Writings of Hilary of Poitiers. On the Trinity or De Trinitate

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Translated by The Rev. E. W. Watson, M.A.
Warden of the Society of St. Andrew, Salisbury,

The Rev. L. Pullan, M.A. Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford,

and Others.

Edited by The Rev. W. Sanday, D.D., LL.D.
Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

On the Trinity or De Trinitate - Book III

1. The words of the Lord, I in the Father, and the Father in Me [635] , confuse many minds, and not unnaturally, for the powers of human reason cannot provide them with any intelligible meaning. It seems impossible that one object should be both within and without another, or that (since it is laid down that the Beings of whom we are treating, though They do not dwell apart, retain their separate existence and condition) these Beings can reciprocally contain One Another, so that One should permanently envelope, and also be permanently enveloped by, the Other, whom yet He envelopes. This is a problem which the wit of man will never solve, nor will human research ever find an analogy for this condition of Divine existence. But what man cannot understand, God can be. I do not mean to say that the fact that this is an assertion made by God renders it at once intelligible to us. We must think for ourselves, and come to know the meaning of the words, I in the Father, and the Father in Me: but this will depend upon our success in grasping the truth that reasoning based upon Divine verities can establish its conclusions, even though they seem to contradict the laws of the universe.

2. In order to solve as easily as possible this most difficult problem, we must first master the knowledge which the Divine Scriptures give of Father and of Son, that so we may speak with more precision, as dealing with familiar and accustomed matters. The eternity of the Father, as we concluded after full discussion in the last Book, transcends space, and time, and appearance, and all the forms of human thought. He is without and within all things, He contains all and can be contained by none, is incapable of change by increase or diminution, invisible, incomprehensible, full, perfect, eternal, not deriving anything that He has from another, but, if ought be derived from Him, still complete and self-sufficing.

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3. He therefore, the Unbegotten, before time was begot a Son from Himself; not from any pre-existent matter, for all things are through the Son; not from nothing, for the Son is from the Father's self; not by way of childbirth, for in God there is neither change nor void; not as a piece of Himself cut or torn off or stretched out, for God is passionless and bodiless, and only a possible and embodied being could so be treated, and, as the Apostle says, in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily [636] . Incomprehensibly, ineffably, before time or worlds, He begat the Only-begotten from His own unbegotten substance, bestowing through love and power His whole Divinity upon that Birth. Thus He is the Only-begotten, perfect, eternal Son of the unbegotten, perfect, eternal Father. But those properties which He has in consequence of the Body which He took, are the fruit of His goodwill toward our salvation. For He, being invisible and bodiless and incomprehensible, as the Son of God, took upon Him such a measure of matter and of lowliness as was needed to bring Him within the range of our understanding, and perception, and contemplation. It was a condescension to our feebleness rather than a surrender of His own proper attributes.

4. He, therefore, being the perfect Father's perfect Son, the Only-begotten Offspring of the unbegotten God, who has received all from Him Who possesses all, being God from God, Spirit from Spirit, Light from Light, says boldly, The Father in Me, and I in the Father [637] . For as the Father is Spirit, so is the Son Spirit; as the Father is God, so is the Son God; as the Father is Light, so is the Son Light. Thus those properties which are in the Father are the source of those wherewith the Son is endowed; that is, He is wholly Son of Him Who is wholly Father; not imported from without, for before the Son nothing was; not made from nothing, for the Son is from God; not a son partially, for the fulness of the Godhead is in the Son; not a Son in some respects, but in all; a Son according to the will of Him who had the power, after a manner which He only knows. What is in the Father is in the Son also; what is in the Unbegotten is in the Only-begotten also. The One is from the Other, and they Two are a Unity; not Two made One, yet One in the Other, for that which is in Both is the same. The Father is in the Son, for the Son is from Him; the Son is in the Father, because the Father is His sole Origin; the Only-begotten is in the Unbegotten, because He is the Only-begotten from the Unbegotten. Thus mutually Each is in the Other, for as all is perfect in the Unbegotten Father, so all is perfect in the Only-begotten Son. This is the Unity which is in Son and Father, this the power, this the love; our hope, and faith, and truth, and way, and life is not to dispute the Father's powers or to depreciate the Son, but to reverence the mystery and majesty of His birth; to set the unbegotten Father above all rivalry, and count the Only-begotten Son as His equal in eternity and might, confessing concerning God the Son that He is from God.

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5. Such powers are there in God; powers which the methods of our reason cannot comprehend, but of which our faith, on the sure evidence of His action, is convinced. We shall find instances of this action in the bodily sphere as well as in the spiritual, its manifestation taking, not the form of an analogy which might illustrate the Birth, but of a deed marvellous yet comprehensible. On the wedding day in Galilee water was made wine. Have we words to tell or senses to ascertain what methods produced the change by which the tastelessness of water disappeared, and was replaced by the full flavour of wine? It was not a mixing; it was a creation, and a creation which was not a beginning, but a transformation. A weaker liquid was not obtained by admixture of a stronger element; an existing thing perished and a new thing came into being. The bridegroom was anxious, the household in confusion, the harmony of the marriage feast imperilled. Jesus is asked for help. He does not rise or busy Himself; He does the work without an effort. Water is poured into the vessels, wine drawn out in the cups. The evidence of the senses of the pourer contradicts that of the drawer. They who poured expect water to be drawn; they who draw think that wine must have been poured in. The intervening time cannot account for any gain or loss of character in the liquid. The mode of action baffles sight and sense, but the power of God is manifest in the result achieved.

6. In the case of the five loaves a miracle of the same type excites our wonder. By their increase five thousand men and countless women and children are saved from hunger; the method eludes our powers of observation. Five loaves are offered and broken; while the Apostles are dividing them a succession of new-created portions passes, they cannot tell how, through their hands. The loaf which they are dividing grows no smaller, yet their hands are continually full of the pieces. The swiftness of the process baffles sight; you follow with the eye a hand full of portions, and meantime you see that the contents of the other hand are not diminished, and all the while the heap of pieces grows. The carvers are busy at their task, the eaters are hard at work; the hungry are satisfied, and the fragments fill twelve baskets. Sight or sense cannot discover the mode of so noteworthy a miracle. What was not existent is created; what we see passes our understanding. Our only resource is faith in God's omnipotence.

7. There is no deception in these miracles of God, no subtle pretence to please or to deceive. These works of the Son of God were done from no desire for self-display; He Whom countless myriads of angels serve never deluded man. What was there of ours that He could need, through Whom all that we have was created? Did He demand praise from us who now are heavy with sleep, now sated with lust, now laden with the guilt of riot and bloodshed, now drunken from revelling;--He Whom Archangels, and Dominions, and Principalities, and Powers, without sleep or cessation or sin, praise in heaven with everlasting and unwearied voice? They praise Him because He, the Image of the Invisible God, created all their host in Himself, made the worlds, established the heavens, appointed the stars, fixed the earth, laid the foundations of the deep; because in after time He was born, He conquered death, broke the gates of hell, won for Himself a people to be His fellow-heirs, lifted flesh from corruption up to the glory of eternity. There was nothing, then, that He might gain from us, that could induce Him to assume the splendour of these mysterious and inexplicable works, as though He needed our praise. But God foresaw how human sin and folly would be misled, and knew that disbelief would dare to pass its judgment even on the things of God, and therefore He vanquished presumption by tokens of His power which must give pause to our boldest.

8. For there are many of those wise men of the world whose wisdom is folly with God, who contradict our proclamation of God from God, True from True, Perfect from Perfect, One from One, as though we taught things impossible. They pin their faith to certain conclusions which they have reached by process of logic:--Nothing can be born of one, for every birth requires two parents, and If this Son be born of One He has received a part of His Begetter: if He be a part, then Neither of the Two is perfect, for something is missing from Him from Whom the Son issued, and there cannot be fulness in One Who consists of a portion of Another. Thus Neither is perfect, for the Begetter has lost His fulness, and the Begotten has not acquired it. This is that wisdom of the world which was foreseen by God even in the prophet's days, and condemned through him in the words, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and reject the understanding of the prudent [638] . And the apostle says: Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the inquirer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For because in the wisdom of God the world through wisdom knew not God, it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews seek signs, and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews indeed a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness, but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men [639] .

9. The Son of God, therefore, having the charge of mankind, was first made man, that men might believe on Him; that He might be to us a witness, sprung from ourselves, of things Divine, and preach to us, weak and carnal as we are, through the weakness of the flesh concerning God the Father, so fulfilling the Father's will, even as He says, I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me [640] . It was not that He Himself was unwilling, but that He might manifest His obedience as the result of His Father's will, for His own will is to do His Father's. This is that will to carry out the Father's will of which He testifies in the words: Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee; even as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him, He should give it eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ. I have glorified Thee upon earth, having accomplished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. I have manifested Thy Name unto the men whom Thou hast given Me [641] . In words short and few He has revealed the whole task to which He was appointed and assigned. Yet those words, short and few as they are, are the true faith's safeguard against every suggestion of the devil's cunning. Let us briefly consider the force of each separate phrase.

10. He says, Father the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee. He says that the hour, not the day nor the time, is come. An hour is a fraction of a day. What hour must this be? The hour, of course, of which He speaks, to strengthen His disciples, at the time of His passion:--Lo, the hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified [642] . This then is the hour in which He prays to be glorified by the Father, that He Himself may glorify the Father. But what does He mean? Does One who is about to give glory look to receive it? Does One who is about to confer honour make request for Himself? Is He in want of the very thing which He is about to repay? Here let the world's philosophers, the wise men of Greece, beset our path, and spread their syllogistic nets to entangle the truth. Let them ask How? and Whence? and Why? When they can find no answer, let us tell them that it is because God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise [643] . That is the reason why we in our foolishness understand [644] things incomprehensible to the world's philosophers. The Lord had said, Father, the hour is come; He had revealed the hour of His passion, for these words were spoken at the very moment; and then He added, Glorify Thy Son. But how was the Son to be glorified? He had been born of a virgin, from cradle and childhood He had grown to man's estate, through sleep and hunger and thirst and weariness and tears He had lived man's life: even now He was to be spitted on, scourged, crucified. And why? These things were ordained for our assurance that in Christ is pure man. But the shame of the cross is not ours; we are not sentenced to the scourge, nor defiled by spitting. The Father glorifies the Son; how? He is next nailed to the cross. Then what followed? The sun, instead of setting, fled. How so? It did not retire behind a cloud, but abandoned its appointed orbit, and all the elements of the world felt that same shock of the death of Christ. The stars in their courses, to avoid complicity in the crime, escaped by self-extinction from beholding the scene. What did the earth? It quivered beneath the burden of the Lord hanging on the tree, protesting that it was powerless to confine Him who was dying. Yet surely rock and stone will not refuse Him a resting-place. Yes, they are rent and cloven, and their strength fails. They must confess that the rock-hewn sepulchre cannot imprison the Body which awaits its burial.

11. And next? The centurion of the cohort, the guardian of the cross, cries out, Truly this was the Son of God [645] . Creation is set free by the mediation of this Sin-offering; the very rocks lose their solidity and strength. They who had nailed Him to the cross confess that truly this is the Son of God. The outcome justifies the assertion. The Lord had said, Glorify Thy Son. He had asserted, by that word Thy, that He was God's Son not in name only, but in nature. Multitudes of us are sons of God; He is Son in another sense. For He is God's true and own Son, by origin and not by adoption, not by name only but in truth, born and not created. So, after He was glorified, that confession touched the truth; the centurion confessed Him the true Son of God, that no believer might doubt a fact which even the servant of His persecutors could not deny.

12. But perhaps some may suppose that He was destitute of that glory for which He prayed, and that His looking to be glorified by a Greater is evidence of want of power. Who, indeed, would deny that the Father is the greater; the Unbegotten greater than the Begotten, the Father than the Son, the Sender than the Sent, He that wills than He that obeys? He Himself shall be His own witness:--The Father is greater than I. It is a fact which we must recognise, but we must take heed lest with unskilled thinkers the majesty of the Father should obscure the glory of the Son. Such obscuration is forbidden by this same glory for which the Son prays; for the prayer, Father glorify Thy Son, is completed by, That the Son may glorify Thee. Thus there is no lack of power in the Son, Who, when He has received this glory, will make His return for it in glory. But why, if He were not in want, did He make the prayer? No one makes request except for something which he needs. Or can it be that the Father too is in want? Or has He given His glory away so recklessly that He needs to have it returned Him by the Son? No; the One has never been in want, nor the Other needed to ask, and yet Each shall give to the Other. Thus the prayer for glory to be given and to be paid back is neither a robbery of the Father nor a depreciation of the Son, but a demonstration of the power of one Godhead resident in Both. The Son prays that He may be glorified by the Father; the Father deems it no humiliation to be glorified by the Son. The exchange of glory given and received proclaims the unity of power in Father and in Son.

13. We must next ascertain what and whence this glorifying is. God, I am sure, is subject to no change; His eternity admits not of defect or amendment, of gain or of loss. It is the character of Him alone, that what He is, He is from everlasting. What He from everlasting is, it is by His nature impossible that He should ever cease to be. How then can He receive glory, a thing which He fully possesses, and of which His store does not diminish; there being no fresh glory which He can obtain, and none that He has lost and can recover? We are brought to a standstill. But the Evangelist does not fail us, though our reason has displayed its helplessness. To tell us what return of glory it was that the Son should make to the Father, he gives the words: Even as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him He may give it eternal life. And this is life eternal that they should know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. The Father, then, is glorified through the Son, by His being made known to us. And the glory was this, that the Son, being made flesh, received from Him power over all flesh, and the charge of restoring eternal life to us, ephemeral beings burdened with the body. Eternal life for us was the result not of work done, but of innate power; not by a new creation, but simply by knowledge of God, was the glory of that eternity to be acquired. Nothing was added to God's glory; it had not decreased, and so could not be replenished. But He is glorified through the Son in the sight of us, ignorant, exiled, defiled, dwelling in hopeless death and lawless darkness; glorified inasmuch as the Son, by virtue of that power over all flesh which the Father gave Him, was to bestow on us eternal life. It is through this work of the Son that the Father is glorified. So when the Son received all things from the Father, the Father glorified Him; and conversely, when all things were made through the Son, He glorified the Father. The return of glory given lies herein, that all the glory which the Son has is the glory of the Father, since everything He has is the Father's gift. For the glory of Him who executes a charge redounds to the glory of Him Who gave it, the glory of the Begotten to the glory of the Begetter.

14. But in what does eternity of life consist? His own words tell us:--That they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. Is there any doubt or difficulty here, or any inconsistency? It is life to know the true God; but the bare knowledge of Him does not give it. What, then, does He add? And Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent. In Thee, the only true God, the Son pays the honour due to His Father; by the addition, And Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent, He associates Himself with the true Godhead. The believer in his confession draws no line between the Two, for his hope of life rests in Both, and indeed, the true God is inseparable from Him Whose Name follows in the creed. Therefore when we read, That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent, these terms of Sender and of Sent are not intended, under any semblance of distinction or discrimination, to convey a difference between the true Godhead of Father and of Son, but to be a guide to the devout confession of Them as Begetter and Begotten.

15. And so the Son glorifies the Father fully and finally in the words which follow, I have glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. All the Father's praise is from the Son, for every praise bestowed upon the Son is praise of the Father, since all that He accomplished is what the Father had willed. The Son of God is born as man; but the power of God is in the virgin-birth. The Son of God is seen as man; but God is present in His human actions. The Son of God is nailed to the cross; but on the cross God conquers human death. Christ, the Son of God, dies; but all flesh is made alive in Christ. The Son of God is in hell; but man is carried back to heaven. In proportion to our praise of Christ for these His works, will be the praise we bring to Him from Whom Christ's Godhead is. These are the ways in which the Father glorifies the Son on earth; and in return the Son reveals by works of power to the ignorance of the heathen and to the foolishness of the world, Him from Whom He is. This exchange of glory, given and received, implies no augmentation of the Godhead, but means the praises rendered for the knowledge granted to those who had lived in ignorance of God. What, indeed, could there be which the Father, from Whom are all things, did not richly possess? In what was the Son lacking, in Whom all the fulness of the Godhead had been pleased to dwell? The Father is glorified on earth because the work which He had commanded is finished.

16. Next let us see what this glory is which the Son expects to receive from the Father; and then our exposition will be complete. The sequel is, I have glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. I have manifested Thy name unto men. It is, then, by the Son's works that the Father is glorified, in that He is recognised as God, as Father of God the Only-begotten, Who for our salvation willed that His Son should be born as man, even of a virgin; that Son Whose whole life, consummated in the Passion, was consistent with the humiliation of the virgin birth. Thus, because the Son of God, all-perfect and born from everlasting in the fulness of the Godhead, had now by incarnation become Man and was ready for His death, He prays that He may be glorified with God, even as He was glorifying His Father on the earth; for at that moment the powers of God were being glorified in the flesh before the eyes of a world that knew Him not. But what is this glory with the Father, for which He looks? It is that, of course, which He had with Him before the world was. He had the fulness of the Godhead; He has it still, for He is God's Son. But He Who was the Son of God had become the Son of man also, for The Word was made flesh. He had not lost His former being, but He had become what He was not before; He had not abdicated His own position, yet He had taken ours; He prays that the nature which He had assumed may be promoted to the glory which He had never renounced. Therefore, since the Son is the Word, and the Word was made flesh, and the Word was God, and was in the beginning with God, and the Word was Son before the foundation of the world; this Son, now incarnate, prayed that flesh might be to the Father what the Son had been. He prayed that flesh, born in time, might receive the splendour of the everlasting glory, that the corruption of the flesh might be swallowed up, transformed into the power of God and the purity of the Spirit. It is His prayer to God, the Son's confession of the Father, the entreaty of that flesh wherein all shall see Him on the Judgment-day, pierced and bearing the marks of the cross; of that flesh wherein His glory was foreshown upon the Mount, wherein He ascended to heaven and is set down at the right hand of God, wherein Paul saw Him, and Stephen paid Him worship.

17. The name Father has thus been revealed to men; the question arises, What is this Father's own name? Yet surely the name of God has never been unknown. Moses heard it from the bush, Genesis announces it at the beginning of the history of creation, the Law has proclaimed and the prophets extolled it, the history of the world has made mankind familiar with it; the very heathen have worshipped it under a veil of falsehood. Men have never been left in ignorance of the name of God. And yet they were, in very truth, in ignorance. For no man knows God unless He confess Him as Father, Father of the Only-begotten Son, and confess also the Son a Son by no partition or extension or procession, but born of Him, as Son of Father, ineffably and incomprehensibly, and retaining the fulness of that Godhead from which and in which He was born as true and infinite and perfect God. This is what the fulness of the Godhead means. If any of these things be lacking, there will not be that fulness which was pleased to dwell in Him. This is the message of the Son, His revelation to men in their ignorance. The Father is glorified through the Son when men recognise that He is Father of a Son so Divine.

18. The Son, wishing to assure us of the truth of this, His Divine birth, has appointed His works to serve as an illustration, that from the ineffable power displayed in ineffable deeds we may learn the lesson of the ineffable birth. For instance, when water was made wine, and five loaves satisfied five thousand men, beside women and children, and twelve baskets were filled with the fragments, we see a fact though we cannot understand it; a deed is done though it baffles our reason; the process cannot be followed, though the result is obvious. It is folly to intrude in the spirit of carping, when the matter into which we enquire is such that we cannot probe it to the bottom. For even as the Father is ineffable because He is Unbegotten, so is the Son ineffable because He is the Only-begotten, since the Begotten is the Image of the Unbegotten. Now it is by the use of our senses and of language that we have to form our conception of an image; and it must be by the same means that we form our idea of that which the image represents. But in this case we, whose faculties can deal only with visible and tangible things, are straining after the invisible, and striving to grasp the impalpable. Yet we take no shame to ourselves, we reproach ourselves with no irreverence, when we doubt and criticise the mysteries and powers of God. How is He the Son? Whence is He? What did the Father lose by His birth? Of what portion of the Father was He born? So we ask; yet all the while there has been confronting us the evidence of works done to assure us that God's action is not limited by our power of comprehending His methods.

19. You ask what was the manner in which, as the Spirit teaches, the Son was born? I will put a question to you as to things corporal. I ask not in what manner He was born of a virgin; I ask only whether her flesh, in the course of bringing His flesh to readiness for birth, suffered any loss. Assuredly she did not conceive Him in the common way, or suffer the shame of human intercourse, in order to bear Him: yet she bore Him, complete in His human Body, without loss of her own completeness. Surely piety requires that we should regard as possible with God a thing which we see became possible through his power in the case of a human being [646] .

20. But you, whoever you are that would seek into the unsearchable, and in all seriousness form an opinion upon the mysteries and powers of God;--I turn to you for counsel, and beg you to enlighten me, an unskilled and simple believer of all that God says, as to a circumstance which I am about to mention. I listen to the Lord's words and, since I believe what is recorded, I am sure that after His Resurrection He offered Himself repeatedly in the Body to the sight of multitudes of unbelievers. At any rate, He did so to Thomas who had protested that he would not believe unless he handled His wounds. His words are, Unless I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe [647] . The Lord stoops to the level even of our feeble understanding; to satisfy the doubts of unbelieving minds He works a miracle of His invisible power. Do you, my critic of the ways of heaven, explain His action if you can. The disciples were in a closed room; they had met and held their assembly in secret since the Passion of the Lord. The Lord presents Himself to strengthen the faith of Thomas by meeting his challenge; He gives him His Body to feel, His wounds to handle. He, indeed, who would be recognised as having suffered wounds must needs produce the body in which those wounds were received. I ask at what point in the walls of that closed house the Lord bodily entered. The Apostle has recorded the circumstances with careful precision; Jesus came when the doors were shut, and stood in the midst [648] . Did He penetrate through bricks and mortar, or through stout woodwork, substances whose very nature it is to bar progress? For there He stood in bodily presence; there was no suspicion of deceit. Let the eye of your mind follow His path as He enters; let your intellectual vision accompany Him as He passes into that closed dwelling. There is no breach in the walls, no door has been unbarred; yet lo, He stands in the midst Whose might no barrier can resist. You are a critic of things invisible; I ask you to explain a visible event. Everything remains firm as it was; no body is capable of insinuating itself through the interstices of wood and stone. The Body of the Lord does not disperse itself, to come together again after a disappearance; yet whence comes He Who is standing in the midst? Your senses and your words are powerless to account for it; the fact is certain, but it lies beyond the region of human explanation. If, as you say, our account of the Divine birth is a lie, then prove that this account of the Lord's entrance is a fiction. If we assume that an event did not happen, because we cannot discover how it was done, we make the limits of our understanding into the limits of reality. But the certainty of the evidence proves the falsehood of our contradiction. The Lord did stand in a closed house in the midst of the disciples; the Son was born of the Father. Deny not that He stood, because your puny wits cannot ascertain how He came there; renounce a disbelief in God the Only-begotten and perfect Son of God the Unbegotten and perfect Father, which is based only on the incapacity of sense and speech to comprehend the transcendent miracle of that birth.

21. Nay more, the whole constitution of nature would bear us out against the impiety of doubting the works and powers of God. And yet our disbelief tilts even against obvious truth; we strive in our fury to pluck even God from His throne. If we could, we would climb by bodily strength to heaven, would fling into confusion the ordered courses of sun and stars, would disarrange the ebb and flow of tides, check rivers at their source or make their waters flow backward, would shake the foundations of the world, in the utter irreverence of our rage against the paternal work of God. It is well that our bodily limitations confine us within more modest bounds. Assuredly, there is no concealment of the mischief we would do if we could. In one respect we are free; and so with blasphemous insolence we distort the truth and turn our weapons against the words of God.

22. The Son has said, Father, I have manifested Thy Name unto men. What reason is there for denunciation or fury here? Do you deny the Father? Why, it was the primary purpose of the Son to enable us to know the Father. But in fact you do deny Him when, according to you, the Son was not born of Him. Yet why should He have the name of Son if He be, as others are, an arbitrary creation of God? I could feel awe of God as Creator of Christ as well as Founder of the universe; it were an exercise of power worthy of Him to be the Maker of Him Who made Archangels and Angels, things visible and things invisible, heaven and earth and the whole creation around us. But the work which the Lord came to do was not to enable you to recognise the omnipotence of God as Creator of all things, but to enable you to know Him as the Father of that Son Who addresses you. In heaven there are Powers beside Himself, Powers mighty and eternal; there is but one Only-begotten Son, and the difference between Him and them is not one of mere degree of might, but that they all were made through Him. Since He is the true and only Son, let us not make Him a bastard by asserting that He was made out of nothing. You hear the name Son; believe that He is the Son. You hear the name Father; fix it in your mind that He is the Father. Why surround these names with doubt and illwill and hostility? The things of God are provided with names which give a true indication of the realities; why force an arbitrary meaning upon their obvious sense? Father and Son are spoken of; doubt not that the words mean what they say. The end and aim of the revelation of the Son is that you should know the Father. Why frustrate the labours of the Prophets, the Incarnation of the Word, the Virgin's travail, the effect of miracles, the cross of Christ? It was all spent upon you, it is all offered to you, that through it all Father and Son may be manifest to you. And you replace the truth by a theory of arbitrary action, of creation or adoption. Turn your thoughts to the warfare, the conflict waged by Christ. He describes it thus:--Father, I have manifested Thy Name unto men. He does not say, Thou hast created the Creator of all the heavens, orThou hast made the Maker of the whole earth. He says, Father, I have manifested Thy Name unto men. Accept your Saviour's gift of knowledge. Be assured that there is a Father Who begot, a Son Who was born; born in the truth of His Nature of the Father, Who is. Remember that the revelation is not of the Father manifested as God, but of God manifested as the Father.

23. You hear the words, I and the Father are one [649] . Why do you rend and tear the Son away from the Father? They are a unity: an absolute Existence having all things in perfect communion with that absolute Existence, from Whom He is. When you hear the Son saying, I and the Father are one, adjust your view of facts to the Persons; accept the statement which Begetter and Begotten make concerning Themselves. Believe that They are One, even as They are also Begetter and Begotten. Why deny the common nature? Why impugn the true Divinity? You hear again, The Father in Me, and I in the Father [650] . That this is true of Father and of Son is demonstrated by the Son's works. Our science cannot envelope body in body, or pour one into another, as water into wine; but we confess that in Both is equivalence of power and fulness of the Godhead. For the Son has received all things from the Father; He is the Likeness of God, the Image of His substance. The words, Image of His substance [651] , discriminate between Christ and Him from Whom He is, but only to establish Their distinct existence, not to teach a difference of nature; and the meaning of Father in Son and Son in Father is that there is the perfect fulness of the Godhead in Both. The Father is not impaired by the Son's existence, nor is the Son a mutilated fragment of the Father. An image implies its original; likeness is a relative term. Now nothing can be like God unless it have its source in Him; a perfect likeness can be reflected only from that which it represents; an accurate resemblance forbids the assumption of any element of difference. Disturb not this likeness; make no separation where truth shews no variance, for He Who said, Let us make man after our image and likeness [652] , by those words Our likeness revealed the existence of Beings, Each like the Other. Touch not handle not, pervert not. Hold fast the Names which teach the truth, hold fast the Son's declaration of Himself. I would not have you flatter the Son with praises of your own invention; it is well with you if you be satisfied with the written word.

24. Again, we must not repose so blind a confidence in human intellect as to imagine that we have complete knowledge of the objects of our thought, or that the ultimate problem is solved as soon as we have formed a symmetrical and consistent theory. Finite minds cannot conceive the Infinite; a being dependent for its existence upon another cannot attain to perfect knowledge either of its Creator or of itself, for its consciousness of self is coloured by its circumstances, and bounds are set which its perception cannot pass. Its activity is not self-caused, but due to the Creator, and a being dependent on a Creator [653] has perfect possession of none of its faculties, since its origin lies outside itself. Hence by an inexorable law it is folly for that being to say that it has perfect knowledge of any matter; its powers have limits which it cannot modify, and only while it is under the delusion that its petty bounds are coterminous with infinity can it make the empty boast of possessing wisdom. For of wisdom it is incapable, its knowledge being limited to the range of its perception, and sharing the impotence of its dependent existence. And therefore this masquerade [654] of a finite nature boasting that it possesses the wisdom which springs only from infinite knowledge earns the scorn and ridicule of the Apostle, who calls its wisdom folly. He says, For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, not in the language of wisdom, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but unto them that are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent I will reject. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the enquirer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, God decreed through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews indeed a stumbling-block and to Gentiles foolishness, but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the weakness of God is stronger than men, and the foolishness of God is wiser than men [655] . Thus all unbelief is foolishness, for it takes such wisdom as its own finite perception can attain, and, measuring infinity by that petty scale, concludes that what it cannot understand must be impossible. Unbelief is the result of incapacity engaged in argument. Men are sure that an event never happened, because they have made up their minds that it could not happen.

25. Hence the Apostle, familiar with the narrow assumption of human thought that what it does not know is not truth, says that he does not speak in the language of knowledge, lest his preaching should be in vain. To save himself from being regarded as a preacher of foolishness he adds that the word of the cross is foolishness to them that perish. He knew that the unbelievers held that the only true knowledge was that which formed their own wisdom, and that, since their wisdom was cognisant only of matters which lay within their narrow horizon, the other wisdom, which alone is Divine and perfect, seemed foolishness to them. Thus their foolishness actually consisted, in that feeble imagination which they mistook for wisdom. Hence it is that the very things which to them that perish are foolishness are the power of God to them that are saved; for these last never use their own inadequate faculties as a measure, but attribute to the Divine activities the omnipotence of heaven. God rejects the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent in this sense, that just because they recognise their own foolishness, salvation is granted to them that believe. Unbelievers pronounce the verdict of foolishness on everything that lies beyond their ken, while believers leave to the power and majesty of God the choice of the mysteries wherein salvation is bestowed. There is no foolishness in the things of God; the foolishness lies in that human wisdom which demands of God, as the condition of belief, signs and wisdom. It is the foolishness of the Jews to demand signs; they have a certain knowledge of the Name of God through long acquaintance with the Law, but the offence of the cross repels them. The foolishness of the Greeks is to demand wisdom; with Gentile folly and the philosophy of men they seek the reason why God was lifted up on the cross. And because, in consideration for the weakness of our mental powers, these things have been hidden in a mystery, this foolishness of Jews and Greeks turns to unbelief; for they denounce, as unworthy of reasonable credence, truths which their mind is inherently incapable of comprehending. But, because the world's wisdom was so foolish,--for previously through God's wisdom it knew not God, that is, the splendour of the universe, and the wonderful order which He planned for His handiwork, taught it no reverence for its Creator--God was pleased through the preaching of foolishness to save them that believe, that is, through the faith of the cross to make everlasting life the lot of mortals; that so the self-confidence of human wisdom might be put to shame, and salvation found where men had thought that foolishness dwelt. For Christ, Who is foolishness to Gentiles, and offence to Jews, is the Power of God and the Wisdom of God; because what seems weak and foolish to human apprehension in the things of God transcends in true wisdom and might the thoughts and the powers of earth.

26. And therefore the action of God must not be canvassed by human faculties; the Creator must not be judged by those who are the work of His hands. We must clothe ourselves in foolishness that we may gain wisdom; not in the foolishness of hazardous conclusions, but in the foolishness of a modest sense of our own infirmity, that so the evidence of God's power may teach us truths to which the arguments of earthly philosophy cannot attain. For when we are fully conscious of our own foolishness, and have felt the helplessness and destitution of our reason, then through the counsels of Divine Wisdom we shall be initiated into the wisdom of God; setting no bounds to boundless majesty and power, nor tying the Lord of nature down to nature's laws; sure that for us the one true faith concerning God is that of which He is at once the Author and the Witness.


[635] St. John xiv. 11. [636] Col. ii. 9. [637] St. John x. 38. [638] Isaiah xxix. 14. [639] 1 Cor. i. 20-25. [640] St. John vi. 38. [641] Ib. xvii. 1-6. [642] St. John xii. 23. [643] 1 Cor. i. 27. [644] Reading intelligimus. [645] St. Matt. xxvii. 54. [646] This is an argument against the objection that God, if Christ is His Son, must have suffered loss. If God is His Father and the sole source of His existence, Christ must have come into being by separation from the Father; i.e. the Father must have suffered diminution and lost His completeness. The answer is that a woman--and a fortiori the Virgin, who was the only human parent Christ--suffers no loss of bodily completeness through becoming a mother. There is no allusion to the belief in the perpetual virginity of the Mother of our Lord. [647] St. John xx. 25. [648] Ib. xx. 26. [649] St. John x. 30. [650] St. John x. 38. [651] Heb. i. 3. [652] Gen. i. 26. [653] Omitting in aliud. [654] Substitutio: this word seems, except in technical senses of the law, to be very late and very rare. The only meaning, and that one not attested in the dictionaries, which will suit this passage, seems to be that of the jackdaw dressed in peacock's feathers. [655] 1 Cor. i. 17-25.

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