Early Church Fathers
Philippians ii. 5-11.-"Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God; but emptied Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave Him the Name which is above every name: that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
I Have stated the views of the heretics. It is befitting that I now speak of what is our own. They say that the words, "He counted it not a prize," are of wrongfully seizing. We have proved, that this is altogether vapid and impertinent, for no man would exhort another to humility on such grounds, nor in this sort does he praise God, or even man. What is it then, beloved? Give heed to what I now say. Since many men think, that, when they are lowly, they are deprived of their proper right, and debased, Paul, to take away this fear, and to show that we must not be affected thus, says that God, the only begotten, who was in the form of God, who was no whit inferior to the Father, who was equal to Him, "counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God."
Now learn what this meaneth. Whatsoever a man robs, and takes contrary to his right, he dares not lay aside, from fear lest it perish, and fall from his possession, but he keeps hold of it continually. He who possesses some dignity which is natural to him, fears not to descend from that dignity, being assured that nothing of this sort will happen to him. As for example, Absalom usurped the government, and dared not afterwards to lay it aside. We will go to another example, but if example cannot present the whole matter to you, take it not amiss, for this is the nature of examples, they leave the greater part for the imagination to reason out. A man rebels against his sovereign, and usurps the kingdom: he dares not lay aside and hide the matter, for if he once hide it, straightway it is gone. Let us also take another example; if a man takes anything violently, he keeps firm hold of it continually, for if he lay it down, he straightway loses it. And generally speaking, they who have aught by rapine are afraid to lay it by, or hide it, or not to keep constantly in that state which they have assumed. Not so they, who have possessions not procured by rapine, as Man, who possesses the dignity of being a reasonable being. But here examples fail me, for there is no natural preëminence amongst us, for no good thing is naturally our own; but they are inherent in the nature of God. What does one say then? That the Son of God feared not to descend from His right, for He thought not Deity a prize seized. He was not afraid that any would strip Him of that nature or that right, Wherefore He laid it aside, being confident that He should take it up again. He hid it, knowing that He was not made inferior by so doing. For this cause, Paul says not, "He seized not," but, "He counted it not a prize"; He possessed not that estate by seizure, but it was natural, not conferred, it was enduring and safe. Wherefore he refused not to take the form of an inferior. The tyrant fears to lay aside the purple robe in war, while the king does it with much safety. Why so? because he holds his power not as a matter of seizure. He did not refuse to lay it aside, as one who had usurped it, but since He had it as His own by nature, since it could never be parted from Him, He hid it.
This equality with God He had not by seizure, but as his own by nature. Wherefore "He emptied Himself." Where be they who affirm, that He underwent constraint, that He was subjected? Scripture says, "He emptied Himself, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death." How did He empty Himself? By taking "the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man." It is written, "He emptied Himself" in reference to the text, "each counting other better than himself." Since had He been subjected, had He not chosen it of His own accord, and of His own free will, it would not have been an act of humility. For if He knew not that so it must be, He would have been imperfect. If, not knowing it, He had waited for the time of action, then would He not have known the season. But if He both knew that so it must be, and when it must be, wherefore should He submit to be subjected? To show, they say, the superiority of the Father. But this shows not the superiority of the Father, but His own inferiority. For is not the name of the Father sufficient to show the priority of the Father? For apart from Him, the son has all the same things. For this honor is not capable of passing from the Father to the Son.
What then say the heretics? See, say they, He did not become man. The Marcionites, I mean. But why? He was "made in the likeness of man." But how can one be "made in the likeness of men"? by putting on a shadow? But this is a phantom, and no longer the likeness of a man, for the likeness of a man is another man. And what wilt thou answer to John, when he says, "The Word became flesh"? (John i. 14.) But this same blessed one himself also says in another place, "in the likeness of sinful flesh." (Rom. viii. 3.)
"And being found in fashion as a man." See, they say, both "in fashion," and "as a man." To be as a man, and to be a man in fashion, is not to be a man indeed. To be a man in fashion is not to be a man by nature. See with what ingenuousness I lay down what our enemies say, for that is a brilliant victory, and amply gained, when we do not conceal what seem to be their strong points. For this is deceit rather than victory. What then do they say? let me repeat their argument. To be a man in fashion is not to be a man by nature; and to be as a man, and in the fashion of a man, this is not to be a man. So then to take the form of a servant, is not to take the form of a servant. Here then is an inconsistency; and wherefore do you not first of all solve this difficulty? For as you think that this contradicts us, so do we say that the other contradicts you. He says not, "as the form of a servant," nor "in the likeness of the form of a servant," nor "in the fashion of the form of a servant," but "He took the form of a servant." What then is this? for there is a contradiction. There is no contradiction. God forbid! it is a cold and ridiculous argument of theirs. He took, say they, the form of a servant, when He girded Himself with a towel, and washed the feet of His disciples. Is this the form of a servant? Nay, this is not the form, but the work of a servant. It is one thing that there should be the work of a servant, and another to take the form of a servant. Why did he not say, He did the work of a servant, which were clearer? But nowhere in Scripture is "form" put for "work," for the difference is great: the one is the result of nature, the other of action. In common speaking, too, we never use "form" for "work." Besides, according to them, He did not even take the work of a servant, nor even gird Himself. For if all was a mere shadow, there was no reality. If He had not real hands, how did He wash their feet? If He had not real loins, how did He gird Himself with a towel? and what kind of garments did he take? for Scripture says, "He took His garments." (John xiii. 12.) So then not even the work is found to have really taken place, but it was all a deception, nor did He even wash the disciples. For if that incorporeal nature did not appear, it was not in a body. Who then washed the disciples' feet?
Again, what in opposition to Paul of Samosata? for what did he affirm? The very same. But it is no emptying of Himself, that one who is of human nature, and a mere man, should wash his fellow-servants. For what we said against the Arians, we must repeat against these too, for they differ not from one another, save by a little space of time; both the one and the other affirm the Son of God to be a creature. What then shall we say to them? If He being a man washed man, He emptied not, He humbled not Himself. If He being a man seized not on being equal with God, He is not deserving of praise. That God should become man, is great, unspeakable, inexpressible humility; but what humility is there in that one, who was a man should do the works of men? And where is the work of God ever called "the form of God"? for if he were a mere man, and was called the form of God by reason of His works, why do we not do the same of Peter, for he wrought greater deeds than Christ Himself? Why say you not of Paul, that he had the form of God? Why did not Paul give an example of himself, for he wrought a thousand servile works, and did not even refuse to say, "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." (2 Cor. iv. 5.)
These are absurdities and trifles! Scripture says, He "emptied Himself." How did He empty Himself? tell me. What was His emptying? what His humiliation? was it because He wrought wonders? This both Paul and Peter did, so that this was not peculiar to the Son. What then means, "Being made in the likeness of men"? He had many things belonging to us, and many He had not; for instance, He was not born of wedlock. He did no sin. These things had He which no man has. He was not what he seemed only, but He was God also; He seemed to be a man, but He was not like the mass of men. For He was like them in flesh. He means then, that He was not a mere man. Wherefore he says, "in the likeness of men." For we indeed are soul and body, but He was God, and soul and body, wherefore he says, "in the likeness." For lest when you hear hat He emptied Himself, you should think that some change, and degeneracy, and loss is here; he says, whilst He remained what He was, He took that which He was not, and being made flesh He remained God, in that He was the Word. (John i. 14.)
In this then He was like man, and for this cause Paul says, "and in fashion." Not that His nature degenerated, nor that any confusion arose, but He became man in fashion. For when He had said that "He took the form of a servant," he made bold to say this also, seeing that the first would silence all objectors; since when he says, "In the likeness of sinful flesh," he says not that He had not flesh, but that that flesh sinned not, but was like to sinful flesh. Like in what? in nature, not in sin, therefore was His like a sinful soul. As then in the former case the term similarity was used, because He was not equal in everything, so here also there is similarity, because He is not equal in everything, as His not being born of wedlock, His being without sin, His being not a mere man. And he well said "as a man," for He was not one of the many, but "as" one of the many. The Word who was God did not degenerate into man, nor was His substance changed, but he appeared as a man; not to delude us with a phantom, but to instruct us in humility. When therefore he says, "as a man," this is what He means; since he calls Him a man elsewhere also, when he says, "there is one God, one Mediator also between God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. ii. 5.)
Thus much against these heretics. I must now speak against such as deny that He took a soul. If "the form of God" is "perfect God," then the "form of a servant" is "a perfect servant." Again, against the Arians. Here concerning His divinity, we no longer find "He became," "He took," but "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men"; here concerning his humanity we find "He took, He became." He became the latter, He took the latter; He was the former. Let us not then confound nor divide the natures. There is one God, there is one Christ, the Son of God; when I say "One," I mean a union, not a confusion; the one Nature did not degenerate into the other, but was united with it.
"He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross." See, says one, He voluntarily became obedient; he was not equal to Him whom He obeyed. O ye obstinate ones and unwise! This cloth not at all lower Him. For we too become obedient to our friends, yet this has no effect. He became obedient as a Son to His Father; He fell not thus into a servile state, but by this very act above all others guarded his wondrous Sonship, by thus greatly honoring the Father. He honored the Father, not that thou shouldest dishonor Him, but that thou shouldest the rather admire Him, and learn from this act, that He is a true Son, in honoring His Father more than all besides. No one hath thus honored God. As was His height, such was the correspondent humiliation which He underwent. As He is greater than all, and no one is equal to Him, so in honoring His Father, He surpassed all, not by necessity, nor unwillingly, but this too is part of His excellence; yea, words fail me. Truly it is a great and unspeakable thing, that He became a servant; that He underwent death, is far greater; but there is something still greater, and more strange; why? All deaths are not alike; His death scented to be the most ignominious of all, to be full of shame, to be accursed; for it is written, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." (Deut. xxi. 23; Gal. iii. 13.) For this cause the Jews also eagerly desired to slay Him in this manner, to make Him a reproach, that if no one fell away from Him by reason of His death, yet they might from the manner of His death. For this cause two robbers were crucified with Him, and He in the midst, that He might share their ill repute, and that the Scripture might be fulfilled, "And he was numbered with the transgressors." (Isa. liii. 12.) Yet so much the more doth truth shine forth, so much the more doth it become bright; for when His enemies plot such things against His glory, and it yet shines forth, so much the greater does the matter seem. Not by slaying Him, but by slaying Him in such sort did they think to make Him abominable, to prove Him more abominable than all men, but they availed nothing. And both the robbers also were such impious ones, (for it was afterward that the one repented,) that, even when on the cross, they reviled Him; neither the consciousness of their own sins, nor their present punishment, nor their suffering the same things themselves, restrained their madness. Wherefore the one spake to the other, and silenced him by saying, "Dost thou not even fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?" (Luke xxiii. 40.) So great was their wickedness. Wherefore it is written, "God also highly exalted Him, and gave Him the Name which is above every name." When the blessed Paul hath made mention of the flesh, he fearlessly speaks of all His humiliation. For until he had mentioned that He took the form of a servant, and while he was speaking of His Divinity, behold how loftily he doth it, (loftily, I say, according to his power; for he speaks not according to His own worthiness, seeing that he is not able). "Being in the form of God, He counted it not a prize to be equal with God." But when he had said, that He became Man, henceforth he fearlessly discourseth of His low estate, being confident that the mention of His low estate would not harm His Divinity, since His flesh admitted this.
Ver. 9-11. "Wherefore also God highly exalted Him, and gave Him the Name which is above every name: that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Let us say against the heretics, If this is spoken of one who was not incarnate, if of God the Word, how did He highly exalt Him? Was it as if He gave Him something more than He had before? He would then have been imperfect in this point, and would have been made perfect for our sakes. For if He had not done good deeds to us, He would not have obtained that honor! "And gave Him the Name." See, He had not even a name, as you say! But how, if He received it as His due, is He found here to have received it by grace, and as a gift? And that "the Name which is above every name": and of what kind, let us see, is the Name? "That at the Name of Jesus," saith He, "every knee should bow." They (the heretics) explain name by glory. This glory then is above all glory, and this glory is in short that all worship Him! But ye hold yourselves far off from the greatness of God, who think that ye know God, as He knoweth Himself, and from this it is plain, how far off ye are from right thoughts of God. And this is plain from hence. Is this, tell me, glory? Therefore before men were created, before the angels or the archangels, He was not in glory. If this be the glory which is above every glory, for this is the name that is "above every name,".) though He were in glory before, yet was He in glory inferior to this. It was for this then that He made the things that are, that He might be raised to glory, not from His own goodness, but because He required glory from us! See ye not their folly? see ye not their impiety?
Now if they had said this of Him that was incarnate, there had been reason, for God the Word allows that this be said of His flesh. It touches not His divine nature, but has to do altogether with the dispensation. What means "of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth"? It means the whole world, and angels, and men, and demons; or that both the just and the living and sinners,
"And every tongue," should "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." That is, that all should say so; and this is glory to the Father. Seest thou how wherever the Son is glorified, the Father is also glorified? Thus too when the Son is dishonored, the Father is dishonored also. If this be so with us, where the difference is great between fathers and sons, much more in respect of God, where there is no difference, doth honor and insult pass on to Him. If the world be subjected to the Son, this is glory to the Father. And so when we say that He is perfect, wanting nothing, and not inferior to the Father, this is glory to the Father, that he begat such a one. This is a great proof of His power also, and goodness, and wisdom, that He begat one no whit inferior, neither in wisdom nor in goodness. When I say that He is wise as the Father, and no whit inferior, this is a proof of the great wisdom of the Father; when I say that He is powerful as the Father, this is a proof of the Father's power. When I say that He is good as the Father, this is the greatest evidence of His goodness, that He begat such (a Son), in no whir less or inferior to Himself. When I say that He begat Him not inferior in substance but equal, and not of another substance, in this I again wonder at God, His power, and goodness, and wisdom, that He hath manifested to us another, of Himself, such as Himself, except in His not being the Father. Thus whatsoever great things I say of the Son, pass on to the Father. Now if this small and light matter (for it is but a light thing to God's glory that the world should worship Him) is to the glory of God, how much more so are all those other things?
Let us then believe to His glory, let us live to His glory, for one is no use without the other; when we glorify Him rightly, but live not rightly, then do we especially insult Him, because we are enrolled under Him as a Master and Teacher, and yet despise Him, and stand in no dread of that fearful judgment seat. It is no wonder that the heathen live impurely; this merits not such condemnation. But that Christians, who partake in such great mysteries, who enjoy so great glory, that they should live thus impurely, this is worst of all, and unbearable. For tell me; He was obedient to the uttermost, wherefore He received the honor which is on high. He became a servant, wherefore He is Lord of all, both of Angels, and of all other. Let us too not suppose then that we descend from what is our due, when we humble ourselves. For thus may we be more highly exalted; and with reason; then do we especially become admirable. For that the lofty man is really low, and that the lowly man is exalted, the sentence of Christ sufficiently declares. Let us however examine the matter itself. What is it to be humbled? Is it not to be blamed, to be accused, and calumniated? What is it to be exalted? It is to be honored, to be praised, to be glorified. Well. Let us see how the matter is. Satan was an angel, he exalted himself. What then? was he not humbled beyond all other? has he not the earth as his place? is he not condemned and accused by all? Paul was a man, and humbled himself. What then? is he not admired? is he not praised? is he not lauded? is he not the friend of Christ? Wrought he not greater things than Christ? did he not ofttimes command the devil as a captive slave? did he not carry him about as an executioner? did he not hold him up to scorn? held he not his head bruised under his feet? did he not with much boldness beg of God that others too might do the same? Why am I saying? Absalom exalted himself, David humbled himself; which of the twain was raised up, which became glorious? For what could be a more evident proof of humility than these words which that blessed Prophet spoke of Shimei, "Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him." (2 Sam. xvi. 11.) And if you please, we will examine the very cases themselves. The Publican humbled himself, although the case can hardly be called humility; but how? He answered in a right-minded manner. The Pharisee exalted himself. What then? let us also examine the matters. Let there be two men, both rich, and highly honored, and elevated by wisdom and power, and other worldly advantages; then let one of them seek honor from all, let him be angry if he receive it not, let him require more than is due and exalt himself; let the other despise the whole matter, bear himself unkindly towards no one on this account, and evade honor when offered to him. For it is not possible to obtain glory any other way than by fleeing from glory, for as long as we pursue it, it flies from us, but when we flee from it, then it pursues us. If thou wouldest be glorious, do not desire glory. If thou wouldest be lofty, do not make thyself lofty. And further, all honor him who does not grasp at honor, but spurn him who seeks it. For the human race somehow or other is fond of contention, and leans to contrary feeling. Let us therefore despise glory, for thus we shall be enabled to become lowly, or rather to become exalted. Exalt not thyself, that thou mayest be exalted by another; he that is exalted by himself is not exalted by others, he who is humbled by himself is not humbled by others. Haughtiness is a great evil, it is better to be a fool than haughty; for in the one case, the folly is only a perversion of intellect, but in the other case it is still worse, and is folly joined with madness: the fool is an evil to himself; but the haughty man is a plague to others too. This misery comes of senselessness. One cannot be haughty-minded without being a fool; and he that is brimfull of folly is haughty.
Listen to the Wise Man, who says, "I saw a man wise in his own conceit; there is more hope of a fool than of him." (Prov. xxvi. 12.) Seest thou how it was not without reason I said that the evil of which I am speaking is worse than that of folly, for it is written, "There is more hope of a fool than of him"? Wherefore, Paul too said, "Be not wise in your own conceits." (Rom. xii. 16.) Tell me what description of bodies do we say are in good health, those which are much inflated, and are inwardly full of much air and water, or those which are kept low, and have their surface such as marks restraint? It is manifest that we should choose the latter. So, too with the soul, that which is puffed up has a worse disease than dropsy, whilst that which is under restraint is freed from all evil. How great then are the good things which lowliness of mind bringeth to us! What wouldest thou have? Forbearance? freedom from anger? love to our fellow-men? soberness? attentiveness? All these good things spring from lowly-mindedness, and their contraries from haughtiness: the haughty man must needs be also insolent, a brawler, wrathful, bitter, sullen, a beast rather than a man. Art thou strong, and proud thereat? Thou shouldest rather be humble on this account. Why art thou proud for a thing of nought? For even a lion is bolder than thou, a wild boar is stronger, and thou art not even as a fly in comparison with them. Robbers too, and violaters of tombs, and gladiators, and even thine own slaves, and those perchance who are more stupid still, are stronger than thou. Is this then a fit subject for praise? Art thou proud of such a matter? Bury thyself for shame!
But art thou handsome and beautiful? This is the boast of crows! Thou art not fairer than the peacock, as regards either its color or its plumage; the bird beats thee in plumage, it far surpasseth thee in its feathers and in its color. The swan too is passing fair, and many other birds, with whom if thou art compared thou wilt see that thou art nought. Often too worthless boys, and unmarried girls, and harlots, and effeminate men have had this boast; is this then a cause for haughtiness? But art thou rich? Whence so? what hast thou? Gold, silver, precious stones! This is the boast of robbers also, of man-slayers, of those who work in the mines. That which is the labor of criminals becomes to thee a boast! But dost thou adorn and deck thyself out? Well, we may see horses also decked out, and among the Persians camels too, and as for men, all those who are about the stage. Art thou not ashamed to boast thyself of these things, if unreasoning animals, and slaves, and man-slayers, and effeminate, and robbers, and violaters of tombs, share with thee? Dost thou build splendid palaces? and what of this? Many jackdaws dwell in more splendid houses, and have more noble retreats. Dost thou not see how many, who were mad after money, have built houses in fields and desert places, that are retreats for jackdaws? But art thou proud on account of thy voice. Thou canst by no means sing with clearer and sweeter tones than the swan or the nightingale. Is it for thy varied knowledge of arts? But what is wiser than the bee in this; what embroiderer, what painter, what geometrician, can imitate her works? Is it for the fineness of thy apparel? But here the spiders beat thee. Is it for the swiftness of thy feet? Again the first prize is with unreasoning animals, the hare, and the gazelle, and all the beasts which are not wanting in swiftness of foot. Hast thou traveled much? Not more than the birds; their transit is more easily made, they have no need of provisions for the way, nor beasts of burden, for their wings are all-sufficient for them; this is their vessel, this their beast of burden, this their car, this is even their wind, in short, all that a man can name. But art thou clear sighted? Not as the gazelle; not as the eagle. Art thou quick of hearing? the ass is more so. Of scent? the hound suffers thee not to surpass him. Art thou a good provider? yet thou art inferior to the ant. Dost thou gather gold? Yet not as the Indian ants. Art thou proud because of thy health? Unreasoning creatures are far better than we both in habit of body, and in independence; they fear no poverty. "Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns." (Matt. vi. 26.) "And surely," He means, "God has not created the irrational animals superior to ourselves." Dost thou mark what want of consideration is here? Dost thou observe the lack of all investigation? Dost thou observe the great advantage which we derive from an investigation of the points? He, whose mind is lifted up above all men, is found to be even lower than the irrational creatures.
But we will have pity upon him, and not follow his example; nor because the limits of our mortal nature are too narrow for his conceit of himself, will we proceed to lower him to the level of the beasts that are without reason, but will lift him up from thence, not for his own sake, for he deserves no better fate, but that we may set forth the lovingkindness of God, and the honor which He has vouchsafed us. For there are things, yes, there are things wherein the irrational animals have no participation with us. And of what sort are these? Piety, and a life based on virtue. Here thou canst never speak of fornicators, nor of effeminate persons, nor of murderers, for from them we have been severed. And what then is this which is found here? We know God, His Providence we acknowledge, and are embued with true philosophy concerning immortality. Here let the irrational animals give place. They cannot contend with us in these points. We live in self-command. Here the irrational animals have nothing in common with us. For, while coming behind all of them, we exercise dominion over them; for herein lies the superiority of our dominion, that, while coming behind them, we yet reign over them: that thou mightest be instructed that the cause of these things is, not thyself, but God who made thee, and gave thee reason. We set nets and toils for them, we drive them in, and they are at our mercy.
Self-command, a compliant temper, mildness, contempt of money, are prerogatives of our race; but since thou who art one o those blinded by presumption hast none of these, thou doest well in entertaining notions either above the level of mankind, or beneath the very irrational creatures. For this is the nature of folly and of audacity; it is either unduly elevated, or on the other hand it is equally depressed, never observing a proper proportion. We are equal to angels in this respect, that we have a Kingdom pledged to us, the choir, unto which Christ is joined. He that is a man may be scourged, yet does he not succumb. A man laughs at death, is a stranger to fear and trembling, he does not covet more than he has. So that they all who are not like this are beneath the irrational animals. For when in the things of the body thou wouldest have the advantage, but hast no advantage in the things that concern the soul, how art thou aught else than inferior to the irrational animals? For bring forward one of the vicious and unthinking, of those that are living in excess and to self. The horse surpasses him in warlike spirit, the boar in strength, the hare in swiftness, the peacock in grace, the swan in fineness of voice, the elephant in size, the eagle in keenness of sight, all birds in wealth. Whence then dost thou derive thy title to rule the irrational creatures? from reason? But thou hast it not? For whosoever ceases to make a due use of it, is again inferior to them; for whenthough possessing reason he is more irrational than they, it had been better if he had never from the first become capable of exercising reason. For it is not the same thing after having received dominion to betray the trust, as to let pass the season to receive it. That sovereign, who is below the level of his guards, had better never have had on the purple. And it is the very self-same thing in this case. Knowing then that without virtue we are inferior to the very irrational animals, let us exercise ourselves therein, that we may become men, yea rather angels, and that we may enjoy the promised blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.