us, rejoiced in return; Moreover, I was daily rejoicing in His sight, all the while that He was rejoicing in the world that He had made, and in the sons of men. Wisdom has taught us the reason of Her joy. She rejoiced because of the joy of the Father, Who rejoices over the completion of the world and over the sons of men. For it is written, And God saw that they were good. She rejoices that God is well pleased with His work, which has been made through Her, at His command. She avows that Her joy results from the Father's gladness over the finished world and over the sons of men; over the sons of men, because in the one man Adam the whole human race had begun its course. Thus in the creation of the world there is no mere soliloquy of an isolated Father; His Wisdom is His partner in the work, and rejoices with Him when their conjoint labor ends.
22. I am aware that the full explanation of these words involves the discussion of many and weighty problems. I do not shirk them, but postpone them for the present, reserving their consideration for later stages of the enquiry. For the present I devote myself to that article of the blasphemers' faith, or rather faithlessness, which asserts that Moses proclaims the solitude of God. We do not forget that the assertion is true in the sense that there is One God, from Whom are all things; but neither do we forget that this truth is no excuse for denying the Godhead of the Son, since Moses throughout the course of his writings clearly indicates the existence of God and God. We must examine how the history of God's choice, and of the giving of the Law, proclaims God co-ordinate with God.
23. After God had often spoken with Abraham, Sarah was moved to wrath against Hagar, being jealous that she, the mistress, was barren, while her handmaid had conceived a son. Then, when Hagar had departed from her sight, the Spirit speaks thus concerning her,
"And the angel of the Lord said unto Hagar, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, and it shall not be numbered for multitude, and again, And she called the Name of the Lord that spake with her. Thou art God, Who hast seen me." [Genesis 16:10-13].
It is the Angel of God Who speaks, and speaks of things far beyond the powers which a messenger, for that is the meaning of the word, could have. He says, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, and it shall not be numbered for multitude. The power of multiplying nations lies outside the ministry of an angel. Yet what says the Scripture of Him Who is called the Angel of God, yet speaks words which belong to God alone? And she called the Name of the Lord that spake with her, Thou art God, Who hast seen me. First He is the Angel of God; then He is the Lord, for She called the Name of the Lord; then, thirdly, He is God, for Thou art God, Who hast seen me. He Who is called the Angel of God is also Lord and God. The Son of God is also, according to the prophet, the "Angel of great counsel" [Isaiah 9:6, LXX]. To discriminate clearly between the Persons, He is called the Angel of God; He Who is God from God is also the Angel of God. but, that He may have the honor which is His due, He is entitled also Lord and God.
24. In this passage the one Deity is first the Angel of God, and then, successively, Lord and God. But to Abraham He is God only. For when the distinction of Persons had first been made, as a safeguard against the delusion that God is a solitary Being, then His true and unqualified name could safely be uttered. And so it is written.
"And God said to Abraham, Behold Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, behold. I have heard thee and have blessed him, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve nations shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." [Genesis 17:19-20].
Is it possible to doubt that He Who was previously called the Angel of God is here, in the sequel, spoken of as God? In both instances He is speaking of Ishmael; in both it is the same Person Who shall multiply him. To save us from supposing that this was a different Speaker from Him who had addressed Hagar, the Divine words expressly attest the identity, saying, And I have blessed him, and will multiply him. The blessing is repeated from a former occasion, for Hagar had already been addressed; the multiplication is promised for a future day, for this is God's first word to Abraham concerning Ishmael.
Now it is God Who speaks to Abraham; to Hagar the Angel of God had spoken. Thus God and the Angel of God are One; He Who is the Angel of God is also God the Son of God. He is called the Angel because He is the Angel of great counsel; but afterwards He is spoken of as God, lest we should suppose that He Who is God is only an angel. Let us now repeat the facts in order. The Angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar; He spoke also to Abraham as God. One Speaker addressed both. The blessing was given to Ishmael, and the promise that he should grow into a great people.
25. In another instance the Scripture reveals through Abraham that it was God Who spoke. He receives the further promise of a son, Isaac. Afterwards there appear to him three men. Abraham, though he sees three, worships One, and acknowledges Him as Lord. Three were standing before him, Scripture says, but he knew well Which it was that he must worship and confess. There was nothing in outward appearance to distinguish them, but by the eye of faith, the vision of the soul, he knew his Lord. Then the Scripture goes on, "And He said unto him, I will certainly return unto thee at this time hereafter, and Sarah thy wife shall have a son" [Genesis 18:10]; and afterwards the Lord said to Him, "I will not conceal from Abraham My servant the things that I will do" [Genesis 18:17]; and again, "Moreover the Lord said, The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is filled up, and their sins are exceeding great." [Genesis 18:20].
Then after long discourse, which for the sake of brevity shall be omitted, Abraham, distressed at the destruction which awaited the innocent as well as the guilty, said, "In no wise wilt Thou, Who judgest the earth, execute this judgment. And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes." [Genesis 18:25-26]. Afterwards, when the warning to Lot, Abraham's brother, was ended, the Scripture says, "And the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven" [Genesis 19:24]; and, after a while, "And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and did unto Sarah as He had spoken, and Sarah conceived and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him." [Genesis 21:1-2]. And afterwards, when the handmaid with her son had been driven from Abraham's house, and was dreading test her child should die in the wilderness for want of water, the same Scripture says, "And the Lord God heard the voice of the lad, where he was, and the Angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What is it, Hagar? Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad from the place where he is. Arise, and take the lad and hold his hand, for I will make him a great nation." [Genesis 21:17-18].
26. What blind faithlessness it is, what dullness of an unbelieving heart, what headstrong impiety, to abide in ignorance of all this, or else to know and yet neglect it! Assuredly it is written for the very purpose that error or oblivion may not hinder the recognition of the truth. If, as we shall prove, it is impossible to escape knowledge of the facts, then it must be nothing less than blasphemy to deny them. This record begins with the speech of the Angel to Hagar, His promise to multiply Ishmael into a great nation and to give him a countless offspring. She listens, and by her confession reveals that He is Lord and God. The story begins with His appearance as the Angel of God; at its termination He stands confessed as God Himself. Thus He Who, while He executes the ministry of declaring the great counsel is God's Angel, is Himself in name and nature God.
The name corresponds to the nature; the nature is not falsified to make it conform to the name. Again, God speaks to Abraham of this same matter; he is told that Ishmael has already received a blessing, and shall be increased into a nation; I have blessed him, God says. This is no change from the Person indicated before; He shows that it was He Who had already given the blessing. The Scripture has obviously been consistent throughout in its progress from mystery to clear revelation; it began with the Angel of God, and proceeds to reveal that it was God Himself Who had spoken in this same matter.
27. The course of the Divine narrative is accompanied by a progressive development of doctrine. In the passage which we have discussed God speaks to Abraham and promises that Sarah shall bear a son. Afterwards three men stand by him; he worships One and acknowledges Him as Lord. After this worship and acknowledgment by Abraham, the One promises that He will return hereafter at the same season, and that then Sarah shall have her son. This One again is seen by Abraham in the guise of a man, and salutes him with the same promise. The change is one of name only; Abraham's acknowledgment in each case is the same. It was a Man whom he saw, yet Abraham worshipped Him as Lord; he beheld, no doubt, in a mystery the coming Incarnation. Faith so strong has not missed its recognition; the Lord says in the Gospel, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad." [John 8:56].
To continue the history; the Man Whom he saw promised that He would return at the same season. Mark the fulfillment of the promise, remembering meanwhile that it was a Man Who made it. What says the Scripture? And the Lord visited Sarah. So this Man is the Lord, fulfilling His own promise. What follows next? And God did unto Sarah as He had said. The narrative calls His words those of a Man, relates that Sarah was visited by the Lord, proclaims that the result was the work of God. You are sure that it was a Man who spoke, for Abraham not only heard, but saw Him. Can you be less certain that He was God, when the same Scripture, which had called Him Man, confesses Him God? For its words are, And Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, and at the set time of which God had spoken to him. But it was the Man who had promised that He would come. Believe that He was nothing more than man; unless, in fact, He Who came was God and Lord.
Connect the incidents. It was, confessedly, the Man who promised that He would come that Sarah might conceive and bear a son. And now accept instruction, and confess the faith; it was the Lord God Who came that she might conceive and bear. The Man made the promise in the power of God; by the same power God fulfilled the promise. Thus God reveals Himself both in word and deed. Next, two of the three men whom Abraham saw depart; He Who remains behind is Lord and God. And not only Lord and God, but also Judge, for Abraham stood before the Lord and said, "In no wise shall Thou do this thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, for then the righteous shall be as the wicked. In no wise wilt Thou Who judgest the whole earth, execute this judgment." [Genesis 18:25]. Thus by all his words Abraham instructs us in that faith, for which he was justified; he recognizes the Lord from among the three, he worships Him only, and confesses that He is Lord and Judge.
28. Lest you fall into the error of supposing that this acknowledgment of the One was a payment of honor to all the three whom Abraham saw in company, mark the words of Lot when he saw the two who had departed: "And when Lot saw them, he rose up to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and he said, Behold, my lords, turn in to your servant's house." [Genesis 19:1-2]. Here the plural lords shows that this was nothing more than a vision of angels; in the other case the faithful patriarch pays the honor due to One only. Thus the sacred narrative makes it clear that two of the three were mere angels; it had previously proclaimed the One as Lord and God by the words, "And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I then bear a child? But I am grown old. Is anything from God impossible? At this season I will return to thee hereafter, and Sarah shall have a son." [Genesis 18:13-14]. The Scripture is accurate and consistent; we detect no such confusion as the plural used of the One God and Lord, no Divine honors paid to the two angels. Lot, no doubt, calls them lords, while the Scripture calls them angels. The one is human reverence, the other literal truth.
29. And now there fails on Sodom and Gomorrah the vengeance of a righteous judgment. What can we learn from it for the purposes of our enquiry? The Lord rained brimstone and fire from the Lord. It is The Lord from the Lord; Scripture makes no distinction, by difference of name, between Their natures, but discriminates between Themselves. For we read in the Gospel, "The Father judgeth no man, but hath given all judgment to the Son." [John 5:22]. Thus what the Lord gave, the Lord had received from the Lord.
30. You have now had evidence of God the Judge as Lord and Lord; learn next that there is the same joint ownership of name in the case of God and God. Jacob, when he fled through fear of his brother, saw in his dream a ladder resting upon the earth and reaching to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, and the Lord resting above it, Who gave him all the blessings which He had bestowed upon Abraham and Isaac. At a later time God spoke to him thus: "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to the place Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of thy brother." [Genesis 35:1].
God demands honor for God, and makes it clear that demand is on behalf of Another than Himself. He who appeared to thee when thou fleddest are His words: He guards carefully against any confusion of the Persons. It is God Who speaks, and God of Whom He speaks. Their majesty is asserted by the combination of Both under Their true Name of God, while the words plainly declare Their several existence.
31. Here again there occur to me considerations which must be taken into account in a complete treatment of the subject. But the order of defense must adapt itself to the order of attack, and I reserve these outstanding questions for discussion in the next book. For the present, in regard to God Who demanded honor for God, it will suffice for me to point out that He Who was the Angel of God, when He spoke with Hagar, was God and Lord when He spoke of the same matter with Abraham; that the Man Who spoke with Abraham was also God and Lord, while the two angels, who were seen with the Lord and whom He sent to Lot, are described by the prophet as angels, and nothing more. Nor was it to Abraham only that God appeared in human guise; He appeared as Man to Jacob also. And not only did He appear, but, so we are told, He wrestled; and not only did He wrestle, but He was vanquished by His adversary. Neither the time at my disposal, nor the subject, will allow me to discuss the typical meaning of this wrestling. It was certainly God Who wrestled, for Jacob prevailed against God, and Israel saw God.
32. And now let us enquire whether elsewhere than in the case of Hagar the Angel of God has been discovered to be God Himself. He has been so discovered, and found to be not only God, but the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. For the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses from the bush; and Whose voice, think you, are we to suppose was heard? The voice of Him Who was seen, or of Another? There is no room for deception; the words of Scripture are clear: "And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire from a bush" [Exodus 3:2], and again, "The Lord called unto him from the bush, Moses, Moses, and he answered, What is it? And the Lord said, Draw not nigh hither, put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. And He said unto him, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" [Exodus 3:4-6]. He who appeared in the bush speaks from the bush; the place of the vision and of the voice is one; He Who speaks is none other than He Who was seen. He Who is the Angel of God when the eye beholds Him is the Lord when the ear hears Him, and the Lord Whose voice is heard is recognized as the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. When He is styled the Angel of God, the fact is revealed that He is no self-contained and solitary Being: for He is the Angel of God. When He is designated Lord and God, He receives the full title which is due to His nature and His name. You have, then, in the Angel Who appeared from the bush, Him Who is Lord and God.
33. Continue your study of the witness borne by Moses; mark how diligently he seizes every opportunity of proclaiming the Lord and God. You take note of the passage, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One" [Deuteronomy 6:4]. Note also the words of that Divine song of his; "See, See, that I am the Lord, and there is no God beside Me." [Deuteronomy 32:39]. While God has been the Speaker throughout the poem, he ends with, "Rejoice, ye heavens, together with Him and let all the sons of God praise Him. Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people, and let all the Angels of God do Him honor." [Deuteronomy 32:43 LXX].
God is to be glorified by the Angels of God, and He says, For I am the Lord, and there is no God beside Me. For He is God the Only-begotten, and the title 'Only-begotten' excludes all partnership in that character, just as the title 'Unoriginate' denies that there is, in that regard, any who shares the character of the Unoriginate Father. The Son is One from One. There is none unoriginate except God the Unoriginate, and so likewise there is none only-begotten except God the Only-begotten. They stand Each single and alone, being respectively the One Unoriginate and the One Only-begotten.
And so They Two are One God, for between the One, and the One Who is His offspring there lies no gulf of difference of nature in the eternal Godhead. Therefore He must be worshipped by the sons of God and glorified by the angels of God. Honor and reverence is demanded for God from the sons and from the angels of God. Notice Who it is that shall receive this honor, and by whom it is to be paid. It is God, and they are the sons and angels of God. And lest you should imagine that honor is not demanded for God Who shares our nature, but that Moses is thinking here of reverence due to God the Father,-- though, indeed, it is in the Son that the Father must be honored -- examine the words of the blessing bestowed by God upon Joseph, at the end of the same book. They are, "And let the things that are well-pleasing to Him that appeared in the bush came upon the head and crown of Joseph." [Deuteronomy 33:16].
Thus God is to be worshipped by the sons of God; but God Who is Himself the Son of God. And God is to be reverenced by the angels of God; but God Who is Himself the Angel of God. For God appeared from the bush as the Angel of God, and the prayer for Joseph is that he may receive such blessings as He shall please, He is none the less God because He is the Angel of God; and none the less the Angel of God because He is God. A clear indication is given of the Divine Persons; the line is definitely drawn between the Unbegotten and the Begotten. A revelation of the mysteries of heaven is granted, and we are taught not to dream of God as dwelling in solitude, when angels and sons of God shall worship Him, Who is God's Angel and Its Son.
34. Let this be taken as our answer from the books of Moses, or rather as the answer of Moses himself. The heretics imagine that they can use his assertion of the Unity of God in disproof of the Divinity of God the Son; a blasphemy in defiance of the clear warning of their own witness, for whenever he confesses that God is One he never fails to teach the Son's Divinity. Our next step must be to adduce the manifold utterance of the prophets concerning the same Son.
35. You know the words, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One" [Deuteronomy 6:4]; would that you knew them aright! As you interpret them, I seek in vain for their sense. It is said in the Psalms, "God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee" [Psalm 45:7]. Impress upon the reader's mind the distinction between the Anointer and the Anointed; discriminate between the Thee and the Thy: make it clear to Whom and of Whom the words are spoken. For this definite confession is the conclusion of the preceding passage, which runs thus; "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity." [Psalm 45:6-7]. And then he continues, Therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee.
Thus the God of the eternal kingdom, in reward for His love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity, is anointed by His God. Surely some broad difference is drawn, some gap too wide for our mental span, between these names? No; the distinction of Persons is indicated by Thee and Thy, but nothing suggests a difference of nature. Thy points to the Author, Thee to Him Who is the Author's offspring. For He is God from God, as these same words of the prophet declare, God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee. And His own words bear wireless that there is no God anterior to God the Unoriginate; "Be ye My witnesses, and I am witness, saith the Lord God, and My Servant Whom I have chosen, that ye may know and believe and understand that I am, and before Me there is no other God, nor shall be after Me." [Isaiah 43:10]. Thus the majesty of Him that has no beginning is declared, and the glory of Him that is from the Unoriginate is safeguarded; for God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee. That word Thy declares His birth, yet does not contradict His nature; Thy God means that the Son was born from Him to share the Godhead. But the fact that the Father is God is no obstacle to the Son's being God also, for God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee. Mention is made both of Father and of Son; the one title of God conveys the assurance that in character and majesty They are One.
36. But lest these words, For I am, and before Me there is no other God, nor shall be after Me, be made a handle for blasphemous presumption, as proving that the Son is not God, since after the God, Whom no God precedes, there follows no other God, the purpose of the passage must be considered. God is His own best interpreter, but His chosen Servant joins with Him to assure us that there is no God before Him, nor shall be after Him. His own witness concerning Himself is, indeed, sufficient, but He has added the witness of the Servant Whom He has chosen. Thus we have the united testimony of the Two, that there is no God before Him; we accept the truth, because all things are from Him. We have Their witness also that there shall be no God after Him; but They do not deny that God has been born from Him in the past. Already there was the Servant speaking thus, and bearing witness to the Father; the Servant born in that tribe from which God's elect was to spring. He sets forth also the same truth in the Gospels: "Behold, My Servant Whom I have chosen, My Beloved in Whom My soul is well pleased." [Matthew 12:18]. This is the sense, then, in which God says, There is no other God before Me, nor shall be after Me. He reveals the infinity of His eternal and unchanging majesty by this assertion that there is no God before or after Himself. But He gives His Servant a share both in the bearing of witness and in the possession of the Name of God.
37. The fact is obvious from His own words. For He says to Hosea the prophet, "I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel, but will altogether be their enemy. But I will have mercy upon the children Judah, and will save them in the Lord their God." [Hosea 1:6-7]. Here God the Father gives the name of God, without any ambiguity, to the Son, in Whom also He chose us before countless ages. Their God, He says, for while the Father, being Unoriginate, is independent of all, He has given us for an inheritance to His Son. In like manner we read, "Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thine inheritance." [Psalm 2:8]. None can be God to Him from Whom are all things, for He is eternal and has no beginning; but the Son has God, from Whom He was born, for His Father. Yet to us the Father is God and the Son is God; the Father reveals to us that the Son is our God, and the Son teaches that the Father is God over us. The point for us to remember is that in this passage the Father gives to the Son the name of God, the title of His own unoriginate majesty. But I have commented sufficiently on these words of Hosea.
38. Again, how clear is the declaration made by God the Father through Isaiah concerning our Lord! He says,
"For thus saith the Lord, the holy God of Israel, Who made the things to come, Ask me concerning your sons and your daughters, and concerning the works of My hands command ye Me. I have made the earth and man upon it, I have commanded all the stars, I have raised up a King with righteousness, and all His ways are straight. He shall build My city, and shall turn back the captivity of My people, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of Sabaoth. Egypt shall labor, and the merchandise of the Ethiopians and Sabeans. Men of stature shall come over unto Thee and shall be Thy servants, and shall follow after Thee, bound in chains, and shall worship Thee and make supplication unto Thee, for God is in Thee and there is no God beside Thee. For Thou art God, and we knew it not, O God of Israel, the Savior. All that resist Him shall be ashamed and confounded, and shall walk in confusion." [Isaiah 45:11-16]
Is any opening left for gainsaying, or excuse for ignorance? If blasphemy continue, is it not in brazen defiance that it survives? God from Whom are all things, Who made all by His command, asserts that He is the Author of the universe, for, unless He had spoken, nothing had been created. He asserts that He has raised up a righteous King, who builds for Himself, that is, for God, a city, and turns back the captivity of His people, for no gift nor reward, for freely are we all saved. Next, He tells how after the labors of Egypt, and after the traffic of Ethiopians and Sabeans, men of stature shall come over to Him.
How shall we understand these labors in Egypt, this traffic of Ethiopians and Sabeans? Let us call to mind how the Magi of the East worshipped and paid tribute to the Lord; let us estimate the weariness of that long pilgrimage to Bethlehem of Judah. In the toilsome journey of the Magian princes we see the labors of Egypt to which the prophet alludes. For when the Magi executed, in their spurious, material way, the duty ordained for them by the power of God, the whole heathen world was offering in their person the deepest reverence of which its worship was capable. And these same Magi presented gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh from the merchandise of the Ethiopians and Sabeans; a thing foretold by another prophet, who has said, "The Ethiopians shall fall down before His face, and is enemies shall lick the dust. The Kings of Tharsis shall offer presents, the Kings of the Arabians and Sabeans shall bring gifts, and there shall be given to Him of the gold of Arabia." [Psalm 72:9-10]. The Magi and their offerings stand for the labor of Egypt and for the merchandise of Ethiopians and Sabeans; the adoring Magi represent the heathen world, and offer the choicest gifts of the Gentiles to the Lord Whom they adore.
39. As for the men of stature who shall come over to Him and follow Him in chains, there is no doubt who they are. Turn to the Gospels; Peter, when he is to follow his Lord, is girded up. Read the Apostles: Paul, the servant of Christ, boasts of his bonds. Let us see whether this 'prisoner of Jesus Christ' conforms in his teaching to the prophecies uttered by God concerning God His Son. God has said, They shall make supplication, for God is in Thee. Now mark and digest these words of the Apostle:-- "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." [2 Corinthians 5:19]. And then the prophecy continues, And there is no God beside Thee. The Apostle promptly matches this with, "For there is one Jesus Christ our Lord, through Whom are all things." [1 Corinthians 8:6]. Obviously there can be none other but He, for He is One. The third prophetic statement is, Thou art God and we knew it not. But Paul, once the persecutor of the Church, says, "Whose are the fathers, from Whom is Christ, Who is God over all" [Romans 9:5]. Such is to be the message of these men in chains; men of stature, indeed, they will be, and shall sit on twelve thrones to judge the tribes of Israel, and shall follow their Lord, witnesses to Him in teaching and in martyrdom.
40. Thus God is in God, and it is God in Whom God dwells. But how is There is no God beside Thee true, if God be within Him? Heretic! In support of your confession of a solitary Father you employ the words, There is no God beside Me; what sense can you assign to the solemn declaration of God the Father, There is no God beside Thee, if your explanation of There is no God beside Me be a denial of the Godhead of the Son? To whom, in that case, can God have said, There is no God beside Thee? You cannot suggest that this solitary Being said it to Himself. It was to the King Whom He summoned that the Lord said, by the mouth of the men of stature who worshipped and made supplication, For God is in Thee. The facts are inconsistent with solitude. In Thee implies that there was One present within range, if I may say so, of the Speaker's voice. The complete sentence, God is in Thee, reveals not only God present, but also God abiding in Him Who is present. The words distinguish the Indweller from Him in Whom He dwells, but it is a distinction of Person only, not of character. God is in Him, and He, in Whom God is, is God. The residence of God cannot be within a nature strange and alien to His own. He abides in One Who is His own, born from Himself. God is in God, because God is from God. For Thou art God, and we knew it not, O God of Israel, the Savior.
41. My next book is devoted to the refutation of your denial that God is in God; for the prophet continues, All that resist Him shall be ashamed and confounded and shall walk in confusion. This is God's sentence, passed upon your unbelief. You set yourself in opposition to Christ, and it is on His account that the Father's voice is raised in solemn reproof; for He, Whose Godhead you deny, is God. And you deny it under cloak of reverence for God, because He says, There is no other God beside Me.
Submit to shame and confusion; the Unoriginate God has no need of the dignity you offer; He has never asked for this majesty of isolation which you attribute to Him. He repudiates your officious interpretation which would twist His words, There is no other God beside Me, into a denial of the Godhead of the Son Whom He begot from Himself. To frustrate your purpose of demolishing the Divinity of the Son by assigning the Godhead in some special sense to Himself, He rounds off the glories of the Only-begotten by the attribution of absolute Divinity:-- And there is no God beside Thee.
Why make distinctions between exact equivalents? Why separate what is perfectly matched? It is the peculiar characteristic of the Son of God that there is no God beside Him; the peculiar characteristic of God the Father that there is no God apart from Him. Use His words concerning Himself; confess Him in His own terms, and entreat Him as King; For God is in Thee, and there is no God beside Thee. For Thou art God, and we knew it not, O God of Israel, the Savior. A confession couched in words so reverent is free from the taint of presumption: its terms can excite no repugnance. Above all, we must remember that to refuse it means shame and ignominy. Brood in thought over these words of God; employ them in your confession of Him, and so escape the threatened shame. For if you deny the Divinity of the Son of God, you will not be augmenting the glory of God by adoring Him in lonely majesty; you will be slighting the Father by refusing to reverence the Son. In faith and veneration confess of the Unoriginate God that there is no God beside Him; claim for God the Only-begotten that apart from Him there is no God.
42. As you have listened already to Moses and Isaiah, so listen now to Jeremiah inculcating the same truth as they:-- This is our God, and there shall be none other likened unto Him, Who hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob His servant and to Israel His beloved. Afterward did He show Himself upon earth and dwelt among men. For previously he had said, And He is Man, and Who shall know Him? Thus you have God seen on earth and dwelling among men. Now I ask you what sense you would assign to No one hath seen God at any time, save the Only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, when Jeremiah proclaims God seen on earth and dwelling among men? The Father confessedly cannot be seen except by the Son; Who then is This who was seen and dwelt among men? He must be our God, for He is God visible in human form, Whom men can handle. And take to heart the prophet's words, There shall be none other likened to Him. If you ask how this can be, listen to the remainder of the sentence, lest you be tempted to deny to the Father His share of the confession. Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One. The whole passage is, There shall be none likened unto Him, Who hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob His servant and to Israel His beloved. Afterward did He show Himself upon earth and dwelt among men.
For there is one Mediator between God and Men, Who is both God and Man; Mediator both in giving of the Law and in taking of our body. Therefore none other can be likened unto Him, for He is One, born from God into God, and the it was through Whom all things were created in heaven and earth, through Whom times and worlds were made. Everything, in fine, that exists owes its existence to His action. He it is that instructs Abraham, that speaks with Moses, that testifies to Israel, that abides in the prophets, that was born through the Virgin from the Holy Ghost, that nails to the cross of His passion the powers that are our foes, that slays death in hell, that strengthens the assurance of our hope by His Resurrection, that destroys the corruption of human flesh by the glory of His Body. Therefore none shall be likened unto Him. For these are the peculiar powers of God the Only-begotten; He alone was born from God, the blissful Possessor of such great prerogatives. No second god can be likened unto Him, for He is God from God, not born from any alien being. There is nothing new or strange or modern created in Him. When Israel hears that its God is one, and that no second god is likened, that men may deem him God, to God Who is God's Son, the revelation means that God the Father and God the Son are One altogether, not by confusion of Person but by unity of substance. For the prophet forbids us, because God the Son is God, to liken Him to some second deity.