Hilary of Poitiers
On the Trinity
1. Our reply, in the previous books, to the mad and blasphemous doctrines of the heretics has led us with open eyes into the difficulty that our readers incur an equal danger whether we refute our opponents, or whether we forbear. For while unbelief with boisterous irreverence was thrusting upon us the unity of God, a unity which devout and reasonable faith cannot deny, the scrupulous soul was caught in the dilemma that, whether it asserted or denied the proposition, the danger of blasphemy was equally incurred. To human logic it may seem ridiculous and irrational to say that it can be impious to assert, and impious to deny, the same doctrine, since what it is godly to maintain it must be godless to dispute; if it serve a good purpose to demolish a statement, it may seem folly to dream that good can come from supporting it.
But human logic is fallacy in the presence of the counsels of God, and folly when it would cope with the wisdom of heaven; its thoughts are fettered by its limitations, its philosophy confined by the feebleness of natural reason. It must be foolish in its own eyes before it can be wise unto God; that is, it must learn the poverty of its own faculties and seek after Divine wisdom. It must become wise, not by the standard of human philosophy, but of that which mounts to God, before it can enter into His wisdom, and its eyes be opened to the folly of the world. The heretics have ingeniously contrived that this folly, which passes for wisdom, shall be their engine. They employ the confession of One God, for which they appeal to the witness of the Law and the Gospels in the words, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One" [Deuteronomy 6:4].
They are well aware of the risks involved, whether their assertion be met by contradiction or passed over in silence; and, whichever happens, they see an opening to promote their heresy. If sacred truth, pressed with a blasphemous intent, be met by silence, that silence is construed as consent; as a confession that, because God is One, therefore His Son is not God, and God abides in eternal solitude. If, on the other hand, the heresy involved in their bold argument be met by contradiction, this opposition is branded as a departure from the true Gospel faith, which states in precise terms the unity of God, or else they cast in the opponent's teeth that he has fallen into the contrary heresy, which allows but one Person of Father and of Son.
Such is the deadly artifice, wearing the aspect of an attractive innocence, which the world's wisdom, which is folly with God, has forged to beguile us in this first article of their faith, which we can neither confess nor deny without risk of blasphemy. We walk between dangers on either hand; the unity of God may force us into a denial of the Godhead of His Son, or, if we confess that the Father is God and the Son is God, we may be driven into the heresy of interpreting the unity of Father and of Son in the Sabellian sense. Thus their device of insisting upon the One God would either shut out the Second Person from the Godhead, or destroy the Unity by admitting Him as a second God, or else make the unity merely nominal. For unity, they would plead, excludes a Second; the existence of a Second is destructive of unity; and Two cannot be One.
2. But we who have attained this wisdom of God, which is folly to the world, and purpose, by means of the sound and saving profession of true faith in the Lord, to unmask the snake-like treachery of their teaching; we have so laid out the plan of our undertaking as to gain a vantage ground for the display of the truth without entangling ourselves in the dangers of heretical assertion. We carefully avoid either extreme; not denying that God is One, yet setting forth distinctly, on the evidence of the Lawgiver who proclaims the unity of God, the truth that there is God and God. We teach that it is by no confusion of the Two that God is One; we do not rend Him in pieces by preaching a plurality of Gods, nor yet do we profess a distinction only in name. But we present Him as God and God, postponing at present for fuller discussion hereafter the question of the Divine unity. For the Gospels tell us that Moses taught the truth when he proclaimed that God is One; and Moses by his proclamation of One God confirms the lesson of the Gospels, which tell of God and God. Thus we do not contradict our authorities, but base our teaching upon them, proving that the revelation to Israel of the unity of God gives no sanction to the refusal of Divinity to the Son of God; since he who is our authority for asserting that there is One God is our authority also for confessing the Godhead of His Son.
3. And so the arrangement of our treatise follows closely the order of the objections raised. Since the next article of their blasphemous and dishonest confession is, We confess One true God, the whole of this second book is devoted to the question whether the Son of God be true God. For it is clear that the heretics have ingeniously contrived this arrangement of first naming One God and then One true God, in order to detach the Son from the name and nature of God; since the thought must suggest itself that, truth being inherent in the One God, it must be strictly confined to Him.
And therefore, since it is clear beyond a doubt that Moses, when he proclaimed the unity of God, meant therein to assert the Divinity of the Son, let us return to the leading passages in which his teaching is conveyed, and enquire whether or no he wishes us to believe that the Son, Who, as he has taught us, is God, is also true God. It is clear that the truth, or genuineness, of a thing is a question of its nature and its powers. For instance, true wheat is that which grows to a head with the beard bristling round it, which is purged from the chaff and ground to flour, compounded into a loaf and taken for food, and renders the nature and the uses of bread. Thus natural powers are the evidence of truth; and let us see, by this test, whether He, Whom Moses calls God, be true God. We will defer for the present our discourse concerning this One God, Who is also true God, lest, if I fail at once to take up their challenge and uphold the One True God in the two Persons of Father and of Son, eager and anxious souls be oppressed by dangerous doubts.
4. And now, since we accept as common ground the fact that God recognizes His Son as God, I ask you: how does the creation of the world disprove our assertion that the Son is true God? There is no doubt that all things are through the Son, for, in the Apostle's words, "All things are through Him, and in Him." [Colossians 1:17]. If all things are through Him, and all were made out of noticing, and none otherwise than through Him, in what element of true Godhead is He defective, Who possesses both the nature and the power of God? He had at His disposal the powers of the Divine nature, to bring into being the non-existent and to create at His pleasure. For "God saw that they were good" [Genesis 1:31].
5. When the Law says, And God said, Let there be a firmament, and then adds, And God made the firmament, it introduces no other distinction than that of Person. It indicates no difference of power or nature, and makes no change of name. Under the one title of God it reveals, first, the thought of Him Who spoke, and then the action of Him Who created. The language of the narrator says nothing to deprive Him of Divine nature and power; nay rather, how precisely does it inculcate His true Godhead. The power to give effect to the word of creation belongs only to that Nature with Whom to speak is the same as to fulfill. How then is He not true God, Who creates, if He is true God, Who commands? If the word spoken was truly Divine, the deed done was truly Divine also.
God spoke, and God created; if it was true God Who spoke, He Who created was true God also; unless indeed, while the presence of true Godhead was displayed in the speech of the One, its absence was manifested in the action of the Other. Thus in the Son of God we behold the true Divine nature. He is God, He is Creator, He is Son of God, He is omnipotent. It is not merely that He can do whatever He will, for will is always the concomitant of power; but He can do also whatever is commanded Him. Absolute power is this, that its possessor can execute as Agent whatever His words as Speaker can express. When unlimited power of expression is combined with unlimited power of execution, then this creative power, commensurate with the commanding word, possesses the true nature of God.
Thus the Son of God is not false God, nor God by adoption, nor God by gift of the name, but true God. Nothing would be gained by the statement of the arguments by which His true Godhead is opposed. His possession of the name and of the nature of God is conclusive proof. He, by Whom all things were made, is God. So much the creation of the world tells me about Him. He is God, equal with God in name; true God, equal with true God in power. The might of God is revealed to us in the creative word; the might of God is manifested also in the creative act. And now again I ask by what authority you deny, in your confession of Father and Son, the true Divine nature of Him Whose name reveals His power, Whose power proves His right to the Name.
6. My reader must bear in mind that I am silent about the current objections through no forgetfulness, and no distrust of my cause. For that constantly cited text, The Father is greater than I, and its cognate passages are perfectly familiar to me, and I have my interpretation of them ready, which makes them witness to the true Divine nature of the Son. But it serves my purpose best to adhere in reply to the order of attack, that our pious effort may follow close upon the progress of their impious scheme, and when we see them diverge into godless heresy we may at once obliterate the track of error. To this end we postpone to the end of our work the testimony of the Evangelists and Apostles, and join battle with the blasphemers for the present on the ground of the Law and the Prophets, silencing their crooked argument, based on misinterpretation and deceit, by the very texts with which they strive to delude us.
The sound method of demonstrating a truth is to expose the fallacy of the objections raised against it; and the disgrace of the deceiver is complete if his own lie be converted into an evidence for the truth. And, indeed, the universal experience of mankind has learned that falsehood and truth are incompatible, and cannot be reconciled or made coherent; that by their very nature they are among those opposites which are eternally repugnant, and can never combine or agree.
7. This being the case, I ask how a distinction can be made in the words, Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness, between a true God and a false. The words express a meaning, the meaning is the outcome of thought; the thought is set in motion by truth. Let us follow the words back to their meaning, and learn from the meaning the thought, and from the thought attain to the underlying truth. Thy enquiry is, whether He to Whom the words Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness were spoken, was not thought of as true by Him Who spoke; for they undoubtedly express the feeling and thought of the Speaker. In saying Let Us make, He clearly indicates One in no discord with Himself, no alien or powerless Being, but One endowed with power to do the thing of which He speaks. His own words assure us that this is the sense in which we must understand that they were spoken.
8. To assure us still more fully of the true Godhead manifested in the nature and work of the Son, He, Who expressed His meaning in the words I have cited, shows that His thought was suggested by the true Divinity of Him to Whom He said, After Our own image and likeness. How is He falsely called God, to Whom the true God says, After Our own image and likeness? Our is inconsistent with isolation, and with difference either in purpose or in nature. Man is created, taking the words in their strict sense, in Their common image. Now there can be nothing common to the true and to the false.
God, the Speaker, is speaking to God; man is being created in the image of Father and of Son. The Two are One in name and One in nature. It is only one image after which man is made. The time has not yet come for me to discuss this matter; hereafter I will explain what is this image of God the Father and of God the Son into which man was created. For the present we will stick to the question, was, or was not, He true God, to Whom the true God said, Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness? Separate, if you can, the true from the false elements in this image common to Both; in your heretical madness divide the indivisible. For They Two are One, of Whose one image and likeness man is the one copy.
9. But now let us continue our reading of this Scripture, to show how the consistency of truth is unaffected by these dishonest objections. The next words are, And God made man; after the image of God made He him. The image is in common; God made man after the image of God. I would ask him who denies that God's Son is true God, in what God's image he supposes that God made man? He must bear constantly in mind that all things are through the Son; heretical ingenuity must not, for its own purposes, twist this passage into action on the part of the Father. If, therefore, man is created through God the Son after the image of God the Father, he is created also after the image of the Son; for all admit that the words After Our image and likeness were spoken to the Son. Thus His true Godhead is as explicitly asserted by the Divine words as manifested in the Divine action; so that it is God Who molds man into the image of God, Who reveals Himself as God, and, moreover, as true God. For His joint possession of the Divine image proves Him true God, while His creative action displays Him as God the Son.
10. What wild insanity of abandoned souls! What blind audacity of reckless blasphemy! You hear of God and God; you hear of Our image. Why suggest that One is, and One is not, true God? Why distinguish between God by nature and God in name? Why, under pretext of defending the faith, do you destroy the faith? Why struggle to pervert the revelation of One God, One true God, into a denial that God is One and true? Not yet will I stifle your insane efforts with the clear words of Evangelists and Prophets, in which Father and Son appear not as one Person, but as One in nature, and Each as true God. For the present the Law, unaided, annihilates you. Does the Law ever speak of One true God, and One not true? Does it ever speak of Either, except by the name of God, which is the true expression of Their nature? It speaks of God and God; it speaks also of God as One. Nay, it does more than so describe Them. It manifests Them as true God and true God, by the sure evidence of Their joint image. It begins by speaking of Them first by their strict name of God; then it attributes true Godhead to Both in common. For when man, Their creature, is created after the image of Both, sound reason forces the conclusion that Each of Them is true God.
11. But let us travel once more in our journey of instruction over the lessons taught in the holy Law of God. The Angel of God speaks to Hagar; and this same Angel is God. But perhaps His being the Angel of God means that He is not true God. For this title seems to indicate a lower nature; where the name points to a difference in kind, it is thought that true equality must be absent. The last book has already exposed the hollowness of this objection; the title of Angel informs us of His office, not of His nature. I have prophetic evidence for this explanation; "Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire" [Psalm 104:4]. That flaming fire is His ministers; that spirit which comes, His angels. These figures show the nature and the power of His messengers, or angels, and of His ministers. This spirit is an angel, that flaming fire a minister, of God. Their nature adapts them for the function of messenger or minister.
Thus the Law, or rather God through the Law, wishing to indicate God the Son as a Person, yet as bearing the same name with the Father, calls Him the Angel, that is, the Messenger, of God. The title Messenger proves that He has an office of His own; that His nature is truly Divine is proved when He is called God. But this sequence, first Angel, then God, is in the order of revelation, not in Himself. For we confess Them Father and Son in the strictest sense, in such equality that the Only-begotten Son, by virtue of His birth, possesses true Divinity from the Unbegotten Father. This revelation of Them as Sender and as Sent is but another expression for Father and Son; not contradicting the true Divine nature of the Son, nor cancelling His possession of the Godhead as His birthright. For none can doubt that the Son by His birth partakes congenitally of the nature of His Author, in such wise that from the One there comes into being an indivisible Unity, because One is from One.
12. Faith burns with passionate ardor; the burden of silence is intolerable, and my thoughts imperiously demand an utterance. Already, in the preceding book I have departed from the intended method of my demonstration. I was denouncing that blasphemous sense in which the heretics speak of One God, and expounding the passages in which Moses speaks of God and God. I hastened on with a precipitate, though devout, zeal to the true sense in which we hold the unity of God. And now again, wrapped up in the pursuit of another enquiry, I have suffered myself to wander from the course, and, while I was engaged upon the true Divinity of the Son, the ardor of my soul has hurried me on before the time to make the confession of true God as Father and as Son. But our own faith must wait its proper place in the treatise. This preliminary statement of it has been made as a safeguard for the reader; it shall be so developed and explained hereafter as to frustrate the schemes of the gainsayer.
13. To resume the argument; this title of office indicates no difference of nature, for He, Who is the Angel of God, is God. The test of His true Godhead shall be, whether or no His words and acts were those of God. He increases Ishmael into a great people, and promises that many nations shall bear his name. Is this, I ask, within an angel's power? If not, and this is the power of God, why do you refuse true Divinity to Him Who, on your own confession, has the true power of God? Thus He possesses the true and perfect powers of the Divine nature. True God, in all the types in which He reveals Himself for the world's salvation, is not, nor ever can be, other than true God.
14. Now first, I ask, what is the meaning of these terms, 'true God' and 'not true God'? If any one says to me 'This is fire, but not true fire; water, but not true water,' I can attach no intelligible meaning to his words. What difference in kind can there be between one true specimen, and another true specimen, of the same class? If a thing be fire, it must be true fire; while its nature remains the same it cannot lose this character of true fire. Deprive water of its watery nature, and by so doing you destroy it as true water; let it remain water, and it will inevitably still be true water. The only way in which an object can lose its nature is by losing its existence; if it continue to exist it must be truly itself. If the Son of God is God, then He is true God; if He is not true God, then in no possible sense is He God at all. If He has not the nature, then He has no right to the name; if, on the contrary, the name which indicates the nature is His by inherent right, then it cannot be that He is destitute of that nature in its truest sense.
15. But perhaps it will be argued that, when the Angel of God is called God, He receives the name as a favor, through adoption, and has in consequence a nominal, not a true, Godhead. If He gave us an inadequate revelation of His Divine nature at the time when He was styled the Angel of God, judge whether He has not fully manifested His true Godhead under the name of a nature lower than the angelic. For a Man spoke to Abraham, and Abraham worshipped Him as God. Pestilent heretic! Abraham confessed Him, you deny Him, to be God. What hope is there for you, in your blasphemy, of the blessings promised to Abraham? He is Father of the Gentiles, but not for you; you cannot go forth from your regeneration to join the household of his seed, through the blessings given to his faith. You are no son, raised up to Abraham from the stones; you are a generation of vipers, an adversary of his belief. You are not the Israel of God, the heir of Abraham, justified by faith; for you have disbelieved God, while Abraham was justified and appointed to be the Father of the Gentiles through that faith wherein he worshipped the God Whose word he trusted. God it was Whom that blessed and faithful Patriarch worshipped then; and mark how truly He was God, to Whom, in His own words, all things are possible. Is there any, but God alone, to Whom nothing is impossible? And He, to Whom all things are possible, does He fall short of true Divinity?
16. I ask further, Who is this God Who overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah? For "the Lord rained from the Lord" [Genesis 19:24]; was it not the true Lord from the true Lord? Have you any alternative to this Lord, and Lord? Or any other meaning for the terms, except that in Lord, and Lord, their Persons are distinguished? Bear in mind that Him Whom you have confessed as Alone true, you have also confessed as Alone the righteous Judge.
Now mark that the Lord who rains from the Lord, and slays not the just with the unjust, and judges the whole earth, is both Lord and also righteous Judge, and also rains from the Lord. In the face of all this, I ask you Which it is that you describe as alone the righteous Judge. The Lord rains from the Lord; you will not deny that He Who rains from the Lord is the righteous, Judge, for Abraham, the Father of the Gentiles -- but not of the unbelieving Gentiles -- speaks thus: "In no wise shall Thou do this thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, for then shall the righteous be as the wicked. In no wise shall Thou, Who judgest the earth, execute this judgment." [Genesis 18:25]. This God, then, the righteous Judge, is clearly also the true God. Blasphemer! Your own falsehood confutes you.
Not yet do I bring forward the witness of the Gospels concerning God the Judge; the Law has told me that He is the Judge. You must deprive the Son of His judgeship before you can deprive Him of His true Divinity. You have solemnly confessed that He Who is the only righteous Judge is also the only true God; your own statements bind you to the admission that He Who is the righteous Judge is also true God. This Judge is the Lord, to Whom all things are possible, the Promiser of eternal blessings, Judge of righteous and of wicked. He is the God of Abraham, worshipped by him. Fool and blasphemer that you are, your shameless readiness of tongue must invent some new fallacy, if you are to prove that He is not true God.
17. His merciful and mysterious self-revelations are in no wise inconsistent with His true heavenly nature; and His faithful saints never fail to penetrate the guise He has assumed in order that faith may see Him. The types of the Law foreshow the mysteries of the Gospel; they enable the Patriarch to see and to believe what hereafter the Apostle is to gaze on and publish. For, since the Law is the shadow of things to come, the shadow that was seen was a true outline of the reality which cast it. God was seen and believed and worshipped as Man, Who was indeed to be born as Man in the fullness of time. He takes upon Him, to meet the Patriarch's eye, a semblance which foreshadows the future truth.
In that old day God was only seen, not born, as Man; in due time He was born, as well as seen. Familiarity with the human appearance, which He took that men might behold Him, was to prepare them for the time when He should, in very truth, be born as Man. Then it was that the shadow took substance, the semblance reality, the vision life. But God remained unchanged, whether He were seen in the appearance, or born in the reality, of manhood. The resemblance was perfect between Himself, after His birth, and Himself, as He had been seen in vision. As He was born, so He had appeared; as He had appeared, so was He born. But, since the time has not yet come for us to compare the Gospel account with that of the prophet Moses, let us pursue our chosen course through the pages of the Law. Hereafter we shall prove from the Gospels that it was the true Son of God Who was born as Man; for the present, we are showing from the Law that it was true God, the Son of God, Who appeared to the Patriarchs in human form. For when One appeared to Abraham as Man, He was worshipped as God and proclaimed as Judge; and when the Lord rained from the Lord, beyond a doubt the Law tells us that the Lord rained from the Lord in order to reveal to us the Father and the Son. Nor can we for a moment suppose that when the Patriarch, with full knowledge, worshipped the Son as God, he was blind to the fact that it was true God Whom he worshipped.
18. But godless unbelief finds it very hard to apprehend the true faith. Their capacity for devotion has never been expanded by belief, and is too narrow to receive a full presentment of the truth. Hence the unbelieving soul cannot grasp the great work done by God in being born as Man to accomplish the salvation of mankind; in the work of its salvation it fails to see the power of God. They think of the travail of His birth, the feebleness of infancy, the growth of childhood, the attainment of maturity, of bodily suffering and of the Cross with which it ended, and of the death upon the Cross; and all this conceals His true Godhead from their eyes. Yet He had called into being all these capacities for Himself, as additions to His nature; capacities which in His true Divine nature He had not possessed.
Thus He acquired them without loss of His true Divinity, and ceased not to be God when He became Man; when He, Who is God eternally, became Man at a point in time. They cannot see an exercise of the true God's power in His becoming what He was not before, yet never ceasing to be His former Self. And yet there would have been no acceptance of our feeble nature, had not He by the strength of His own omnipotent nature, while remaining what He was, come to be what previously He was not.
What blindness of heresy, what foolish wisdom of the world, which cannot see that the reproach of Christ is the power of God, the folly of faith the wisdom of God! So Christ in your eyes is not God because He, Who was from eternity, was born, because the Unchangeable grew with years, the Impassible suffered, the Living died, the Dead lives; because all His history contradicts the common course of nature! Is not all this simply to say that He, being God, was omnipotent? Not yet, ye holy and venerable Gospels, do I turn your pages, to prove from them that Christ Jesus, amid these changes and sufferings, is God. For the Law is the forerunner of the Gospels, and the Law must teach us that, when God clothed Himself in infirmity, He lost not His Godhead. The types of the Law are our convincing assurance of the mysteries of the Gospel faith.
19. Be with me now in thy faithful spirit, holy and blessed Patriarch Jacob, to combat the poisonous hissings of the serpent of unbelief. Prevail once more in thy wrestling with the Man, and, being the stronger, once more entreat His blessing. Why pray for what thou mightest demand from thy weaker Opponent? Thy strong arm has vanquished Him Whose blessing thou prayest. Thy bodily victory is in broad contrast to thy soul's humility, thy deeds to thy thoughts. It is a Man whom thou holdest powerless in thy strong grasp; but in thine eye this Man is true God, and God not in name only, but in nature. It is not the blessing of a God by adoption that thou dost claim, but the true God's blessing.
With Man thou strivest; but face to face thou seest God. What thou seest with the bodily eye is different far from what thou beholdest with the vision of faith. Thou hast felt Him to be weak Man; but thy soul has been saved because it saw God in Him. When thou wast wrestling thou wast Jacob; thou art Israel now, through faith in the blessing which thou didst claim. According to the flesh, the Man is thy inferior, for a type of His passion in the flesh; but thou canst recognize God in that weak flesh, for a sign of His blessing in the Spirit. The witness of the eye does not disturb thy faith; His feebleness does not mislead thee into neglect of His blessing. Though He is Man, His humanity is no bar to His being God, His Godhead no bar to His being true God; for, being God, He must indeed be true.
20. The Law in its progress still follows the sequence of the Gospel mystery, of which it is the shadow; its types are a faithful anticipation of the truths taught by the Apostles. In the vision of his dream the blessed Jacob saw God; this was the revelation of a mystery, not a bodily manifestation. For there was shown to him the descent of angels by the ladder, and their ascent to heaven, and God resting above the ladder; and the vision, as it was interpreted, foretold that his dream should some day become a revealed truth. The Patriarch's words, "The house of God and the gate of heaven" [Genesis 28:17], show us the scene of this vision; and then, after a long account of what he did, the narrative proceeds thus: "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, and go up to the place Bethel, and dwell there: and make there a Sacrifice unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau" [Genesis 35:1].
If the faith of the Gospel has access through God the Son to God the Father, and if it is only through God that God can be apprehended, then show us in what sense This is not true God, Who demands reverence for God, Who rests above the heavenly ladder. What difference of nature separates the Two, when Both bear the one name which indicates the one nature? It is God Who was seen; it is also God Who speaks about God Who was seen. God cannot be apprehended except through God; even as also God accepts no worship from us except through God. We could not understand that the One must be reverenced, unless the Other had taught us reverence for Him; we could not have known that the One is God, unless we had known the Godhead of the Other. The revelation of mysteries holds its appointed course; it is by God that we are initiated into the worship of God. And when one name, which tells of one nature, combines the Father with the Son, how can the Son so fall beneath Himself as to be other than true God?
21. Human judgment must not pass its sentence upon God. Our nature is not such that it can lift itself by its own forces to the contemplation of heavenly things. We must learn from God what we are to think of God; we have no source of knowledge but Himself. You may be as carefully trained as you will in secular philosophy; you may have lived a life of righteousness. All this will contribute to your mental satisfaction, but it will not help you to know God. Moses was adopted as the son of the queen, and instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians; he had, moreover, out of loyalty to his race avenged the wrong of the Hebrew by slaying the Egyptian, and yet he knew not the God Who had blessed his fathers. For when he left Egypt through fear of the discovery of his deed, and was living as a shepherd in the land of Midian, he saw a fire in the bush, and the bush unconsumed. Then it was that he heard the voice of God, and asked His name, and learned His nature. Of all this he could have known nothing except through God Himself. And we, in like manner, must confine ourselves, in whatever we say of God, to the terms in which He has spoken to our understanding concerning Himself.
22. It is the Angel of God Who appeared in the fire from the bush; and it is God Who spoke from the bush amid the fire. He is manifested as Angel; that is His office, not His nature. The name which expresses His nature is given you as God; for the Angel of God is God. But perhaps He is not true God. Is the God of Abraham, then, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, not true God? For the Angel Who speaks from the bush is their God eternally. And, lest you insinuate that the name is His only by adoption, it is the absolute God Who speaks to Moses. These are His words:-- "And the Lord said unto Moses, I Am that I Am; and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, He that is hath sent me unto you" [Exodus 3:14]. God's discourse began as the speech of the Angel, in order to reveal the mystery of human salvation in the Son. Next He appears as the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, that we may know the name which is His by nature. Finally it is the God that is Who sends Moses to Israel, that we may have full assurance that in the absolute sense He is God.
23. What further fictions can the futile folly of insane blasphemy devise? Do you still persist in your nightly sowing of tares, predestined to be burnt, among the pure wheat, when the knowledge of all the Patriarchs contradicts you? Nay more: if you believed Moses, you would believe also in God, the Son of God; unless perchance you deny that it was of Him that Moses spoke. If you propose to deny that, you must listen to the words of God:-- "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me also, for he wrote of Me" [John 5:46].
Moses, indeed, will refute you with the whole volume of the Law, ordained through angels, which he received by the hand of the Mediator. Enquire whether He, Who gave the Law, were not true God; for the Mediator was the Giver. And was it not to meet God that Moses led out the people to the Mount? Was it not God Who came down into the Mount? Or was it, perhaps, only by a fiction or an adoption, and not by right of nature, that He, Who did all this, bore the name of God? Mark the blare of the trumpets, the flashing of the torches, the clouds of smoke, as from a furnace, rolling over the mountain, the terror of conscious impotence on the part of man in the presence of God, the confession of the people, when they prayed Moses to be their spokesman, that at the voice of God they would die.
Is He, in your judgment, not true God, when simple dread lest He should speak filled Israel with the fear of death? He Whose voice could not be borne by human weakness? In your eyes is He not God, because He addressed you through the weak faculties of a man, that you might hear, and live? Moses entered the Mount; in forty days and nights he gained the knowledge of the mysteries of heaven, and set it all in order according to the vision of the truth which was revealed to him there. From intercourse with God, Who spoke with him, he received the reflected splendor of that glory on which none may gaze; his corruptible countenance was transfigured into the likeness of the unapproachable light of Him, with Whom he was dwelling. Of this God he bears witness, of this God he speaks; he summons the angels of God to come and worship Him amid the gladness of the Gentiles, and prays that the blessings which please Him may descend upon the head of Joseph. In face of such evidence as this, dare any man say that He has nothing but the name of God, and deny His true Divinity?
24. This long discussion has, I believe, brought out the truth that no sound argument has ever been adduced in favor of a distinction between One Who is, and One Who is not, true God, in those passages where the Law speaks of God and God, of Lord and Lord. I have proved that these terms are inconsistent with difference between Them in name or in nature, and that we can use the name as a test of the nature, and the nature as a clue to the name. Thus I have shown that the character, the power, the attributes, the name of God are inherent in Him Whom the Law has called God.
I have shown also that the Law, gradually unfolding the Gospel mystery, reveals the Son as a Person by manifesting God as obedient, in the creation of the world, to the words of God, and in the formation of man making what is the joint image of God, and of God; and again, that in the judgment of the men of Sodom the Lord is Judge from the Lord; that, in the giving of blessings and ordaining of the mysteries of the Law, the Angel of God is God. Thus, in support of the saving confession of God as ever manifested in the Persons of Father and of Son, we have shown how the Law teaches the true Godhead by the use of the strict name of God; for, while the Law states clearly that They are Two, it casts no shadow of doubt upon the true Godhead of either.
25. And now the time has come for us to put a stop to that cunning artifice of heresy, by which they pervert the devout and godly teachings of the Law into a support for their own godless delusion. They preface their denial of the Son of God with the words, Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One; and then, because their blasphemy would be refuted by the identity of name, since the Law speaks of God and God, they invoke the authority of the prophetic words, They shall bless Thee, the true God, to prove that the name is not used in the true sense. They argue that these words teach that God is One, and that God, the Son of God, has His name only and not His nature; and that therefore we must conclude that the true God is one Person only.
But perhaps you imagine, fool, that we shall contradict these texts of yours, and so deny that there is one true God. Assuredly we do not contradict them by a confession conceived in your sense. Our faith receives them, our reason accepts them, our words declare them. We recognize One God, and Him true God. The name of God has no dangers for our confession, which proclaims that in the nature of the Son there is the One true God. Learn the meaning of your own words, recognize the One true God, and then you will be able to make a faithful confession of God, One and true. It is the words of our faith which you are turning into the instrument of your blasphemy, preserving the sound and perverting the sense. Masquerading in a foolish garb of imaginary wisdom, under cover of loyalty to truth you are the truth's destroyer.
You confess that God is One and true, on purpose to deny the truth which you confess. Your language claims a reputation for piety on the strength of its impiety, for truth on the strength of its falsehood. Your preaching of One true God leads up to a denial of Him. For you deny that the Son is true God, though you admit that He is God, but God in name only, not in nature. If His birth be in name, not in nature, then you are justified in denying His true right to the name; but if He be truly born as God, how then can He fail to be true God by virtue of His birth? Deny the fact, and you may deny the consequence; if you admit the fact, how can He be other than Himself? No being can alter its own essential nature.
About His birth I shall speak presently; meantime I will refute your blasphemous falsehoods concerning His true Divine nature by the utterances of prophets. But I shall take care that in our assertion of the One true God I give no cover to the Sabellian heresy that the Father is one Person with the Son, and none to that slander against the Son's true Godhead, which you evolve out of the unity of the One true God.
26. Blasphemy is incompatible with wisdom; where the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, is absent, no glimmer of intelligence survives. An instance of this is seen in the heretics' citation of the prophet's words, And they shall bless Thee, the true God, as evidence against the Godhead of the Son. First, we see here the folly, which clogs unbelief in the misunderstanding or (if it were understood) in the suppression of the earlier part of the prophecy: and again we see it in their fraudulent interpolation of that one little word, not to be found in the book itself. This proceeding is as stupid as it is dishonest, since no one would trust them so far as to accept their reading without referring for corroboration to the prophetic text. For that text does not stand thus: They shall bless Thee, the true God, but thus: They shall bless the true God. There is no slight difference between Thee, the true God and The true God. If Thee be retained, the pronoun of the second person implies that Another is being addressed; if Thee be omitted, True God, the object of the sentence, is the Speaker.
27. To ensure that our explanation of the passage shall be complete and certain, I cite the words in full:--
"Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, they that serve Me shall eat, but ye shall be hungry, behold, they that serve Me shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty, behold, they that serve Me shall rejoice with gladness, but ye shall cry for sorrow of your heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit. For ye shall leave your name for a rejoicing unto My chosen, but the Lord shall slay you. But My servants shall be called by a new name, which shall be blessed upon earth; and they shall bless the true God, and they that swear upon the earth shall swear by the true God" [Isaiah 65:13-16 LXX].
There is always a good reason for any departure from the accustomed modes of expression, but novelty is also made an opportunity for misinterpretation. The question here is, why, when so many earlier prophecies have been uttered concerning God, and the name God, alone and without epithet, has sufficed hitherto to indicate the Divine majesty and nature, the Spirit of prophecy should now foretell through Isaiah that the true God was to be blessed, and that men should swear upon earth by the true God. First, we must bear in mind that this discourse was spoken concerning times to come.
Now, I ask, was not He, in the mind of the Jews, true God, Whom men used then to bless, and by whom they swore? The Jews, unaware of the typical meaning of their mysteries, and therefore ignorant of God the Son, worshipped God simply as God, and not as Father; for, if they had worshipped Him as Father, they would have worshipped the Son also. It was God, therefore, Whom they blessed and by Whom they swore. But the prophet testifies that it is true God Who shall be blessed hereafter; calling Him true God, because the mysteriousness of His Incarnation was to blind the eyes of some to His true Godhead. When falsehood was to be published abroad, it was necessary that the truth should be clearly stated. And now let us review this passage, clause by clause.
28. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, they that serve Me shall eat, but ye shall be hungry; behold, they that serve Me shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty. Note that one clause contains two different tenses, in order to teach truth concerning two different times; They that serve Me shall eat. Present piety is rewarded with a future prize, and similarly present godlessness shall suffer the penalty of future thirst and hunger. Then He adds, Behold, they that serve Me shall rejoice with gladness, but ye shall cry for sorrow of your heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit. Here again, as before, there is a revelation for the future and for the present. They who serve now shall rejoice with gladness, while they who do not serve shall abide in crying and howling through sorrow of heart and vexation of spirit. He proceeds, For ye shall leave your name for a rejoicing unto My chosen, but the Lord shall slay you. These words, dealing with a future time, are addressed to the carnal Israel, which is taunted with the prospect of having to surrender its name to the chosen of God. What is this name? Israel, of course; for to Israel the prophecy was addressed. And now I ask, what is Israel to-day? The Apostle gives the answer:-- They who are in the spirit, not in the letter, they who walk in the Law of Christ, are the "Israel of God" [Galatians 6:16].
29. Furthermore, we must form a conclusion why it is that the words cited above, Therefore thus saith the Lord, are followed by But the Lord shall slay you, and as to the meaning of the next sentence, But my servants shall be called by a new name, which shall be blessed upon earth. There can be no doubt that both Therefore thus saith the Lord, and afterwards But the Lord shall slay you, prove that it was the Lord Who both spoke, and also purposed to slay, Who meant to reward His servants with that new name, Who was well known to have spoken through the prophets and was to he the judge of the righteous and of the wicked. And thus the remainder of this revelation of the mystery of the Gospel removes all doubt concerning the Lord as Speaker and as Slayer. It continues:-- But My servants shall be called by a new name, which shall be blessed upon earth. Here everything is in the future. What then is this new name of a religion; a name which shall be blessed upon earth? If ever in past ages there were a blessing upon the name Christian, it is not a new name. But if this hallowed name of our devotion towards God be new, then this new title of Christian, awarded to our faith, is that heavenly blessing which is our reward upon earth.
30. And now come words in perfect harmony with the inward assurance of our faith. He says, And they shall bless the true God, and they that swear upon earth shall swear by the true God. And indeed they who in God's service have received the new name shall bless God; and moreover the God by Whom they shall swear is the true God. What doubt is there as to Who this true God is, by Whom men shall swear and Whom they shall bless, through Whom a new and blessed name shall be given to them that serve Him? I have on my side, in opposition to the blasphemous misrepresentations of heresy, the clear and definite evidence of the Church's faith; the witness of the new name which Thou, O Christ, hast given, of the blessed title which Thou hast bestowed in reward of loyal service. It swears that Thou art true God. Every mouth, O Christ, of them that believe tells that Thou art God. The faith of all believers swears that Thou art God, confesses, proclaims, is inwardly assured, that Thou art true God.
31. And thus this passage of prophecy, taken with its whole context, clearly describe as God both Him Whom we serve for the new name's sake, and Him through Whom the new name is blessed upon earth. It tells us Who it is that is blessed as true God, and Who is sworn by as true God. And this is the confession of faith made, in the fullness of time, by the Church in loyal devotion to Christ her Lord. We can see how exactly the words of prophecy conform to the truth, by their refraining from the insertion of that pronoun of the second person. Had the words been Thee, the true God, then they might have been interpreted as spoken to another. The true God can refer to none but the Speaker. The passage, taken by itself, shows to Whom it refers; the preceding words, taken in connection with it, declare Who the Speaker is Who makes this confession of God. They are these:-- "I have appeared openly to them that asked not for Me, and, I have been found of them that sought Me not. I said, Here am I, unto a nation that called not an My name. I have spread out My hands all the day to an unbelieving and gainsaying people" [Isaiah 65:1-2].
Could a dishonest attempt to suppress the truth be more completely exposed, or the Speaker be more distinctly revealed as true God, than here? Who, I demand, was it that appeared to them that asked not for Him, and was found of them that sought Him not? What nation is it that formerly called not on His name? Who is it that spread out His hands all the day to an unbelieving and gainsaying people? Compare with these words that holy and Divine Song of Deuteronomy, in which God, in His wrath against them that are no Gods, moves the unbelievers to jealousy against those that are no people and a foolish nation. Conclude for yourself, Who it is that makes Himself manifest to them that knew Him not; Who, though one people is His own, becomes the possession of strangers; Who it is that spreads out His hands before an unbelieving and gainsaying people, nailing to the cross the writing of the former sentence against us. For the same Spirit in the prophet, whom we are considering, proceeds thus in the course of this one prophecy, which is connected in argument as well as continuous in utterance:-- But My servants shall be called by a new name, which shall be blessed upon earth, and they shall bless the true God, and they that swear upon the earth shall swear by the true God.
32. If heresy, in its folly and wickedness, shall attempt to entice the simple-minded and uninstructed away from the true belief that these words were spoken in reference to God the Son, by feigning that they are an utterance of God the Father concerning Himself, it shall hear sentence passed upon the lie by the Apostle and Teacher of the Gentiles. He interprets all these prophecies as allusions to the passion of the Lord and to the times of Gospel faith, when he is reproving the unbelief of Israel, which will not recognize that the Lord is come in the flesh. His words are:--
For whosoever shall have called upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? But how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they have been sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feel of them that proclaim peace, of them that proclaim good things. But all do not obey the Gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing through the word. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy against them that are no people, and against a foolish nation I will anger you. Moreover Esaias is bold, and saith, I appeared unto them that seek Me not, I was found by them that asked not after Me. But to Israel what saith He? All day long I have stretched forth My hands to a people that hearken not." [Romans 10:13-21].
Who art thou that hast mounted up through the successive heavens, knowing not whether thou wert in the body or out of the body, and canst explain more faithfully than he the words of the prophet? Who art thou that hast heard, and mayst not tell, the ineffable mysteries of the secret things of heaven, and hast proclaimed with greater assurance the knowledge granted thee by God for revelation? Who art thou that hast been fore-ordained to a full share of the Lord's suffering on the Cross, and first has been caught up to Paradise and drawn nobler teaching from the Scriptures of God than this chosen vessel? If there be such a man, has he been ignorant that these are the deeds and words of the true God, proclaimed to us by His own true and chosen Apostle that we may recognize in Him their Author?
33. But it may be argued that the Apostle was not inspired by the Spirit of prophecy when he borrowed these prophetic words; that he was only interpreting at random the words of another man, and though, no doubt, everything the Apostle says of himself comes to him by revelation from Christ, yet his knowledge of the words of Isaiah is only derived from the book. I answer that in the beginning of that utterance in which it is said that the servants of the true God shall bless Him and swear by Him, we read this adoration by the prophet:-- "From everlasting we have not heard, nor have our eyes seen God, except Thee, and Thy works which Thou wilt do for them that await Thy mercy." [Isaiah 64:4 LXX].
Isaiah says that he has seen no God but Him. For he did actually see the glory of God, the mystery of Whose taking flesh from the Virgin he foretold. And if you, in your heresy, do not know that it was God the Only-begotten Whom the prophet saw in that glory, listen to the Evangelist:-- "These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him" [John 12:41]. The Apostle, the Evangelist, the Prophet combine to silence your objections. Isaiah did see God; even though it is written, "No one hath seen God at any time, save the Only-begotten Son Who is in the bosom of the Father; He hath declared Him" [John 1:18], it was God Whom the prophet saw. He gazed upon the Divine glory, and men were filled with envy at such honor vouchsafed to his prophetic greatness. For this was the reason why the Jews passed sentence of death upon him.
34. Thus the Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, has told us of God, Whom no man has seen. Either disprove the fact that the Son has thus informed us, or else believe Him Who has been seen, Who appeared to them who knew Him not, and became the God of the Gentiles who called not upon Him and spread out His hands before a gainsaying people. And believe this also concerning Him, that they who serve Him are called by a new name, and that on earth men bless Him and swear by Him as true God. Prophecy tells, the Gospel confirms, the Apostle explains, the Church confesses, that He Who was seen is true God; but none venture to say that God the Father was seen. And yet the madness of heresy has run to such lengths that, while they profess to recognize this truth, they really deny it. They deny it by means of the newfangled and godless device of evading the truth, while making a studied pretense of adhesion to it. For when they confess one God, alone true and alone righteous, alone wise, alone unchangeable, alone immortal, alone mighty, they attach to Him a Son different in substance, not born from God to be God, but adopted through creation to be a Son, having the name of God not by nature, but as a title received by adoption; and thus they inevitably deprive the Son of all those attributes which they accumulate upon the Father in His lonely majesty.
35. The distorted mind of heresy is incapable of knowing and confessing the One true God; the sound faith and reason necessary for such confession is incompatible with unbelief. We must confess Father and Son before we can apprehend God as One and true. When we have known the mysteries of man's salvation, accomplished in us through the power of regeneration unto life in the Father and the Son, then we may hope to penetrate the mysteries of the Law and the Prophets. Godless ignorance of the teaching of Evangelists and Apostles cannot frame the thought of One true God. Out of the teaching of Evangelists and Apostles we shall present the sound doctrine concerning Him, in accurate agreement with the faith of true believers. We shall present Him in such wise that the Only-begotten, Who is of the substance of the Father, shall be known as indivisible and inseparable in nature, not in Person.
We shall set forth God as One, because God is from the nature of God. But we shall also establish this doctrine of the perfect unity of God upon the words of the Prophets, and make them the foundations of the Gospel structure, proving that there is One God, with one Divine nature, by the fact that God the Only-begotten is never classed apart as a second God. For throughout this book of our treatise we have followed the same course as in its predecessor; the same methods which proved there that the Son is God, have proved here that He is true God. I trust that our explanation of each passage has been so convincing that we have now manifested Him as true God as effectually as we formerly demonstrated His Godhead. The remainder of the book shall be devoted to the proof that He, Who is now recognized as true God, must not be regarded as a second God. Our disproof of the notion of a second God will further establish the unity; and this truth shall be displayed as not inconsistent with the personal existence of the Son, while yet it maintains the unity of nature in God and God.
36. The true method of our enquiry demands that we should begin with him, through whom God first manifested Himself to the world, that is, with Moses, by whose mouth God the Only-begotten thus declared Himself; "See, see that I am God, and there is no God beside Me" [Deuteronomy 32:39]. That godless heresy must not assign these words to God, the unbegotten Father, is clear by the sense of the passage and by the evidence of the Apostle who, as we have already stated, has taught us to understand this whole discourse as spoken by God the Only-begotten. The Apostle also points out the words, Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people as those of the Son, and in corroboration further cites this:-- "And there shall be a root of Jesse, and One that shall arise to rule the nations; in Him shall the nations trust" [Isaiah 11:10].
Thus Moses by the words, Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people indicates Him Who said, There is no God beside Me; and the Apostle refers the same words to our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Only-begotten, in Whose rising as a king from the root of Jesse, according to the flesh, the hope of the Gentiles rests. And therefore we must now consider the meaning of these words, that we, who know that they were spoken by Him, may ascertain in what sense He spoke them.
37. That true and absolute and perfect doctrine, which forms our faith, is the confession of God from God and God in God, by no bodily process but by Divine power, by no transfusion from nature into nature but through the secret and mighty working of the One nature; God from God, not by division or extension or emanation, but by the operation of a nature which brings into existence, by means of birth, a nature One with itself. The facts shall receive a fuller treatment in the next book, which is to be devoted to an exposition of the teaching of the Evangelists and Apostles; for the present we must maintain our assertion and belief by means of the Law and the Prophets.
The nature with which God is born is necessarily the same as that of His Source. He cannot come into existence as other than God, since His origin is from none other than God. His nature is the same, not in the sense that the Begetter also was begotten -- for then the Unbegotten, having been begotten, would not be Himself -- but that the substance of the Begotten consists in all those elements which are summed up in the substance of the Begetter, Who is His only Origin. Thus it is due to no external cause that His origin is from the One, and that His existence partakes the Unity; there is no novel element in Him, because His life is from the Living; no element absent, because the Living begot Him to partake His own life.
Hence, in the generation of the Son, the incorporeal and unchangeable God begets, in accordance with His own nature, God incorporeal and unchangeable; and this perfect birth of incorporeal and unchangeable God from incorporeal and unchangeable God involves, as we see in the light of the revelation of God from God, no diminution of the Begetter's substance. And so God the Only-begotten bears witness through the holy Moses; See, see that I am God, and there is no God beside Me. For there is no second Divine nature, and so there can be no God beside Him, since He is God, yet by the powers of His nature God is also in Him. And because He is God and God is in Him, there is no God beside Him; for God, than Whom there is no other Source of Deity, is in Him, and consequently there is within Him not only His own existence, but the Author of that existence.
38. This saving faith which we profess is sustained by the spirit of prophecy, speaking with one voice through many mouths, and never, through long and changing ages, bearing an uncertain witness to the truths of revelation. For instance, the words which, as we are told through Moses, were spoken by God the Only-begotten, are confirmed for our better instruction by the prophetic spirit, speaking this time through those men of stature,-- "For God is in Thee, and there is no God beside Thee. Thou art God, and we knew it not, O God of Israel, the Savior." [Isaiah 45:14-15 LXX].
Let heresy fling itself with its utmost effort of despair and rage against this declaration of a name and nature inseparably joined, and rend in twain, if its furious struggles can, a union perfect in title and in fact. God is in God and beside Him there is no God. Let heresy, if it can, divide the God within from the God within Whom He is, and classify, Each after His kind, the members of that mystic union. For when He says God is in Thee, He teaches that the true nature of God the Father is present in God the Son; for we must understand that it is the God Who is that is in Him. And when He adds, And there is no God beside Thee, He shows that outside Him there is no God, since God's dwelling is within Himself.
And the third assertion, Thou art God and we knew it not, sets forth for our instruction what must be the confession of the devout and believing soul. When it has learnt the mysteries of the Divine birth, and the name Emmanuel which the angel announced to Joseph, it must cry, Thou art God, and we knew it not, O God of Israel, the Savior. It must recognize the subsistence of the Divine nature in Him, inasmuch as God is in God, and the nonexistence of any other God except the true. For, He being God and God being in Him, the delusion of another God, of what kind soever, must be surrendered. Such is the message of the prophet Isaiah; he bears witness to the indivisible and inseparable Godhead of Father and of Son.
39. Jeremiah also, a prophet equally inspired, has taught that God the Only-begotten is of a nature one with that of God the Father. His words are:-- This is our God, and there shall be none other likened unto Him, hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob His servant, and to Israel His beloved. Afterward He was seen upon earth, and dwelt among men. Why try to transform the Son of God into a second God? Learn to recognize and to confess the One True God. No second God is likened to Christ, and so can claim to be God. He is God from God by nature and by birth, for the Source of His Godhead is God. And, again, He is not a second God, for no other is likened unto Him; the truth that is in Him is nothing else than the truth of God. Why link together, in pretended devotion to the unity of God, true and false, base and genuine, unlike and unlike?
The Father is God and the Son is God. God is in God; beside Him there is no God, and none other is likened unto Him so as to be God. If in these Two you shall recognize the Unity, instead of the solitude, of God, you will share the Church's faith, which confesses the Father in the Son. But if, in ignorance of the heavenly mystery, you insist that God is One in order to enforce the doctrine of His isolation, then you are a stranger to the knowledge of God, for you deny that God is in God.
1. It is with a full knowledge of the dangers and passions of the time that I have ventured to attack this wild and godless heresy, which asserts that the Son of God is a creature. Multitudes of Churches, in almost every province of the Roman Empire, have already caught the plague of this deadly doctrine; error, persistently inculcated and falsely claiming to be the truth, has become ingrained in minds which vainly imagine that they are loyal to the faith. I know how hardly the will is moved to a thorough recantation, when zeal for a mistaken cause is encouraged by the sense of numbers and confirmed by the sanction of general approval. A multitude under delusion can only be approached with difficulty and danger. When the crowd has gone astray, even though it know that it is in the wrong, it is ashamed to return. It claims consideration for its numbers, and has the assurance to command that its folly shall be accounted wisdom. It assumes that its size is evidence of the correctness of its opinions; and thus a falsehood which has found general credence is boldly asserted to have established its truth.
2. For my own part, it was not only the claim which my vocation has upon me, the duty of diligently preaching the Gospel which, as a bishop, I owe to the Church, that has led me on. My eagerness to write has increased with the increasing numbers endangered and enthralled by this heretical theory. There was a rich prospect of joy in the thought of multitudes who might be saved, if they could know the mysteries of the right faith in God, and abandon the blasphemous principles of human folly, desert the heretics and surrender themselves to God; if they would forsake the bait with which the fowler snares his prey, and soar aloft in freedom and safety, following Christ as Leader, prophets as instructors, apostles as guides, and accepting the perfect faith and sure salvation in the confession of Father and of Son. So would they, in obedience to the words of the Lord, "He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him" [John 5:23], be setting themselves to honor the Father, through honor paid to the Son.
3. For of late the infection of a mortal evil has gone abroad among mankind, whose ravages have dealt destruction and death on every hand. The sudden desolation of cities smitten, with their people in them, by earthquake to the ground, the terrible slaughter of recurring wars, the widespread mortality of an irresistible pestilence, have never wrought such fatal mischief as the progress of this heresy throughout the world. For God, unto Whom all the dead live, destroys those only who are self-destroyed. From Him Who is to be the Judge of all, Whose Majesty will temper with mercy the punishment allotted to the mistakes of ignorance, they who deny Him can expect not even judgment, but only denial.
4. For this mad heresy does deny; it denies the mystery of the true faith by means of statements borrowed from our confession, which it employs for its own godless ends. The confession of their misbelief, which I have already cited in an earlier book, begins thus:-- "We confess one God, alone unmade, alone eternal, alone unoriginate, alone true, alone possessing immortality, alone good, alone mighty." Thus they parade the opening words of our own confession, which runs, "One God, alone unmade and alone unoriginate," that this semblance of truth may serve as introduction to their blasphemous additions. For, after a multitude of words in which an equally insincere devotion to the Son is expressed, their confession continues, "God's perfect creature, but not as one of His other creatures, His Handiwork, but not as His other works."
And again, after an interval in which true statements are occasionally interspersed in order to veil their impious purpose of alleging, as by sophistry they try to prove, that He came into existence out of nothing, they add, "He, created and established before the worlds, did not exist before He was born." And lastly, as though every point of their false doctrine, that He is to be regarded neither as Son nor as God, were guarded impregnably against assault, they continue:-- "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."
But, as we are now about to cover the whole ground once more, employing this time the language of the Gospels as our weapon against this most godless heresy, it has seemed best to repeat here, in the sixth book, the whole heretical document, though we have already given a full copy of it in the fourth, in order that our opponents may read it again, and compare it, point by point, with our reply, and so be forced, however reluctant and argumentative, by the clear teaching of the Evangelists and Apostles, to recognize the truth. The heretical confession is as follows:--
5. "We confess one God, alone unmade, alone eternal, alone unoriginate, 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.
6. "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 has His being from God, and His glorious perfections, and His life, and is entrusted with all things, for this reason God is His Source. For He rules 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."
7. Who can fail to see here the slimy windings of the serpent's track: the coiled adder, with forces concentrated for the spring, concealing the deadly weapon of its poisonous fangs within its folds? Presently we shall stretch it out and examine it, and expose the venom of this hidden head. For their plan is first to impress with certain sound statements, and then to infuse the poison of their heresy. They speak us fair, in order to work us secret harm. Yet, amid all their specious professions, I nowhere hear God's Son entitled God; I never hear sonship attributed to the Son. They say much about His having the name of Son, but nothing about His having the nature. That is kept out of sight, that He may seem to have no right even to the name. They make a show of unmasking other heresies to conceal the fact that they are heretics themselves. They strenuously assert that there is One only, One true God, to the end that they may strip the Son of God of His true and personal Divinity.
8. And therefore, although in the two last books I have proved from the teaching of the Law and Prophets that God and God, true God and true God, true God the Father and true God the Son, must be confessed as One true God, by unity of nature and not by confusion of Persons, yet, for the complete presentation of the faith, I must also adduce the teaching of the Evangelists and Apostles. I must show from them that true God, the Son of God, is not of a different, an alien nature from that of the Father, but possesses the same Divinity while having a distinct existence through a true birth. And, indeed, I cannot think that any soul exists so witless as to fancy that, although we know God's self-revelations, yet we cannot understand them; that, if they can be understood, would not wish to understand, or would dream that human reason can devise improvements upon them.
But before I begin to discuss the facts contained in these saving mysteries, I must first humble the pride with which these heretics rebuke the names of other heresies. I shall hold up to the light this ingenious cloak for their own impiety. I shall show that this very means of concealing the deadliness of their teaching serves rather to reveal and betray it, and is a widely effectual warning of the true character of this honeyed poison.
9. For instance, these heretics would have it that the Son of God is not from God; that God was not born from God out of, and in, the nature of God. To this end, when they have solemnly borne witness to "One God, alone true," they refrain from adding "The Father." And then, in order to escape from confessing one true Godhead of Father and of Son by a denial of the true birth, they proceed, "Not, as Valentinus maintained, that the Son is a development of the Father." Thus they think to cast discredit upon the birth of God from God by calling it a "development," as though it were a form of the Valentinian heresy.
For Valentinus was the author of foul and foolish imaginations; beside the chief God, he invented a whole household of deities and countless powers called aeons, and taught that our Lord Jesus Christ was a development mysteriously brought about by a secret action of will. The faith of the Church, the faith of the Evangelists and Apostles, knows nothing of this imaginary development, sprung from the brain of a reckless and senseless dreamer. It knows nothing of the "Depth" and "Silence" and the thrice ten aeons of Valentinus. It knows none but One God the Father, from Whom are all things, and One Jesus Christ, our Lord, through Whom are all things, Who is God born from God. But it occurred to them that He, in being born as God from God, neither withdrew anything from the Divinity of His Author nor was Himself born other than God; that He became God not by a new beginning of Deity but by birth from the existing God; and that every birth appears, as far as human faculties can judge, to be a development, so that even that birth might be regarded as a development. And these considerations have induced them to make an attack upon the Valentinian heresy of development as a means of destroying faith in the true birth of the Son.
For the experience of common life leads worldly wisdom to suppose that there is no great difference between a birth and a development. The mind of man, dull and slow to grasp the things of God, needs to be constantly reminded of the principle, which I have stated more than once, that analogies drawn from human experience are not of perfect application to the mysteries of Divine power; that their only value is that this comparison with material objects imparts to the spirit such a notion of heavenly things that we may rise, as by a ladder of nature, to an apprehension of the majesty of God. But the birth of God must not be judged by such development as takes place in human births. When One is born from One, God born from God, the circumstances of human birth enable us to apprehend the fact; but a birth which presupposes intercourse and conception and time and travail can give us no clue to the Divine method. When we are told that God was born from God, we must accept it as true that He was born, and be content with that. We shall, however, in the proper place discourse of the truth of the Divine birth, as the Gospels and the Apostles set it forth. Our present duty has been to expose this device of heretical ingenuity, this attack upon the true birth of Christ, concealed under the form of an attack upon a so-called development.
10. And then, in continuation of this same fraudulent assault upon the faith, their confession proceeds thus:-- "Nor, as Manichaeus has declared of the Son, a consubstantial part of the Father." They have already denied that He is a development, in order to escape from the admission of His birth; now they introduce, labelled with the name of Manichaeus, the doctrine that the Son is a portion of the one Divine substance, and deny it, in order to subvert the belief in God from God. For Manichaeus, the furious adversary of the Law and Prophets, the strenuous champion of the devil's cause and blind worshipper of the sun, taught that That which was in the Virgin's womb was a portion of the one Divine substance, and that by the Son we must understand a certain piece of God's substance which was cut off, and made its appearance in the flesh.
And so they make the most of this heresy that in the birth of the Son there was a division of the one substance and use it as a means of evading the doctrine of the birth of the Only-begotten, and the very name of the unity of substance. Because it is sheer blasphemy to speak of a birth resulting from division of the one substance they deny any birth; all forms of birth are joined in the condemnation which they pass upon the Manichaean notion of birth by severance. And again, they abolish the unity of substance, both name and thing, because the heretics hold that the unity is divisible; and deny that the Son is God from God, by refusing to believe that He is truly possessed of the Divine nature. Why does this mad heresy profess a fictitious reverence, a senseless anxiety?
The faith of the Church does, as these insane propounders of error remind us, condemn Manichaeus, for she knows nothing of the Son as a portion. She knows Him as whole God from whole God, as One from One, not severed but born. She is assured that the birth of God involves neither impoverishment of the Begetter nor inferiority of the Begotten. If this be the Church's own imagining, reproach her with the follies of a wisdom falsely claimed; but if she have learned it from her Lord, confess that the Begotten knows the manner of His begetting. She has learnt from God the Only-begotten these truths, that Father and Son are One, and that in the Son the fullness of the Godhead dwells. And therefore she loathes this attribution to the Son of a portion of the one substance; and, because she knows that He was truly born of God, she worships the Son as rightful Possessor of true Divinity. But, for the present, let us defer our full answer to these several allegations, and hasten through the rest of their denunciations.
11. What follows is this:-- "Nor, as Sabellius, who makes two out of One, Son and Father at once." Sabellius holds this in willful blindness to the revelation of the Evangelists and Apostles. But what we see here is not one heretic honestly denouncing another. It is the wish to leave no point of union between Father and Son that prompts them to reproach Sabellius with his division of an indivisible Person; a division which does not result in the birth of a second Person, but cuts the One Person into two parts, one of which enters the Virgin's womb.
But we confess a birth; we reject this confusion of two Persons in One, while yet we cleave to the Divine unity. That is, we hold that God from God means unity of nature; for that Being, Who, by a true birth from God, became God, can draw His substance from no other source than the Divine. And since He continues to draw His being, as He drew it at first, from God, He must remain true God for ever; and hence They Two are One, for He, Who is God from God, has no other than the Divine nature, and no other than the Divine origin. But the reason why this blasphemous Sabellian confusion of two Persons into One is here condemned is that they wish to rob the Church of her true faith in Two Persons in One God.
But now I must examine the remaining instances of this perverted ingenuity, to save myself from the reputation of a censorious judge of sincere enquirers, moved rather by dislike than genuine fear. I shall show, by the terms with which they wind up their confession, what is the deadly conclusion which they have skillfully contrived shall be its inevitable issue.
12. Their next clause is:-- "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." Hieracas ignores the birth of the Only-begotten, and, in complete unconsciousness of the meaning of the Gospel revelations, talks of two flames from one lamp. This symmetrical pair of flames, fed by the supply of oil contained in one bowl, is His illustration of the substance of Father and Son. It is as though that substance were something separate from Either Person, like the oil in the lamp, which is distinct from the two flames, though they depend upon it for their existence; or like the wick, of one material throughout and burning at both ends, which is distinct from the flames, yet provides them and connects them together. All this is a mere delusion of human folly, which has trusted to itself, and not to God, for knowledge.
But the true faith asserts that God is born from God, as light from light, which pours itself forth without self-diminution, giving what it has yet having what it gave. It asserts that by His birth He was what He is, for as He is so was He born; that His birth was the gift of the existing Life, a gift which did not lessen the store from which it was taken; and that They Two are One, for He, from Whom He is born, is as Himself, and He that was born has neither another source nor another nature, for He is Light from Light. It is in order to draw men's faith away from this, the true doctrine, that this lantern or lamp of Hieracas is cast in the teeth of those who confess Light from Light. Because the phrase has been used in an heretical sense, and condemned both now and in earlier days, they want to persuade us that there is no true sense in which it can be employed. Let heresy forthwith abandon these groundless fears, and refrain from claiming to be the protector of the Church's faith on the score of a reputation for zeal earned so dishonestly.
For we allow nothing bodily, nothing lifeless, to have a place among the attributes of God; whatever is God is perfect God. In Him is nothing but power, life, light, blessedness, Spirit. That nature contains no dull, material elements; being immutable, it has no incongruities within it. God, because He is God, is unchangeable; and the unchangeable God begat God. Their bond of union is not, like that of two flames, two wicks of one lamp, something outside Themselves. The birth of the Only-begotten Son from God is not a prolongation in space, but a begetting; not an extension, but Light from Light. For the unity of light with light is a unity of nature, not unbroken continuation.
13. And again, what a wonderful example of heretical ingenuity is this:-- "Nor as if He were previously in being, and afterwards born or created afresh, to be a Son." God, since He was born from God, was assuredly not born from nothing, nor from things non-existent. His birth was that of the eternally living nature. Yet, though He is God, He is not identical with the pre-existing God; God was born from God Who existed before Him; in, and by, His birth He partook of the nature of His Source. If we are speaking words of our own, all this is mere irreverence; but if, as we shall prove, God Himself has taught us how to speak, then the necessity is laid upon us of confessing the Divine birth in the sense revealed by God.
And it is this unity of nature in Father and in Son, this ineffable mystery of the living birth, which the madness of heresy is struggling to banish from belief, when it says, "Nor as if He were previously in being, and afterwards born, or created afresh, to be a Son." Now who is senseless enough to suppose that the Father ceased to be Himself; that the same Person Who had previously existed was afterwards born, or created afresh, to be the Son? That God disappeared, and that His disappearance was followed by an emergence in birth, when, in fact, that birth is evidence of the continuous existence of its Author? Or who is so insane as to suppose that a Son can come into existence otherwise than through birth? Who so void of reason as to say that the birth of God resulted in anything else than in God being born? The abiding God was not born, but God was born from the abiding God; the nature bestowed in that birth was the very nature of the Begetter. And God by His birth, which was from God into God, received, because His was a true birth, not things new-created but things which were and are the permanent possession of God. Thus it is not the pre-existent God that was born; yet God was born, and began to exist, out of and with the properties of God.
And thus we see how heresy, throughout this long prelude, has been treacherously leading up to this most blasphemous doctrine. Its object being to deny God the Only-begotten, it starts with what purports to be a defense of truth, to go on to the assertion that Christ is born not from God but out of nothing, and that His birth is due to the Divine counsel of creation from the non-existent.
14. And then again, after an interval designed to prepare us for what is coming, their heresy delivers this assault;-- "While the Son, put forth outside time, and created and established before the worlds, did not exist before He was born." This "He did not exist before He was born" is a form of words by which the heresy flatters itself that it gains two ends; support for its blasphemy, and a screen for itself if its doctrine be arraigned. A support for its blasphemy, because, if He did not exist before He was born, He cannot be of one nature with His eternal Origin. He must have His beginning out of nothing, if He have no powers but such as are coeval with His birth. And a screen for its heresy, for if this statement be condemned, it furnishes a ready answer.
He that did exist, it will be said, could not be born; being in existence already, He could not possibly come into being by passing through the process of birth, for the very meaning of birth is the entry into existence of the being that is born. Fool and blasphemer! Who dreams of birth in the case of Him Who is the unborn and eternal? How can we think of God, Who is, being born, when being born implies the process of birth? It is the birth of God the Only-begotten from God His Father that you are striving to disprove, and it was your purpose to escape the confession of that truth by means of this "He did not exist before He was born;" the confession that God, from Whom the Son of God was born, did exist eternally, and that it is from His abiding nature that God the Son draws His existence through birth. If, then, the Son is born from God, you must confess that His is a birth of that abiding nature; not a birth of the pre-existing God, but a birth of God from God the pre-existent.
15. But the fiery zeal of this heresy is such that it cannot restrain itself from passionate outbreak. In its effort to prove, in conformity with its assertion that He did not exist before He was born, that the Son was born from the non-existent, that is, that He was not born from God the Father to be God the Son by a true and perfect birth, it winds up its confession by rising in rage and hatred to the highest pitch of possible blasphemy:-- "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."
The defense of the true faith against the falsehoods of heresy would indeed be a task of toil and difficulty, if it were needful for us to follow the processes of thought as far as they have plunged into the depths of godlessness. Happily for our purpose it is shallowness of thought that has engendered their eagerness to blaspheme. And hence, while it is easy to refute the folly, it is difficult to amend the fool, for he will neither think out right conclusions for himself, nor accept them when offered by another. Yet I trust that they who in pious ignorance, not in willful folly bred of self-conceit, are enchained by error, will welcome correction. For our demonstration of the truth will afford convincing proof that heresy is nothing else than folly.
16. You said in your unreason, and you are still repeating to-day, ignorant that your wisdom is a defiance of God, "As to such phrases as from Him, and from the womb, and I went out from the Father and am come," I ask you, Are these phrases, or are they not, words of God? They certainly are His; and, since they are spoken by God about Himself, we are bound to accept them exactly as they were spoken. Concerning the phrases themselves, and the precise force of each, we shall speak in the proper place. For the present I will only put this question to the intelligence of every reader; When we see From Himself, are we to take it as equivalent to "From some one else," or to "From nothing," or are we to accept it as the truth? It is not "From some one else," for it is From Himself; that is, His Godhead has no other source than God. It is not "From nothing," for it is From Himself; a declaration of the nature from which His birth is. It is not "Himself," but From Himself; a statement that They are related as Father and Son.
And next, when the revelation From the womb is made, I ask whether we can possibly believe that He is born from nothing, when the truth of His birth is clearly indicated in terms borrowed from bodily functions. It is not because He has bodily members, that God records the generation of the Son in the words, "I bore Thee from the womb before the morning star" [Psalm 110:3 LXX]. He uses language which assists our understanding to assure us that His Only-begotten Son was ineffably born of His own true Godhead. His purpose is to educate the faculties of men up to the knowledge of the faith, by clothing Divine verities in words descriptive of human circumstances. Thus, when He says, From the womb, He is teaching us that His Only-begotten was, in the Divine sense, born, and did not come into existence by means of creation out of nothing.
And lastly, when the Son said, I went forth from the Father and am come, did He leave it doubtful whether His Divinity were, or were not, derived from the Father? He went out from the Father; that is, He had a birth, and the Father, and no other, gave Him that birth. He bears witness that He, from Whom He declares that He came forth, is the Author of His being. The proof and interpretation of all this shall be given hereafter.
17. But meanwhile let us see what ground these men have for the confidence with which they forbid us to accept as true the utterances of God concerning Himself; utterances, the authenticity of which they do not deny. What more grievous insult could be flung by human folly and insolence at God's self-revelation, than a condemnation of it, shown in correction? For not even doubt and criticism will satisfy them. What more grievous than this profane handling and disputing of the nature and power of God? Than the presumption of saying that, if the Son is from God, then God is changeable and corporeal, since He has extended or developed a part of Himself to be His Son?
Whence this anxiety to prove the immutability of God? We confess the birth, we proclaim the Only-begotten, for so God has taught us. You, in order to banish the birth and the Only-begotten from the faith of the Church, confront us with an unchangeable God, incapable, by His nature, of extension or development. I could bring forward instances of birth, even in natures belonging to this world, which would refute this wretched delusion that every birth must be an extension. And I could save you from the error that a being can come into existence only at the cost of loss to that which begets it, for there are many examples of life transmitted, without bodily intercourse, from one living creature to another. But it would be impious to deal in evidences, when God has spoken; and the utmost excess of madness to deny His authority to give us a faith, when our worship is a confession that He alone can give us life. For if life comes through Him alone, must not He be the Author of the faith which is the condition of that life? And if we hold Him an untrustworthy witness concerning Himself, how can we be sure of the life which is His gift?
18. For you attribute, most godless of heretics, the birth of the Son to an act of creative will; you say that He is not born from God, but that He was created and came into existence by the choice of the Creator. And the unity of the Godhead, as you interpret it, will not allow Him to be God, for, since God remains One, the Son cannot retain His original nature in that state into which He has been born. He has been endowed, through creation, you say, with a substance different from the Divine, although, being in a sense the Only-begotten, He is superior to God's other creatures and works. You say that He was raised up, that He in His turn might perform the task committed to Him of raising up the created world; but that His birth did not confer upon Him the Divine nature. He was born, according to you, in the sense that He came into existence out of nothing.
You call Him a Son, not because He was born from God, but because He was created by God. For you call to mind that God has deemed even holy men worthy of this title, and you consider that it is assigned to the Son in exactly the same sense in which the words, "I have said, Ye are Gods, and all of you sons of the Most High" [Psalm 82:6], were spoken; that is, that He bears the name through the Giver's condescension, and not by right of nature. Thus, in your eyes, He is Son by adoption, God by gift of the title, Only-begotten by favor, First-born in date, in every sense a creature, in no sense God. For you hold that His generation was not a birth from God, in the natural sense, but the beginning of the life of a created substance.
19. And now, Almighty God, I first must pray Thee to forgive my excess of indignation, and permit me to address Thee; and next to grant me, dust and ashes as I am, yet bound in loyal devotion to Thyself, freedom of utterance in this debate. There was a time when I, poor wretch, was not; before my life and consciousness and personality began to exist. It is to Thy mercy that I owe my life; and I doubt not that Thou, in Thy goodness, didst give me my birth for my good, for Thou, Who hast no need of me, wouldst never have made the beginning of my life the beginning of evil. And then, when Thou hadst breathed into me the breath of life and endowed me with the power of thought, Thou didst instruct me in the knowledge of Thyself, by means of the sacred volumes given us through Thy servants Moses and the prophets.
From them I learnt Thy revelation, that we must not worship Thee as a lonely God. For their pages taught me of God, not different from Thee in nature but One with Thee in mysterious unity of substance. I learnt that Thou art God in God, by no mingling or confusion but by Thy very nature, since the Divinity which is Thyself dwells in Him Who is from Thee. But the true doctrine of the perfect birth revealed that Thou, the Indwelt, and Thou, the Indweller, are not One Person, yet that Thou dost dwell in Him Who is from Thee. And the voices of Evangelists and Apostles repeat the lesson, and the very words which fell from the holy mouth of Thy Only-begotten are recorded, telling how Thy Son, God the Only-begotten from Thee the Unbegotten God, was born of the Virgin as man to fulfill the mystery of my salvation; how Thou dwellest in Him, by virtue of His true generation from Thyself, and He in Thee, because of the nature given in His abiding birth from Thee.
20. What is this hopeless quagmire of error into which Thou hast plunged me? For I have learnt all this and have come to believe it; this faith is so ingrained into my mind that I have neither the power nor the wish to change it. Why this deception of an unhappy man, this ruin of a poor wretch in body and soul, by deluding him with falsehoods concerning Thyself? After the Red Sea had been divided, the splendor on the face of Moses, descending from the Mount, deceived me. He had gazed, in Thy presence, upon all the mysteries of heaven, and I believed his words, dictated by Thee, concerning Thyself. And David, the man that was found after Thine own heart, has betrayed me to destruction, and Solomon, who was thought worthy of the gift of Divine Wisdom, and Isaiah, who saw the Lord of Sabaoth and prophesied, and Jeremiah consecrated in the womb, before he was fashioned, to be the prophet of nations to be rooted out and planted in, and Ezekiel, the witness of the mystery of the Resurrection, and Daniel, the man beloved, who had knowledge of times, and all the hallowed band of the Prophets; and Matthew also, chosen to proclaim the whole mystery of the Gospel, first a publican, then an Apostle, and John, the Lord's familiar friend, and therefore worthy to reveal the deepest secrets of heaven, and blessed Simon, who after his confession of the mystery was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and all his companions who spoke by the Holy Ghost, and Paul, the chosen vessel, changed from persecutor into Apostle, who, as a living man abode under the deep sea and ascended into the third heaven, who was in Paradise before his martyrdom, whose martyrdom was the perfect offering of a flawless faith; all have deceived me.
21. These are the men who have taught me the doctrines which I hold, and so deeply am I impregnated with their teaching that no antidote can release me from their influence. Forgive me, O God Almighty, my powerlessness to change, my willingness to die in this belief. These propagators of blasphemy, for so they seem to me, are a product of these last times, too modern to avail me. It is too late for them to correct the faith which I received from Thee. Before I had ever heard their names, I had put my trust in Thee had received regeneration from Thee and become Thine, as still I am. I know that Thou art omnipotent; I look not that Thou shouldst reveal to me the mystery of that ineffable birth which is secret between Thyself and Thy Only-begotten.
Nothing is impossible with Thee, and I doubt not that in begetting Thy Son Thou didst exert Thy full omnipotence. To doubt it would be to deny that Thou an omnipotent. For my own birth teaches me that Thou art good, and therefore I am sure that in the birth of Thine Only-begotten Thou didst grudge Him no good gift. I believe that all that is Thine is His, and all that is His is Thine. The creation of the world is sufficient evidence to me that Thou art wise; and I am sure that Thy Wisdom, Who is like Thee, must have been begotten from Thyself. And Thou art One God, in very truth, in my eyes; I will never believe that in Him, Who is God from Thee, there is aught that is not Thine. Judge me in Him, if it be sin in me that, through Thy Son, I have trusted too well in Law and Prophets and Apostles.
22. But this wild talk must cease; the rhetoric of exposing heretical folly must give place to the drudgery of framing arguments. So, I trust, those among them who are capable of being saved will set their faces towards the true faith taught by the Evangelists and Apostles, and recognize Him Who is the true Son of God, not by adoption but by nature. For the plan of our reply must be that of first proving that He is the Son of God, and therefore fully endowed with that Divine nature in the possession of which His Sonship consists. For the chief aim of the heresy, which we are considering, is to deny that our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and truly the Son of God.
Many evidences assure us that our Lord Jesus Christ is, and is revealed to be, God the Only-begotten, truly the Son of God. His Father bears witness to it, He Himself asserts it, the Apostles proclaim it, the faithful believe it, devils confess it, Jews deny it, the heathen at His passion recognized it. The name of God is given Him in the right of absolute ownership, not because He has been admitted to joint use with others of the title. Every work and word of Christ transcends the power of those who bear the title of sons; the foremost lesson that we learn from all that is most prominent in His life is that He is the Son of God, and that He does not hold the name of Son as a title shared with a widespread company of friends.
23. I will not weaken the evidence for this truth by intermixing words of my own. Let us hear the Father, when the baptism of Jesus Christ was accomplished, speaking, as often, concerning His Only-begotten, in order to save us from being misled by His visible body into a failure to recognize Him as the Son. His words are:-- "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." [Matthew 3:17]. Is the truth presented here with dim outlines? Is the proclamation made in uncertain tones? The promise of the Virgin birth brought by the angel from the Holy Ghost, the guiding star of the Magi, the reverence paid Him in His cradle, the majesty, attested by the Baptist, of Him Who condescended to be baptized; all these are deemed an insufficient witness to His glory.
The Father Himself speaks from heaven, and His words are, This is My Son. What means this evidence, not of titles, but of pronouns? Titles may be appended to names at will; pronouns are a sure indication of the persons to whom they refer. And here we have, in This and My, the clearest of indications. Mark the true meaning and the purpose of the words. You have read, "I have begotten sons, and have raised them up" [Isaiah 1:2]; but you did not read there My sons, for He had begotten Himself those sons by division among the Gentiles, and from the people of His inheritance. And lest we should suppose that the name Son was given as an additional title to God the Only-begotten, to signify His share by adoption in some joint heritage, His true nature is expressed by the pronoun which gives the indubitable sense of ownership.
I will allow you to interpret the word Son, if you will, as signifying that Christ is one of a number, if you can furnish an instance where it is said of another of that number, This is My Son. If, on the other hand, This is My Son be His peculiar designation, why accuse the Father, when He asserts His ownership, of making an unfounded claim? When He says This is My Son, may we not paraphrase His meaning thus:-- "He has given to others the title of sons, but He Himself is My own Son; I have given the name to multitudes by adoption, but this Son is My very own. Seek not for another lest you lose your faith that This is He. By gesture and by voice, by This, and My, and Son, I declare Him to you." And now what reasonable excuse remains for lack of faith? This, and nothing less than this, it was that the Father's voice proclaimed. He willed that we should not be left in ignorance of the nature of Him Who came to be baptized, that He might fulfill all righteousness; that by the voice of God we might recognize as the Son of God Him Who was visible as Man, to accomplish the mystery of our salvation.
24. And again, because the life of believers was involved in the confession of this faith,-- for there is no other way to eternal life than the assurance that Jesus Christ, God the Only-begotten, is the Son of God -- the Apostles heard once more the voice from heaven repeating the same message, in order to strengthen this life-giving belief, in negation of which is death. When the Lord, apparelled in splendor, was standing upon the Mountain, with Moses and Elias at His side, and the three Pillars of the churches who had been chosen as witnesses to the truth of the vision and the voice, the Father spoke thus from heaven:-- "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him" [Matthew 17:5].
The glory which they saw was not sufficient attestation of His majesty; the voice proclaims, This is My Son. The Apostles cannot face the glory of God; mortal eyes grow dim in its presence. The trust of Peter and James and John fails them, and they are prostrate in fear. But this solemn declaration, spoken from the Father's knowledge, comes to their relief; He is revealed as His Father's own true Son. And over and above the witness of This and My to His true Sonship, the words are uttered, Hear Him. It is the witness of the Father from heaven, in confirmation of the witness borne by the Son on earth; for we are bidden to hear Him. Though this recognition by the Father of the Son removes all doubt, yet we are bidden also to accept the Son's self-revelation. When the Father's voice commands us to show our obedience by hearing Him, we are ordered to repose an absolute confidence in the words of the Son. Since, therefore, the Father has manifested His will in this message to us to hear the Son, let us hear what it is that the Son has told us concerning Himself.
25. I can conceive of no man so destitute of ordinary reason as to recognize in each of the Gospels confessions by the Son of the humiliation to which He has submitted in taking a body upon Him,-- as for instance His words, often repeated, "Father, glorify Me" [John 17:5], and "Ye shall see the Son of Man" [Mark 14:62], and "The Father is greater than I" [John 14:28], and, more strongly, "Now is My soul troubled exceedingly" [Matthew 26:38], and even this, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" [Mark 15:34], and many more, of which I shall speak in due time,-- and yet, in the face of these constant expressions of His humility, to charge Him with presumption because He calls God His Father, as when He says, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" [Matthew 15:13], or, "Ye have made my Father's house an house of merchandise" [John 2:16]. I can conceive of no one foolish enough to regard His assertion, consistently made, that God is His Father, not as the simple truth sincerely stated from certain knowledge, but as a bold and baseless claim. We cannot denounce this constantly professed humility as an insolent demand for the rights of another, a laying of hands on what is not His own, an appropriation of powers which only God can wield.
Nor, when He calls Himself the Son, as in, "For God sent not His Son into this world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" [John 3:17], and in, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" [John 9:35], can we accuse Him of what would be an equal presumption with that of calling God His Father. But what else is it than such an accusation, if we allow to Jesus Christ the name of Son by adoption only? Do we not charge Him, when He calls God His Father, with daring to make a baseless claim? The Father's voice from heaven says Hear Him. I hear Him saying, "Father I thank Thee" [Matthew 11:25], and "Say ye that I blasphemed, because l said, I am the Son of God?" [John 10:36]. If I may not believe these names, and assume that they mean what they assert, how am I to trust and to understand? No hint is given of an alternative meaning. The Father bears witness from heaven, This is My Son; the Son on His part speaks of My Father's house, and My Father. The confession of that name gives salvation, when faith is demanded in the question, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? The pronoun My indicates that the noun which follows belongs to the speaker. What right, I demand, have you heretics to suppose it otherwise? You contradict the Father's word, the Son's assertion; you empty language of its meaning, and distort the words of God into a sense they cannot bear. On you alone rests the guilt of this shameless blasphemy, that God has lied concerning Himself.
26. And thus, although nothing but a sincere belief that these names are truly significant,-- that, when we read, This is My Son and My Father, the words really indicate Persons of Whom, and to Whom, they were spoken -- can make them intelligible, yet, lest it be supposed that Son and Father are titles, the one merely of adoption, the other merely of dignity, let us see what are the attributes attached, by the Son Himself, to His name of Son. He says, "All things are delivered Me of My Father, and no one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any the Father save the Son, and he to Whom the Son will reveal Him." [Matthew 11:27]. Are the words of which we are speaking, This is My Son and My Father, consistent, or are they not, with No one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any the Father save the Son? For it is only by witness mutually borne that the Son can be known through the Father, and the Father through the Son.
We hear the voice from heaven; we hear also the words of the Son. We have as little excuse for not knowing the Son, as we have for not knowing the Father. All things are delivered unto Him; from this All there is no exception. If They possess an equal might; if They share an equal mutual knowledge, hidden from us; if these names of Father and Son express the relation between Them, then, I demand, are They not in truth what They are in name, wielders of the same omnipotence, shrouded in the same impenetrable mystery? God does not speak in order to deceive. The Fatherhood of the Father, the Sonship of the Son, are literal truths. And now learn how facts bear out the verities which these names reveal.
27. The Son speaks thus:-- "For the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works which I do, bear witness of Me that the Father hath sent Me; and the Father Himself which hath sent Me hath borne witness of Me." [John 5:36-37]. God the Only-begotten proves His Sonship by an appeal not only to the name, but to the power; the works which He does are evidence that He has been sent by the Father. What, I ask, is the fact which these works prove? That He was sent. That He was sent, is used as a proof of His sonlike obedience and of His Father's authority: for the works which He does could not possibly be done by any other than Him Who is sent by the Father. Yet the evidence of His works fails to convince the unbelieving that the Father sent Him. For He proceeds, "And the Father Himself which hath sent Me hath borne witness of Me; and ye have neither heard His voice nor seen His shape." [John 5:37].
What was this witness of the Father concerning Him? Turn over the pages of the Gospels and review their contents. Read us other of the attestations given by the Father beside those which we have heard already; This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased, and Thou art My Son. John, who heard these words, needed them not, for He knew the truth already. It was for our instruction that the Father spoke. But this is not all. John in the wilderness was honored with this revelation; the Apostles were not to be denied the same assurance. It came to them in the very same words, but with an addition which John did not receive. He had been a prophet from the womb, and needed not the commandment, Hear Him.
Yes; I will hear Him, and will hear none but Him and His Apostle, who heard for my instruction. Even though the books contained no further witness, borne by the Father to the Son, than that He is the Son, I have, for confirmation of the truth, the evidence of His Father's works which He does. What is this modern slander that His name is a gift by adoption, His Godhead a lie, His titles a pretense? We have the Father's witness to His Sonship; by works, equal to the Father's, the Son bears witness to His own equality with the Father. Why such blindness to His obvious possession of the true Sonship which He both claims and displays. It is not through condescending kindness on the part of God the Father that Christ bears the name of Son; not by holiness that He has earned the title, as many have won it by enduring hardness in confession of the faith. Such sonship is not of right; it is by a favor, worthy of Himself, that God bestows the title. But that which is indicated by This, and My, and Hear Him, is different in kind from the other. It is the true and real and genuine Sonship.
28. And indeed the Son never makes for Himself a lower claim than is contained in this designation, given Him by His Father. The Father's words, This is My Son, reveal His nature; those which follow, Hear Him, are a summons to us to listen to the mystery and the faith which He came down from heaven to bring; to learn that, if we would be saved, our confession must be a copy of His teaching. And in like manner the Son Himself teaches us, in words of His own, that He was truly born and truly came;-- "Ye neither know Me, nor know ye whence I am, for I am not came of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, Whom ye know not, but I know Him, for I am from Him, and He hath sent Me." [John 7:28-29].
No man knows the Father; the Son often assures us of this. The reason why He says that none knows Him but Himself, is that He is from the Father. Is it, I ask, as the result of an act of creation, or of a genuine birth, that He is from Him? If it be an act of creation, then all created things are from God. How then is it that none of them know the Father, when the Son says that the reason why He has this knowledge is that He is from Him? If He be created, not born, we shall observe in Him a resemblance to other beings who are from God. Since all, on this supposition, are from God, why is He not as ignorant of the Father as are the others? But if this knowledge of the Father be peculiar to Him, Who is from the Father, must not this circumstance also, that He is from the Father, be peculiar to Him? That is, must He not be the true Son born from the nature of God? For the reason why He alone knows God is that He alone is from God. You observe, then, a knowledge, which is peculiar to Himself, resulting from a birth which also is peculiar to Himself. You recognize that it is not by an act of creative power, but through a true birth, that He is from the Father; and that this is why He alone knows the Father, Who is unknown to all other beings which are from Him.
29. But He immediately adds, For I am from Him, and He hath sent Me, to debar heresy from the violent assumption that His being from God dates from the time of His Advent. The Gospel revelation of the mystery proceeds in a logical sequence; first He is born, then He is sent. Similarly, in the previous declaration, we were told of ignorance, first as to Who He is, and then as to whence He is. For the words, I am from Him, and He hath sent Me, contain two separate statements, as also do the words, Ye neither know Me, nor know ye whence I am. Every man is born in the flesh; yet does not universal consciousness make every man spring from God? How then can Christ assert that either He, or the source of His being, is unknown?
He can only do so by assigning His immediate parentage to the ultimate Author of existence; and, when He has done this, He can demonstrate their ignorance of God by their ignorance of the fact that He is the Son of God. Let the victims of this wretched delusion reflect upon the words, Ye neither know Me, nor know ye whence I am. All things, they argue, are from nothing; they allow of no exception. They even dare to misrepresent God the Only-begotten as sprung from nothing. How can we explain this ignorance of Christ, and of the origin of Christ, on the part of the blasphemers? The very fact that, as the Scripture says, they know not whence He is, is an indication of that unknowable origin from which He springs.
If we can say of a thing that it came into existence out of nothing, then we are not ignorant of its origin; we know that it was made out of nothing, and this is a piece of definite knowledge. Now He Who came is not the Author of His own being; but He Who sent Him is true, Whom the blasphemers know not. He it was Who sent Him; and they know not that He was the Sender. Thus the Sent is from the Sender; from Him Whom they know not as His Author. The reason why they know not Who Christ is, is that they know not from Whom He is. None can confess the Son who denies that He was born; none can understand that He was born who has formed the opinion that He is from nothing. And indeed He is so far from being made out of nothing, that the heretics cannot tell whence He is.
30. They are blankly ignorant who separate the Divine name from the Divine nature; ignorant, and content to be ignorant. But let them listen to the reproof which the Son inflicts upon unbelievers for their want of this knowledge, when the Jews said that God was their Father:-- "If God were your Father, ye would surely love Me; for I went forth from God, and am come; neither am I come of Myself, but He sent Me." [John 8:42]. The Son of God has here no word of blame for the devout confidence of those who combine the confession that He is true God, the Son of God, with their own claim to be God's sons. What He is blaming is the insolence of the Jews in daring to claim God as their Father, when meanwhile they did not love Him, the Son:-- If God were your Father, ye would surely love Me; for I went forth from God.
All, who have God for their Father through faith, have Him for Father through that same faith whereby we confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. But to confess that He is the Son in a sense which covers the whole company of saints; to say, in effect, that He is one of the sons of God;-- what faith is there in that? Are not all the rest, feeble created beings though they be, in that sense sons? In what does the eminence of a faith, which has confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, consist, if He, as one of a multitude of sons, have the name only, and not the nature, of the Son? This unbelief has no love for Christ; it is a mockery of the faith for these perverters of the truth to claim God as their Father. If He were their Father, they would love Christ because He had gone forth from God.
And now I must enquire the meaning of this going forth from God. His going forth is obviously different from His coming, for the two are mentioned side by side in this passage, I went forth from God and am come. In order to elucidate the separate meanings of I went forth from God and I am come, He immediately subjoins, Neither am I come of Myself, but He sent Me. He tells us that He is not the source of His own existence in the words, Neither am I come of Myself. In them He tells us that He has proceeded forth a second time from God, and has been sent by Him.
But when He tells us that they who call God their Father must love Himself because He has gone forth from God, He makes His birth the reason for their love. Went forth carries back our thoughts to the incorporeal birth, for it is by love of Christ, Who was born from Him, that we must gain the right of devoutly claiming God for our Father. For when the Son says, "He that hateth Me hateth My Father also" [John 15:23], this My is the assertion of a relation to the Father which is shared by none. On the other hand, He condemns the man who claims God as his Father, and loves not the Son, as using a wrongful liberty with the Father's name; since he who hates Him, the Son, must hate the Father also, and none can be devoted to the Father save those who love the Son. For the one and only reason which He gives for loving the Son is His origin from the Father. The Son, therefore, is from the Father, not by His Advent, but by His birth; and love for the Father is only possible to those who believe that the Son is from Him.
31. To this the Lord's words bear witness;-- "I will not say unto you that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and believe that I went forth from God, and am come from the Father into this world" [John 16:26-28]. A complete faith concerning the Son, which accepts and loves the truth that He went forth from God, has access to the Father without need of His intervention. The confession that the Son was born and sent from God wins for it direct audience and love from Him. Thus the narrative of His birth and coming must be taken in the strictest and most literal sense.
I went forth from God, He says, conveying that His nature is exactly that which was given Him by His birth; for what being but God could go forth from God, that is, could enter upon existence by birth from Him? Then He continues, And am come from the Father into this world. To assure us that this going forth from God means birth from the Father, He tells us that He came from the Father into this world. The latter statement refers to His incarnation, the former to His nature. And again, His putting on record first the fact of His going forth from God, and then His coming from the Father, forbids us to identify the going with the coming. Coming from the Father, and going forth from God, are not synonymous; they might be paraphrased as 'Birth' and 'Presence,' and are as different in meaning as these. It is one thing to have gone forth from God, and entered by birth upon a substantial existence; another to have come from the Father into this world to accomplish the mysteries of our salvation.
32. In the order of our defense, as I have arranged it in my mind, this has seemed the most convenient place for proving that, thirdly, the Apostles believed our Lord Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, not merely in name but in nature, not by adoption but by birth. It is true that there remain unmentioned many and most weighty words of God the Only-begotten concerning Himself, in which the truth of His Divine birth is set so clearly forth as to silence any whisper of objection. Yet since it would be unwise to burden the reader's mind with an accumulation of evidence, and ample proof has been already given of the genuineness of His birth, I will hold back the remainder of His utterances till later stages of our enquiry. For we have so arranged the course of our argument that now, after hearing the Father's witness and the Son's self-revelation, we are to be instructed by the Apostles' faith in the true and, as we must confess, the truly born Son of God. We must see whether they could find in the words of the Lord, I went forth from God, any other meaning than this, that there was in Him a birth of the Divine nature.
33. After many dark sayings, spoken in parables by Him Whom they already knew as the Christ foretold by Moses and the Prophets, Whom Nathanael had confessed as the Son of God and King of Israel, Who had Himself reproached Philip, in his question about the Father, for not perceiving, by the works which He did, that the Father was in Him and He in the Father; after He had already often taught them that He was sent from the Father; still, it was not till they had heard Him assert that He had gone forth from God that they confessed, in the words which immediately follow in the Gospel;-- "His disciples say unto Him, Now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now therefore we are sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee; by this we believe that Thou wentest forth from God." [John 16:29-30].
What was there so marvellous in this form of words, Went forth from God, which He had used? Had ye seen, O holy and blessed men, who for the reward of your faith have received the keys of the kingdom of heaven and power to bind and to loose in heaven and earth, works so great, so truly Divine, wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and do ye yet profess that it was not until He had first told you that He had gone forth from God that ye attained the knowledge of the truth? And yet ye had seen water at the marriage turned into the marriage wine; one nature becoming another nature, whether it were by change, or by development, or by creation. And your hands had broken up the five loaves into a meal for that great multitude, and when all were satisfied ye had found that twelve baskets were needed to contain the fragments of the loaves; a small quantity of matter, in the process of relieving hunger, had multiplied into a great quantity of matter of the same nature. And ye had seen withered hands recover their suppleness, the tongues of dumb men loosened into speech, the feet of the lame made swift to run, the eyes of the blind endowed with vision, and life restored to the dead. Lazarus, who stank already, had risen to his feet at a word. He was summoned from the tomb and instantly came forth, without a pause between the word and its fulfillment. He was standing before you, a living man, while yet the air was carrying the odor of death to your nostrils.
I speak not of other exertions of His mighty, His Divine powers. And is it, in spite of all this, only after ye heard Him say, I went forth from God, that ye understood Who He is that had been sent from heaven? Is this the first time that the truth had been told you without a proverb? The first time that the powers of His nature made it manifest to you that He went forth from God? And this in spite of His silent scrutiny of the purposes of your will, of His needing not to ask you concerning anything as though He were ignorant, of His universal knowledge? For all these things, done in the power and in the nature of God, are evidence that He must have gone forth from God.
34. By this the holy Apostles did not understand that He had gone forth, in the sense of having been sent, from God. For they had often heard Him confess, in His earlier discourses, that He was sent; but what they hear now is the express statement that He had gone forth from God. This opens their eyes to perceive from His works His Divine nature. The fact that He had gone forth from God makes clear to them His true Divinity, and so they say, Now therefore we are sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee; by this we believe that Thou wentest forth from God.
The reason why they believe that He went forth from God is that He both can, and does, perform the works of God. Their perfect assurance of His Divine nature is the result of their knowledge, not that He is come from God, but that He did go forth from God. Accordingly we find that it is this truth, now heard for the first time, which clenches their faith. The Lord had made two statements; I went forth from God, and I am come from the Father into this world. One of these, I am come from the Father into this world, they had often heard, and it awakens no surprise. But their reply makes it manifest that they now believe and understand the other, that is, I went forth from God. Their answer, By this we believe that Thou wentest forth from God, is a response to it, and to it only; they do not add, 'And art come from the Father into this world.'
The one statement is welcomed with a declaration of faith; the other is passed over in silence. The confession was wrung from them by the sudden presentation of a new truth, which convinced their reason and constrained them to avow their certainty. They knew already that He, like God, could do all things; but His birth, which accounted for that omnipotence, had not been revealed. They knew that He had been sent from God, but they knew not that He had gone forth from God. Now at last, taught by this utterance to understand the ineffable and perfect birth of the Son, they confess that He had spoken to them without a proverb.
35. For God is not born from God by the ordinary process of a human childbirth; this is no case of one being issuing from another by the exertion of natural forces. That birth is pure and perfect and stainless; indeed, we must call it rather a proceeding forth than a birth. For it is One from One; no partition, or withdrawing, or lessening, or efflux, or extension, or suffering of change, but the birth of living nature from living nature. It is God going forth from God, not a creature picked out to bear the name of God. His existence did not take its beginning out of nothing, but went forth from the Eternal; and this going forth is rightly entitled a birth, though it would be false to call it a beginning. For the proceeding forth of God from God is a thing entirely different from the coming into existence of a new substance. And though our apprehension of this truth, which is ineffable, cannot be defined in words, yet the teaching of the Son, as He reveals to us that He went forth from God, imparts to it the certainty of an assured faith.
36. A belief that the Son of God is Son in name only and not in nature, is not the faith of the Gospels and of the Apostles. If this be a mere title, to which adoption is His only claim; if He be not the Son in virtue of having proceeded forth from God, whence, I ask, was it that the blessed Simon Bar-Jona confessed to Him, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" [Matthew 16:16]? Because He shared with all mankind the power of being born as one of the sons of God through the sacrament of regeneration? If Christ be the Son of God only in this titular way, what was the revelation made to Peter, not by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven? What praise could he deserve for making a declaration which was universally applicable? What credit was due to Him for stating a fact of general knowledge? If He be Son by adoption, wherein lay the blessedness of Peter's confession, which offered a tribute to the Son to which, in that case, He had no more title than any member of the company of saints?
The Apostle's faith penetrates into a region closed to human reasoning. He had, no doubt, often heard, "He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and He that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me" [Matthew 10:40]. Hence he knew well that Christ had been sent; he had heard Him, Whom he knew to have been sent, making the declaration, "All things are delivered unto Me of the Father, and no one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any one tire Father save the Son" [Matthew 11:27]. What then is this truth, which the Father now reveals to Peter, which receives the praise of a blessed confession? It cannot have been that the names of 'Father' and 'Son' were novel to him; he had heard them often. Yet he speaks words which the tongue of man had never framed before:-- Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. For though Christ, while dwelling in the body, had avowed Himself to be the Son of God, yet now for the first time the Apostle's faith had recognized in Him the presence of the Divine nature.
Peter is praised not merely for his tribute of adoration, but for his recognition of the mysterious truth; for confessing not Christ only, but Christ the Son of God. It would clearly have sufficed for a payment of reverence, had he said, Thou art the Christ, and nothing more. But it would have been a hollow confession, had Peter only hailed Him as Christ, without confessing Him the Son of God. And so his words Thou art declare that what is asserted of Him is strictly and exactly true to His nature. Next, the Father's utterance, This is My Son, had revealed to Peter that he must confess Thou art the Son of God, for in the words This is, God the Revealer points Him out, and the response, Thou art, is the believer's welcome to the truth.
And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built. But the perceptive faculties of flesh and blood cannot attain to the recognition and confession of this truth. It is a mystery, Divinely revealed, that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. Was it only the Divine name; was it not rather the Divine nature that was revealed to Peter? If it were the name, he had heard it often from the Lord, proclaiming Himself the Son of God. What honor, then, did he deserve for announcing the name? No; it was not the name; it was the nature, for the name had been repeatedly proclaimed.
37. This faith it is which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven. This faith is the Father's gift by revelation; even the knowledge that we must not imagine a false Christ, a creature made out of nothing, but must confess Him the Son of God, truly possessed of the Divine nature. What blasphemous madness and pitiful folly is it, that will not heed the venerable age and faith of that blessed martyr, Peter himself, for whom the Father was prayed that his faith might not fail in temptation; who twice repeated the declaration of love for God that was demanded of him, and was grieved that he was tested by a third renewal of the question, as though it were a doubtful and wavering devotion, and then, because this third trial had cleansed him of his infirmities, had the reward of hearing the Lord's commission, "Feed My sheep" [John 21:17], a third time repeated; who, when all the Apostles were silent, alone recognized by the Father's revelation the Son of God, and won the pre-eminence of a glory beyond the reach of human frailty by his confession of his blissful faith!
What are the conclusions forced upon us by the study of his words? He confessed that Christ is the Son of God; you, lying bishop of the new apostolate, thrust upon us your modern notion that Christ is a creature, made out of nothing. What violence is this, that so distorts the glorious words? The very reason why he is blessed is that he confessed the Son of God. This is the Father's revelation, this the foundation of the Church, this the assurance of her permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven, hence judgment in heaven and judgment on earth. Through revelation Peter learnt the mystery hidden from the beginning of the world, proclaimed the faith, published the Divine nature, confessed the Son of God. He who would deny all this truth and confess Christ a creature, must first deny the apostleship of Peter, his faith, his blessedness, his episcopate, his martyrdom. And when he has done all this, he must learn that he has severed himself from Christ; for it was by confessing Him that Peter won these glories.
38. Do you think, wretched heretic of today, that Peter would have been the more blessed now, if he had said, 'Thou art Christ, God's perfect creature, His handiwork, though excelling all His other works. Thy beginning was from nothing, and through the goodness of God, Who alone is good, the name of Son has been given Thee by adoption, although in fact Thou wast not born from God?' What answer, think you, would have been given to such words as these, when this same Peter's reply to the announcement of the Passion, "Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be," was rebuked with, "Get thee behind Me, Satan, thou art an offense unto Me" [Matthew 16:22-23]? Yet Peter could plead his human ignorance in extenuation of his guilt, for as yet the Father had not revealed all the mystery of the Passion; still, mere defect of faith was visited with this stern condemnation.
Now, why was it that the Father did not reveal to Peter your true confession, this faith in an adopted creature? I fancy that God must have grudged him the knowledge of the truth; that He wanted to postpone it to a later age, and keep it as a novelty for your modern preachers. Yes; you may have a change of faith, if the keys of heaven are changed. You may have a change of faith, if there is a change in that Church against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. You may have a change of faith, if there shall be a fresh apostolate, binding and loosing in heaven what it has bound and loosed on earth. You may have a change of faith, if another Christ the Son of God, beside the true Christ, shall be preached. But if that faith which confesses Christ as the Son of God, and that faith only, received in Peter's person every accumulated blessing, then perforce the faith which proclaims Him a creature, made out of nothing, holds not the keys of the Church and is a stranger to the apostolic faith and power. It is neither the Church's faith, nor is it Christ's.
39. Let us therefore cite every example of a statement of the faith made by an Apostle. All of them, when they confess the Son of God, confess Him not as a nominal and adoptive Son, but as Son by possession of the Divine nature. They never degrade Him to the level of a creature, but assign Him the splendor of a true birth from God. Let John speak to us, while he is waiting, just as he is, for the coming of the Lord; John, who was left behind and appointed to a destiny hidden in the counsel of God, for he is not told that he shall not die, but only that he shall tarry. Let him speak to us in his own familiar voice:-- "No one hath seen God at any time, except the Only-begotten Son, Which is in the bosom of the Father." [John 1:18].
It seemed to him that the name of Son did not set forth with sufficient distinctness His true Divinity, unless he gave an external support to the peculiar majesty of Christ by indicating the difference between Him and all others. Hence he not only calls Him the Son, but adds the further designation of the Only-begotten, and so cuts away the last prop from under this imaginary adoption. For the fact that He is Only-begotten is proof positive of His right to the name of Son.
40. I defer the consideration of the words, which is in the bosom of the Father, to a more appropriate place. My present enquiry is into the sense of Only-begotten, and the claim upon us which that sense may make. And first let us see whether the word mean, as you assert, a perfect creature of God; Only-begotten being equivalent to perfect, and Son a synonym for creature. But John described the Only-begotten Son as God, not as a perfect creature. His words, Which is in the bosom of the Father, show that he anticipated these blasphemous designations; and, indeed, he had heard his Lord say, "For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." [John 3:16].
God, Who loved the world, gave His Only-begotten Son as a manifest token of His love. If the evidence of His love be this, that He bestowed a creature upon creatures, gave a worldly being on the world's behalf, granted one raised up from nothing for the redemption of objects equally raised up from nothing, this cheap and petty sacrifice is a poor assurance of His favor towards us. Gifts of price are the evidence of affection, the greatness of the surrender of the greatness of the love. God, Who loved the world, gave not an adopted Son, but His own, His Only-begotten. Here is personal interest, true Sonship, sincerity; not creation, or adoption, or pretense. Herein is the proof of His love and affection, that He gave His own, His Only-begotten Son.
41. I appeal not now to any of the titles which are given to the Son; there is no loss in delay when it is the result of an embarrassing abundance of choice. My present argument is that a successful result implies a sufficient cause; some clear and cogent motive must underlie every effectual performance. And so the Evangelist has been obliged to reveal his motive in writing. Let us see what is the purpose which he confesses;-- "But these things are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." [John 20:31]. The one reason which he alleges for writing his Gospel is that all may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. If it be sufficient for salvation to believe that He is the Christ, why does he add The Son of God? But if the true faith be nothing less than the belief that Christ is not merely Christ, but Christ the Son of God, then assuredly the name of Son is not attached to Christ as a customary appendage due to adoption, seeing that it is essential to salvation. If then salvation consists in the confession of the name, must not the name express the truth? If the name express the truth, by what authority can He be called a creature? It is not the confession of a creature, but the confession of the Son, which shall give us salvation.
42. To believe, therefore, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is true salvation, is the acceptable service of an unfeigned faith. For we have no love within us towards God the Father except through faith in the Son. Let us hear Him speaking to us in the words of the Epistle;-- "Every one that loveth the Father loveth Him that is born from Him." [1 John 5:1]. What, I ask, is the meaning of being born from Him? Can it mean, perchance, being created by Him? Does the Evangelist lie in saying that He was born from God, while the heretic more correctly teaches that He was created? Let us all listen to the true character of this teacher of heresy. It is written, "He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" [1 John 2:22].
What will you do now, champion of the creature, conjurer up of a novel Christ out of nothing? Hear the title which awaits you, if you persist in your assertion. Or do you think that perhaps you may still describe the Father and the Son as Creator and Creature, and yet by an ingenious ambiguity of language escape being recognized as antichrist? If your confession embraces a Father in the true sense, and a Son in the true sense, then I am a slanderer, assailing you with a title of infamy which you have not deserved. But if in your confession all Christ's attributes are spurious and nominal, and not His own, then learn from the Apostle the right description of such a faith as yours; and hear what is the true faith which believes in the Son. The words which follow are these;-- "He that denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that confesseth the Son hath both the Son and the Father." [1 John 2:23]. He that denies the Son is destitute of the Father; he that confesses and has the Son has the Father also. What room is there here for adoptive names? Does not every word tell of the Divine nature? Learn how completely that nature is present.
43. John speaks thus;-- "For we know that the Son of God is come" and was incarnate for us, and suffered, and rose again from the dead and took us for Himself, "and gave us a good understanding that we may know Him that is true, and may be in His true Son Jesus Christ. He is true and is life eternal and our resurrection." [1 John 5:20]. Wisdom doomed to an evil end, void of the Spirit of God, destined to possess the spirit and the name of Antichrist, blind to the truth that the Son of God came to fulfill the mystery of our salvation, and unworthy in that blindness to perceive the light of that sovereign knowledge! For this wisdom asserts that Jesus Christ is no true Son of God, but a creature of His, Who bears the Divine name by adoption.
In what dark oracle of hidden knowledge was the secret learnt? To whose research do we owe this, the great discovery of the day? Were you he that lay upon the bosom of the Lord? You he to whom in the familiar intercourse of love He revealed the mystery? Was it you that alone followed Him to the foot of the Cross? And while He was charging you to receive Mary as your Mother, did He teach you this secret, as the token of His peculiar love for yourself? Or did you run to the sepulchre, and reach it sooner even than Peter, and so gain this knowledge there? Or was it amid the throngs of angels, and sealed books whose clasps none can open, and manifold influences of the signs of heaven, and unknown songs of the eternal choirs, that the Lamb, your Guide, revealed to you this godly doctrine, that the Father is no Father, the Son no Son, nor nature, nor truth?
For you transform all these into lies.The Apostle, by that most excellent knowledge that was granted him, speaks of the Son of God as true. You assert His creation, proclaim His adoption, deny His birth. While the true Son of God is eternal life and resurrection to us, for him, in whose eyes He is not true, there is neither eternal life nor resurrection. And this is the lesson taught by John, the disciple beloved of the Lord.
44. And the persecutor, who was converted to be an Apostle and a chosen vessel, delivers the very same message. What discourse is there of his which does not presuppose the confession of the Son? What Epistle of his that does not begin with a confession of that mysterious truth? When he says, "We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" [Romans 5:10], and, "God sent His Son to be the likeness of the flesh of sin" [Romans 8:3], and again, "God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son" [1 Corinthians 1:9], is any loophole left for heretical misrepresentation? His Son, Son of God; so we read, but nothing is said of His adoption, or of God's creature.
The name expresses the nature; He is God's Son, and therefore the Sonship is true. The Apostle's confession asserts the genuineness of the relation. I see not how the Divine nature of the Son could have been more completely stated. That Chosen Vessel has proclaimed in no weak or wavering voice that Christ is the Son of Him Who, as we believe, is the Father. The Teacher of the Gentiles, the Apostle of Christ, has left us no uncertainty, no opening for error in his presentation of the doctrine. He is quite clear upon the Subject of children by adoption; of those who by faith attain so to be and so to be named. in his own words, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." [Romans 8:15].
This is the name granted to us, who believe, through the sacrament of regeneration; our confession of the faith wins us this adoption. For our work done in obedience to the Spirit of God gives us the title of sons of God. Abba, Father, is the cry which we raise, not the expression of our essential nature. For that essential nature of ours is untouched by that tribute of the voice. It is one thing for God to be addressed as Father; another thing for Him to be the Father of His Son.
45. But now let us learn what is this faith concerning the Son of God, which the Apostle holds. For though there is no single discourse, among the many which he delivered concerning the Church's doctrine, in which he mentions the Father without also making confession of the Son, yet, in order to display the truth of the relation which that name conveys with the utmost definiteness of which human language is capable, he speaks thus:-- "What then? If God be for us, who can be against us? Who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us." [Romans 8:31-32]. Can Son, by any remaining possibility, be a title received through adoption, when He is expressly called God's own Son?
For the Apostle, wishing to make manifest the love of God towards us, uses a kind of comparison, to enable us to estimate how great that love is, when He says that it was His own Son Whom God did not spare. He suggests the thought that this was no sacrifice of an adopted Son, on behalf of those whom He purposed to adopt, of a creature for creatures, but of His Son for strangers, His own Son for those to whom He had willed to give a share in the name of sons. Seek out the full import of the term, that you may understand the extent of the love. Consider the meaning of own; mark the genuineness of the Sonship which it implies. For the Apostle now describes Him as God's own Son; previously he had often spoken of Him as God's Son, or Son of God.
And though many manuscripts, through a want of apprehension on the part of the translators, read in this passage His Son, instead of His own Son, yet the original Greek, the tongue in which the Apostle wrote, is more exactly rendered by His own than by His. And though the casual reader may discern no great difference between His own and His, yet the Apostle, who in all his other statements had spoken of His Son, which is, in the Greek, ton eauton huion, in this passage uses the words hos ge tou idiou huiou ouk epheisato, that is, Who spared not His own Son, expressly and emphatically indicating His true Divine nature. Previously he had declared that through the Spirit of adoption there are many sons; now his object is to point to God's own Son, God the Only-begotten.
46. This is no universal and inevitable error; they who deny the Son cannot lay the fault upon their ignorance, for ignorance of the truth which they deny is impossible. They describe the Son of God as a creature who came into being out of nothing. If the Father has never asserted this, nor the Son confirmed it, nor the Apostles proclaimed it, then the daring which prompts their allegation is bred not of ignorance, but of hatred for Christ. When the Father says of His Son, This is, and the Son of Himself, "It is He that talketh with Thee" [John 9:37], and when Peter confesses Thou art, and John assures us, "This is the true God" [1 John 5:20], and Paul is never weary of proclaiming Him as God's own Son, I can conceive of no other motive for this denial than hatred. The plea of want of familiarity with the subject cannot be urged in extenuation of their guilt. It is the suggestion of that Evil One, uttered now through these prophets and forerunners of his coming; he will utter it himself hereafter when he comes as Antichrist.
He is using this novel engine of assault to shake us in our saving confession of the faith. His first object is to pluck from our hearts the confident assurance of the Divine nature of the Son; next, he would fill our minds with the notion of Christ's adoption, and leave no room for the memory of His other claims. For they who hold that Christ is but a creature, must regard Christ as Antichrist, since a creature cannot be God's own Son, and therefore He must lie in calling Himself the Son of God. Hence also they who deny that Christ is the Son of God must have Antichrist for their Christ.
47. What is the hope of which this futile passion of yours is in pursuit? What is the assurance of your salvation which emboldens you with blasphemous licence of tongue to maintain that Christ is a creature, and not a Son? It was your duty to know this mystery, from the Gospels, and to hold the knowledge fast. For though the Lord can do all things, yet He resolved that every one who prays for His effectual help must earn it by a true confession of Himself. Not, indeed, that the suppliant's confession could augment the power of Him, Who is the Power of God; but the earning was to be the reward of faith.
So, when He asked Martha, who was entreating Him for Lazarus, whether she believed that they who had believed in Him should not die eternally, her answer expressed the trust of her soul;-- "Yea, Lord, I believe that Than art the Christ, the Son of God, Who art come into this world" [John 11:27]. This confession is eternal life; this faith has immortality. Martha, praying for her brother's life, was asked whether she believed this. She did so believe. What life does the denier expect, from whom does he hope to receive it, when this belief, and this only, is eternal life? For great is the mystery of this faith, and perfect the blessedness which is the fruit of this confession.
48. The Lord had given sight to a man blind from his birth; the, Lord of nature had removed a defect of nature. Because this blind man had been born for the glory of God, that God's work might be made manifest in the work of Christ, the Lord did not delay till the man had given evidence of his faith by a confession of it. But though he knew not at the time Who it was that had bestowed the great gift of eyesight, yet afterwards he earned a knowledge of the faith.
For it was not the dispelling of his blindness that won him eternal life. And so, when the man was already healed and had suffered ejection from the synagogue, the Lord put to him the question, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" [John 9:35]. This was to save him from the thought of loss, in exclusion from the synagogue, by the certainty that confession of the true faith had restored him to immortality. When the man, his soul still unenlightened, made answer, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe on Him?" [John 9:36], the Lord's reply was, "Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee." [John 9:37]. For He was minded to remove the ignorance of the man whose sight he had restored, and whom He was now enriching with the knowledge of so glorious a faith.
Does the Lord demand from this man, as from others, who prayed Him to heal them, a confession of faith as the price of their recovery? Emphatically not. For the blind man could already see when he was thus addressed. The Lord asked the question in order to receive the answer, "Lord, I believe." [John 9:38]. The faith which spoke in that answer was to receive not sight, but life.
And now let us examine carefully the force of the words. The Lord asks of the man, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? Surely, if a simple confession of Christ, leaving His nature in obscurity, were a complete expression of the faith, the terms of the question would have been, 'Dost thou believe in Christ?' But in days to come almost every heretic was to make a parade of that name, confessing Christ and yet denying that He is the Son; and therefore He demands, as the condition of faith, that we should believe in what is peculiar to Himself, that is, in His Divine Sonship. What is the profit of faith in the Son of God, if it be faith in a creature, when He requires of us faith in Christ, not the creature, but the Son, of God.
49. Did devils fail to understand the full meaning of this name of Son? For we are valuing the heretics at their true worth if we refute them no longer by the teaching of Apostles, but out of the mouth of devils. They cry, and cry often, "What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God most High?" [Luke 8:28]. Truth wrung this confession from them against their will; their reluctant obedience is a witness to the force of the Divine nature within Him. When they fly from the bodies they have long possessed, it is His might that conquers them; their confession of His nature is an act of reverence. These transactions display Christ as the Son of God both in power and in name. Can you hear, amid all these cries of devils confessing Him, Christ once styled a creature, or God's condescension in adopting Him once named?
50. If you will not learn Who Christ is from those that know Him, learn it at least from those that know Him not. So shall the confession, which their ignorance is forced to make, rebuke your blasphemy. The Jews did not recognize Christ, come in the body, though they knew that the true Christ must be the Son of God. And so, when they were employing false witnesses, without one word of truth in their testimony, against Him, their priest asked Him, "Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" [Mark 14:61]. They knew not that in Him the mystery was fulfilled; they knew that the Divine nature was the condition of its fulfillment. They did not ask whether Christ be the Son of God; they asked whether He were Christ, the Son of God. They were wrong as to the Person, not as to the Sonship, of Christ. They did not doubt that Christ is the Son of God; and thus, while they asked whether He were the Christ, they asked without denying that the Christ is the Son of God.
What, then, of your faith, which leads you to deny what even they, in their blindness, confessed? The perfect knowledge is this, to be assured that Christ, the Son of God, Who existed before the worlds, was also born of the Virgin. Even they, who know nothing of His birth from Mary, know that He is the Son of God. Mark the fellowship with Jewish wickedness in which your denial of the Divine Sonship has involved you! For they have put on record the reason of their condemnation:-- "And by our Law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God" [John 19:7]. Is not this the same charge which you are blasphemously bringing against Him, that, while you pronounce Him a creature, He calls Himself the Son? He confesses Himself the Son, and they declare Him guilty of death: you too deny that He is the Son of God.
What sentence do you pass upon Him? You have the same repugnance to His claim as had the Jews. You agree with their verdict; I want to know whether you will quarrel about the sentence. Your offense, in denying that He is the Son of God, is exactly the same as theirs, though their guilt is less, for they sinned in ignorance. They knew not that Christ was born of Mary, yet they never doubted that Christ must be the Son of God. You are perfectly aware of the fact that Christ was born of Mary, yet you refuse Him the name of Son of God. If they come to the faith, there awaits them an un-imperilled salvation, because of their past ignorance. Every gate of safety is shut to you, because you persist in denying a truth which is obvious to you. For you are not ignorant that He is the Son of God; you know it so well that you allow Him the name as a title of adoption, and feign that He is a creature adopted, like others, with the right to call Himself a Son. You rob Him, as far as you can, of the Divine nature; if you could, you would rob Him of the Divine name as well. But, because you cannot, you divorce the name from the nature; He is called a Son, but He shall not be the true Son of God.
51. The confession of the Apostles, for whom by a word of command the raging wind and troubled sea were restored to calm, was an opportunity for you. You might have confessed, as they did, that He is God's true Son; you might have borrowed their very words, "Of a truth, this is the Son of God." [Matthew 14:33]. But an evil spirit of madness is driving you on to shipwreck of your life; your reason is distracted and overwhelmed, like the ocean tormented by the fury of the storm.
52. If this witness of the voyagers seem inconclusive to you because they were Apostles,-- though to me it comes with the greater weight for the same reason, though it surprises me the less, -- accept at any rate a corroboration given by the Gentiles. Hear how the soldier of the Roman cohort, one of the stern guard around the Cross, was humbled to the faith. The centurion sees the mighty workings of Christ's power; and this is the witness borne by him:-- "Truly this was the Son of God." [Matthew 27:54]. The truth was forced upon him, after Christ had given up the ghost, by the torn veil of the Temple, and the earth that shook, and the rocks that were rent, and the sepulchres that were opened, and the dead that rose. And it was the confession of an unbeliever. The deeds that were done convinced him that Christ's nature was omnipotent; he names Him the Son of God, being assured of His true Divinity. So cogent was the proof, so strong the man's conviction, that the force of truth conquered his will, and even he who had nailed Christ to the Cross was driven to confess that He is the Lord of eternal glory, truly the Son of God.