Early Church Fathers
I. This is the seventh book of our treatise against the wild extravagance of modern heresy. In order of place it must follow its predecessors; in order of importance, as an exposition of the mysteries of the right faith, it precedes. and excels them all. I am well aware how hard and steep is the path of evangelical instruction up which we are mounting. The fears inspired by consciousness of my own incapacity are plucking me back, but the warmth of faith urges me on; the assaults of heresy heat my blood, and the dangers of the ignorant excite my compassion. I fear to speak, and yet I cannot be silent. A double dread subdues my spirit; it may be that speech, it may be that silence, will render me guilty of a desertion of the truth. For this cunning heresy has hedged itself round with marvellous devices of perverted ingenuity. First there is the semblance of devotion; then the language carefully chosen to lull the suspicions of a candid listener; and again, the accommodation of their views to secular philosophy; and finally, their withdrawing of attention from manifest truth by a pretended explanation of Divine methods. Their loud profession of the unity of God is a fraudulent imitation of the faith; their assertion that Christ is the Son of God a play upon words for the delusion of their hearers; their saying that He did not exist before He was born a bid for the support of the world's philosophers; their confession of God as incorporeal and immutable leads, by a display of fallacious logic, up to a denial of the birth of God from God. They turn our arguments against ourselves; the Church's faith is made the engine of its own destruction. They have contrived to involve us in the perplexing position of an equal danger, whether we reason with them or whether we refrain. For they use the fact that we allow certain of their assumptions to pass unchallenged as an argument on behalf of those which we do contradict.
2. We call to mind that in the preceding books the reader has been urged to study the whole of that blasphemous manifesto1 , and mark how it is animated throughout by the one aim of propagating the belief that our Lord Jesus Christ is neither God, nor Son of God. Its authors argue that He is permitted to use the names of God and of Son by virtue of a certain adoption, though neither Godhead nor Sonship be His by nature. They use the fact, true in itself, that God is immutable and incorporeal, as an argument against the birth of the Son from Him. They value the truth, that God the Father is One, only as a weapon against our faith in the Godhead of Christ; pleading that an incorporeal nature cannot be rationally conceived as generating another, and that our faith in One God is inconsistent with the confession of God from God. But our earlier books have already refuted and foiled this argument of theirs by an appeal to the Law and the Prophets. Our defence has followed, step by step, the course of their attack. We have set forth God from God, and at the same time confessed One true God; shewing that this presentation of the faith neither falls short of the truth by ascribing singleness of Person to the One true God, nor adds to the faith by asserting the existence of a second Deity. For we confess neither an isolated God, nor yet two Gods. Thus, neither denying that God is One nor maintaining that He is alone, we hold the straight road of truth. Each Divine Person is in the Unity, yet no Person is the One God. Next, our purpose being to demonstrate the irrefragable truth of this mystery by the evidence of the Evangelists and Apostles, our first duty has been to make our readers acquainted with the nature, truly subsisting and truly born, of the Son of God; to demonstrate that He has no origin external to God, and was not created out of nothing, but is the Son, born from God. This is a truth which the evidence adduced in the last book has placed beyond all doubt. The assertion that He bears the name of Son by virtue of adoption has been put to silence, and He stands forth as a true Son by a true birth. Our present task is to prove from the Gospels that, because He is true Son, He is true God also. For unless He be true Son He cannot be true God, nor true God unless He be true Son.
3. Nothing is more harassing to human nature than the sense of impending danger. If calamities unknown or unanticipated befall us, we may need pity, yet we have been free from care; no load of anxiety has oppressed us. But he whose mind is full of possibilities of trouble suffers already a torment in his fear. I who now am venturing out to sea, am a mariner not unused to shipwreck, a traveller who knows by experience holy brigands lurk in the forests, an explorer of African deserts aware of the danger from scorpions and asps and basilisks2 . I enjoy no instant of relief from the knowledge and fear of present danger. Every heretic is on the watch, noting every word as it drops from my mouth. The whole progress of my argument is infested with ambuscades and pitfalls and snares. It is not of the road, of its hardness or steepness, that I complain; I am following in the footsteps of the Apostles, not choosing my own path. My trouble is the constant peril, the constant dread, of wandering into some ambush, of stumbling into some pit, of being entangled in some net. My purpose is to proclaim the unity of God, in the sense of the Law and Prophets and Apostles. Sabellius is at hand, eager with cruel kindness to welcome me, on the strength of this unity, and swallow me up in his own destruction. If I withstand him, and deny that, in the Sabellian sense, God is One a fresh heresy is ready to receive me, pointing out that I teach the existence of two Gods. Again, if I undertake to tell holy the Son of God was born from Mary, Photinus, the Ebion of our day, will be prompt to twist this assertion of the truth into a confirmation of his lie. I need mention no other heresies save one; all the world knows that they are alien from the Church. It is one that has been often denounced, often rejected, yet it preys upon our vitals still. Galatia3 has reared a large brood of godless assertors of the unity of God. Alexandria4 has sown broadcast, over almost the whole world, her denial, which is an affirmation, of the doctrine of two Gods. Pannonia5 upholds her pestilent doctrine that the only birth of Jesus Christ was from the Virgin. And the Church, distracted by these rival faiths, is in danger of being led by means of truth into a rejection of truth. Doctrines are being forced upon her for godless ends, which, according to the use that is made of them, will either support or overthrow the faith. For instance, we cannot, as true believers, assert that God is One, if we mean by it that He is alone; for faith in a lonely God denies the Godhead of the Son. If, on the other hand, we assert, as we truly can, that the Son is God, we are in danger, so they fondly imagine, of deserting the truth that God is One. We are in peril on either hand; we may deny the unity or we may maintain the isolation. But it is a danger which has no terrors for the foolish things of the word6 . Our adversaries are blind to the fact that His assertion that He is not alone is consistent with unity; that though He is One He is not solitary.
4. But I trust that the Church, by the light of her doctrine, will so enlighten the world's vain wisdom, that, even though it accept not the mystery of the faith, it will recognise that in our conflict with heretics we, and not they, are the true representatives of that mystery. For great is the force of truth; not only is it its own sufficient witness, but the more it is assailed the more evident it becomes; the daily shocks which it receives only increase its inherent stability. It is the peculiar property of the Church that when she is buffeted she is triumphant, when she is assaulted with argument she proves herself in the right, when she is deserted by her supporters she holds the field. It is her wish that all men should remain at her side and in her bosom; if it lay with her, none would become unworthy to abide under the shelter of that august mother, none would be cast out or suffered to depart from her calm retreat. But when heretics desert her or she expels them, the loss she endures, in that she cannot save them, is compensated by an increased assurance that she alone can offer bliss. This is a truth which the passionate zeal of rival heresies brings into the clearest prominence. The Church, ordained by the Lord and established by His Apostles, is one for all; but the frantic folly of discordant sects has severed them from her. And it is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture. And thus, amid the clash of mutually destructive errors, the Church stands revealed not only by her own teaching, but by that of her rivals. They are ranged, all of them, against her; and the very fact that she stands single and alone is her sufficient answer to their godless delusions. The hosts of heresy assemble themselves against her; each of them can defeat all the others, but not one can win a victory for itself. The only victory is the triumph which the Church celebrates over them all. Each heresy wields against its adversary some weapon already shattered, in another instance, by the Church's condemnation. There is no point of union between them, and the outcome of their internecine struggles is the confirmation of the faith.
5. Sabellius sweeps away the birth of the Son, and then preaches the unity of God; but he does not doubt that the mighty Nature, which acted in the human Christ, was God. He shuts his eyes to the revealed mystery of the Sonship; the works done seem to him so marvellous that he cannot believe that He who performed them could undergo a true generation. When he hears the words, He that hath, seen Me hath seen the Father also7 , he jumps to the blasphemous conclusion of an inseparable and indistinguishable identity of nature in Father and Son, because he fails to see that the revelation of the birth is the mode in which Their unity of nature is manifested to. us. For the fact that the Father is seen in the Son is a proof of the Son's Divinity, not a disproof of His birth. Thus our knowledge of Each of Them is conditioned by our knowledge of the Other, for there is no difference of nature between them and, since in this respect they are One, a reverent study of the character of Either will give us a true insight into the nature of Both For, indeed, it is certain that He, Who was in the form of God, must in His self-revelation present Himself to us in the exact aspect of the form of God8 . Again, this perverse and insane delusion derives a further encouragement from the words, I and the Father are One9 . From the fact of unity in the same nature they have impiously deduced a confusion of Persons; their interpretation, that the words signify a single Power, contradicts the tenour of the passage. For I and the Father are One does not indicate a solitary God. The use of the conjunction and shews clearly that more than one Person is signified; and are requires a plurality of subject. Moreover, the One is not incompatible with a birth. Its sense is, that the Two Persons have the one nature in common. The One is inconsistent with difference; the are with identity.
6. Set our modern heresy in array against the delusion, equally wild, of Sabellius; let them make the best of their case. The new heretics will advance the passage. The Father is greater than I10 . Neglecting the mystery of the Divine birth, and the mystery of God's emptying Himself and taking flesh, they will argue the inferiority of His nature from His assertion that the Father is the greater. They will plead against Sabellius that Christ is a Son, in so far as One can be a Son who is inferior to the Father and needs to ask for restoration to His glory, and fears to die and indeed did die. In reply Sabellius will adduce His deeds in evidence of His Divine nature; and while our novel heresy, to escape the admission of Christ's true Sonship, will heartily agree with him that God is One, Sabellius will emphatically assert the same article of the faith, in the sense that no Son exists. The one side lays stress upon the action of the Son; the other urges that in that action God is manifest. the one will demonstrate the unity, the other disprove the identity. Sabellius will defend his position thus:-"The works that were done could have been done by no other nature than the Divine. Sins were remitted, the sick were healed, the lame ran, the blind saw, the dead lived. God alone has power for this. The words I and the Father are One could only have been spoken from self-knowledge; no nature, outside the Father's, could have uttered them. Why then suggest a second substance, and urge me to believe in a second God? These works are peculiar to God; the One God wrought them." His adversaries, animated by a hatred, equally venomous, for the faith, will argue that the Son is unlike in nature to God the Father:-"You are ignorant of the mystery of your salvation. You must believe in a Son through Whom the worlds were made, through Whom man was fashioned, Who gave the Law through Angels, Who was born of Mary, Who was sent by the Father, was crucified, dead and buried, Who rose again from the dead and is at the right hand of God, Who is the Judge of quick and dead. Unto Him we must use again, we must confess Him, we must earn our place in His kingdom." Each of the two enemies of the Church is fighting the Church's battle. Sabellius displays Christ as God by the witness of the Divine nature manifested in His works; Sabellius' antagonists confess Christ, on the evidence of the revealed faith, to be the Son of God.
7. Again, how glorious a victory for our faith is that in which Ebionin other words, Photinus-both wins the day and loses it! He castigates Sabellius for denying that the Son of God is Man, and in his turn has to submit to the reproaches of Arian fanatics for failing to see that this Man is the Son of God. Against Sabellius he calls the Gospels to his aid, with their evidence concerning the Son of Mary; Arius deprives him of this ally by proving that the Gospels make Christ some thing more than the Son of Mary. Sabellius denies that there is a Son of God; against him Photinus elevates man to the place of Son. Photinus will hear nothing of a Son born before the worlds; against him, Arius denies that the only birth of the Son of God was His human birth. Let them defeat one another to their hearts' content, for every victory which each of them wins is balanced by a defeat Our present adversaries are ranted in the matter of the Divine nature of the Son; Sabellius in the matter of the Son's revealed existence; Photinus is convicted of ignorance, or else of falsehood, in his denial of the Son's birth before the worlds. Meanwhile the Church, whose faith is based upon the teaching of Evangelists and Apostles, holds fast, against Sabellius, her assertion that the Son exists; against Arius, that He is God by nature; against Photinus, that He created the universe. And she is the more convinced of her faith, in that they cannot combine to contradict it. For Sabellius points to the works of Christ in proof of the Divinity of Him Who wrought them, though he knows not that the Son was their Author. The Arians grant Him tile name of Son, though they confess not that the true nature of God dwelt in Him. Photinus maintains His manhood, though in maintaining it he forgets that Christ was born as God before the worlds. Thus, in their several assertions and denials, there are points in which each heresy is in the right in defence or attack; and the result of their conflicts is that the truth of our confession is brought into clearer light.
8. I felt that I must spare a little space to point this out. It has been from no love for amplification, but that it might serve as a warning. First, I wished to expose the vague and confused character of this crowd of heresies, whose mutual feuds turn, as we have seen, to our advantage. Secondly, in my warfare against the blasphemous doctrines of modern heresy; that is, in my task of proclaiming that both God the Father and God the Son are God,-in other words, that Father and Son are One in name, One in nature, One in the kind of Divinity which they possess,-I wished to shield myself from any charge which might be brought against me, either as an advocate of two Gods or of one lonely and isolated Deity. For in God the Father and God the Son, as I have set them forth, no confusion of Persons can be detected; nor in my exposition of Their common nature can any difference between the Godhead of the One and of the Other be discerned. In the preceding book I have sufficiently refuted, by the witness of the Gospels, those who deny the subsistence of I God the Son by a true birth from God; my present duty is to shew that He, Who in the truth of His nature is Son of God, is also in the truth of His nature God. But this proof must not degenerate into the fatal profession of a solitary God, or of a second God. It shall manifest God as One yet not alone; but in its care to avoid the error of making Him lonely it shall not fall into the error of denying His unity.
9. Thus we have all these different assurances of the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ:-His name, His birth, His nature, His power, His own assertion. As to the name, I conceive that no doubt is possible. It is written, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God11 . What reason can there be for suspecting that He is not what His name indicates? And does not this name clearly describe His nature? If a statement be contradicted, it must be for some reason. What reason, I demand, is there in this instance for denying that He is God? The name is given Him, plainly and distinctly, and unqualified by any incongruous addition which might raise a doubt. The Word, we read, which was made flesh, was none other than God. Here is no loophole for any such conjecture as that He has received this name as a favour or taken it upon Himself, so possessing a titular Godhead which is not His by nature.
10. Consider the other recorded instances in which this name was given by favour or assumed. To Moses it was said, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh12 . Does not this addition, to Pharaoh, account for the title? Did God impart to Moses the Divine nature? Did He not rather make Moses a god in the sight of Pharaoh, who was to be smitten with terror when Moses' serpent swallowed the magic serpents and returned into a rod, when he drove back the venomous flies which he had called forth, when he stayed the hail by the same power wherewith he had summoned it, and made the locusts depart by the same might which had brought them; when in the wonders that he wrought the magicians saw the finger of God? That was the sense in which Moses was appointed to be god to Pharaoh; he was feared and entreated, he chastised and healed. It is one thing to be appointed a god; it is another thing to be God. He was made a god to Pharaoh; he had not that nature and that name wherein God consists. I call to mind another instance of the name being given as a title; that where it is written, I have said, Ye are gods13 . But this is obviously the granting of a favour. I have said proves that it is no definition, but only a description by One Who chooses to speak thus, A definition gives us knowledge of the object defined; a description depends on the arbitrary will of the speaker. When a speaker is manifestly conferring a title, that title has its origin only in the speaker's words, not in the thing itself. The title is not the name which expresses its nature and kind.
11. But in this case the Word in very truth is God; the essence of the Godhead exists in the Word, and that essence is expressed in the Word's name. For the name Word is inherent in the Son of God as a consequence of His mysterious birth, as are also the names Wisdom and Power. These, together with the substance which is His by a true birth, were called into existence to be the Son of God14 ; yet, since they are the elements of God's nature, they are still immanent in Him in undiminished extent, although they were born from Him to be His Son. For, as we have said so often, the mystery which we preach is that of a Son Who owes His existence not to division but to birth. He is not a segment cut off, and so incomplete, but an Offspring born, and therefore perfect; for birth involves no diminution of the Begetter, and has the possibility of perfection for the Begotten. And therefore the titles of those substantive properties15 are applied to God the Only-begotten, for when He came into existence by birth it was they which constituted His perfection; and this although they did not thereby desert the Father, in Whom, by the immutability of His nature, they are eternally present. For instance, the Word is God the Only-begotten, and yet the Unbegotten Father is never without His Word. Not that the nature of the Son is that of a sound which is uttered. He is God from God, subsisting through a true birth; God's own Son, born from the Father, indistinguishable from Him in nature, and therefore inseparable. This is the lesson which His title of the Word is meant to teach us. And in the same way Christ is the Wisdom and the Power of God; not that He is, as He is often regarded16 , the inward activity of the Father's might or thought, but that His nature, possessing through birth a true substantial existence, is indicated by these names of inward forces. For an object, which has by birth an existence of its own, cannot be regarded as a property; a property is necessarily inherent in some being and can have no independent existence. But it was to save us from concluding that the Son is alien from the Divine nature of His Father that He, the Only-begotten from the eternal God His Father, born as God into a substantial existence of His own, has had Himself revealed to us under these names of properties, of which the Father, out of Whom He came into existence, has suffered no diminution. Thus He, being God, is nothing else than God. For when I hear the words, And the Word was God, they do not merely tell me that the Son was called God; they reveal to my understanding that He is God. In those previous instances, where Moses was called god and others were styled gods, there was the mere addition of a name by way of title. Here a solid essential truth is stated; The Word was God. That was indicates no accidental title, but an eternal reality, a permanent element of His existence, an inherent character of His nature.
12. And now let us See whether the confession of Thomas the Apostle, when he cried, My Lord and My God, corresponds with this assertion of the Evangelist. We see that he speaks of Him, Whom he confesses to be God, as My God. Now Thomas was undoubtedly familiar with those words of the Lord, Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One. How then could the faith of an Apostle become so oblivious of that primary command as to confess Christ as God, when life is conditional upon the confession of the Divine unity? It was because, in the light of the Resurrection, the whole mystery of the faith had become visible to the Apostle. He had often heard such words as, I and the Father are One, and, All things that the Father hath are Mine, and, I in the Father and the Father in Me17 ; and now he can confess that the name of God expresses the nature of Christ, without peril to the faith. Without breach of loyalty to the One God, the Father, his devotion could now regard the Son of God as God, since he believed that everything contained in the nature of the Son was truly of the same nature with the Father. No longer need he fear that such a confession as his was the proclamation of a second God, a treason against the unity of the Divine nature; for it was not a second God Whom that perfect birth of the Godhead had brought into being. Thus it was with full knowledge of the mystery of the Gospel that Thomas confessed his Lord and his God. It was not a title of honour; it was a confession of nature. He believed that Christ was God in substance and in power. And the Lord, in turn, shews that this act of worship was the expression not of mere reverence, but of faith, when He says, Because than hast seen, thou hast believed; blessed are they which have not seen, and have believed. For Thomas had seen before he believed. But, you ask, What was it that Thomas believed? That, beyond a doubt, which is expressed in his words, My Lord and my God. No nature but that of God could have risen by its own might from death to life; and it is this fact, that Christ is God, which was confessed by Thomas with the confidence of an assured faith. Shall we, then, dream that His name of God is not a substantial reality, when that name has been proclaimed by a faith based upon certain evidence? Surely a Son devoted to His Father, One Who did not His own will but the will of Him that sent Him, Who sought not His own glory but the glory of Him from Whom He came, would have rejected the adoration involved in such a name as destructive of that unity of God which had been the burden of His teaching. Yet, in fact, He confirms this assertion of the mysterious truth, made by the believing Apostle; He accepts as His own the name which belongs to the nature of the Father. And He teaches that they are blessed who, though they have not seen Him rise from the dead, yet have believed, on the assurance of the Resurrection, that He is God.
13. Thus the name which expresses His nature proves the truth of our confession of the faith. For the name, which indicates any single substance, points out also any other substance of the same kind; and, in this instance, there are not two substances but one substance, of the one kind. For the Son of God is God; this is the truth expressed in His name. The one name does not embrace two Gods; for the one name God is the name of one indivisible nature. For since the Father is God and the Son is God, and that name which is peculiar to the Divine nature is inherent in Each, therefore the Two are One. For the Son, though He subsists through a birth from the Divine nature, yet preserves the unity in His name; and this birth of the Son does not compel loyal believers to acknowledge two Gods, since our confession declares that Father and Son are One, both in nature and in name. Thus the Son of God has the Divine name as the result of His birth. Now the second step in our demonstration was to be that of shewing that it is by virtue of His birth that He is God. I have still to bring forward the evidence of the Apostles that the Divine name is used of Him in an exact sense; but for the present I purpose to continue our enquiry into the language of the Gospels.
14. And first I ask what new element, destructive of His Godhead, can have been imported by birth into the nature of the Son? Universal reason rejects the supposition that a being can become different in nature, by the process of birth, from the being to which its birth is due; although we recognise the possibility that from parents, different in kind, an offspring sharing the nature of both, yet diverse from either, may be propagated. The fact is familiar in the case of beasts, both tame and wild. But even in this case there is no real novelty; the new qualities already exist, concealed in the two different parental natures, and are only developed by the connexion. The birth of their joint offspring is not the cause of that offspring's difference from its parents. The difference is a gift from them of various diversities, which are received and combined in one frame. When this is the case as to the transmission and reception even of bodily differences, is it not a form of madness to assert that the birth of God the Only-begotten was the birth from God of a nature inferior to Himself? For the giving of birth is a function of the true nature of the transmitter of life; and without the presence and action of that true nature there can be no birth. The object of all this heat and passion is to prove that there was no birth, but a creation, of the Son of God; that the Divine nature is not His origin and that He does not possess that nature in His personal sub-sistence, but draws, from what was non-existent, a nature different in kind from the Divine. They are angry because He says, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit18 . For, since God is a Spirit, it is clear that in One born from Him there can be nothing alien or different froth that Spirit from which He was born. Thus the birth of God constitutes Him perfect God. And hence also it is clear that we must not say that He began to exist, but only that He was born. For there is a sense in which beginning is different from birth. A thing which begins to exist either comes into existence out of nothing, or developes out of one state into another, ceasing to be what it was before; so, for instance, gold is formed out of earth, solids melt into liquids, cold changes to warmth, white to red, water breeds moving creatures, lifeless objects torn into living. In contrast to all this, the Son of God did not begin, out of nothing, to be God, but was born as God; nor had He an existence of another kind before the Divine. Thus He Who was born to be God had neither a beginning of His Godhead, nor yet a development up to it. His birth retained for Him that nature out of which He came into being; the Son of God, in His distinct existence, is what God is, and is nothing else.
15. Again, any one who is in doubt concerning this matter may gain from the Jews an accurate knowledge of Christ's nature; or rather learn that He was truly born from the Gospel, where it is written, Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him because He not only broke the Sabbath, but said also that God was His own Father, making Himself equal with God19 . This passage is unlike most others in not giving us the words spoken by the Jews, but the Apostle's explanation of their motive in wishing to kill the Lord. We see that no plea of misapprehension can excuse the wickedness of these blasphemers; for we have the Apostle's evidence that the true nature of Christ was fully revealed to them. They could speak of His birth:-He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Was not His clearly a birth of nature from nature, when He published the equality of His nature by speaking of God, by name, as His own Father? Now it is manifest that equality consists in the absence of difference between those who are equal. Is it not also manifest that the result of birth must be a nature in which there is an absence of difference between Son and Father? And this is the only possible origin of true equality; birth can only bring into existence a nature equal to its origin. But again, we can no more hold that there is equality where there is confusion, than we can where there is difference. Thus equality, as of the image20 , is incompatible with isolation and with diversity; for equality cannot dwell with difference, nor yet in solitude.
16. And now, although we have found the sense of Scripture, as we understand it, in harmony with the conclusions of ordinary reason, the two agreeing that equality is incompatible either with diversity or with isolation, yet we must seek a fresh support for Our contention from actual words of our Lord. For only so can we check that licence of arbitrary interpretation whereby these bold traducers of the faith would even venture to cavil at the Lord's solemn self-revelation. His answer to the Jews was this:-The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He seeth the Father do; for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth; and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath given all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him21 . The course of our argument, as I had shaped it in my mind, required that each several point of the debate should be handled singly; that, since we had been taught that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God in name, in birth, in nature, in power, in self-revelation, our demonstration of the faith should establish each successive point in that order. But His birth is a barrier to such a treatment of the question; for a consideration of it includes a consideration of His name and nature and power and self-revelation. For His birth involves all these, and they are His by the fact that He is born. And thus our argument concerning His birth has taken such a course that it is impossible for us to keep these other matters back for separate discussion in their turn.
17. The chief reason why the Jews wished to kill the Lord was that, in calling God His Father, He had made Himself equal with God; and therefore He put His answer, in which He reproved their evil passion, into the form of an exposition of the whole mystery of our faith. For just before this, when He had healed the paralytic and they had passed their judgment upon Him that He was worthy of death for breaking the Sabbath, He had said, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work22 . Their jealousy had been inflamed to the utmost by the raising of Himself to the level of God which was involved in this use of the name of Father. And now He wishes to assert His birth and to reveal the powers of His nature, and so He says, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do. These opening words of His reply are aimed at that wicked zeal of the Jews, which hurried them on even to the desire of slaying Him. It is in reference to the charge of breaking the Sabbath that He says, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. He wished them to understand that His practice was justified by Divine authority; and He taught them by the same words that His work must be regarded as the work of the Father, Who was working in Him all that He wrought. And again, it was to subdue the jealousy awakened by His speaking of God as His Father that He uttered those words, Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do. Lest this making of Himself equal to God, as having the name and nature of God's Son, should withdraw men's faith from the truth that He had been born, He says that the Son can do nothing but what He sees the Father do. Next, in confirmation of the saving harmony of truths in our confession of Father and of Son, He displays this nature which is His by birth; a nature which derives its power of action not from successive gifts of strength to do particular deeds, but from knowledge. He shews that this knowledge is not imparted by the Father's performance of any bodily work, as a pattern, that the Son may imitate what the Father has previously done; but that, by the action of the Divine nature, He had come to share the subsistence of the Divine nature, or, in other words, had been born as Son from the Father. He told them that, because the power and the nature of God dwelt consciously within Him, it was impossible for Him to do anything which He had not seen the Father doing; that, since it is in the might of the Father that God the Only-begotten performs His works His liberty of action coincides in its range with His knowledge of the powers of the nature of God the Father; a nature inseparable from Himself, and lawfully owned by Him in virtue of His birth. For God sees not after a bodily fashion, but possesses, by His nature, the vision of Omnipotence.
18. The next words are, For what things soever He-the Father-doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. This likewise is added to indicate His birth; whatsoever and same to indicate the true Divinity of His nature. Whatsoever and same make it impossible that there should be any actions of His that are different from or outside, the actions of the Father. Thus He, Whose nature has power to do all the same things as the Father, is included in the same nature with the Father. But when, in contrast with this, we read that all these same things are done by the Son likewise, the fact that the works are like those of Another is fatal to the supposition that He Who does them works in isolation. Thus the same things that the Father does are all done likewise by the Son. Here we have clear proof of His true birth, and at the same time a convincing attestation of the Mystery of our faith, which, with its foundation in the Unity of the nature of God, confesses that there resides in Father and Son an indivisible Divinity. For the Son does the same things as the Father, and does them likewise; while acting in like manner He does the same things. Two truths are combined in one proposition; that His works are done likewise proves His birth; that they are the same works proves His nature.
19. Thus the progressive revelation contained in our Lord's reply is at one with the progressive statement of truth in the Church's confession of faith. Neither of them divides the nature, and both declare the birth. For the next words of Christ are, For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth; and He will skew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Rather raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. Can there be any other purpose in this revelation of the manner in which God works, except that of inculcating the true birth; the faith in a subsisting Son born from the subsisting God, His Father? The only other explanation is that God the Only-begotten was so ignorant that He needed the instruction conveyed in this showing; but the reckless blasphemy of the suggestion makes this alternative impossible. For He, knowing, as He does, everything that He is taught, has no need of the teaching. And accordingly, after the words, The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth, we are next informed that all this skewing is for our instruction in the faith; that the Father and the Son may have their equal share in our confession, and we be saved, by this statement that the Father shews all that He does to the Son, from the delusion that the Son's knowledge is imperfect. With this object He goes on to say, And He will skew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. We see that the Son has full knowledge of the future works which the Father will shew Him hereafter. He knows that He will be shewn how, after His Father's example, He is to give life to the dead. For He says that the Father will shew to the Son things at which they shall marvel; and at once proceeds to tell them what these things are;For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. The power is equal because the nature is one and the same. The skewing of the works is an aid, not to ignorance in Him, but to faith in us. It conveys to the Son no knowledge of things unknown, but it imparts to us the confidence to proclaim His birth, by assuring us that the Father has shewn to Him all the works that He Himself can do. The terms used in this Divine discourse have been chosen with the utmost deliberation, lest any vagueness of language should suggest a difference of nature between the Two. Christ says that the Father's works were shewn Him, instead of saying that, to enable Him to perform them, a mighty nature was given Him. Hereby He wishes to reveal to us that this shewing was a substantive part of the process of His birth, since, simultaneously with that birth, there was imparted to Him by the Father's love a knowledge of the works which the Father willed that He should do. And again, to save us from being led, by this declaration of the shewing, to suppose that the Son's nature is ignorant and therefore different from the Father's, He makes it clear that He already knows the things that are to be shewn Him. So far, indeed, is He from needing the authority of precedent to enable Him to act, that He is to give life to whom He will. To will implies a free nature, subsisting with power to choose in the blissful exercise of omnipotence.
20. And next, lest it should seem that to give life to whom He will is not within the power of One Who has been truly born, but is only the prerogative of ingenerate Omnipotence, He hastens to add, For the _Father judgeth no man, but hath given all judgment to the Son. The statement that all judgment is given teaches both His birth and His Sonship; for only a nature which is altogether one with the Father's could possess all things; and a Son can possess nothing, except by gift. But all judgment has been given Him for He quickens whom He will. Now we cannot suppose that judgment is taken away from the Father, although He does not exercise it; for the Son's whole power of judgment proceeds from the Father's, being a gift from Him. And there is no concealment of the reason why judgment has been given to the Son, for the words which follow are, But He hath given all judgment to the Son, that all men may honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father Which hath sent Him. What possible excuse remains for doubt, or for the irreverence of denial? The reason for the gift of judgment is that the Son may receive an honour equal to that which is paid to the Father; and thus he who dishonours the Son is guilty of dishonouring the Father also. How, after this proof, can we imagine that the nature given Him by birth is different from the Father's, when He is the Father's equal in work, in power, in honour, in the punishment awarded to gainsayers? Thus this whole Divine reply is nothing else than an unfolding of the mystery of His birth. And the only distinction that it is right or possible to make between Father and Son is that the Latter was born; yet born in such a sense as to be One with His Father.
21. Thus the Father works hitherto and the Son works. In Father and Son you have the names which express Their nature in relation to Each other. Note also that it is the Divine nature, that through which God works, that is working here. And remember, lest you fall into the error of imagining that the operation of two unlike natures is here described, how it was said concerning the blind man, But that the works of God may be made manifest in him, I must work the works of Him that sent Me23 . You see that in his case the work wrought by the Son is the Father's work; and the Son's work is God's work. The remainder of the discourse which we are considering also deals with works; but my defence is at present only concerned with assigning the whole work to Both, and pointing out that They are at one in Their method of working, since the Son is employed upon that work which the Father does hitherto. The sanction contained in this fact that, by virtue of His Divine birth, the Father is working with Him in all that He does, will save us from supposing that the Lord of the Sabbath was doing wrong in working on the Sabbath. His Sonship is not affected, for there is no confusion of His Divinity with the Father's, and no negation of it; His Godhead is not affected, for His Divine nature is untouched. Their unity is not affected, for no difference is revealed to sever Them; and Their unity is not presented in such a light as to contradict Their distinct existence. First recognise the Sonship of the Son; The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do Here His birth is manifest; because of i. He can do nothing of Himself till He sees it bring done. He cannot be unbegotten, because He can do nothing of Himself; He has no power of initiation, and therefore He must have been born. But the fact that He can see the Father's works proves that He has the comprehension which belongs to the conscious Possessor of Divinity. Next, mark that He does possess this true Divine nature;-For what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. And now that we have seen Him endowed with the powers of that nature, note how this results in unity, how one nature dwells in the Two;-That all men may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. And then, lest reflection on this unity entangle you in the delusion of a solitary and self-contained God, take to heart the mystery of the faith manifested in these words, He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father Which hath sent Him. The rage and cunning of heresy may do their worst; our position is impregnable. He is the Son, because He can do nothing of Himself; He is God, because, whatever the Father does, He does the same; They Two are One, because He is equal in honour to the Father and does the very same works; He is not the Father, because He is sent. So great is the wealth of mysterious truth contained in this one doctrine of the birth! It embraces His name, His nature, His power, His self-revelation; for everything conveyed to Him in His birth must be contained in that nature from which His birth is derived. Into His nature no element of any substance different in kind from that of His Author is introduced, for a nature which springs from one nature only must be entirely one with that nature which is its parent. An unity is that which, containing no discordant elements, is one in kind with itself; an unity constituted through birth cannot be solitary; for solitude can have but a single occupant, while an unity constituted through birth implies the conjunction of Two.