2. For my own part, it was not only the claim which my vocation has upon me, the duty of diligently preaching the Gospel which, as a bishop, I owe to the Church, that has led me on. My eagerness to write has increased with the increasing numbers endangered and enthralled by this heretical theory. There was a rich prospect of joy in the thought of multitudes who might be saved, if they could know the mysteries of the right faith in God, and abandon the blasphemous principles of bureau folly, desert the heretics and surrender themselves to God; if they would forsake the bait with which the fowler snares his prey, and soar aloft in freedom and safety, following Christ as Leader, prophets as instructors, apostles as guides, and accepting the perfect faith and sure salvation in the confession of Father and of Son. So would they, in obedience to the words of the Lord, He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him, be setting themselves to honour the Father, through honour paid to the Son.
3. For of late the infection of a mortal evil has gone abroad among mankind, whose ravages have dealt destruction and death on every hand. The sudden desolation of cities smitten, with their people in them, by earthquake to the ground, the terrible slaughter of recurring wars, the widespread mortality of an irresistible pestilence, have never wrought such fatal mischief as the progress of this heresy throughout the world. For God, unto Whom all the dead live, destroys those only who are self-destroyed. From Him Who is to be the Judge of all, Whose Majesty will temper with mercy the punishment allotted to the mistakes of ignorance, they who deny Him can expect not even judgment, but only denial.
4. For this mad heresy does deny; it denies the mystery of the true faith by means of statements borrowed from our confession, which it employs for its own godless ends. The confession of their misbelief, which I have already cited in an earlier book, begins thus:--"We confess one God, alone unmade, alone eternal, alone unoriginate, alone true, alone possessing immortality, alone good, alone mighty." Thus they parade the opening words of our own confession, which runs, "One God, alone unmade and alone un-originate," that this semblance of truth may serve as introduction to their blasphemous additions. For, after a multitude of words in which an equally insincere devotion to the Son is expressed, their confession continues, "God's perfect creature, but not as one of His other creatures, His Handiwork, but not as His other works." And again, after an interval in which true statements are occasionally interspersed in order to veil their impious purpose of alleging, as by sophistry they try to prove, that He came into existence out of nothing, they add, "He, created and established before the worlds, did not exist before He was born." And lastly, as though every point of their false doctrine, that He is to be regarded neither as Son nor as God, were guarded impregnably against assault, they continue:--"As to such phrases as from Him, and from the womb, and I went out from the Father and am come, if they be understood to denote that the Father extends a part and, as it were, a development of that one substance, then the Father will be of a compound nature and divisible and changeable and corporeal, according to them; and thus, as far as their words go, the incorporeal God will be subjected to the properties of matter." But, as we are now about to cover the whole ground once more, employing this time the language of the Gospels as our weapon against this most godless heresy, it has seemed best to repeat here, in the sixth book, the whole heretical document, though we have already given a full copy of it in the fourth, in order that our opponents may read it again, and compare it, point by point, with our reply, and so be forced, however reluctant and argumentative, by the clear teaching of the Evangelists and Apostles, to recognise the truth. The heretical confession is as follows:--
5. "We confess one GOd, alone unmade, alone eternal, alone unoriginate, alone posessing immortality, alone good, alone mighty, Creator, Ordainer and Disposer of all things, unchangeable and unalterable, righteous and good, of the Law and the Prophets and the New Testament. We believe that this God gave birth to the Only-begotten Son before all worlds, through Whom He made the world and all things, that He gave birth to Him not in semblance, but in truth, following His own will, so that He is unchangeable and unalterable, God's perfect Creature, but not as one of His other creatures, His Handiwork, but not as His other works; not, as Valentinus maintained, that the Son is a development of the Father, nor, as Manichaeus has declared of the Son, a consubstantial part of the Father, nor, as Sabellius, who makes two out of One, Son and Father at once, nor, as Hieracas, a light from a light, or a lamp with two flames, nor, as if He was previously in being and afterwards born, or created afresh, to be a Son, a notion often condemned by thyself, blessed Pope, publicly in the Church, and in the assembly of the brethren. But, as we have affirmed, we believe that He was created by the will of God before times and worlds, and has His life and existence from the Father, Who gave Him to share His own glorious perfections. For, when the Father gave to Him the inheritance of all things, He did not thereby deprive Himself of attributes which are His without origination, He being the source of all things.
6. "So there are three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God, for His part, is the Cause of all things, utterly unoriginate and separate from all; while the Son, put forth by the Father outside time, and created and established before the worlds, did not exist before He was born, but, being born outside time before the worlds, came into being as the Only Son of the Only Father. For He is neither eternal, nor co-eternal, nor co-uncreate with the Father, nor has He an existence collateral with the Father, as some say who postulate two unborn principles. But God is before all things, as being indivisible and the beginning of all. Wherefore He is before the Son also, as indeed we have learnt from thee in thy public preaching. Inasmuch then as He has His being from God, and His glorious perfections, and His life, and is entrusted with all things, for this reason God is His Source. For He rules over Him, as being His God, since He is before Him. As to such phrases as from Him, and from the womb, and I went out from the Father and am come, if they be understood to denote that the Father extends a part and, as it were, a development of that one Substance, then the Father will be of a compound nature and divisible and changeable and corporeal, according to them; and thus, as far as their words go, the incorporeal God will be subjected to the properties of matter."
7. Who can fail to see here the slimy windings of the serpent's track: the coiled adder, with forces concentrated for the spring, concealing the deadly weapon of its poisonous fangs within its folds? Presently we shall stretch it out and examine it, and expose the venom of this hidden head. For their plan is first to impress with certain sound statements, and then to infuse the poison of their heresy. They speak us fair, in order to work us secret harm. Yet, amid all their specious professions, I nowhere hear God's Son entitled God; I never hear sonship attributed to the Son. They say much about His having the name of Son, but nothing about His having the nature. That is kept out of sight, that He may seem to have no right even to the name. They make a show of unmasking other heresies to conceal the fact that they are heretics themselves. They strenuously assert that there is One only, One true God, to the end that they may strip the Son of God of His true and personal Divinity.
8. And therefore, although in the two last books I have proved from the teaching of the Law and Prophets that God and God, true God and true God, true God the Father and true God the Son, must be confessed as One true God, by unity of nature and not by confusion of Persons, yet, for the complete presentation of the faith, I must also adduce the teaching of the Evangelists and Apostles. I must show from them that true God, the Son of God, is not of a different, an alien nature from that of the Father, but possesses the same Divinity while having a distinct existence through a true birth. And, indeed, I cannot think that any soul exists so witless as to fancy that, although we know God's self-revelations, yet we cannot understand them; that, if they can be understood, would not wish to understand, or would dream that human reason can devise improvements upon them. But before I begin to discuss the facts contained in these saving mysteries, I must first humble the pride with which these heretics rebuke the names of other heresies. I shall hold up to the light this ingenious cloak for their own impiety. I shall shew that this very means of concealing the deadliness of their teaching serves rather to reveal and betray it, and is a widely effectual warning of the true character of this honeyed poison.
9. For instance, these heretics would have it that the Son of God is not from God; that God was not born from God out of, and in, the nature of God. To this end, when they have solemnly borne witness to "One God, alone true," they refrain from adding "The Father." And then, in order to escape from confessing one true Godhead of Father anti of Son by a denial of the true birth, they proceed, "Not, as Valentinus maintained, that the Son is a development of the Father." Thus they think to cast discredit upon the birth of God from God by calling it a "development," as though it were a form of the Valentinian heresy. For Valentinus was the author of foul and foolish imaginations; beside the chief God, he invented a whole household of deities and countless powers called aeons, and taught that our Lord Jesus Christ was a development mysteriously brought about by a secret action of will. The faith of the Church, the faith of the Evangelists and Apostles, knows nothing of this imaginary development, sprung from the brain of a reckless and senseless dreamer. It knows nothing of the "Depth" and "Silence" and the thrice ten aeons of Valentinus. It knows none but One God the Father, from Whom are all things, and One Jesus Christ, our Lord, through Whom are all things, Who is God born from God. But it occurred to them that He, in being born as God from God, neither withdrew anything from the Divinity of His Author nor was Himself born other than God; that He became God not by a new beginning of Deity but by birth from the existing God; and that every birth appears, as far as human faculties can judge, to be a development, so that even that birth might be regarded as a development. And these considerations have induced them to make an attack upon the Valentinian heresy of development as a means of destroying faith in the true birth of the Son. For the experience of common life leads worldly wisdom to suppose that there is no great difference between a birth and a development. The mind of man, dull and slow to grasp the things of God, needs to be constantly reminded of the principle, which I have stated more than once, that analogies drawn from human experience are not of perfect application to the mysteries of Divine power; that their only value is that this comparison with material objects imparts to the spirit such a notion of heavenly things that we may rise, as by a ladder of nature, to an apprehension of the majesty of God. But the birth of God must not be judged by such development as takes place in human births. When One is born from One, God born from God, the circumstances of human birth enable us to apprehend the fact; but a birth which presupposes intercourse and conception and time and travail can give us no clue to the Divine method. When we are told that God was born from God, we must accept it as true that He was born, and be content with that. We shall, however, in the proper place discourse of the truth of the Divine birth, as the Gospels and the Apostles set it forth. Our present duty has been to expose this device of heretical ingenuity, this attack upon the true birth of Christ, concealed under the form of an attack upon a so-called development.
10. And then, in continuation of this same fraudulent assault upon the faith, their confession proceeds thus:--"Nor, as Manichaeus has declared of the Son, a consubstantial part of the Father." They have already denied that He is a development, in order to escape from the admission of His birth; now they introduce, labelled with the name of Manichaeus, the doctrine that the Son is a portion of the one Divine substance, and deny it, in order to subvert the belief in God from God. For Manichaeus, the furious adversary of the Law and Prophets, the strenuous champion of the devil's cause and blind worshipper of the sun, taught that That which was in the Virgin's womb was a portion of the one Divine substance, and that by the Son we must understand a certain piece of God's substance which was cut off, and made its appearance in the flesh. And so they make the most of this heresy that in the birth of the Son there was a division of the one substance and use it as a means of evading the doctrine of the birth of the Only-begotten, and the very name of the unity of substance. Because it is sheer blasphemy to speak of a birth re-suiting from division of the one substance they deny any birth; all forms of birth are joined in the condemnation which they pass upon the Manichaean notion of birth by severance. And again, they abolish the unity of substance, both name and thing, because the heretics hold that the unity is divisible; and deny that the Son is God from God, by refusing to believe that He is truly possessed of the Divine nature. Why does this mad heresy profess a fictitious reverence, a senseless anxiety? The faith of the Church does, as these insane propounders of error remind us, condemn Manichaeus, for she knows nothing of the Son as a portion. She knows Him as whole God from whole God, as One from One, not severed but born. She is assured that the birth of God involves neither impoverishment of the Begetter nor inferiority of the Begotten. If this be the Church's own imagining, reproach her with the follies of a wisdom falsely claimed; but if she have learned it from her Lord, confess that the Begotten knows the manner of His begetting. She has learnt from God the Only-begotten these truths, that Father and Son are One, and that in the Son the fulness of the Godhead dwells. And therefore she loathes this attribution to the Son of a portion of the one substance; and, because she knows that He was truly born of God, she worships the Son as rightful Possessor of true Divinity. But, for the present, let us defer our full answer to these several allegations, and hasten through the rest of their denunciations.
11. What follows is this:--"Nor, as Sabellius, who makes two out of One, Son and Father at once." Sabellius holds this in wilful blindness to the revelation of the Evangelists and Apostles. But what we see here is not one heretic honestly denouncing other. It is the wish to leave no point of union between Father and Son that prompts them to reproach Sabellius with his division of an indivisible Person; a division which does not result in the birth of a second Person, but cuts the One Person into two parts, one of which enters the Virgin's womb. But we confess a birth; we reject this confusion of two Persons in One, while yet we cleave to the Divine unity. That is, we hold that God from God means unity of nature; for that Being, Who, by a true birth from God, became God, can draw His substance from no other source than the Divine. And since He continues to draw His being, as He drew it at first, from God, He must remain true God for ever; and hence They Two are One, for He, Who is God from God, has no other than the Divine nature, and no other than the Divine origin. But the reason why this blasphemous Sabellian confusion of two Persons into One is here condemned is that they wish to rob the Church of her true faith in Two Persons in One God. But now I must examine the remaining instances of this perverted ingenuity, to save myself from the reputation of a censorious judge of sincere enquirers, moved rather by dislike than genuine fear. I shall shew, by the terms with which they wind up their confession, what is the deadly conclusion which they have skilfully contrived shall be its inevitable issue.
12. Their next clause is:--"Nor, as Hieracas, a light from a light, or a lamp with two flames, nor as if He was previously in being, and afterwards born, or created afresh, to be a Son." Hieracas ignores the birth of the Only-begotten, and, in complete unconsciousness of the meaning of the Gospel revelations, talks of two flames from one lamp. This symmetrical pair of flames, fed by the supply of oil contained in one bowl, is His illustration of the substance of Father and Son. It is as though that substance were something separate from Either Person, like the oil in the lamp, which is distinct from the two flames, though they depend upon it for their existence; or like the wick, of one material throughout and burning at both ends, which is distinct from the flames, yet provides them and connects them together. All this is a mere delusion of human folly, which has trusted to itself, and not to God, for knowledge. But the true faith asserts that God is born from God, as light from light, which pours itself forth without self-diminution, giving what it has yet having what it gave. It asserts that by His birth He was what He is, for as He is so was He born; that His birth was the gift of the existing Life, a gift which did not lessen the store from which it was taken; and that They Two are One, for He, from Whom He is born, is as Himself, and He that was born has neither another source nor another nature, for He is Light from Light. It is in order to draw men's faith away from this, the true doctrine, that this lantern or lamp of Hieracas is cast in the teeth of those who confess Light from Light. Because the phrase has been used in an heretical sense, and condemned both now and in earlier days, they want to persuade us that there is no true sense in which it can be employed. Let heresy forthwith abandon these groundless fears, and refrain from claiming to be the protector of the Church's faith on the score of a reputation for zeal earned so dishonestly. For we allow nothing bodily, nothing lifeless, to have a place among the attributes of God; whatever is God is perfect God. In Him is nothing but power, life, light, blessedness, Spirit. That nature contains no dull, material elements; being immutable, it has no incongruities within it. God, because He is God, is unchangeable; and the unchangeable God begat God. Their bond of union is not, like that of two flames, two wicks of one lamp, something outside Themselves. The birth of the Only-begotten Son from God is not a prolongation in space, but a begetting; not an extension, but Light from Light. For the unity of light with light is a unity of nature, not unbroken continuation.
13. And again, what a wonderful example of heretical ingenuity is this:--"Nor as if He were previously in being, and afterwards born or created afresh, to be a Son." God, since He was born from God, was assuredly not born from nothing, nor from things non-existent. His birth was that of the eternally living nature. Yet, though He is God, He is not identical with the pre-existing God; God was born from God Who existed before Him; in, and by, His birth He partook of the nature of His Source. If we are speaking words of our own, all this is mere irreverence; but if, as we shall prove, God Himself has taught us how to speak, then the necessity is laid upon us of confessing the Divine birth in the sense revealed by God. And it is this unity of nature in Father and in Son, this ineffable mystery of the living birth, which the madness of heresy is struggling to banish from belief, when it says, "Nor as if He were previously in being, and afterwards born, or created afresh, to be a Son." Now who is senseless enough to suppose that the Father ceased to be Himself; that the same Person Who had previously existed was afterwards born, or created afresh, to be the Son? That God disappeared, and that His disappearance was followed by an emergence in birth, when, in fact, that birth is evidence of the continuous existence of its Author? Or who is so insane as to suppose that a Son can come into existence otherwise than through birth? Who so void of reason as to say that the birth of God resulted in anything else than in God being born? The abiding God was not born, but God was born from the abiding God; the nature bestowed in that birth was the very nature of the Begetter. And God by His birth, which was from God into God, received, because His was a true birth, not things new-created but things which were and are the permanent possession of God. Thus it is not the pre-existent God that was born; yet God was born, and began to exist, out of and with the properties of God. And thus we see how heresy, throughout this long prelude, has been treacherously leading up to this most blasphemous doctrine. Its object being to deny God the Only-begotten, it starts with what purports to be a defence of truth, to go on to the assertion that Christ is born not from God but out of nothing, and that His birth is due to the Divine counsel of creation from the non-existent.
14. And then again, after an interval designed to prepare us for what is coming, their heresy delivers this assault;--"While the Son, put forth outside time, and created and established before the worlds, did not exist before He was born." This "He did not exist before He was born" is a form of words by which the heresy flatters itself that it gains two ends; support for its blasphemy, and a screen for itself if its doctrine be arraigned. A support for its blasphemy, because, if He did not exist before He was born, He cannot be of one nature with His eternal Origin. He must have His beginning out of nothing, if He have no powers but such as are coeval with His birth. And a screen for its heresy, for if this statement be condemned, it furnishes a ready answer. He that did exist, it will be said, could not be born; being in existence already, He could not possibly come into being by passing through the process of birth, for the very meaning of birth is the entry into existence of the being that is born. Fool and blasphemer! Who dreams of birth in the case of Him Who is the unborn and eternal? How can we think of God, Who is, being born, when being born implies the process of birth? It is the birth of God the Only-begotten from God His Father that you are striving to disprove, and it was your purpose to escape the confession of that truth by means of this "He did not exist before He was born;" the confession that God, from Whom the Son of God was born, did exist eternally, and that it is from His abiding nature that God the Son draws His existence through birth. If, then, the Son is born from God, you must confess that His is a birth of that abiding nature; not a birth of the pre-existing God, but a birth of God from God the pre-existent.
15. But the fiery zeal of this heresy is such that it cannot restrain itself from passionate outbreak. In its effort to prove, in conformity with its assertion that He did not exist before He was born, that the Son was born from the non-existent, that is, that He was not born from God the Father to be God the Son by a true and perfect birth, it winds up its confession by rising in rage and hatred to the highest pitch of possible blasphemy:--"As to such phrases as from Him, and from the womb, and I went out front the Father and am come, if they be understood to denote that the Father extends a part, and, as it were, a development of that one substance, then the Father will be of a compound nature and divisible and changeable and corporeal, according to them; and thus, as far as their words go, the incorporeal God will be subjected to the properties of matter." The defence of the true faith against the falsehoods of heresy would indeed be a task of toil and difficulty, if it were needful for us to follow the processes of thought as far as they have plunged into the depths of godlessness. Happily for our purpose it is shallowness of thought that has engendered their eagerness to blaspheme. And hence, while it is easy to refute, the folly, it is difficult to amend the fool, for he will neither think out right conclusions for himself, nor accept them when offered by another. Yet I trust that they who in pious ignorance, not in wilful folly bred of self-conceit, are enchained by error, will welcome correction. For our demonstration of the truth will afford convincing proof that heresy is nothing else than folly.
16. You said in your unreason, and you are still repeating to-day, ignorant that your wisdom is a defiance of God, "As to such phrases as from Him, and from the womb, and I went out from the Father and am come," I ask you, Are these phrases, or are they not, words of God? They certainly are His; and, since they are spoken by God about Himself, we are bound to accept them exactly as they were spoken. Concerning the phrases themselves, and the precise force of each, we shall speak i in the proper place. For the present I will only put this question to the intelligence of every reader; When we see From Himself, are we to take it as equivalent to "From sortie one else," or to "From nothing," or are we to accept it as the truth? It is not "From some one else," for it is From Himself; that is, His Godhead has no other source than God. It is not "From nothing," for it is From Himself; a declaration of the nature from which His birth is. It is not "Himself," but From Himself; a statement that They are related as Father and Son. And next, when the revelation From the womb is made, I ask whether we can possibly believe that He is born from nothing, when the truth of His birth is clearly indicated in terms borrowed from bodily functions. It is not because He has bodily members, that God records the generation of the Son in the words, I bore Thee from the womb before the morning star . He uses language which assists our understanding to assure us that His Only-begotten Son was ineffably born of His own true Godhead. His purpose is to educate the faculties of men up to the knowledge of the faith, by clothing Divine verities in words descriptive of human circumstances. Thus, when He says, From the womb, He is teaching us that His Only-begotten was, in the Divine sense, born, and did not come into existence by means of creation out of nothing. And lastly, when the Son said, I went forth from the Father and am come, did He leave it doubtful whether His Divinity were, or were not, derived from the Father? He went out from the Father; that is, He had a birth, and the Father, and no other, gave Him that birth. He bears witness that He, from Whom He declares that He came forth, is the Author of His being. The proof and interpretation of all this shall be given hereafter.
17. But meanwhile let us see what ground these men have for the confidence with which they forbid us to accept as true the utterances of God concerning Himself; utterances, the authenticity of which they do not deny. What more grievous insult could be flung by human folly and insolence at God's self-revelation, than a condemnation of it, shewn in correction? For not even doubt and Criticism will satisfy them. What more grievous than this profane handling and disputing of the nature and power of God? Than the presumption of saying that, if the Son is from God, then God is changeable and corporeal, since He has extended or developed a part of Himself to be His Son? Whence this anxiety to prove the immutability of God? We confess the birth, we proclaim the Only-begotten, for so God has taught us. You, in order to banish the birth and the Only-begotten from the faith of the Church, confront us with an unchangeable
God, incapable, by His nature, of extension or development. I could bring forward instances of birth, even in natures belonging to this world, which would refute this wretched delusion that every birth must be an extension. And I could save you from the error that a being can come into existence only at the cost of loss to that which begets it, for there are many examples of life transmitted, without bodily intercourse, from one living creature to another. But it would be impious to deal in evidences, when God has spoken; and the utmost excess of madness to deny His authority to give us a faith, when our worship is a confession that He alone can give us life. For if life comes through Him alone, must not He be the Author of the faith which is the condition of that life? And if we hold Him an untrustworthy witness concerning Himself, how can we be sure of the life which is His gift?
18. For you attribute, most godless of heretics, the birth of the Son to an act of creative will; you say that He is not born from God, but that He was created and came into existence by the choice of the Creator. And the unity of the Godhead, as you interpret it, will not allow Him to be God, for, since God remains One, the Son cannot retain His original nature in that state into which He has been born. He has been endowed, through creation, you say, with a substance different from the Divine, although, being in a sense the Only-begotten, He is superior to God's other creatures and works. You say that He was raised up, that He in His turn might perform the task committed to Him of raising up the created world; but that His birth did not confer upon Him the Divine nature. He was born, according to you, in the sense that He came into existence out of nothing. You call Him a Son, not because He was born from God, but because He was created by God. For you call to mind that God has deemed even holy men worthy of this title, and you consider that it is assigned to the Son in exactly the same sense in which the words, I have said, Ye are Gods, and all of you sons of the Most High , were spoken; that is, that He bears the name through the Giver's condescension, and not by right of nature. Thus, in your eyes, He is Son by adoption, God by gift of the title, Only-begotten by favour, First-born in date, in every sense a creature, in no sense God. For you hold that His generation was not a birth from God, in the natural sense, but the beginning of the life of a created substance.
19. And now, Almighty God, I first must pray Thee to forgive my excess of indignation, and permit me to address Thee; and next to grant me, dust and ashes as I am, yet bound in loyal devotion to Thyself, freedom of utterance in this debate. There was a time when I, poor wretch, was not; before my life and consciousness and personality began to exist. It is to Thy mercy that I owe my life; and I doubt not that Thou, in Thy goodness, didst give me my birth for my good, for Thou, Who hast no need of me, wouldst never have made the beginning of my life the beginning of evil. And then, when Thou hadst breathed into me the breath of life and endowed me with the power of thought, Thou didst instruct me in the knowledge of Thyself, by means of the sacred volumes given us through Thy servants Moses and the prophets. From them I learnt Thy revelation, that we must not worship Thee as a lonely God. For their pages taught me of God, not different from Thee in nature but One with Thee in mysterious unity of substance. I learnt that Thou art God in God, by no mingling or confusion but by Thy very nature, since the Divinity which is Thyself dwells in Him Who is from Thee. But the true doctrine of the perfect birth revealed that Thou, the Indwelt, and Thou, the Indweller, are not One Person, yet that Thou dost dwell in Him Who is from Thee. And the voices of Evangelists and Apostles repeat the lesson, and the very words which fell from the holy mouth of Thy Only-begotten are recorded, telling how Thy Son, God the Only-begotten from Thee the Unbegotten God, was born of the Virgin as man to fulfil the mystery of my salvation; holy Thou dwellest in Him, by virtue of His true generation from Thyself, and He in Thee, because of the nature given in His abiding birth from Thee.
20. What is this hopeless quagmire of error into which Thou hast plunged me? For I have learnt all this and have come to believe it; this faith is so ingrained into my mind that I have neither the power nor the wish to change it. Why this deception of an unhappy man, this ruin of a poor wretch in body and soul, by deluding him with falsehoods concerning Thyself? After the Red Sea had been divided, the splendour on the face of Moses, descending from the Mount, deceived me. He had gazed, in Thy presence, upon all the mysteries of heaven, and I believed his words, dictated by Thee, concerning Thyself. And David, the man that was found after Thine own heart, has betrayed me to destruction, and Solomon, who was thought worthy of the gift of Divine Wisdom, and Isaiah, who saw the Lord of Sabaoth and prophesied, and Jeremiah consecrated in the womb, before he was fashioned, to be the prophet of nations to be rooted out and planted in, and Ezekiel, the witness of the mystery of the Resurrection, and Daniel, the man beloved, who had knowledge of times, and all the hallowed band of the Prophets; and Matthew also, chosen to proclaim the whole mystery of the Gospel, first a publican, then an Apostle, and John, the Lord's familiar friend, and therefore worthy to reveal the deepest secrets of heaven, and blessed Simon, who after his confession of the mystery was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and all his companions who spoke by the Holy Ghost, and Paul, the chosen vessel, changed from persecutor into Apostle, who, as a living man abode under the deep sea and ascended into the third heaven, who was in Paradise before his martyrdom, whose martyrdom was the perfect offering of a flawless faith; all have deceived me.
21. These are the men who have taught me the doctrines which I hold, and so deeply am I impregnated with their teaching that no antidote can release me from their influence. Forgive me, O God Almighty, my powerlessness to change, my willingness to die in this belief. These propagators of blasphemy, for so they seem to me, are a product of these last times, too modern to avail me. It is too late for them to correct the faith which I received from Thee. Before I had ever heard their names, I had put my trust in Thee had received regeneration from Thee and become Thine, as still I am. I know that Thou art omnipotent; I look not that Thou shouldst reveal to me the mystery of that ineffable birth which is secret between Thyself and Thy Only-begotten. Nothing is impossible with Thee, and I doubt not that in begetting Thy Son Thou didst exert Thy full omnipotence. To doubt it would be to deny that Thou an omnipotent. For my own birth teaches me that Thou art good, and therefore I am sure that in the birth of Thine Only-begotten Thou didst grudge Him no good gift. I believe that all that is Thine is His, and all that is His is Thine. The creation of the world is sufficient evidence to me that Thou art wise; and I am sure that Thy Wisdom, Who is like Thee, must have been begotten from Thyself. And Thou art One God, in very truth, in my eyes; I will never believe that in Him, Who is God from Thee, there is ought that is not Thine. Judge me in Him, if it be sin in me that, through Thy Son, I have trusted too well in Law and Prophets and Apostles.
22. But this wild talk must cease; the rhetoric of exposing heretical folly must give place to the drudgery of framing arguments. So, I trust, those among them who are capable of being saved will set their faces towards the true faith taught by the Evangelists and Apostles, and recognise Him Who is the true Son of God, not by adoption but by nature. For the plan of our reply must be that of first proving that He is the Son of God, and therefore fully endowed with that Divine nature in the possession of which His Sonship consists. For the chief aim of the heresy, which we are considering, is to deny that our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and truly the Son of God. Many evidences assure us that our Lord Jesus Christ is, and is revealed to be, God the Only-begotten, truly the Son of God. His Father bears witness to it, He Himself asserts it, the Apostles proclaim it, the faithful believe it, devils confess it, Jews deny it, the heathen at His passion recognised it. The name of God is given Him in the right of absolute ownership, not because He has been admitted to joint use with others of the title. Every work and word of Christ transcends the power of those who bear the title of sons; the foremost lesson that we learn from all that is most prominent in His life is that He is the Son of God, and that He does not hold the name of Son as a title shared with a widespread company of friends.
23. I will not weaken the evidence for this truth by intermixing words of my own. Let us hear the Father, when the baptism of Jesus Christ was accomplished, speaking, as often, concerning His Only-begotten, in order to save us from being misled by His visible body into a failure to recognise Him as the Son. His words are:--This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased . Is the truth presented here with dim outlines? Is the proclamation made in uncertain tones? The promise of the Virgin birth brought by the angel from the Holy Ghost, the guiding star of the Magi, the reverence paid Him in His cradle, the majesty, attested by the Baptist, of Him Who condescended to be baptized; all these are deemed an insufficient witness to His glory. The Father Himself speaks from heaven, and His words are, This is My Son. What means this evidence, not of titles, but of pronouns? Titles may be appended to names at will; pronouns are a sure indication of the persons to whom they refer. And here we have, in This and My, the clearest of indications. Mark the true meaning aid the purpose of the words. You have read,
I have begotten sons, and have raised them up ; but you did not read there My sons, for He had begotten Himself those sons by division among the Gentiles, and from the people of His inheritance. And lest we should suppose that the name Son was given as an additional title to God the Only-begotten, to signify His share by adoption in some joint heritage, His true nature is expressed by the pronoun which gives the indubitable sense of ownership. I will allow you to interpret the word Son, if you will, as signifying that Christ is one of a number, if you can furnish an instance where it is said of another of that number, This is My Son. If, on the other hand, This is My Son be His peculiar designation, why accuse the Father, when He asserts His ownership, of making an unfounded claim? When He says This is My Son, may we not paraphrase His meaning thus:--"He has given to others the title of sons, but He Himself is My own Son; I have given the name to multitudes by adoption, but this Son is My very own. Seek not for another lest you lose your faith that This is He. By gesture and by voice, by This, and My, and Son, I declare Him to you." And now what reasonable excuse remains for lack of faith? This, and nothing less than this, it was that the Father's voice proclaimed. He willed that we should not be left in ignorance of the nature of Him Who came to be baptized, that He might fulfil all righteousness; that by the voice of God we might recognise as the Son of God Him Who was visible as Man, to accomplish the mystery of our salvation.
24. And again, because the life of believers was involved in the confession of this faith,--for there is no other way to eternal life than the assurance that Jesus Christ, God the Only-begotten, is the Son of God--the Apostles heard once more the voice from heaven repeating the same message, in order to strengthen this life-giving belief, in negation of which is death. When the Lord, apparelled in splendour, was standing upon the Mountain, with Moses and Elias at His side, and the three Pillars of the churches who had been chosen as witnesses to the truth of the vision and the voice, the Father spoke thus from heaven:-This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him . The glory which they saw was not sufficient attestation of His majesty; the voice proclaims, This is My Son. The Apostles cannot face the glory of God; mortal eyes grow dim in its presence. The trust of Peter and James and John fails them, and they are prostrate in fear. But this solemn declaration, spoken from the Father's knowledge, comes to their relief; He is revealed as His Father's own true Son. And over and above the witness of This and My to His true Sonship, the words are uttered, Hear Him. It is the witness of the Father from heaven, in confirmation of the witness borne by the Son on earth; for we are bidden to hear Him. Though this recognition by the Father of the Son removes all doubt, yet we are bidden also to accept the Son's self-revelation. When the Father's voice commands us to shew our obedience by hearing Him, we are ordered to repose an absolute confidence in the words of the Son. Since, therefore, the Father has manifested His will in this message to us to hear the Son, let us hear what it is that the Son has told us concerning Himself.
25. I can conceive of no man so destitute of ordinary-reason as to recognise in each of the Gospels confessions by the Son of the humiliation to which He has submitted in taking a body upon Him,--as for instance His words, often repeated, Father, glorify Me , and Ye shall see the Son of Man , and The Father is greater than I , and, more strongly, Now is My saul troubled exceedingly , and even this, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me "? and many more, of which I shall speak in due time,--and yet, in the face of these constant expressions of His humility, to charge Him with presumption because He calls God His Father, as when He says, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up , or, Ye have made my Father's house an house of merchandise . I can conceive of no one foolish enough to regard His assertion, consistently made, that God is His Father, not as the simple truth sincerely stated from certain knowledge, but as a bold and baseless claim. We cannot denounce this constantly professed humility as an insolent demand for the rights of another, a laying of hands on what is not His own, an appropriation of powers which only God can wield. Nor, when He calls Himself the Son, as in, For God sent not His Son into this world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved , and in, Dost thou believe on the Son of God ? can we accuse Him of what would be an equal presumption with that of calling God His Father. But what else is it than such an accusation, if we allow to Jesus Christ the name of Son by adoption only? Do we not charge Him, when He calls God His Father, with daring to make a baseless claim? The Father's voice from heaven says Hear Him. I hear Him saying, Father I thank Thee , and Say ye that I blasphemed, because l said, I am the Son of God ? If I may not believe these names, and assume that they mean what they assert, how am I to trust and to understand? No hint is given of an alternative meaning. The Father bears witness from heaven, This is My Son; the Son on His part speaks of My Father's house, and My Father. The confession of that name gives salvation, when faith is demanded in the question, Dost thou believe an the Son of God? The pronoun My indicates that the noun which follows belongs to the speaker. What right, I demand, have you heretics to suppose it otherwise? You contradict the Father's word the Son's assertion; you empty language of its meaning, and distort the words of God into a sense they cannot bear. On you alone rests the guilt of this shameless blasphemy, that God has lied concerning Himself.
26. And thus, although nothing but a sincere belief that these names are truly significant,--that, when we read, This is My Son and My Father, the words really indicate Persons of Whom, and to Whom, they were spoken--can make them intelligible, yet, lest it be supposed that Son and Father are titles the one merely of adoption, the other merely of dignity, let us see what are the attributes attached, by the Son Himself, to His name of Son. He says, All things are delivered Me of My Father, and no one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any the Father save the Son, and he to Whom the Son will reveal Him . Are the words of which we are speaking, This is My Son and My Father, consistent, or are they not, with No one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any the Father save the Son? For it is only by witness mutually borne that the Son can be known through the Father, and the Father through the Son. We hear the voice from heaven; we hear also the words of the Son. We have as little excuse for not knowing the Son, as we have for not knowing the Father. All things are delivered unto Him; from this All there is no exception. If They possess an equal might; if They share an equal mutual knowledge, hidden from us; if these names of Father and Son express the relation between Them, then, I demand, are They not in truth what They are in name, wielders of the same omnipotence, shrouded in the same impenetrable mystery? God does not speak in order to deceive. The Fatherhood of the Father, the Sonship of the Son, are literal truths. And now learn how facts bear out the verities which these names reveal.
27. The Son speaks thus:--For the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works which I do, bear witness of Me that the Father hath sent Me ; and the Father Himself which hath sent Me hath borne witness of Me . God the Only-begotten proves His Sonship by an appeal not only to the name, but to the power; the works which He does are evidence that He has been sent by the Father. What, I ask, is the fact which these works prove? That He was sent. That He was sent, is used as a proof of His sonlike obedience and of His Father's authority: for the works which He does could not possibly be done by any other than Him Who is sent by the Father. Yet the evidence of His works fails to convince the unbelieving that the Father sent Him. For He proceeds, And the Father Himself which hath sent Me hath borne witness of Me; and ye have neither heard His voice nor seen His shape . What was this witness of the Father concerning Him? Turn over the pages of the Gospels and review their contents. Read us other of the attestations given by the Father beside those which we have heard already; This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased, and Than art My Son. John, who heard these words, needed them not, for He knew the truth already. It was for our instruction that the Father spoke. But this is not all. John in the wilderness was honoured with this revelation; the Apostles were not to be denied the same assurance. It came to them in the very same words, but with an addition which John did not receive. He had been a prophet from the womb, and needed not the commandment, Hear Him. Yes; I will hear Him, and will hear none but Him and His Apostle, who heard for my instruction. Even though the books contained no further witness, borne by the Father to the Son, than that He is the Son, I have, for confirmation of the truth, the evidence of His Father's works which He does. What is this modern slander that His name is a gift by adoption, His Godhead a lie, His titles a pretence? We have the Father's witness to His Sonship; by works, equal to the Father's, the Son bears witness to His own equality with the Father. Why such blindness to His obvious possession of the true Sonship which He both claims and displays. It is not through condescending kindness on the part of God the Father that Christ bears the name of Son; not by holiness that He has earned the title, as many have won it by enduring hardness in confession of the faith. Such sonship is not of right; it is by a favour, worthy of Himself, that God bestows the title. But that which is indicated by This, and My, and Hear Him, is different in kind from the other. It is the true and real and genuine Sonship.
28. And indeed the Son never makes for Himself a lower claim than is contained in this designation, given Him by His Father. The Father's words, This is My Son, reveal His nature; those which follow, Hear Him, are a summons to us to listen to the mystery and the faith which He came down from heaven to bring; to learn that, if we would be saved, our confession must be a copy of His teaching. And in like manner the Son Himself teaches us, in words of His own, that He was truly born and truly came;--Ye neither know Me, nor know ye whence I am, for I am not came of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, Whom ye know not, but I know Him, for I am from Him, and He hath sent Me . No man knows the Father; the Son often assures us of this. The reason why He says that none knows Him but Himself, is that He is from the Father. Is it, I ask, as the result of an act of creation, or of a genuine birth, that He is from Him? If it be an act of creation, then all created things are from God. How then is it that none of them know the Father, when the Son says that the reason why He has this knowledge is that He is from Him? If He be created, not born, we shall observe in Him a resemblance to other beings who are from God. Since all, on this supposition, are from God, why is He not as ignorant of the Father as are the others? But if this knowledge of the Father be peculiar to Him, Who is from the Father, must not this circumstance also, that He is from the Father, be peculiar to Him? That is, must He not be the true Son born from the nature of God? For the reason why He alone knows God is that He alone is from God. You observe, then, a knowledge, which is peculiar to Himself, resulting from a birth which also is peculiar to Himself. You recognise that it is not by an act of creative power, but through a true birth, that He is from the Father; and that this is why He alone knows the Father, Who is unknown to all other beings which are from Him.
29. But He immediately adds, For I am from Him, and He hath sent Me, to debar heresy from the violent assumption that His being from God dates from the time of His Advent. The Gospel revelation of the mystery proceeds in a logical sequence; first He is born, then He is sent. Similarly, in the previous declaration, we were told of ignorance , first as to Who He is, and then as to whence He is. For the words, I am from Him, and He hath sent Me, contain two separate statements, as also do the words, Ye neither know Me, nor know ye whence I am. Every man is born in the flesh; yet does not universal consciousness make every man spring from God? How then can Christ assert that either He, or the source of His being, is unknown? He can only do so by assigning His immediate parentage to the ultimate Author of existence; and, when He has done this, He can demonstrate their ignorance of God by their ignorance of the fact that He is the Son of God. Let the victims of this wretched delusion reflect upon the words, Ye neither know Me, nor know ye whence I am. All things, they argue, are from nothing; they allow of no exception. They even dare to misrepresent God the Only-begotten as sprung from nothing. How can we explain this ignorance of Christ, and of the origin of Christ, on the part of the blasphemers? The very fact that, as the Scripture says, they know not whence He is, is an indication of that unknowable origin from which He springs. If we can say of a thing that it came into existence out of nothing, then we are not ignorant of its origin; we know that it was made out of nothing, and this is a piece of definite knowledge. Now He Who came is not the Author of His own being; but He Who sent Him is true, Whom the blasphemers know not. He it was Who sent Him; and they know not that He was the Sender. Thus the Sent is from the Sender; from Him Whom they know not as His Author. The reason why they know not Who Christ is, is that they know not from Whom He is. None can confess the Son who denies that He was born; none can understand that He was born who has formed the opinion that He is from nothing. And indeed He is so far from being made out of nothing, that the heretics cannot tell whence He is.
30. They are blankly ignorant who separate the Divine name from the Divine nature; ignorant, and content to be ignorant. But let them listen to the reproof which the Son inflicts upon unbelievers for their want of this knowledge, when the Jews said that God was their Father:--If God were your Father, ye would surely love Me; for I went forth from God, and am come; neither am I come of Myself, but He sent Me. The Son of God has here no word of blame for the devout confidence of those who combine the confession that He is true God, the Son of God, with their own claim to be God's sons. What He is blaming is the insolence of the Jews in daring to claim God as their Father, when meanwhile they did not love Him, the Son:--If God were your Father, ye would surely love Me; for I went forth from God. All, who have God for their Father through faith, have Him for Father through that same faith whereby we confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. But to confess that He is the Son in a sense which covers the whole company of saints; to say, in effect, that He is one of the sons of God;--what faith is there in that? Are not all the rest, feeble created beings though they be, in that sense sons? In what does the eminence of a faith, which has confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, consist, if He, as one of a multitude of sons, have the name only, and not the nature, of the Son? This unbelief has no love for Christ; it is a mockery of the faith for these perverters of the truth to claim God as their Father. If He were their Father, they would love Christ because He had gone forth from God. And now I must enquire the meaning of this going forth from God. His going forth is obviously different from His coming, for the two are mentioned side by side in this passage, I went forth from God and am come. In order to elucidate the separate meanings of I went forth from God and I am come, He immediately subjoins, Neither am I come of Myself, but He sent Me. He tells us that He is not the source of His own existence in the words, Neither am I come of Myself. In them He tells us that He has proceeded forth a second time from God, and has been sent by Him. But when He tells us that they who call God their Father must love Himself because He has gone forth from God, He makes His birth the reason for their love. Went forth carries back our thoughts to the incorporeal birth, for it is by love of Christ, Who was born from Him, that we must gain the right of devoutly claiming God for our Father. For when the Son says, He that hateth Me hateth My Father also, this My is the assertion of a relation to the Father which is shared by none. On the other hand, He condemns the man who claims God as his Father, and loves not the Son, as using a wrongful liberty with the Father's name; since he who hates Him, the Son, must hate the Father also, and none can be devoted to the Father save those who love the Son. For the one and only reason which He gives for loving the Son is His origin from the Father. The Son, therefore, is from the Father, not by His Advent, but by His birth; and love for the Father is only possible to those who believe that the Son is from Him.
31. To this the Lord's words bear witness;--I will not say unto you that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and believe that I went forth from God, and am come from the Father into this world. A complete faith concerning the Son, which accepts and loves the truth that He went forth from God, has access to the Father without need of His intervention. The confession that the Son was born and sent from God wins for it direct audience and love from Him. Thus the narrative of His birth and coming must be taken in the strictest and most literal sense. I went forth from God, He says, conveying that His nature is exactly that which was given Him by His birth; for what being but God could go forth from God, that is, could enter upon existence by birth from Him? Then He continues, And am come from the Father into this world. To assure us that this going forth from God means birth from the Father, He tells us that He came from the Father into this world. The latter statement refers to His incarnation, the former to His nature. And again, His putting on record first the fact of His going forth from God, and then His coming from the Father, forbids us to identify the going with the coming. Coming from the Father, and going forth from God, are not synonymous; they might be paraphrased as 'Birth' and 'Presence,' and are as different in meaning as these. It is one thing to have gone forth from God, and entered by birth upon a substantial existence; another to have come from the Father into this world to accomplish the mysteries of our salvation.
32. In the order of our defence, as I have arranged it in my mind, this has seemed the most convenient place for proving that, thirdly, the Apostles believed our Lord Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, not merely in name but in nature, not by adoption but by birth.
It is true that there remain unmentioned many and most weighty words of God the Only-begotten concerning Himself, in which the truth of His Divine birth is set so clearly forth as to silence any whisper of objection. Yet since it would be unwise to burden the reader's mind with an accumulation of evidence, and ample proof has been already given of the genuineness of His birth, I will hold back the remainder of His utterances till later stages of our enquiry. For we have so arranged I the course of our argument that now, after hearing the Father's witness and the Son's self-revelation, we are to be instructed by the Apostles' faith in the true and, as we must confess, the truly born Son of God. We must see whether they could find in the words of the Lord, I went forth from God, any other meaning than this, that there was in Him a birth of the Divine nature.
33. After many dark sayings, spoken in parables by Him Whom they already knew as the Christ foretold by Moses and the Prophets, Whom Nathanael had confessed as the Son of God and King of Israel, Who had Himself reproached Philip, in his question about the Father, for not perceiving, by the works which He did, that the Father was in Him and He in the Father; after He had already often taught them that He was sent from the Father; still, it was not till they had heard Him assert that He had gone forth from God that they confessed, in the words which immediately follow in the Gospel;--His disciples say unto Him, Now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now therefore we are sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee; by this we believe that Thou wentest forth from God. What was there so marvellous in this form of words, Went forth from God, which He had used? Had ye seen, O holy and blessed men, who for the reward of your faith have received the keys of the kingdom of heaven and power to bind and to loose in heaven and earth, works so great, so truly Divine, wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God; and do ye yet profess that it was not until He had first told you that He had gone forth from God that ye attained the knowledge of the truth? And yet ye had seen water at the marriage turned into the marriage wine; one nature becoming another nature, whether it were by change, or by development, or by creation. And your hands had broken up the five loaves into a meal for that great multitude, and when all were satisfied ye had found that twelve baskets were needed to contain the fragments of the loaves; a small quantity of matter, in the process of relieving hunger, had multiplied into a great quantity of matter of the same nature. And ye had seen withered hands recover their suppleness, the tongues of dumb men loosened into speech, the feet of the lame made swift to run, the eyes of the blind endowed with vision, and life restored to the dead. Lazarus, who stank already, had risen to his feet at a word. He was summoned from the tomb and instantly came forth, without a pause between the word and its fulfilment. He was standing before you, a living man, while yet the air was carrying the odour of death to your nostrils. I speak not of other exertions of His mighty, His Divine powers. And is it, in spite of all this, only after ye heard Him say, I went forth from God, that ye understood Who He is that had been sent from heaven? Is this the first time that the truth had been told you without a proverb? The first time that the powers of His nature made it manifest to you that He went forth from God? And this in spite of His silent scrutiny of the purposes of your will, of His needing not to ask you concerning anything as though He were ignorant, of His universal knowledge? For all these things, done in the power and in the nature of God, are evidence that He must have gone forth from God.
34. By this the holy Apostles did not understand that He had gone forth, in the sense of having been sent, from God. For they had often heard Him confess, in His earlier discourses, that He was sent; but what they hear now is the express statement that He had gone forth from God. This opens their eyes to perceive from His works His Divine nature. The fact that He had gone forth from God makes clear to them His true Divinity, and so they say, Now therefore we are sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee; by this we believe that Thou wentest forth from God. The reason why they believe that He went forth from God is that He both can, and does, perform the works of God. Their perfect assurance of His Divine nature is the result of their knowledge, not that He is come from God, but that He did go forth from God. Accordingly we find that it is this truth, now heard for the first time, which clenches their faith. The Lord had made two statements; I went forth from God, and I am come from the Father into this world. One of these, I am come from the Father into this world, they had often heard, and it awakens no surprise. But their reply makes it manifest that they now believe and understand the other, that is, I went forth from God. Their answer, By this we believe that Thou wentest forth from God, is a response to it, and to it only; they do not add, 'And art come from the Father into this world.' The one statement is welcomed with a declaration of faith; the other is passed over in silence. The confession was wrung from them by the sudden presentation of a new truth, which convinced their reason and constrained them to avow their certainty. They knew already that He, like God, could do all things; but His birth, which accounted for that omnipotence, had not been revealed. They knew that He had been sent from God, but they knew not that He had gone forth from God. Now at last, taught by this utterance to understand the ineffable and perfect birth of the Son, they confess that He had spoken to them without a proverb.
35. For God is not born from God by the ordinary process of a human childbirth; this is no case of one being issuing from another by the exertion of natural forces. That birth is pure and perfect and stainless; indeed, we must call it rather a proceeding forth than a birth. For it is One from One; no partition, or withdrawing, or lessening, or efflux, or extension, or suffering of change, but the birth of living nature from living nature. It is God going forth from God, not a creature picked out to bear the name of God. His existence did not take its beginning out of nothing, but went forth from the Eternal; and this going forth is rightly entitled a birth, though it would be false to call it a beginning. For the proceeding forth of God from God is a thing entirely different from the coming into existence of a new substance. And though our apprehension of this truth, which is ineffable, cannot be defined in words, yet the teaching of the Son, as He reveals to us that He went forth from God, imparts to it the certainty of an assured faith.
36. A belief that the Son of God is Son in name only and not in nature, is not the faith of the Gospels and of the Apostles. If this be a mere title, to which adoption is His only claim; if He be not the Son in virtue of having proceeded forth from God, whence, I ask, was it that the blessed Simon Bar-Jona confessed to Him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God? Because He shared with all mankind the power of being born as one of the sons of God through the sacrament of regeneration? If Christ be the Son of God only in this titular way, what was the revelation made to Peter, not by flesh and blood, but by the Father in heaven? What praise could he deserve for making a declaration which was universally applicable? What credit was due to Him for stating a fact of general knowledge? If He be Son by adoption, wherein lay the blessedness of Peter's confession, which offered a tribute to the Son to which, in that case, He had no more title than any member of the company of saints? The Apostle's faith penetrates into a region closed to human reasoning. He had, no doubt, often heard, He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and He that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. Hence he knew well that Christ had been sent; he had heard Him, Whom he knew to have been sent, making the declaration, All things are delivered unto Me of the Father, and no one knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any one the Father save the Son. What then is this truth, which the Father now reveals to Peter, which receives the praise of a blessed confession? It cannot have been that the names of 'Father' and 'Son' were novel to him; he had heard them often. Yet he speaks words which the tongue of man had never framed before:--Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. For though Christ, while dwelling in the body, had avowed Himself to be the Son of God, yet now for the first time the Apostle's faith had recognised in Him the presence of the Divine nature. Peter is praised not merely for his tribute of adoration, but for his recognition of the mysterious truth; for confessing not Christ only, but Christ the Son of God. It would clearly have sufficed for a payment of reverence, had he said, Thou art the Christ, and nothing more. But it would have been a hollow confession, had Peter only hailed Him as Christ, without confessing Him the Son of God. And so his words Thou art declare that what is asserted of Him is strictly and exactly true to His nature. Next, the Father's utterance, This is My Son, had revealed to Peter that he must confess Thou art the Son of God, for in the words This is, God the Revealer points Him out, and the response, Thou art, is the believer's welcome to the truth. And this is the rock of confession whereon the Church is built. But the perceptive faculties of flesh and blood cannot attain to the recognition and confession of this truth. It is a mystery, Divinely revealed, that Christ must be not only named, but believed, the Son of God. Was it only the Divine name; was it not rather the Divine nature that was revealed to Peter? If it were the name, he had heard it often from the Lord, proclaiming Himself the Son of God. What honour, then, did he deserve for announcing the name? No; it was not the name; it was the nature, for the name had been repeatedly proclaimed.
37. This faith it is which is the foundation of the Church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven. This faith is the Father's gift by revelation; even the knowledge that we must not imagine a false Christ, a creature made out of nothing, but must confess Him the Son of God, truly possessed of the Divine nature. What blasphemous madness and pitiful folly is it, that will not heed the venerable age and faith of that blessed martyr, Peter himself, for whom the Father was prayed that his faith might not fail in temptation; who twice repeated the declaration of love for God that was demanded of him, and was grieved that he was tested by a third renewal of the question, as though it were a doubtful and wavering devotion, and then, because this third trial had cleansed him of his infirmities, had the reward of hearing the Lord's commission, Feed My sheep, a third time repeated; who, when all the Apostles were silent, alone recognised by the Father's revelation the Son of God, and won the pre-eminence of a glory beyond the reach of human frailty by his confession of his blissful faith! What are the conclusions forced upon us by the study of his words? He confessed that Christ is the Son of God; you, lying bishop of the new apostolate, thrust upon us your modern notion that Christ is a creature, made out of nothing. What violence is this, that so distorts the glorious words? The very reason why he is blessed is that he confessed the Son of God. This is the Father's revelation, this the foundation of the Church, this the assurance of her permanence. Hence has she the keys of the kingdom of heaven, hence judgment in heaven and judgment on earth. Through revelation Peter learnt the mystery hidden from the beginning of the world, proclaimed the faith, published the Divine nature, confessed the Son of God. He who would deny all this truth and confess Christ a creature, must first deny the apostleship of Peter, his faith, his blessedness, his episcopate, his martyrdom. And when he has done all this, he must learn that he has severed himself from Christ; for it was by confessing Him that Peter won these glories.
38. Do you think, wretched heretic of today, that Peter would have been the more blessed now, if he had said, 'Thou art Christ, God's perfect creature, His handiwork, though excelling all His other works. Thy beginning was from nothing, and through the goodness of God, Who alone is good, the name of Son has been given Thee by adoption, although in fact Thou wast not born from God?' What answer, think you, would have been given to such words as these, when this same Peter's reply to the announcement of the Passion, Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be, was rebuked with, Get thee behind Me, Satan, thou art an offence unto Me? Yet Peter could plead his human ignorance in extenuation of his guilt, for as yet the Father had not revealed all the mystery of the Passion; still, mere defect of faith was visited with this stern condemnation. Now, why was it that the Father did not reveal to Peter your true confession, this faith in an adopted creature? I fancy that God must have grudged him the knowledge of the truth; that He wanted to postpone it to a later age, and keep it as a novelty for your modern preachers. Yes; you may have a change of faith, if the keys of heaven are changed. You may have a change of faith, if there is a change in that Church against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. You may have a change of faith, if there shall be a fresh apostolate, binding and loosing in heaven what it has bound and loosed on earth. You may have a change of faith, if another Christ the Son of God, beside the true Christ, shall be preached. But if that faith which confesses Christ as the Son of God, and that faith only, received in Peter's person every accumulated blessing, then perforce the faith which proclaims Him a creature, made out of nothing, holds not the keys of the Church and is a stranger to the apostolic faith and power. It is neither the Church's faith, nor is it Christ's.
39. Let us therefore cite every example of a statement of the faith made by an Apostle. All of them, when they confess the Son of God, confess Him not as a nominal and adoptive Son, but as Son by possession of the Divine nature. They never degrade Him to the level of a creature, but assign Him the splendour of a true birth from God. Let John speak to us, while he is waiting, just as he is, for the coming of the Lord; John, who was left behind and appointed to a destiny hidden in the counsel of God, for he is not told that he shall not die, but only that he shall tarry. Let him speak to us in his own familiar voice:--No one hath seen God at any time, except the Only-begotten Son, Which is in the bosom of the Father. It seemed to him that the name of Son did not set forth with sufficient distinctness His true Divinity, unless he gave an external support to the peculiar majesty of Christ by indicating the difference between Him and all others. Hence he not only calls Him the Son, but adds the further designation of the Only-begotten, and so cuts away the last prop from under this imaginary adoption. For the fact that He is Only-begotten is proof positive of His right to the name of Son.
40. I defer the consideration of the words, which is in the bosom of the Father, to a more appropriate place. My present enquiry is into the sense of Only-begotten, and the claim upon us which that sense may make. And first let us see whether the word mean, as you assert, a perfect creature of God; Only-begotten being equivalent to perfect, and Son a synonym for creature. But John described the Only-begotten Son as God, not as a perfect creature. His words, Which is in the bosom of the Father, shew that he anticipated these blasphemous designations; and, indeed, he had heard his Lord say, For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. God, Who loved the world, gave His Only-begotten Son as a manifest token of His love. If the evidence of His love be this, that He bestowed a creature upon creatures, gave a worldly being on the world's behalf, granted one raised up from nothing for the redemption of objects equally raised up from nothing, this cheap and petty sacrifice is a poor assurance of His favour towards us. Gifts of price are the evidence of affection the greatness of the surrender of the greatness of the love. God, Who loved the world, gave not an adopted Son, but His own, His Only-begotten. Here is personal interest, true Sonship, sincerity; not creation, or adoption, or pretence. Herein is the proof of His love and affection, that He gave His own, His Only-begotten Son.
41. I appeal not now to any of the titles which are given to the Son; there is no loss in delay when it is the result of an embarrassing abundance of choice. My present argument is that a successful result implies a sufficient cause; some clear and cogent motive must underlie every effectual performance. And so the Evangelist has been obliged to reveal his motive in writing. Let us see what is the purpose which he confesses;--But these things are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The one reason which he alleges for writing his Gospel is that all may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. If it be sufficient for salvation to believe that He is the Christ, why does he add The Son of God? But if the true faith be nothing less than the belief that Christ is not merely Christ, but Christ the Son of God, then assuredly the name of Son is not attached to Christ as a customary appendage due to adoption, seeing that it is essential to salvation. If then salvation consists in the confession of the name, must not the name express the truth? If the name express the truth, by what authority can He be called a creature? It is not the confession of a creature, but the confession of the Son, which shall give us salvation.
42. To believe, therefore, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is true salvation, is the acceptable service of an unfeigned faith. For we have no love within us towards God the Father except through faith in the Son. Let us hear Him speaking to us in the words of the Epistle;--Every one that loveth the Father loveth Him that is born from Him. What, I ask, is the meaning of being born from Him? Can it mean, perchance, being created by Him? Does the Evangelist lie in saying that He was born from God, while the heretic more correctly teaches that He was created? Let us all listen to the true character of this teacher of heresy. It is written, He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. What will you do now, champion of the creature, conjurer up of a novel Christ out of nothing? Hear the title which awaits you, if you persist in your assertion. Or do you think that perhaps you may still describe the Father and the Son as Creator and Creature, and yet by an ingenious ambiguity of language escape being recognised as antichrist? If your confession embraces a Father in the true sense, and a Son in the true sense, then I am a slanderer, assailing you with a title of infamy which you have not deserved. But if in your confession all Christ's attributes are spurious and nominal, and not His own, then learn from the Apostle the right description of such a faith as yours; and hear what is the true faith which believes in the Son. The words which follow are these;--He that denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that confesseth the Son hath both the Son and the Father. He that denies the Son is destitute of the Father; he that confesses and has the Son has the Father also. What room is there here for adoptive names? Does not every word tell of the Divine nature? Learn how completely that nature is present.
43. John speaks thus;--For we know that the Son of God is came, and was incarnate for us, and suffered, and rose again from the dead and took us for Himself, and gave us a good understanding that we may know Him that is true, and may be in His true Son Jesus Christ. He is true and is life eternal and our resurrection. Wisdom doomed to an evil end, void of the Spirit of God, destined to possess the spirit and the name of Antichrist, blind to the truth that the Son of God came to fulfil the mystery of our salvation, and unworthy in that blindness to perceive the light of that sovereign knowledge! For this wisdom asserts that Jesus Christ is no true Son of God, but a creature of His, Who bears the Divine name by adoption. In what dark oracle of hidden knowledge was the secret learnt? To whose research do we owe this, the great discovery of the day? Were you he that lay upon the bosom of the Lord? You he to whom in the familiar intercourse of love He revealed the mystery? Was it you that alone followed Him to the foot of the Cross? And while He was charging you to receive Mary as your Mother, did He teach you this secret, as the token of His peculiar love for yourself? Or did you run to the Sepulchre, and reach it sooner even than Peter, and so gain this knowledge there? Or was it amid the throngs of angels, and sealed books whose clasps none can open, and manifold influences of the signs of heaven, and unknown songs of the eternal choirs, that the Lamb, your Guide, revealed to you this godly doctrine, that the Father is no Father, the Son no Son, nor nature, nor truth? For you transform all these into lies. The Apostle, by that most excellent knowledge that was granted him, speaks of the Son of God as true. You assert His creation, proclaim His adoption, deny His birth. While the true Son of God is eternal life and resurrection to us, for him, in whose eyes He is not true, there is neither eternal life nor resurrection. And this is the lesson taught by John, the disciple beloved of the Lord.
44. And the persecutor, who was converted to be an Apostle and a chosen vessel, delivers the very same message. What discourse is there of his which does not presuppose the confession of the Son? What Epistle of his that does not begin with a confession of that mysterious truth? When he says, We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and, God sent His Son to be the likeness of the flesh of sin, and again, God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, is any loophole left for heretical misrepresentation? His Son, Son of God; so we read, but nothing is said of His adoption, or of God's creature. The name expresses the nature; He is God's Son, and therefore the Sonship is true. The Apostle's confession asserts the genuineness of the relation. I see not how the Divine nature of the Son could have been more completely stated. That Chosen Vessel has proclaimed in no weak or wavering voice that Christ is the Son of Him Who, as we believe, is the Father. The Teacher of the Gentiles, the Apostle of Christ, has left us no uncertainty, no opening for error in his presentation of the doctrine. He is quite clear upon the Subject of children by adoption; of those who by faith attain so to be and so to be named. in his own words, For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. This is the name granted to us, who believe, through the sacrament of regeneration; our confession of the faith wins us this adoption. For our work done in obedience to the Spirit of God gives us the title of sons of God. Abba, Father, is the cry which we raise, not the expression of our essential nature. For that essential nature of ours is untouched by that tribute of the voice. It is one thing for God to be addressed as Father; another thing for Him to be the Father of His Son.
45. But now let us learn what is this faith concerning the Son of God, which the Apostle holds. For though there is no single discourse, among the many which he delivered concerning the Church's doctrine, in which he mentions the Father without also making confession of the Son, yet, in order to display the truth of the relation which that name conveys with the utmost definiteness of which human language is capable, he speaks thus:--What then? If God be for us, who can be against us? Who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us. Can Son, by any remaining possibility, be a title received through adoption, when He is expressly called God's own Son? For the Apostle, wishing to make manifest the love of God towards us, uses a kind of comparison, to enable us to estimate how great that love is, when He says that it was His own Son Whom God did not spare. He suggests the thought that this was no sacrifice of an adopted Son, on behalf of those whom He purposed to adopt, of a creature for creatures, but of His Son for strangers, His own Son for those to whom He had willed to give a share in the name of sons. Seek out the full import of the term, that you may understand the extent of the love. Consider the meaning of own; mark the genuineness of the Sonship which it implies. For the Apostle now describes Him as God's own Soil; previously he had often spoken of Him as God's Son, or Son of God. And though many manuscripts, through a want of apprehension on the part of the translators, read in this passage His Son, instead of His own, Son, yet the original Greek, the tongue in which the Apostle wrote, is more exactly rendered by His own than by His. And though the casual reader may discern no great difference between His own and His, yet the Apostle, who in all his other statements had spoken of His Son, which is, in the Greek, ton eautou uion , in this passage uses the words os ge tou idiou uion ouk efeisato , that is, Who spared not His own Son, expressly and emphatically indicating His true Divine nature, PrevioUsly he had declared that through the Spirit of adoption there are many sons; now his object is to point to God's own Son, God the Only-begotten.
46. This is no universal and inevitable error; they who deny the Son cannot lay the fault upon their ignorance, for ignorance of the truth which they deny is impossible. They describe the Son of God as a creature who came into being out of nothing. If the Father has never asserted this, nor the Son confirmed it, nor the Apostles proclaimed it, then the dating which prompts their allegation is bred not of ignorance, but of hatred for Christ. When the Father says of His Son, This is, and the Son of Himself, It is He that talketh with Thee, and when Peter confesses Thou art, and John assures us, This is the true God, and Paul is never weary of proclaiming Him as God's own Son, I can conceive of no other motive for this denial than hatred. The plea of want of familiarity with the subject cannot be urged in extenuation of their guilt. It is the suggestion of that Evil One, uttered now through these prophets and forerunners of his coming; he will utter it himself hereafter when he comes as Antichrist. He is using this novel engine of assault to shake us m our saving confession of the faith. His first object is to pluck from our hearts the confident assurance of the Divine nature of the Son; next, he would fill our minds with the notion of Christ's adoption, and leave no room for the memory of His other claims. For they who hold that Christ is but a creature, must regard Christ as Antichrist, since a creature cannot be God's own Son, and therefore He must lie in calling Himself the Son of God. Hence also they who deny that Christ is the Son of God must have Antichrist for their Christ.
47. What is the hope of which this futile passion of yours is in pursuit? What is the assurance of your salvation which emboldens you with blasphemous licence of tongue to maintain that Christ is a creature, and not a Son? It was your duty to know this mystery, from the Gospels, and to hold the knowledge fast. For though the Lord can do all things, yet He resolved that every one who prays for His effectual help must earn it by a true confession of Himself. Not, indeed, that the suppliant's confession could augment the power of Him, Who is the Power of God; but the earning was to be the reward of faith. So, when He asked Martha, who was entreating Him for Lazarus, whether she believed that they who had believed in Him should not die eternally, her answer expressed the trust of her soul;--Yea, Lord, I believe that Than art the Christ, the Son of God, Who art come into this world. This confession is eternal life; this faith has immortality. Martha, praying for her brother's life, was asked whether she believed this. She did so believe. What life does the denier expect, from whom does he hope to receive it, when this belief, and this only, is eternal life? For great is the mystery of this faith, and perfect the blessedness which is the fruit of this confession.
48. The Lord had given sight to a man blind from his birth; the, Lord of nature had removed a defect of nature. Because this blind man had been born for the glory of God, that God's work might be made manifest in the work of Christ, the Lord did not delay till the man had given evidence of his faith by a confession of it. But though he knew not at the time Who it was that had bestowed the great gift of eyesight, yet afterwards he earned a knowledge of the faith. For it was not the dispelling of his blindness that won him eternal life. And so, when the man was already healed and had suffered ejection from the synagogue, the Lord put to him the question, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? This was to save him from the thought of loss, in exclusion from the synagogue, by the certainty that confession of the true faith had restored him to immortality. When the man, his soul still unenlightened, made answer, Who is He, Lord, that I may believe on Him? The Lord's reply was, Thou hast bath seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee. For He was minded to remove the ignorance of the man whose sight he had restored, and whom He was now enriching with the knowledge of so glorious a faith. Does the Lord demand from this man, as from others, who prayed Him to heal them, a confession of faith as the price of their recovery? Emphatically not. For the blind man could already see when he was thus addressed. The Lord asked the question in order to receive the answer, Lord, I believe. The faith which spoke in that answer was to receive not sight, but life. And now let us examine carefully the force of the words. The Lord asks of the man, Dost thou believe an the Son of God? Surely, if a simple confession of Christ, leaving His nature in obscurity, were a complete expression of the faith, the terms of the question would have been, 'Dost thou believe in Christ?' But in days to come almost every heretic was to make a parade of that name, confessing Christ and yet denying that He is the Son; and therefore He demands, as the condition of faith, that we should believe in what is peculiar to Himself, that is, in His Divine Sonship. What is the profit of faith in the Son of God, if it be faith in a creature, when He requires of us faith in Christ, not the creature, but the Son, of God.
49. Did devils fail to understand the full meaning of this name of Son? For we are valuing the heretics at their true worth if we refute them no longer by the teaching of Apostles, but out of the mouth of devils. They cry, and cry often, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God most High? Truth wrung this confession from them against their will; their reluctant obedience is a witness to the force of the Divine nature within Him. When they fly from the bodies they have long possessed, it is His might that conquers them; their confession of His nature is an act of reverence. These transactions display Christ as the Son of God both in power and in name. Can you hear, amid all these cries of devils confessing Him, Christ once styled a creature, or God's condescension in adopting Him once named?
50. If you will not learn Who Christ is from those that know Him, learn it at least from those that know Him not. So shall the confession, which their ignorance is forced to make, rebuke your blasphemy. The Jews did not recognise Christ, come in the body, though they knew that the true Christ must be the Son of God. And so, when they were employing false witnesses, without one word of truth in their testimony, against Him, their priest asked Him, Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? They knew not that in Him the mystery was fulfilled; they knew that the Divine nature was the condition of its fulfilment. They did not ask whether Christ be the Son of God; they asked whether He were Christ, the Son of God. They were wrong as to the Person, not as to the Sonship, of Christ. They did not doubt that Christ is the Son of God; and thus, while they asked whether He were the Christ, they asked without denying that the Christ is the Son of God. What, then, of your faith, which leads you to deny what even they, in their blindness, confessed? The perfect knowledge is this, to be assured that Christ, the Son of God, Who existed before the worlds, was also born of the Virgin. Even they, who know nothing of His birth from Mary, know that He is the Son of God. Mark the fellowship with Jewish wickedness in which your denial of the Divine Sonship has involved you! For they have put on record the reason of their condemnation:--And by our Law He aught to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. Is not this the same charge which you are blasphemously bringing against Him, that, while you pronounce Him a creature, He calls Himself the Son? He confesses Himself the Son, and they declare Him guilty of death: you too deny that He is the Son of God. What sentence do you pass upon Him? You have the same repugnance to His claim as had the Jews. You agree with their verdict; I want to know whether you will quarrel about the sentence. Your offence, in denying that He is the Son of God, is exactly the same as theirs, though their guilt is less, for they sinned in ignorance. They knew not that Christ was born of Mary, yet they never doubted that Christ must be the Son of God. You are perfectly aware of the fact that Christ was born of Mary, yet you refuse Him the name of Son of God. If they come to the faith, there awaits them an un-imperilled salvation, because of their past ignorance. Every gate of safety is shut to you, because you persist in denying a truth which is obvious to you. For you are not ignorant that He is the Son of God; you know it so well that you allow Him the name as a title of adoption, and feign that He is a creature adorned, like others, with the right to call Himself a Son. You rob Him, as far as you can, of the Divine nature; if you could, you would rob Him of the Divine name as well. But, because you cannot, you divorce the name from the nature; He is called a Son, but He shall not be the true Son of God.
51. The confession of the Apostles, for whom by a word of command the raging wind and troubled sea were restored to calm, was an opportunity for you. You might have confessed, as they did, that He is God's true Son; you might have borrowed their very words, Of a truth, this is the Son of God. But an evil spirit of madness is driving you on to shipwreck of your life; your reason is distracted and overwhelmed, like the ocean tormented by the fury of the storm.
52. If this witness of the voyagers seem in conclusive to you because they were Apostles,--though to me it comes with the greater weight for the same reason, though it surprises me the less,--accept at any rate a corroboration given by the Gentiles. Hear how the soldier of the Roman cohort, one of the stern guard around the Cross, was humbled to the faith. The centurion sees the mighty workings of Christ's power; and this is the witness borne by him:--Truly this was the Son of God. The truth was forced upon him, after Christ had given up the ghost, by the torn veil of the Temple, and the earth that shook, and the rocks that were rent, and the sepulchres that were opened, and the dead that rose. And it was the confession of an unbeliever. The deeds that were done convinced him that Christ's nature was omnipotent; he names Him the Son of God, being assured of His true Divinity. So cogent was the proof, so strong the man's conviction, that the force of truth conquered his will, and even he who had nailed Christ to the Cross was driven to confess that He is the Lord of eternal glory, truly the Son of God.