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In the Retractations (ii. 15) Augustine speaks of this work in the following terms:—
I spent some years in writing fifteen books concerning the Trinity, which is God. When, however, I had not yet finished the thirteenth Book, and some who were exceedingly anxious to have the work were kept waiting longer than they could bear, it was stolen from me in a less correct state than it either could or would have been had it appeared when I intended. And as soon as I discovered this, having other copies of it, I had determined at first not to publish it myself, but to mention what had happened in the matter in some other work; but at the urgent request of brethren, whom I could not refuse, I corrected it as much as I thought fit, and finished and published it, with the addition, at the beginning, of a letter that I had written to the venerable Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, in which I set forth, in the way of prologue, what had happened, what I had intended to do of myself, and what love of my brethren had forced me to do.
The letter to which he here alludes is the following:—
I began as a very young man, and have published in my old age, some books concerning the Trinity, who is the supreme and true God. I had in truth laid the work aside, upon discovering that it had been prematurely, or rather surreptitiously, stolen from me before I had completed it, and before I had revised and put the finishing touches to it, as had been my intention. For I had not designed to publish the Books one by one, but all together, inasmuch as the progress of the inquiry led me to add the later ones to those which precede them. When, therefore, these people had hindered the fulfillment of my purpose (in that some of them had obtained access to the work before I intended), I had given over dictating it, with the idea of making my complaint public in some other work that I might write, in order that whoever could might know that the Books had not been published by myself, but had been taken away from my possession before they were in my own judgment fit for publication. Compelled, however, by the eager demands of many of my brethren, and above all by your command, I have taken the pains, by God's help, to complete the work, laborious as it is; and as now corrected (not as I wished, but as I could, lest the Books should differ very widely from those which had surreptitiously got into people's hands), I have sent them to your Reverence by my very dear son and fellow deacon, and have allowed them to be heard, copied, and read by every one that pleases. Doubtless, if I could have fulfilled my original intention, although they would have contained the same sentiments, they would have been worked out much more thoroughly and clearly, so far as the difficulty of unfolding so profound a subject, and so far, too, as my own powers, might have allowed. There are some persons, however, who have the first four, or rather five, Books without the prefaces, and the twelfth with no small part of its later chapters omitted. But these, if they please and can, will amend the whole, if they become acquainted with the present edition. At any rate, I have to request that you will order this letter to be prefixed separately, but at the beginning of the Books. Farewell. Pray for me.
1. The following dissertation concerning the Trinity, as the reader ought to be informed, has been written in order to guard against the sophistries of those who disdain to begin with faith, and are deceived by a crude and perverse love of reason. Now one class of such men endeavor to transfer to things incorporeal and spiritual the ideas they have formed, whether through experience of the bodily senses, or by natural human wit and diligent quickness, or by the aid of art, from things corporeal; so as to seek to measure and conceive of the former by the latter. Others, again, frame whatever sentiments they may have concerning God according to the nature or affections of the human mind; and through this error they govern their discourse, in disputing concerning God, by distorted and fallacious rules. While yet a third class strive indeed to transcend the whole creation, which doubtless is changeable, in order to raise their thought to the unchangeable substance, which is God; but being weighed down by the burden of mortality, while they both would seem to know what they do not, and cannot know what they would, preclude themselves from entering the very path of understanding, by an over-bold affirmation of their own presumptuous judgments; choosing rather not to correct their own opinion when it is perverse, than to change that which they have once defended. And, indeed, this is the common disease of all the three classes which I have mentioned — viz., both of those who frame their thoughts of God according to things corporeal, and of those who do so according to the spiritual creature, such as is the soul; and of those who neither regard the body nor the spiritual creature, and yet think falsely about God; and are indeed so much the further from the truth, that nothing can be found answering to their conceptions, either in the body, or in the made or created spirit, or in the Creator Himself. For he who thinks, for instance, that God is white or red, is in error; and yet these things are found in the body. Again, he who thinks of God as now forgetting and now remembering, or anything of the same kind, is none the less in error; and yet these things are found in the mind. But he who thinks that God is of such power as to have generated Himself, is so much the more in error, because not only does God not so exist, but neither does the spiritual nor the bodily creature; for there is nothing whatever that generates its own existence.
2. In order, therefore, that the human mind might be purged from falsities of this kind, Holy Scripture, which suits itself to babes has not avoided words drawn from any class of things really existing, through which, as by nourishment, our understanding might rise gradually to things divine and transcendent. For, in speaking of God, it has both used words taken from things corporeal, as when it says,
Hide me under the shadow of Your wings; and it has borrowed many things from the spiritual creature, whereby to signify that which indeed is not so, but must needs so be said: as, for instance,
I the Lord your God am a jealous God; and,
It repents me that I have made man. But it has drawn no words whatever, whereby to frame either figures of speech or enigmatic sayings, from things which do not exist at all. And hence it is that they who are shut out from the truth by that third kind of error are more mischievously and emptily vain than their fellows; in that they surmise respecting God, what can neither be found in Himself nor in any creature. For divine Scripture is wont to frame, as it were, allurements for children from the things which are found in the creature; whereby, according to their measure, and as it were by steps, the affections of the weak may be moved to seek those things that are above, and to leave those things that are below. But the same Scripture rarely employs those things which are spoken properly of God, and are not found in any creature; as, for instance, that which was said to Moses,
I am that I am; and,
I Am has sent me to you. For since both body and soul also are said in some sense to be, Holy Scripture certainly would not so express itself unless it meant to be understood in some special sense of the term. So, too, that which the Apostle says,
Who only has immortality. Since the soul also both is said to be, and is, in a certain manner immortal, Scripture would not say
only has, unless because true immortality is unchangeableness; which no creature can possess, since it belongs to the creator alone. So also James says,
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. So also David,
You shall change them, and they shall be changed; but You are the same.
3. Further, it is difficult to contemplate and fully know the substance of God; who fashions things changeable, yet without any change in Himself, and creates things temporal, yet without any temporal movement in Himself. And it is necessary, therefore, to purge our minds, in order to be able to see ineffably that which is ineffable; whereto not having yet attained, we are to be nourished by faith, and led by such ways as are more suited to our capacity, that we may be rendered apt and able to comprehend it. And hence the Apostle says, that
in Christ indeed are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and yet has commended Him to us, as to babes in Christ, who, although already born again by His grace, yet are still carnal and psychical, not by that divine virtue wherein He is equal to the Father, but by that human infirmity whereby He was crucified. For he says,
I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified; and then he continues,
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And a little after he says to them,
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able. There are some who are angry at language of this kind, and think it is used in slight to themselves, and for the most part prefer rather to believe that they who so speak to them have nothing to say, than that they themselves cannot understand what they have said. And sometimes, indeed, we do allege to them, not certainly that account of the case which they seek in their inquiries about God — because neither can they themselves receive it, nor can we perhaps either apprehend or express it — but such an account of it as to demonstrate to them how incapable and utterly unfit they are to understand that which they require of us. But they, on their parts, because they do not hear what they desire, think that we are either playing them false in order to conceal our own ignorance, or speaking in malice because we grudge them knowledge; and so go away indignant and perturbed.
4. Wherefore, our Lord God helping, we will undertake to render, as far as we are able, that very account which they so importunately demand: viz., that the Trinity is the one and only and true God, and also how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are rightly said, believed, understood, to be of one and the same substance or essence; in such wise that they may not fancy themselves mocked by excuses on our part, but may find by actual trial, both that the highest good is that which is discerned by the most purified minds, and that for this reason it cannot be discerned or understood by themselves, because the eye of the human mind, being weak, is dazzled in that so transcendent light, unless it be invigorated by the nourishment of the righteousness of faith. First, however, we must demonstrate, according to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, whether the faith be so. Then, if God be willing and aid us, we may perhaps at least so far serve these talkative arguers — more puffed up than capable, and therefore laboring under the more dangerous disease — as to enable them to find something which they are not able to doubt, that so, in that case where they cannot find the like, they may be led to lay the fault to their own minds, rather than to the truth itself or to our reasonings; and thus, if there be anything in them of either love or fear towards God, they may return and begin from faith in due order: perceiving at length how healthful a medicine has been provided for the faithful in the holy Church, whereby a heedful piety, healing the feebleness of the mind, may render it able to perceive the unchangeable truth, and hinder it from falling headlong, through disorderly rashness, into pestilent and false opinion. Neither will I myself shrink from inquiry, if I am anywhere in doubt; nor be ashamed to learn, if I am anywhere in error.
5. Further let me ask of my reader, wherever, alike with myself, he is certain, there to go on with me; wherever, alike with myself, he hesitates, there to join with me in inquiring; wherever he recognizes himself to be in error, there to return to me; wherever he recognizes me to be so, there to call me back: so that we may enter together upon the path of charity, and advance towards Him of whom it is said,
Seek His face evermore. And I would make this pious and safe agreement, in the presence of our Lord God, with all who read my writings, as well in all other cases as, above all, in the case of those which inquire into the unity of the Trinity, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; because in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable. If, then, any reader shall say, This is not well said, because I do not understand it; such an one finds fault with my language, not with my faith: and it might perhaps in very truth have been put more clearly; yet no man ever so spoke as to be understood in all things by all men. Let him, therefore, who finds this fault with my discourse, see whether he can understand other men who have handled similar subjects and questions, when he does not understand me: and if he can, let him put down my book, or even, if he pleases, throw it away; and let him spend labor and time rather on those whom he understands. Yet let him not think on that account that I ought to have been silent, because I have not been able to express myself so smoothly and clearly to him as those do whom he understands. For neither do all things, which all men have written, come into the hands of all. And possibly some, who are capable of understanding even these our writings, may not find those more lucid works, and may meet with ours only. And therefore it is useful that many persons should write many books, differing in style but not in faith, concerning even the same questions, that the matter itself may reach the greatest number — some in one way, some in another. But if he who complains that he has not understood these things has never been able to comprehend any careful and exact reasonings at all upon such subjects, let him in that case deal with himself by resolution and study, that he may know better; not with me by quarrellings and wranglings, that I may hold my peace. Let him, again, who says, when he reads my book, Certainly I understand what is said, but it is not true, assert, if he pleases, his own opinion, and refute mine if he is able. And if he do this with charity and truth, and take the pains to make it known to me (if I am still alive), I shall then receive the most abundant fruit of this my labor. And if he cannot inform myself, most willing and glad should I be that he should inform those whom he can. Yet, for my part,
I meditate in the law of the Lord, if not
day and night, at least such short times as I can; and I commit my meditations to writing, lest they should escape me through forgetfulness; hoping by the mercy of God that He will make me hold steadfastly all truths of which I feel certain;
but if in anything I be otherwise minded, that He will himself reveal even this to me, whether through secret inspiration and admonition, or through His own plain utterances, or through the reasonings of my brethren. This I pray for, and this my trust and desire I commit to Him, who is sufficiently able to keep those things which He has given me, and to render those which He has promised.
6. I expect, indeed, that some, who are more dull of understanding, will imagine that in some parts of my books I have held sentiments which I have not held, or have not held those which I have. But their error, as none can be ignorant, ought not to be attributed to me, if they have deviated into false doctrine through following my steps without apprehending me, while I am compelled to pick my way through a hard and obscure subject: seeing that neither can any one, in any way, rightly ascribe the numerous and various errors of heretics to the holy testimonies themselves of the divine books; although all of them endeavor to defend out of those same Scriptures their own false and erroneous opinions. The law of Christ, that is, charity, admonishes me clearly, and commands me with a sweet constraint, that when men think that I have held in my books something false which I have not held, and that same falsehood displeases one and pleases another, I should prefer to be blamed by him who reprehends the falsehood, rather than praised by him who praises it. For although I, who never held the error, am not rightly blamed by the former, yet the error itself is rightly censured; while by the latter neither am I rightly praised, who am thought to have held that which the truth censures, nor the sentiment itself, which the truth also censures. Let us therefore essay the work which we have undertaken in the name of the Lord.
7. All those Catholic expounders of the divine Scriptures, both Old and New, whom I have been able to read, who have written before me concerning the Trinity, Who is God, have purposed to teach, according to the Scriptures, this doctrine, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit intimate a divine unity of one and the same substance in an indivisible equality; and therefore that they are not three Gods, but one God: although the Father has begotten the Son, and so He who is the Father is not the Son; and the Son is begotten by the Father, and so He who is the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but only the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, Himself also co-equal with the Father and the Son, and pertaining to the unity of the Trinity. Yet not that this Trinity was born of the Virgin Mary, and crucified under Pontius Pilate, and buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven, but only the Son. Nor, again, that this Trinity descended in the form of a dove upon Jesus when He was baptized; nor that, on the day of Pentecost, after the ascension of the Lord, when
there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, the same Trinity
sat upon each of them with cloven tongues like as of fire, but only the Holy Spirit. Nor yet that this Trinity said from heaven,
You are my Son, whether when He was baptized by John, or when the three disciples were with Him in the mount, or when the voice sounded, saying,
I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again; but that it was a word of the Father only, spoken to the Son; although the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as they are indivisible, so work indivisibly. This is also my faith, since it is the Catholic faith.
8. Some persons, however, find a difficulty in this faith; when they hear that the Father is God, and the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God, and yet that this Trinity is not three Gods, but one God; and they ask how they are to understand this: especially when it is said that the Trinity works indivisibly in everything that God works, and yet that a certain voice of the Father spoke, which is not the voice of the Son; and that none except the Son was born in the flesh, and suffered, and rose again, and ascended into heaven; and that none except the Holy Spirit came in the form of a dove. They wish to understand how the Trinity uttered that voice which was only of the Father; and how the same Trinity created that flesh in which the Son only was born of the Virgin; and how the very same Trinity itself wrought that form of a dove, in which the Holy Spirit only appeared. Yet, otherwise, the Trinity does not work indivisibly, but the Father does some things, the Son other things, and the Holy Spirit yet others: or else, if they do some things together, some severally, then the Trinity is not indivisible. It is a difficulty, too, to them, in what manner the Holy Spirit is in the Trinity, whom neither the Father nor the Son, nor both, have begotten, although He is the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son. Since, then, men weary us with asking such questions, let us unfold to them, as we are able, whatever wisdom God's gift has bestowed upon our weakness on this subject; neither
let us go on our way with consuming envy. Should we say that we are not accustomed to think about such things, it would not be true; yet if we acknowledge that such subjects commonly dwell in our thoughts, carried away as we are by the love of investigating the truth, then they require of us, by the law of charity, to make known to them what we have herein been able to find out.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect (for, if the Apostle Paul, how much more must I, who lie far beneath his feet, count myself not to have apprehended!); but, according to my measure,
if I forget those things that are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before, and press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling, I am requested to disclose so much of the road as I have already passed, and the point to which I have reached, whence the course yet remains to bring me to the end. And those make the request, whom a generous charity compels me to serve. Needs must too, and God will grant that, in supplying them with matter to read, I shall profit myself also; and that, in seeking to reply to their inquiries, I shall myself likewise find that for which I was inquiring. Accordingly I have undertaken the task, by the bidding and help of the Lord my God, not so much of discoursing with authority respecting things I know already, as of learning those things by piously discoursing of them.
9. They who have said that our Lord Jesus Christ is not God, or not very God, or not with the Father the One and only God, or not truly immortal because changeable, are proved wrong by the most plain and unanimous voice of divine testimonies; as, for instance,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. For it is plain that we are to take the Word of God to be the only Son of God, of whom it is afterwards said,
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, on account of that birth of His incarnation, which was wrought in time of the Virgin. But herein is declared, not only that He is God, but also that He is of the same substance with the Father; because, after saying,
And the Word was God, it is said also,
The same was in the beginning with God: all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made. Not simply
all things; but only all things that were made, that is; the whole creature. From which it appears clearly, that He Himself was not made, by whom all things were made. And if He was not made, then He is not a creature; but if He is not a creature, then He is of the same substance with the Father. For all substance that is not God is creature; and all that is not creature is God. And if the Son is not of the same substance with the Father, then He is a substance that was made: and if He is a substance that was made, then all things were not made by Him; but
all things were made by Him, therefore He is of one and the same substance with the Father. And so He is not only God, but also very God. And the same John most expressly affirms this in his epistle:
For we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know the true God, and that we may be in His true Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
10. Hence also it follows by consequence, that the Apostle Paul did not say,
Who alone has immortality, of the Father merely; but of the One and only God, which is the Trinity itself. For that which is itself eternal life is not mortal according to any changeableness; and hence the Son of God, because
He is Eternal Life, is also Himself understood with the Father, where it is said,
Who only has immortality. For we, too, are made partakers of this eternal life, and become, in our own measure, immortal. But the eternal life itself, of which we are made partakers, is one thing; we ourselves, who, by partaking of it, shall live eternally, are another. For if He had said,
Whom in His own time the Father will show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only has immortality; not even so would it be necessarily understood that the Son is excluded. For neither has the Son separated the Father from Himself, because He Himself, speaking elsewhere with the voice of wisdom (for He Himself is the Wisdom of God), says,
I alone compassed the circuit of heaven. And therefore so much the more is it not necessary that the words,
Who has immortality, should be understood of the Father alone, omitting the Son; when they are said thus:
That you keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: whom in His own time He will show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen. In which words neither is the Father specially named, nor the Son, nor the Holy Spirit; but the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; that is, the One and only and true God, the Trinity itself.
11. But perhaps what follows may interfere with this meaning; because it is said,
Whom no man has seen, nor can see: although this may also be taken as belonging to Christ according to His divinity, which the Jews did not see, who yet saw and crucified Him in the flesh; whereas His divinity can in no way be seen by human sight, but is seen with that sight with which they who see are no longer men, but beyond men. Rightly, therefore, is God Himself, the Trinity, understood to be the
blessed and only Potentate, who
shows the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in His own time. For the words,
Who only has immortality, are said in the same way as it is said,
Who only does wondrous things. And I should be glad to know of whom they take these words to be said. If only of the Father, how then is that true which the Son Himself says,
For whatever things the Father does, these also does the Son likewise? Is there any, among wonderful works, more wonderful than to raise up and quicken the dead? Yet the same Son says,
As the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will. How, then, does the Father alone
do wondrous things, when these words allow us to understand neither the Father only, nor the Son only, but assuredly the one only true God, that is, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit?
12. Also, when the same apostle says,
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him, who can doubt that he speaks of all things which are created; as does John, when he says,
All things were made by Him? I ask, therefore, of whom he speaks in another place: Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so as to assign each clause severally to each person: of Him, that is to say, of the Father; through Him, that is to say, through the Son; in Him, that is to say, in the Holy Spirit — it is manifest that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one God, inasmuch as the words continue in the singular number,
To whom be glory forever. For at the beginning of the passage he does not say,
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of the Father, or of the Son, or of the Holy Spirit, but
of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counsellor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. But if they will have this to be understood only of the Father, then in what way are all things by the Father, as is said here; and all things by the Son, as where it is said to the Corinthians,
And one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and as in the Gospel of John,
All things were made by Him? For if some things were made by the Father, and some by the Son, then all things were not made by the Father, nor all things by the Son; but if all things were made by the Father, and all things by the Son, then the same things were made by the Father and by the Son. The Son, therefore, is equal with the Father, and the working of the Father and the Son is indivisible. Because if the Father made even the Son, whom certainly the Son Himself did not make, then all things were not made by the Son; but all things were made by the Son: therefore He Himself was not made, that with the Father He might make all things that were made. And the apostle has not refrained from using the very word itself, but has said most expressly,
But the head of Christ is God.
13. Similar evidence has been collected also concerning the Holy Spirit, of which those who have discussed the subject before ourselves have most fully availed themselves, that He too is God, and not a creature. But if not a creature, then not only God (for men likewise are called gods ), but also very God; and therefore absolutely equal with the Father and the Son, and in the unity of the Trinity consubstantial and co-eternal. But that the Holy Spirit is not a creature is made quite plain by that passage above all others, where we are commanded not to serve the creature, but the Creator; not in the sense in which we are commanded to
serve one another by love, which is in Greek δουλεύειν, but in that in which God alone is served, which is in Greek λατρεύειν . From whence they are called idolaters who tender that service to images which is due to God. For it is this service concerning which it is said,
You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve. For this is found also more distinctly in the Greek Scriptures, which have λατρεύσεις . Now if we are forbidden to serve the creature with such a service, seeing that it is written,
You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve (and hence, too, the apostle repudiates those who worship and serve the creature more than the Creator), then assuredly the Holy Spirit is not a creature, to whom such a service is paid by all the saints; as says the apostle,
For we are the circumcision, which serve the Spirit of God, which is in the Greek λατρεύοντες . For even most Latin copies also have it thus,
We who serve the Spirit of God; but all Greek ones, or almost all, have it so. Although in some Latin copies we find, not
We worship the Spirit of God, but,
We worship God in the Spirit. But let those who err in this case, and refuse to give up to the more weighty authority, tell us whether they find this text also varied in the mss.:
Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which you have of God? Yet what can be more senseless or more profane, than that any one should dare to say that the members of Christ are the temple of one who, in their opinion, is a creature inferior to Christ? For the apostle says in another place,
Your bodies are members of Christ. But if the members of Christ are also the temple of the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit is not a creature; because we must needs owe to Him, of whom our body is the temple, that service wherewith God only is to be served, which in Greek is called λατρεία . And accordingly the apostle says,
Therefore glorify God in your body.
14. In these and like testimonies of the divine Scriptures, by free use of which, as I have said, our predecessors exploded such sophistries or errors of the heretics, the unity and equality of the Trinity are intimated to our faith. But because, on account of the incarnation of the Word of God for the working out of our salvation, that the man Christ Jesus might be the Mediator between God and men, many things are so said in the sacred books as to signify, or even most expressly declare, the Father to be greater than the Son; men have erred through a want of careful examination or consideration of the whole tenor of the Scriptures, and have endeavored to transfer those things which are said of Jesus Christ according to the flesh, to that substance of His which was eternal before the incarnation, and is eternal. They say, for instance, that the Son is less than the Father, because it is written that the Lord Himself said,
My Father is greater than I. But the truth shows that after the same sense the Son is less also than Himself; for how was He not made less also than Himself, who
emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant? For He did not so take the form of a servant as that He should lose the form of God, in which He was equal to the Father. If, then, the form of a servant was so taken that the form of God was not lost, since both in the form of a servant and in the form of God He Himself is the same only-begotten Son of God the Father, in the form of God equal to the Father, in the form of a servant the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; is there any one who cannot perceive that He Himself in the form of God is also greater than Himself, but yet likewise in the form of a servant less than Himself? And not, therefore, without cause the Scripture says both the one and the other, both that the Son is equal to the Father, and that the Father is greater than the Son. For there is no confusion when the former is understood as on account of the form of God, and the latter as on account of the form of a servant. And, in truth, this rule for clearing the question through all the sacred Scriptures is set forth in one chapter of an epistle of the Apostle Paul, where this distinction is commended to us plainly enough. For he says,
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and was found in fashion as a man. The Son of God, then, is equal to God the Father in nature, but less in
fashion. For in the form of a servant which He took He is less than the Father; but in the form of God, in which also He was before He took the form of a servant, He is equal to the Father. In the form of God He is the Word,
by whom all things are made; but in the form of a servant He was
made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. In like manner, in the form of God He made man; in the form of a servant He was made man. For if the Father alone had made man without the Son, it would not have been written, God, on account of God who takes; and both man, on account of man who is taken. For neither by that taking is the one of them turned and changed into the other: the Divinity is not changed into the creature, so as to cease to be Divinity; nor the creature into Divinity, so as to cease to be creature.
15. As for that which the apostle says,
And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him: either the text has been so turned, lest any one should think that the
fashion of Christ, which He took according to the human creature, was to be transformed hereafter into the Divinity, or (to express it more precisely) the Godhead itself, who is not a creature, but is the unity of the Trinity, — a nature incorporeal, and unchangeable, and consubstantial, and co-eternal with itself; or if any one contends, as some have thought, that the text,
Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, is so turned in order that one may believe that very
subjection to be a change and conversion hereafter of the creature into the substance or essence itself of the Creator, that is, that that which had been the substance of a creature shall become the substance of the Creator;— such an one at any rate admits this, of which in truth there is no possible doubt, that this had not yet taken place, when the Lord said,
My Father is greater than I. For He said this not only before He ascended into heaven, but also before He had suffered, and had risen from the dead. But they who think that the human nature in Him is to be changed and converted into the substance of the Godhead, and that it was so said,
Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him,— as if to say, Then also the Son of man Himself, and the human nature taken by the Word of God, shall be changed into the nature of Him who put all things under Him — must also think that this will then take place, when, after the day of judgment,
He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father. And hence even still, according to this opinion, the Father is greater than that form of a servant which was taken of the Virgin. But if some affirm even further, that the man Christ Jesus has already been changed into the substance of God, at least they cannot deny that the human nature still remained, when He said before His passion,
For my Father is greater than I; whence there is no question that it was said in this sense, that the Father is greater than the form of a servant, to whom in the form of God the Son is equal. Nor let any one, hearing what the apostle says,
But when He says all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted which did put all things under Him, think the words, that He has put all things under the Son, to be so understood of the Father, as that He should not think that the Son Himself put all things under Himself. For this the apostle plainly declares, when he says to the Philippians,
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. For the working of the Father and of the Son is indivisible. Otherwise, neither has the Father Himself put all things under Himself, but the Son has put all things under Him, who delivers the kingdom to Him, and puts down all rule and all authority and power. For these words are spoken of the Son:
When He shall have delivered up, says the apostle,
the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and all power. For the same that puts down, also makes subject.
16. Neither may we think that Christ shall so give up the kingdom to God, even the Father, as that He shall take it away from Himself. For some vain talkers have thought even this. For when it is said,
until deceives those who are careless readers of the divine Scriptures, but eager for controversies. For the text continues,
For He must reign, until He has put all enemies under His feet; as though, when He had so put them, He would no more reign. Neither do they perceive that this is said in the same way as that other text,
His heart is established: He shall not be afraid, until He see His desire upon His enemies. For He will not then be afraid when He has seen it. What then means, faith, the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, reigns, to that sight which the same apostle calls
face to face; therefore the words, believers to the contemplation of God, even the Father. For He says,
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. The Father will then be revealed by the Son,
when He shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and all power; that is, in such wise that there shall be no more need of any economy of similitudes, by means of angelic rulers, and authorities, and powers. Of whom that is not unfitly understood, which is said in the Song of Songs to the bride,
We will make you borders of gold, with studs of silver, while the King sits at His table; that is, as long as Christ is in His secret place: since
your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory. Before which time,
we see now through a glass, in an enigma, that is, in similitudes,
but then face to face.
17. For this contemplation is held forth to us as the end of all actions, and the everlasting fullness of joy. For
we are the sons of God; and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. For that which He said to His servant Moses,
I am that I am; thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I Am has sent me to you; this it is which we shall contemplate when we shall live in eternity. For so it is said,
And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. This shall be when the Lord shall have come, and
shall have brought to light the hidden things of darkness; when the darkness of this present mortality and corruption shall have passed away. Then will be our morning, which is spoken of in the Psalm,
In the morning will I direct my prayer unto You, and will contemplate You. Of this contemplation I understand it to be said,
When He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; that is, when He shall have brought the just, over whom now, living by faith, the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, reigns, to the contemplation of God, even the Father. If herein I am foolish, let him who knows better correct me; to me at least the case seems as I have said. For we shall not seek anything else, when we shall have come to the contemplation of Him. But that contemplation is not yet, so long as our joy is in hope. For
hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it, viz.
as long as the King sits at His table. Then will take place that which is written,
In Your presence is fullness of joy. Nothing more than that joy will be required; because there will be nothing more than can be required. For the Father will be manifested to us, and that will suffice for us. And this much Philip had well understood, so that he said to the Lord,
Show us the Father, and it suffices us. But he had not yet understood that he himself was able to say this very same thing in this way also: Lord, show Yourself to us, and it suffices us. For, that he might understand this, the Lord replied to him,
Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip? He that has seen me has seen the Father. But because He intended him, before he could see this, to live by faith, He went on to say,
while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: for we walk by faith, not by sight. For contemplation is the recompense of faith, for which recompense our hearts are purified by faith; as it is written,
Purifying their hearts by faith. And that our hearts are to be purified for this contemplation, is proved above all by this text,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And that this is life eternal, God says in the Psalm,
With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation. Whether, therefore, we hear, Show us the Son; or whether we hear, Show us the Father; it is even all one, since neither can be manifested without the other. For they are one, as He also Himself says,
My Father and I are one. Finally, on account of this very indivisibility, it suffices that sometimes the Father alone, or the Son alone, should be named, as hereafter to fill us with the joy of His countenance.
18. Neither is the Spirit of either thence excluded, that is, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son; which Holy Spirit is specially called
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive. For to have the fruition of God the Trinity, after whose image we are made, is indeed the fullness of our joy, than which there is no greater. On this account the Holy Spirit is sometimes spoken of as if He alone sufficed to our blessedness: and He does alone so suffice, because He cannot be divided from the Father and the Son; as the Father alone is sufficient, because He cannot be divided from the Son and the Holy Spirit; and the Son alone is sufficient because He cannot be divided from the Father and the Holy Spirit. For what does He mean by saying,
If you love me, keep my commandments; and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, that is, the lovers of the world? For
the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God. But it may perhaps seem, further, as if the words, Spirit, as if He alone were altogether sufficient: truth, or as if the Holy Spirit were to fill up that which the Son could not fully teach? Let them say then, if it pleases them, that the Holy Spirit is greater than the Son, whom they are wont to call less. Or is it, forsooth, because it is not said, He alone — or, No one else except Himself — will guide you into all truth, that they allow that the Son also may be believed to teach together with Him? In that case the apostle has excluded the Son from knowing those things which are of God, where he says,
Even so the things of God knows no one, but the Spirit of God: so that these perverse men might, upon this ground, go on to say that none but the Holy Spirit teaches even the Son the things of God, as the greater teaches the less; to whom the Son Himself ascribes so much as to say,
But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.
But this is said, not on account of any inequality of the Word of God and of the Holy Spirit, but as though the presence of the Son of man with them would be a hindrance to the coming of Him, who was not less, because He did not
empty Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant, as the Son did. It was necessary, then, that the form of a servant should be taken away from their eyes, because, through gazing upon it, they thought that alone which they saw to be Christ. Hence also is that which is said,
If you loved me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I go unto the Father; for my Father is greater than I:' that is, on that account it is necessary for me to go to the Father, because, while you see me thus, you hold me to be less than the Father through that which you see; and so, being taken up with the creature and the
fashion which I have taken upon me, you do not perceive the equality which I have with the Father. Hence, too, is this:
Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father. For touch, as it were, puts a limit to their conception, and He therefore would not have the thought of the heart, directed towards Himself, to be so limited as that He should be held to be only that which He seemed to be. But the
ascension to the Father meant, so to appear as He is equal to the Father, that the limit of the sight which suffices us might be attained there. Sometimes also it is said of the Son alone, that He himself suffices, and the whole reward of our love and longing is held forth as in the sight of Him. For so it is said,
He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me; and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Pray, because He has not here said, And I will show the Father also to him, has He therefore excluded the Father? On the contrary, because it is true,
I and my Father are one, when the Father is manifested, the Son also, who is in Him, is manifested; and when the Son is manifested, the Father also, who is in Him, is manifested. As, therefore, when it is said,
And I will manifest myself to him, it is understood that He manifests also the Father; so likewise in that which is said, believers to the contemplation of God, even the Father, doubtless He will bring them to the contemplation of Himself, who has said,
And I will manifest myself to him. And so, consequently, when Judas had said to Him,
Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said to him,
If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. Behold, that He manifests not only Himself to him by whom He is loved, because He comes to him together with the Father, and abides with him.
19. Will it perhaps be thought, that when the Father and the Son make their abode with him who loves them, the Holy Spirit is excluded from that abode? What, then, is that which is said above of the Holy Spirit:
Whom the world cannot receive, because it sees Him not: but you know Him; for He abides with you, and is in you? He, therefore, is not excluded from that abode, of whom it is said,
He abides with you, and is in you; unless, perhaps, any one be so senseless as to think, that when the Father and the Son have come that they may make their abode with him who loves them, the Holy Spirit will depart thence, and (as it were) give place to those who are greater. But the Scripture itself meets this carnal idea; for it says a little above:
I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever. He will not therefore depart when the Father and the Son come, but will be in the same abode with them eternally; because neither will He come without them, nor they without Him. But in order to intimate the Trinity, some things are separately affirmed, the Persons being also each severally named; and yet are not to be understood as though the other Persons were excluded, on account of the unity of the same Trinity and the One substance and Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
20. Our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, will so deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, Himself not being thence excluded, nor the Holy Spirit, when He shall bring believers to the contemplation of God, wherein is the end of all good actions, and everlasting rest, and joy which never will be taken from us. For He signifies this in that which He says: joy; resting as she did from all business, and intent upon the truth, according to that manner of which this life is capable, by which, however, to prefigure that which shall be for eternity. For while Martha, her sister, was cumbered about necessary business, which, although good and useful, yet, when rest shall have succeeded, is to pass away, she herself was resting in the word of the Lord. And so the Lord replied to Martha, when she complained that her sister did not help her:
Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her. He did not say that Martha was acting a bad part; but that
best part that shall not be taken away. For that part which is occupied in the ministering to a need shall be
taken away when the need itself has passed away. Since the reward of a good work that will pass away is rest that will not pass away. In that contemplation, therefore, God will be all in all; because nothing else but Himself will be required, but it will be sufficient to be enlightened by and to enjoy Him alone. And so he in whom
the Spirit makes intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered, says,
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to contemplate the beauty of the Lord. For we shall then contemplate God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, when the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, so as no longer to make intercession for us, as our Mediator and Priest, Son of God and Son of man; but that He Himself too, in so far as He is a Priest that has taken the form of a servant for us, shall be put under Him who has put all things under Him, and under whom He has put all things: so that, in so far as He is God, He with Him will have put us under Himself; in so far as He is a Priest, He with us will be put under Him. And therefore as the [incarnate] Son is both God and man, it is rather to be said that the manhood in the Son is another substance [from the Son], than that the Son in the Father [is another substance from the Father]; just as the carnal nature of my soul is more another substance in relation to my soul itself, although in one and the same man, than the soul of another man is in relation to my soul.
21. When, therefore, He believe and live by faith, for whom now as Mediator He makes intercession, to that contemplation, for the obtaining of which we sigh and groan, and when labor and groaning shall have passed away — then, since the kingdom will have been delivered up to God, even the Father, He will no more make intercession for us. And this He signifies, when He says:
These things have I spoken unto you in similitudes; but the time comes when I shall no more speak unto you in similitudes, but I shall declare to you plainly of the Father: that is, they will not then be
similitudes, when the sight shall be
face to face. For this it is which He says,
But I will declare to you plainly of the Father; as if He said I will plainly show you the Father. For He says, I will
declare to you, because He is His word. For He goes on to say,
At that day you shall ask in my name; and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. What is meant by
I came forth from the Father, unless this, that I have not appeared in that form in which I am equal to the Father, but otherwise, that is, as less than the Father, in the creature which I have taken upon me? And what is meant by
I have come into the world, unless this, that I have manifested to the eyes even of sinners who love this world, the form of a servant which I took, making myself of no reputation? And what is meant by
Again, I leave the world, unless this, that I take away from the sight of the lovers of this world that which they have seen? And what is meant by
I go to the Father, unless this, that I teach those who are my faithful ones to understand me in that being in which I am equal to the Father? Those who believe this will be thought worthy of being brought by faith to sight, that is, to that very sight, in bringing them to which He is said to
deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father. For His faithful ones, whom He has redeemed with His blood, are called His kingdom, for whom He now intercedes; but then, making them to abide in Himself there, where He is equal to the Father, He will no longer pray the Father for them.
For, He says,
the Father Himself loves you. For indeed He Father, He with the Father grants. Wherefore He certainly does not exclude Himself from that which He says,
The Father Himself loves you; but He means it to be understood after that manner which I have above spoken of, and sufficiently intimated — namely, that for the most part each Person of the Trinity is so named, that the other Persons also may be understood. Accordingly,
For the Father Himself loves you, is so said that by consequence both the Son and the Holy Spirit also may be understood: not that He does not now love us, who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all; but God loves us, such as we shall be, not such as we are, for such as they are whom He loves, such are they whom He keeps eternally; which shall then be, when He who now makes intercession for us shall have Father, because the Father Himself loves us. But for what deserving, except of faith, by which we believe before we see that which is promised? For by this faith we shall arrive at sight; so that He may love us, being such, as He loves us in order that we may become; and not such, as He hates us because we are, and exhorts and enables us to wish not to be always.
22. Wherefore, having mastered this rule for interpreting the Scriptures concerning the Son of God, that we are to distinguish in them what relates to the form of God, in which He is equal to the Father, and what to the form of a servant which He took, in which He is less than the Father; we shall not be disquieted by apparently contrary and mutually repugnant sayings of the sacred books. For both the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the form of God, are equal to the Father, because neither of them is a creature, as we have already shown: but according to the form of a servant He is less than the Father, because He Himself has said,
My Father is greater than I; and He is less than Himself, because it is said of Him, He emptied Himself; and He is less than the Holy Spirit, because He Himself says,
Whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaks against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven Him. And in the Spirit too He wrought miracles, saying:
But if I with the Spirit of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God has come upon you. And in Isaiah He says — in the lesson which He Himself read in the synagogue, and showed without a scruple of doubt to be fulfilled concerning Himself —
The Spirit of the Lord God, He says,
is upon me: because He has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, etc.: for the doing of which things He therefore declares Himself to be
sent, because the Spirit of God is upon Him. According to the form of God, all things were made by Him; according to the form of a servant, He was Himself made of a woman, made under the law. According to the form of God, He and the Father are one; according to the form of a servant, He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. According to the form of God,
As the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself; according to the form of a servant, His
soul is sorrowful even unto death; and,
O my Father, He says,
if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. According to the form of God,
He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. — 23. According to the form of God, all things that the Father has are His, and
All mine, He says,
are Yours, and Yours are mine; according to the form of a servant, the doctrine is not His own, but His that sent Him.
Of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven; neither the Son, but the Father. For He is ignorant of this, as making others ignorant; that is, in that He did not so know as at that time to show His disciples: as it was said to Abraham, know it; because he himself, being tried in that temptation, became known to himself. For He was certainly going to tell this same thing to His disciples at the fitting time; speaking of which yet future as if past, He says,
Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends; for the servant knows not what his Lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you; which He had not yet done, but spoke as though He had already done it, because He certainly would do it. For He says to the disciples themselves,
I have yet many things to say unto you; but you cannot bear them now. Among which is to be understood also,
Of the day and hour. For the apostle also says,
I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified; because he was speaking to those who were not able to receive higher things concerning the Godhead of Christ. To whom also a little while after he says,
I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal. He was know from him. And that only he said that he knew, which it was fitting that they should know from him. In short, he knew among the perfect what he knew not among babes; for he there says:
We speak wisdom among them that are perfect. For a man is said not to know what he hides, after that kind of speech, after which a ditch is called blind which is hidden. For the Scriptures do not use any other kind of speech than may be found in use among men, because they speak to men.
24. According to the form of God, it is said
Before all the hills He begot me, that is, before all the loftinesses of things created and,
Before the dawn I begot You, that is, before all times and temporal things: but according to the form of a servant, it is said,
The Lord created me in the beginning of His ways. Because, according to the form of God, He said,
I am the truth; and according to the form of a servant,
I am the way. For, because He Himself, being the first-begotten of the dead, made a passage to the kingdom of God to life eternal for His Church, to which He is so the Head as to make the body also immortal, therefore He was
created in the beginning of the ways of God in His work. For, according to the form of God, He is the beginning, that also speaks unto us, in which
beginning God created the heaven and the earth; but according to the form of a servant,
He is a bridegroom coming out of His chamber. According to the form of God,
He is the first-born of every creature, and He is before all things and by him all things consist; according to the form of a servant,
He is the head of the body, the Church. According to the form of God,
He is the Lord of glory. From which it is evident that He Himself glorifies His saints: for,
Whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. Of Him accordingly it is said, that He justifies the ungodly; of Him it is said, that He is just and a justifier. If, therefore, He has also glorified those whom He has justified, He who justifies, Himself also glorifies; who is, as I have said, the Lord of glory. Yet, according to the form of a servant, He replied to His disciples, when inquiring about their own glorification:
To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared by my Father.
25. But that which is prepared by His Father is prepared also by the Son Himself, because He and the Father are one. For we have already shown, by many modes of speech in the divine Scriptures, that, in this Trinity, what is said of each is also said of all, on account of the indivisible working of the one and same substance. As He also says of the Holy Spirit,
If I depart, I will send Him unto you. He did not say, We will send; but in such way as if the Son only should send Him, and not the Father; while yet He says in another place,
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you; but the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things. Here again it is so said as if the Son also would not send Him, but the Father only. As therefore in these texts, so also where He says,
But for them for whom it is prepared by my Father, He meant it to be understood that He Himself, with the Father, prepares seats of glory for those for whom He will. But some one may say: There, when He spoke of the Holy Spirit, He so says that He Himself will send Him, as not to deny that the Father will send Him; and in the other place, He so says that the Father will send Him, as not to deny that He will do so Himself; but here He expressly says,
It is not mine to give, and so goes on to say that these things are prepared by the Father. But this is the very thing which we have already laid down to be said according to the form of a servant: viz., that we are so to understand
It is not mine to give, as if it were said, This is not in the power of man to give; that so He may be understood to give it through that wherein He is God equal to the Father.
It is not mine, He says,
to give; that is, I do not give these things by human power, but
to those for whom it is prepared by my Father; but then take care you understand also, that if
all things which the Father has are mine, then this certainly is mine also, and I with the Father have prepared these things.
26. For I ask again, in what manner this is said,
If any man hear not my words, I will not judge him? For perhaps He has said here,
I will not judge him, in the same sense as there,
It is not mine to give. But what follows here?
I came not, He says,
to judge the world, but to save the world; and then He adds,
He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him. Now here we should understand the Father, unless He had added,
The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. Well, then, will neither the Son judge, because He says,
I will not judge him, nor the Father, but the word which the Son has spoken? Nay, but hear what yet follows:
For I, He says,
have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak; and I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said to me, so I speak. If therefore the Son judges not, but
the word which the Son has spoken; and the word which the Son has spoken therefore judges, because the Son
has not spoken of Himself, but the Father who sent Him gave Him a commandment what He should say, and what He should speak: then the Father assuredly judges, whose word it is which the Son has spoken; and the same Son Himself is the very Word of the Father. For the commandment of the Father is not one thing, and the word of the Father another; for He has called it both a word and a commandment. Let us see, therefore, whether perchance, when He says,
I have not spoken of myself, He meant to be understood thus — I am not born of myself. For if He speaks the word of the Father, then He speaks Himself, because He is Himself the Word of the Father. For ordinarily He says,
The Father gave to me; by which He means it to be understood that the Father begot Him: not that He gave anything to Him, already existing and not possessing it; but that the very meaning of, To have given that He might have, is, To have begotten that He might be. For it is not, as with the creature so with the Son of God before the incarnation and before He took upon Him our flesh, the Only-begotten by whom all things were made; that He is one thing, and has another: but He is in such way as to be what He has. And this is said more plainly, if any one is fit to receive it, in that place where He says:
For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself. For He did not give to Him, already existing and not having life, that He should have life in Himself; inasmuch as, in that He is, He is life. Therefore
He gave to the Son to have life in Himself means, He begot the Son to be unchangeable life, which is life eternal. Since, therefore, the Word of God is the Son of God, and the Son of God is
The word which I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day, and calls that very word the word of the Father and the commandment of the Father, and that very commandment everlasting life?
And I know, He says,
that His commandment is life everlasting.
27. I ask, therefore, how we are to understand,
I will not judge him; but the Word which I have spoken shall judge him: which appears from what follows to be so said, as if He would say, I will not judge; but the Word of the Father will judge. But the Word of the Father is the Son of God Himself. Is it to be so understood: I will not judge, but I will judge? How can this be true, unless in this way: viz., I will not judge by human power, because I am the Son of man; but I will judge by the power of the Word, because I am the Son of God? Or if it still seems contradictory and inconsistent to say, I will not judge, but I will judge; what shall we say of that place where He says,
My doctrine is not mine? How
not mine? For He did not say, This doctrine is not mine, but
My doctrine is not mine: that which He called His own, the same He called not His own. How can this be true, unless He has called it His own in one relation; not His own, in another? According to the form of God, His own; according to the form of a servant, not His own. For when He says,
It is not mine, but His that sent me, He makes us recur to the Word itself. For the doctrine of the Father is the Word of the Father, which is the Only Son. And what, too, does that mean, believe in Him, yet not believe in Him? How can so opposite and inconsistent a thing be understood —
Whoever believes in me, He says,
believes not on me, but on Him that sent me;— unless you so understand it, Whoever believes in me believes not on that which he sees, lest our hope should be in the creature; but on Him who took the creature, whereby He might appear to human eyes, and so might cleanse our hearts by faith, to contemplate Himself as equal to the Father? So that in turning the attention of believers to the Father, and saying,
Believes not on me, but on Him that sent me, He certainly did not mean Himself to be separated from the Father, that is, from Him that sent Him; but that men might so believe in Himself, as they believe in the Father, to whom He is equal. And this He says in express terms in another place, believe in God, so also believe in me; because I and the Father are One God. As therefore, here, He has as it were withdrawn the faith of men from Himself, and transferred it to the Father, by saying,
Believes not on me, but on Him that sent me, from whom nevertheless He certainly did not separate Himself; so also, when He says,
It is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared by my Father, it is I think plain in what relation both are to be taken. For that other also is of the same kind,
I will not judge; whereas He Himself shall judge the quick and dead. But because He will not do so by human power, therefore, reverting to the Godhead, He raises the hearts of men upwards; which to lift up, He Himself came down.
28. Yet unless the very same were the Son of man on account of the form of a servant which He took, who is the Son of God on account of the form of God in which He is; Paul the apostle would not say of the princes of this world,
the Lord of glory was crucified. For that
taking was such as to make God man, and man God. Yet what is said on account of what, and what according to what, the thoughtful, diligent, and pious reader discerns for himself, the Lord being his helper. For instance, we have said that He glorifies His own, as being God, and certainly then as being the Lord of glory; and yet the Lord of glory was crucified, because even God is rightly said to have been crucified, not after the power of the divinity, but after the weakness of the flesh: just as we say, that He judges as God, that is, by divine power, not by human; and yet the man Himself will judge, just as the Lord of glory was crucified: for so He expressly says,
When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, and before Him shall be gathered all nations; and the rest that is foretold of the future judgment in that place even to the last sentence. And the Jews, inasmuch as they will be punished in that judgment for persisting in their wickedness, as it is elsewhere written,
shall look upon Him whom they have pierced. For whereas both good and bad shall see the Judge of the quick and dead, without doubt the bad will not be able to see Him, except after the form in which He is the Son of man; but yet in the glory wherein He will judge, not in the lowliness wherein He was judged. But the ungodly without doubt will not see that form of God in which He is equal to the Father. For they are not pure in heart; and
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. And that sight is face to face, the very sight that is promised as the highest reward to the just, and which will then take place when He
shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; and in this
kingdom He means the sight of His own form also to be understood, the whole creature being made subject to God, including that wherein the Son of God was made the Son of man. Because, according to this creature,
The Son also Himself shall be subject unto Him, that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. Otherwise if the Son of God, judging in the form in which He is equal to the Father, shall appear when He judges to the ungodly also; what becomes of that which He promises, as some great thing, to him who loves Him, saying,
And I will love him, and will manifest myself to him? Wherefore He will judge as the Son of man, yet not by human power, but by that whereby He is the Son of God; and on the other hand, He will judge as the Son of God, yet not appearing in that [unincarnate] form in which He is God equal to the Father, but in that [incarnate form] in which He is the Son of man.
29. Therefore both ways of speaking may be used; the Son of man will judge, and, the Son of man will not judge: since the Son of man will judge, that the text may be true which says,
When the Son of man shall come, then before Him shall be gathered all nations; and the Son of man will not judge, that the text may be true which says,
I will not judge him; and,
I seek not my own glory: there is One that seeks and judges. For in respect to this, that in the judgment, not the form of God, but the form of the Son of man will appear, the Father Himself will not judge; for according to this it is said,
For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son. Whether this is said after that mode of speech which we have mentioned above, where it is said,
So has He given to the Son to have life in Himself, that it should signify that so He begot the Son; or, whether after that of which the apostle speaks, saying,
Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:— (For this is said of the Son of man, in respect to whom the Son of God was raised from the dead; since He, being in the form of God equal to the Father, wherefrom He
emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, both acts and suffers, and receives, in that same form of a servant, what the apostle goes on to mention:
He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, in the Glory of God the Father: — whether then the words,
He has committed all judgment unto the Son, are said according to this or that mode of speech; it sufficiently appears from this place, that if they were said according to that sense in which it is said,
He has given to the Son to have life in Himself, it certainly would not be said,
The Father judges no man. For in respect to this, that the Father has begotten the Son equal to Himself, He judges with Him. Therefore it is in respect to this that it is said, that in the judgment, not the form of God, but the form of the Son of man will appear. Not that He will not judge, who has committed all judgment unto the Son, since the Son says of Him,
There is One that seeks and judges: but it is so said,
The Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son; as if it were said, No one will see the Father in the judgment of the quick and the dead, but all will see the Son: because He is also the Son of man, so that He can be seen even by the ungodly, since they too shall see Him whom they have pierced.
30. Lest, however, we may seem to conjecture this rather than to prove it clearly, let us produce a certain and plain sentence of the Lord Himself, by which we may show that this was the cause why He said,
The Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son, viz. because He will appear as Judge in the form of the Son of man, which is not the form of the Father, but of the Son; nor yet that form of the Son in which He is equal to the Father, but that in which He is less than the Father; in order that, in the judgment, He may be visible both to the good and to the bad. For a little while after He says,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes in Him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but shall pass from death unto life. Now this life eternal is that sight which does not belong to the bad. Then follows,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. And this is proper to the godly, who so hear of His incarnation, as to believe that He is the Son of God, that is, who so receive Him, as made for their sakes less than the Father, in the form of a servant, that they believe Him equal to the Father, in the form of God. And thereupon He continues, enforcing this very point,
For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself. And then He comes to the sight of His own glory, in which He shall come to judgment; which sight will be common to the ungodly and to the just. For He goes on to say,
And has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. I think nothing can be more clear. For inasmuch as the Son of God is equal to the Father, He does not receive this power of executing judgment, but He has it with the Father in secret; but He receives it, so that the good and the bad may see Him judging, inasmuch as He is the Son of man. Since the sight of the Son of man will be shown to the bad also: for the sight of the form of God will not be shown except to the pure in heart, for they shall see God; that is, to the godly only, to whose love He promises this very thing, that He will show Himself to them. And see, accordingly, what follows:
Marvel not at this, He says. Why does He forbid us to marvel, unless it be that, in truth, every one marvels who does not understand, that therefore He said the Father gave Him power also to execute judgment, because He is the Son of man; whereas, it might rather have been anticipated that He would say, since He is the Son of God? But because the wicked are not able to see the Son of God as He is in the form of God equal to the Father, but yet it is necessary that both the just and the wicked should see the Judge of the quick and dead, when they will be judged in His presence;
Marvel not at this, He says,
for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. For this purpose, then, it was necessary that He should therefore receive that power, because He is the Son of man, in order that all in rising again might see Him in the form in which He can be seen by all, but by some to damnation, by others to life eternal. And what is life eternal, unless that sight which is not granted to the ungodly?
That they might know You, He says,
the One true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. And how are they to know Jesus Christ Himself also, unless as the One true God, who will show Himself to them; not as He will show Himself, in the form of the Son of man, to those also that shall be punished?
31. He is
good, according to that sight, according to which God appears to the pure in heart; for wicked shall see the Judge, He will not seem good to them; because they will not rejoice in their heart to see Him, but all
kindreds of the earth shall then wail because of Him, namely, as being reckoned in the number of all the wicked and unbelievers. On this account also He replied to him, who had called Him Good Master, when seeking advice of Him how he might attain eternal life,
Why do you ask me about good? there is none good but One, that is, God. And yet the Lord Himself, in another place, calls man good:
A good man, He says,
out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good things: and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, brings forth evil things. But because that man was seeking eternal life, and eternal life consists in that contemplation in which God is seen, not for punishment, but for everlasting joy; and because he did not understand with whom he was speaking, and thought Him to be only the Son of man: Why, He says, do you ask me about good? That is, with respect to that form which you see, why do you ask about good, and call me, according to what you see, Good Master? This is the form of the Son of man, the form which has been taken, the form that will appear in judgment, not only to the righteous, but also to the ungodly; and the sight of this form will not be for good to those who are wicked. But there is a sight of that form of mine, in which when I was, I thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but in order to take this form I emptied myself. That one God, therefore, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who will not appear, except for joy which cannot be taken away from the just; for which future joy he sighs, who says,
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord: that one God, therefore, Himself, I say, is alone good, for this reason, that no one sees Him for sorrow and wailing, but only for salvation and true joy. If you understand me after this latter form, then I am good; but if according to that former only, then why do you ask me about good? If you are among those who
shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, that very sight itself will be evil to them, because it will be penal. That after this meaning, then, the Lord said,
Why do you ask me about good? There is none good but One, that is, God, is probable upon those proofs which I have alleged, because that sight of God, whereby we shall contemplate the substance of God unchangeable and invisible to human eyes (which is promised to the saints alone; which the Apostle Paul speaks of, as
face to face; and of which the Apostle John says,
We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is; and of which it is said,
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I may behold the beauty of the Lord, and of which the Lord Himself says,
I will both love him, and will manifest myself to him; and on account of which alone we cleanse our hearts by faith, that we may be those
pure in heart who are blessed for they shall see God: and whatever else is spoken of that sight: which whosoever turns the eye of love to seek it, may find most copiously scattered through all the Scriptures) — that sight alone, I say, is our chief good, for the attaining of which we are directed to do whatever we do aright. But that sight of the Son of man which is foretold, when all nations shall be gathered before Him, and shall say to Him,
Lord, when saw we You an hungered, or thirsty, etc.? will neither be a good to the ungodly, who shall be sent into everlasting fire, nor the chief good to the righteous. For He still goes on to call these to the kingdom which has been prepared for them from the foundation of the world. For, as He will say to those,
Depart into everlasting fire; so to these,
Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. And as those will go into everlasting burning; so the righteous will go into life eternal. But what is life eternal, except
that they may know You, He says,
the One true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent? but know Him now in that glory of which He says to the Father,
Which I had with You before the world was. For then He will deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that the good servant may enter into the joy of his Lord, and that He may hide those whom God keeps in the hiding of His countenance from the confusion of men, namely, of those men who shall then be confounded by hearing this sentence; of which evil hearing
the righteous man shall not be afraid if only he be kept in
the tabernacle, that is, in the true faith of the Catholic Church, from
the strife of tongues, that is, from the sophistries of heretics. But if there is any other explanation of the words of the Lord, where He says,
Why do you ask me about good? There is none good, but One, that is, God; provided only that the substance of the Father be not therefore believed to be of greater goodness than that of the Son, according to which He is the Word by whom all things were made; and if there is nothing in it abhorrent from sound doctrine; let us securely use it, and not one explanation only, but as many as we are able to find. For so much the more powerfully are the heretics proved wrong, the more outlets are open for avoiding their snares. But let us now start afresh, and address ourselves to the consideration of that which still remains.
Source. Translated by Arthur West Haddan. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130101.htm>.
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