| HOMEPAGE |[ CONTENTS ]
AUGUSTINE UNKNOWINGLY REJECTS THE DOCTRINE OF THE ECUMENCAL COUNCILS CONCERNING THE OLD TESTAMENT LORD OF GLORY INCARNATE AND HIS VATICAN AND PROTESTANT FOLLOWERS DO THE SAME
PART I: AUGUSTINE'S TEACHINGS WHICH WERE CONDEMNED AS THOSE OF BARLAAM THE CALABRIAN BY THE NINTH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF 1351.
[ Return ]
WHEN men seek to know God, and bend their minds according to the capacity of human weakness to the understanding of the Trinity; learning, as they must, by experience, the wearisome difficulties of the task, whether from the sight itself of the mind striving to gaze upon light unapproachable, or, indeed, from the manifold and various modes of--speech employed in the sacred writings (wherein, as it seems to me, the mind is nothing else but roughly exercised, in order that it may find sweetness when glorified by the grace of Christ);--such men, I say, when they have dispelled every ambiguity, and arrived at something certain, ought of all others most easily to make allowance for those who err in the investigation of so deep a secret. But there are two things most hard to bear with, in the case of those who are in error: hasty assumption before the truth is made plain; and, when it has been made--plain, defence of the falsehood thus hastily assumed. From which two faults, inimical as they are to the finding out of the truth, and to the handling of the divine and sacred books, should God, as I pray and hope, defend and protect me with the shield of His good will,(1) and with the grace of His mercy, I will not be slow to search out the substance of God, whether through His Scripture or through the creature. For both of these are set forth for our contemplation to this end, that He may Himself be sought, and Himself be loved, who inspired the one, and created the other. Nor shall I be afraid of giving my opinion, in which I shall more desire to be examined by the upright, than fear to be carped at by the perverse. For charity, most excellent and unassuming, gratefully accepts the dovelike eye; but for the dog's tooth nothing remains, save either to shun it by the most cautious humility, or to blunt it by the most solid truth; and far rather would I be censured by any one whatsoever, than be praised by either the erring or the flatterer. For the lover of truth need fear no one's censure. For he that censures, must needs be either enemy or friend. And if an enemy reviles, he must be borne with: but a friend, if he errs, must be taught; if he teaches, listened to. But if one who errs praises you, he confirms your error; if one who flatters, he seduces you into error. "Let the righteous," therefore, "smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me; but the oil of the sinner shall not anoint my head."(2)[ Return ]
2. Wherefore, although we hold most firmly, concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, what may be called the canonical rule, as it is both disseminated through the Scriptures, and has been demonstrated by learned and Catholic handlers of the same Scriptures, namely, that the Son of God is both understood to be equal to the Father according to the form of God in which He is, and less than the Father according to the form of a servant which He took;(1) in which form He was found to be not only less than the Father, but also less than the Holy Spirit; and not only so, but less even than Himself,--not than Himself who was, but than Himself who is; because, by taking the form of a servant, He did not lose the form of God, as the testimonies of the Scriptures taught us, to which we have referred in the former book: yet there are some things in the sacred text so put as to leave it ambiguous to which rule they are rather to be referred; whether to that by which we understand the Son as less, in that He has taken upon Him the creature, or to that by which we understand that the Son is not indeed less than, but equal to the Father, but yet that He is from Him, God of God, Light of light. For we call the Son God of God; but the Father, God only; not of God. Whence it is plain that the Son has another of whom He is, and to whom He is Son; but that the Father has not a Son of whom He is, but only to whom He is father. For every son is what he is, of his father, and is son to his father; but no father is what he is, of his son, but is father to his son.(2)
3. Some things, then, are so put in the Scriptures concerning the Father and the Son, as to intimate the unity and equality of their substance; as, for instance, "I and the Father are one;"(3) and, "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God;"(4) and whatever ether texts there are of the kind. And some, again, are so put that they show the Son as less on account of the form of a servant, that is, of His having taken upon Him the creature of a changeable and human substance; as, for instance, that which says, "For my Father is greater than I;"(5) and, "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." For a little after he goes on to say, "And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man." And further, some are so put, as to show Him at that time neither as less nor as equal, but only to intimate that He is of the Father; as, for instance, that which says, "For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;" and that other: "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do."(6) For if we shall take this to be therefore so said, because the Son is less in the form taken from the creature, it will follow that the Father must have walked on the water, or opened the eyes with clay and spittle of some other one born blind, and have done the other things which the Son appearing in the flesh did among men, before the Son did them;(7) in order that He might be able to do those things, who said that the Son was not able to do anything of Himself, except what He hath seen the Father do. Yet who, even though he were mad, would think this? It remains, therefore, that these texts are so expressed, because the life of the Son is unchangeable as that of the Father is, and yet He is of the Father; and the working of the Father and of the Son is indivisible, and yet so to work is given to the Son from Him of whom He Himself is, that is, from the Father; and the Son so sees the Father, as that He is the Son in the very seeing Him. For to be of the Father, that is, to be born of the Father. is to Him nothing else than to see the Father; and to see Him working, is nothing else than to work with Him: but therefore not from Himself, because He is not from Himself. And, therefore, those things which "He sees the Father do, these also doeth the Son likewise," because He is of the Father. For He neither does other things in like manner, as a painter paints other pictures, in the same way aS he sees others to have been painted by another man; nor the same things in a different manner, as the body expresses the same letters, which the mind has thought; but "whatsoever things," saith He, "the Father doeth, these same things also doeth the Son likewise."(8) He has said both these same things," and "likewise;" and hence the working of both the Father and the Son is indivisible and equal, but it is from the Father to the Son. Therefore the Son cannot do anything of Himself, except what He seeth the Father do. From this rule, then, whereby the Scriptures so speak as to mean, not to set forth one as less than another, but only to show which is of which, some have drawn this meaning, as if the Son were said to be less. And some among ourselves who are more unlearned and least instructed in these things, endeavoring to take these texts according to the form of a servant, and so mis-interpreting them, are troubled. And to prevent this, the rule in question is to be observed whereby the Son is not less, but it is simply intimated that He is of the Father, in which words not His inequality but His birth is declared.[ Return ]
4. There are, then, some things in the sacred books, as I began by saying, so put, that it is doubtful to which they are to be referred: whether to that rule whereby the Son is less on account of His having taken the creature; or whether to that whereby it is intimated that although equal, yet He is of the Father. And in my opinion, if this is in such way doubtful, that which it really is can neither be explained nor discerned, then such passages may without danger be understood according to either rule, as that, for instance, "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me."(1) For this may both be taken according to the form of a servant, as we have already treated it in the former book;(2) or according to the form of God, in which He is in such way equal to the Father, that He is yet of the Father. For according to the form of God, as the Son is not one and His life another, but the life itself is the Son; so the Son is not one and His doctrine another, but the doctrine itself is the Son. And hence, as the text, "He hath given life to the Son," is no otherwise to be understood than, He hath begotten the Son, who is life; so also when it is said, He hath given doctrine to the Son, it may be rightly understood to mean, He hath begotten the Son, who is doctrine so that, when it is said, "My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me," it is so to be understood as if it were, I am not from myself, but from Him who sent me.[ Return ]
5. For even of the Holy Spirit, of whom it is not said, "He emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant;" yet the Lord Himself says, "Howbeit, when He the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth. For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." And except He had immediately gone on to say after this, "All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you;"(3) it might, perhaps, have been believed that the Holy Spirit was so born of Christ, as Christ is of the Father. Since He had said of Himself, "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me;" but of the Holy Spirit," For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall He speak;" and, "For He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." But because He has rendered the reason why He said, "He shall receive of mine" (for He says, "All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, that He shall take of mine "); it remains that the Holy Spirit be understood to have of that which is the Father's, as the Son also hath. And how can this be, unless according to that which we have said above, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me"?(4) He is said, therefore, not to speak of Himself, in that He proceedeth from the Father; and as it does not follow that the Son is less because He said, "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do" (for He has not said this according to the form of a servant, but according to the form of God, as we have already shown, and these words do not set Him forth as less than, but as of the Father), so it is not brought to pass that the Holy Spirit is less, because it is said of Him, "For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak;" for the words belong to Him as proceeding from the Father. But whereas both the Son is of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, why both are not called sons, and both not said to be begotten, but the former is called the one only-begotten Son, and the latter, viz. the Holy Spirit, neither son nor begotten, because if begotten, then certainly a son, we will discuss in another place, if God shall grant, and so far as He shall grant.(5)[ Return ]
6. But here also let them wake up if they can, who have thought this, too, to be a testimony on their side, to show that the Father is greater than the Son, because the Son hath said, "Father, glorify me." Why, the Holy Spirit also glorifies Him. Pray, is the Spirit, too, greater than He? Moreover, if on that account the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son, because He shall receive of that which is the Son's, and shall therefore receive of that which is the Son's because all things that the Father has are the Son's also; it is evident that when the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son, the Father glorifies the Son. Whence it may be perceived that all things that the Father hath are not only of the Son, but also of the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is able to glorify the Son, whom the Father glorifies. But if he who glorifies is greater than he whom he glorifies, let them allow that those are equal who mutually glorify each other. But it is written, also, that the Son glorifies the Father; for He says, "I have glorified Thee on the earth."(1) Truly let them beware test the Holy Spirit be thought greater than both, because He glorifies the Son whom the Father glorifies, while it is not written that He Himself is glorified either by the Father or by the Son.[ Return ]
7. But being proved wrong so far, men betake themselves to saying, that he who sends is greater than he who is sent: therefore the Father is greater than the Son, because the Son continually speaks of Himself as being sent by the Father; and the Father is also greater than the Holy Spirit, because Jesus has said of the Spirit, "Whom the Father will send in my name;"(2) and the Holy Spirit is less than both, because both the Father sends Him, as we have said, and the Son, when He says, "But if I depart, I will send Him unto you." I first ask, then, in this inquiry, whence and whither the Son was sent. "I," He says, "came forth from the Father, and am come into the world."(3) Therefore, to be sent, is to come forth forth from the Father, and to come into the world. What, then, is that which the same evangelist says concerning Him, "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not;" and then he adds, "He came unto His own?"(4) Certainly He was sent thither, whither He came; but if He was sent into the world, because He came forth from the Father, then He both came into the world and was in the world. He was sent therefore thither, where He already was. For consider that, too, which is written in the prophet, that God said, "Do not I fill heaven . and earth?"(5) If this is said of the Son (for some will have it understood that the Son Himself spoke either by the prophets or in the prophets), whither was He sent except to the place where He already was? For He who says, "I fill heaven and earth," was everywhere. But if it is said of the Father, where could He be without His own word and without His own wisdom, which "reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly ordereth all things?"(6) But He cannot be anywhere without His own Spirit. Therefore, if God is everywhere, His Spirit also is everywhere. Therefore, the Holy Spirit, too, was sent thither, where He already was. For he, too, who finds no place to which he might go from the presence of God, and who says, "If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I shall go down into hell, behold, Thou art there;" wishing it to be understood that God is present everywhere, named in the previous verse His Spirit; for He says," Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?"(7)
8. For this reason, then, if both the Son and the Holy Spirit are sent thither where they were, we must inquire, how that sending, whether of the Son or of the Holy Spirit, is to be understood; for of the Father alone, we nowhere read that He is sent. Now, of the Son, the apostle writes thus: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law."(8) "He sent," he says, "His Son, made of a woman." And by this term, woman,(9) what Catholic does not know that he did not wish to signify the privation of virginity; but, according to a Hebraism, the difference of sex? When, therefore, he says, "God sent His Son, made of a woman," he sufficiently shows that the Son was "sent" in this very way, in that He was "made of a woman." Therefore, in that He was born of God, He was in the world; but in that He was born of Mary, He was sent and came into the world. Moreover, He could not be sent by the Father without the Holy Spirit, not only because the Father, when He sent Him, that is, when He made Him of a woman, is certainly understood not to have so made Him without His own Spirit; but also because it is most plainly and expressly said in the Gospel in answer to the Virgin Mary, when she asked of the angel, "How shall this be?" "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee."(1) And Matthew says, "She was found with child of the Holy Ghost."(2) Although, too, in the prophet Isaiah, Christ Himself is understood to say of His own future advent, "And now the Lord God and His Spirit hath sent me."(3)
9. Perhaps some one may wish to drive us to say, that the Son is sent also by Himself, because the conception and childbirth of Mary is the working of the Trinity, by whose act of creating all things are created. And how, he will go on to say, has the Father sent Him, if He sent Himself? To whom I answer first, by asking him to tell me, if he can, in what manner the Father hath sanctified Him, if He hath sanctified Himself? For the same Lord says both; "Say ye of Him," He says, "whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God;"(4) while in another place He says, "And for their sake I sanctify myself."(6) I ask, also, in what manner the Father delivered Him, if He delivered Himself? For the Apostle Paul says both: "Who," he says, "spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all;"(6) while elsewhere he says of the Saviour Himself, "Who loved me, and delivered Himself for me."(7) He will reply, I suppose, if he has a right sense in these things, Because the will of the Father and the Son is one, and their working indivisible. In like manner, then, let him understand the incarnation and nativity of the Virgin, wherein the Son is understood as sent, to have been wrought by one and the same operation of the Father and of the Son indivisibly; the Holy Spirit certainly not being thence excluded, of whom it is expressly said, "She was found with child by the Holy Ghost." For perhaps our meaning will be more plainly unfolded, if we ask in what manner God sent His Son. He commanded that He should come, and He, complying with the commandment, came. Did He then request, or did He only suggest? But whichever of these it was, certainly it was done by a word, and the Word of God is the Son of God Himself. Wherefore, since the Father sent Him by a word, His being sent was the work of both the Father and His Word; therefore the same Son was sent by the Father and the Son, because the Son Himself is the Word of the Father. For who would embrace so impious an opinion as to think the Father to have uttered a word in time, in order that the eternal Son might thereby be sent and might appear in the flesh in the fullness of time? But assuredly it was in that Word of God itself which was in the beginning with God and was God, namely, in the wisdom itself of God, apart from time, at what time that wisdom must needs appear in the flesh. Therefore, since without any commencement of time, the Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, it was in the Word itself without any time, at what time the Word was to be made flesh and dwell among us.(8) And when this fullness of time had come, "God sent His Son, made of a woman,"(9) that is, made in time, that the Incarnate Word might appear to men; while it was in that Word Himself, apart from time, at what time this was to be done; for the order of times is in the eternal wisdom of God without time. Since, then, that the Son should appear in the flesh was wrought by both the Father and the Son, it is fitly said that He who appeared in that flesh was sent, and that He who did not appear in it, sent Him; because those things which are transacted outwardly before the bodily eyes have their existence from the inward structure (apparatu) of the spiritual nature, and on that account are filly said to be sent. Further, that form of man which He took is the person of the Son, not also of the Father; on which account the invisible Father, together with the Son, who with the Father is invisible, is said to have sent the same Son by making Him visible. But if He became visible in such way as to cease to be invisible with the Father, that is, if the substance of the invisible Word were turned by a change and transition into a visible creature, then the Son would be so understood to be sent by the Father, that He would be found to be only sent; not also, with the Father, sending. But since He so took the form of a servant, as that the unchangeable form of God remained, it is clear that that which became apparent in the Son was done by the Father and the Son not being apparent; that is, that by the invisible Father, with the invisible Son, the same Son Himself was sent so as to be visible. Why, therefore, does He say, "Neither came I of myself?" This, we may now say, is said according to the form of a servant, in the same way as it is said, "I judge no man."(10)
10. If, therefore, He is said to be sent, in so far as He appeared outwardly in the bodily creature, who inwardly in His spiritual nature is always hidden from the eyes of mortals, it is now easy to understand also of the Holy Spirit why He too is said to be sent. For in due time a certain outward appearance of the creature was wrought, wherein the Holy Spirit might be visibly shown; whether when He descended upon the Lord Himself in a bodily shape as a dove,(1) or when, ten days having past since His ascension, on the day of Pentecost a sound came suddenly from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and cloven tongues like as of fire were seen upon them, and it sat upon each of them.(2) This operation, visibly exhibited, and presented to mortal eyes, is called the sending of the Holy Spirit; not that His very substance appeared, in which He himself also is invisible and unchangeable, like the Father and the Son, but that the hearts of men, touched by things seen outwardly, might be turned from the manifestation in time of Him as coming to His hidden eternity as ever present.[ Return ]
11. It is, then, for this reason nowhere written, that the Father is greater than the Holy Spirit, or that the Holy Spirit is less than God the Father, because the creature in which the Holy Spirit was to appear was not taken in the same way as the Son of man was taken, as the form in which the person of the Word of God Himself should be set forth not that He might possess the word of God, as other holy and wise men have possessed it, but "above His fellows;" a not certainly that He possessed the word more than they, so as to be of more surpassing wisdom than the rest were, but that He was the very Word Himself. For the word in the flesh is one thing, and the Word made flesh is another; i.e. the word in man is one thing, the Word that is man is another. For flesh is put for man, where it is said, "The Word was made flesh;"(4) and again, "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'' For it does not mean flesh without soul and without mind; but "all flesh," is the same as if it were said, every man. The creature, then, in which the Holy Spirit should appear, was not so taken, as that flesh and human form were taken, of the Virgin Mary. For the Spirit did not beatify the dove, or the wind, or the fire, and join them for ever to Himself and to His person in unity and "fashion."(6) Nor, again, is the nature of the Holy Spirit mutable and changeable; so that these things were not made of the creature, but He himself was turned and changed first into one and then into another, as water is changed into ice. But these things appeared at the seasons at which they ought to have appeared, the creature serving the Creator, and being changed and converted at the command of Him who remains immutably in Himself, in order to signify and manifest Him in such way as it was fit He should be signified and manifested to mortal men. Accordingly, although that dove is called the Spirit;(7) and in speaking of that fire, "There appeared unto them," he says, "cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance;(8) in order to show that the Spirit was manifested by that fire, as by the dove; yet we cannot call the Holy Spirit both God and a dove, or both God and fire, in the same way as we call the Son both God and man; nor as we call the Son the Lamb of God; which not only John the Baptist says, "Behold the Lamb of God,"(9) but also John the Evangelist sees the Lamb slain in the Apocalypse.(10) For that prophetic vision was not shown to bodily eyes through bodily forms, but in the spirit through spiritual images of bodily things. But whosoever saw that dove and that fire, saw them with their eyes. Although it may perhaps be disputed concerning the fire, whether it was seen by the eyes or in the spirit, on account of the form of the sentence. For the text does not say, They saw cloven tongues like fire, but, "There appeared to them." But we are not wont to say with the same meaning, It appeared to me; as we say, I saw. And in those spiritual visions of corporeal images the usual expressions are, both, It appeared to me; and, I saw: but in those things which are shown to the eyes through express corporeal forms, the common expression is not, It appeared to me; but, I saw. There may, therefore, be a question raised respecting that fire, how it was seen; whether within in the spirit as it were outwardly, or really outwardly before the eyes of the flesh. But of that dove, which is said to have descended in a bodily form, no one ever doubted that it was seen by the eyes. Nor, again, as we call the Son a Rock (for it is written, "And that Rock was Christ"(11)), can we so call the Spirits dove or fire. For that rock was a thing already created, and after the mode of its action was called by the name of Christ, whom it signified; like the stone placed under Jacob's head, and also anointed, which he took in order to signify the Lord;(1) or as Isaac was Christ, when he carried the wood for the sacrifice of himself.(2) A particular significative action was added to those already existing things; they did not, as that dove and fire, suddenly come into being in order simply so to signify. The dove and the fire, indeed, seem to me more like that flame which appeared to Moses in the bush,(3) or that pillar which the people followed in the wilderness,(4) or the thunders and lightnings which came when the Law was given in the mount.(5) For the corporeal form of these things came into being for the very purpose, that it might signify something, and then pass away.(6)[ Return ]
12. The Holy Spirit, then, is also said to be sent, on account of these corporeal forms which came into existence in time, in order to signify and manifest Him, as He must needs be manifested, to human senses; yet He is not said to be less than the Father, as the Son, because He was in the form of a servant, is said to be; because that form of a servant inhered in the unity of the person of the Son, but those corporeal forms appeared for a time, in order to show what was necessary to be shown, and then ceased to be. Why, then, is not the Father also said to be sent, through those corporeal forms, the fire of the bush, and the pillar of cloud or of fire, and the lightnings in the mount, and whatever other things of the kind appeared at that time, when (as we have learned from Scripture testimony) He spake face to face with the fathers, if He Himself was manifested by those modes and forms of the creature, as exhibited ant presented corporeally to human sight? But if the Son was manifested by them, why is He said to be sent so long after, when He was made of a woman, as the apostle says, "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman,"(7) seeing that He was sent also before, when He appeared to the fathers by those changeable forms of the creature? Or if He cannot rightly be said to be sent, unless when the Word was made flesh, why is the Holy Spirit said to be sent, of whom no such incarnation was ever wrought? But if by those visible things, which are put before us in the Law and in the prophets, neither the Father nor the Son but the Holy Spirit was manifested, why also is He said to be sent now, when He was sent also before after these modes?
13. In the perplexity of this inquiry, the Lord helping us, we must ask, first, whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit; or whether, sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Holy Spirit; or whether it was without any distinction of persons, in such way as the one and only God is Spoken of, that is, that the Trinity itself appeared to the Fathers by those forms of the creature. Next, whichever of these alternatives shall have been found or thought true, whether for this purpose only the creature was fashioned, wherein God, as He judged it suitable at that time, should be shown to human sight; or whether angels, who already existed, were so sent, as to speak in the person of God, taking a corporeal form from the corporeal creature, for the purpose of their ministry, as each had need; or else, according to the power the Creator has given them, changing and converting their own body itself, to which they are not subject, but govern it as subject to themselves, into whatever appearances they would that were suited and apt to their several actions. Lastly, we shall discern that which it was our purpose to ask, viz. whether the Son and the Holy Spirit were also sent before; and, if they were so sent, what difference there is between that sending, and the one which we read of in the Gospel; or whether in truth neither of them were sent, except when either the Son was made of the Virgin Mary, or the Holy Spirit appeared in a visible form, whether in the dove or in tongues of fire.[ Return ]
14. Let us therefore say nothing of those who, with an over carnal mind, have thought the nature of the Word of God, and the Wisdom, which, "remaining in herself, maketh all things new,"(8) whom we call the only Son of God, not only to be changeable, but also to be visible. For these, with more audacity than religion, bring a very dull heart to the inquiry into divine things. For whereas the soul is a spiritual substance, and whereas itself also was made, vet could not be made by any other than by Him by whom all things were made, and without whom nothing is made,(1) it, although changeable, is yet not visible; and this they have believed to be the case with the Word Himself and with the Wisdom of God itself, by which the soul was made; whereas this Wisdom is not only invisible, as the soul also is, but likewise unchangeable, which the soul is not. It is in truth the same unchangeableness in it, which is referred to when it was said, "Remaining in herself she maketh all things new." Yet these people, endeavoring, as it were, to prop up their error in its fall by testimonies of the divine Scriptures, adduce the words of the Apostle Paul; and take that, which is said of the one only God, in whom the Trinity itself is understood, to be said only of the Father, and neither of the Son nor of the Holy Spirit: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever;"(2) and that other passage, "The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see."(3) How these passages are to be understood, I think we have already discoursed sufficiently.(4)[ Return ]
15. But they who will have these texts understood only of the Father, and not of the Son or the Holy Spirit, declare the Son to be visible, not by having taken flesh of the Virgin, but aforetime also in Himself. For He Himself, they say, appeared to the eyes of the Fathers. And if you say to them, In whatever manner, then, the Son is visible in Himself, in that manner also He is mortal in Himself; so that it plainly follows that you would have this saying also understood only of the Father, viz., "Who only hath immortality;" for if the Son is mortal from having taken upon Him our flesh, then allow that it is on account of this flesh that He is also visible: they reply, that it is not on account of this flesh that they say that the Son is mortal; but that, just as He was also before visible, so He was also before mortal. For if they say the Son is mortal from having taken our flesh, then it is not the Father alone without the Son who hath immortality; because His Word also has immortality, by which all things were made. For He did not therefore lose His immortality, because He took mortal flesh; seeing that it could not happen even to the human soul, that it should die with the body, when the Lord Himself says, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul."(5) Or, forsooth, also the Holy Spirit took flesh: concerning whom certainly they will, without doubt, be troubled to say--if the Son is mortal on account of taking our flesh--in what manner they understand that the Father only has immortality without the Son and the Holy Spirit, since, indeed, the Holy Spirit did not take our flesh; and if He has not immortality, then the Son is not mortal on account of taking our flesh; but if the Holy Spirit has immortality, then it is not said only of the Father, "Who only hath immortality." And therefore they think they are able to prove that the Son in Himself was mortal also before the incarnation, because changeableness itself is not unfitly called mortality, according to which the soul also is said to die; not because it is changed and turned into body, or into some substance other than itself, but because, whatever in its own selfsame substance is now after another mode than it once was, is discovered to be mortal, in so far as it has ceased to be what it was. Because then, say they, before the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary, He Himself appeared to our fathers, not in one and the same form only, but in many forms; first in one form, then in another; He is both visible in Himself, because His substance was visible to mortal eyes, when He had not yet taken our flesh, and mortal, inasmuch as He is changeable. And so also the Holy Spirit, who appeared at one time as a dove, and another time as fire. Whence, they say, the following texts do not belong to the Trinity, but singularly and properly to the Father only: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only wise God;" and, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see."
16. Passing by, then, these reasoners, who are unable to know the substance even of the soul, which is invisible, and therefore are very far indeed from knowing that the substance of the one and only God, that is, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, remains ever not only invisible, but also unchangeable, and that hence it possesses true and real immortality; let us, who deny that God, whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, ever appeared to bodily eyes, unless through the corporeal creature made subject to His own power; let us, I say--ready to be corrected, if we are reproved in a fraternal and upright spirit, ready to be so, even if carped at by an enemy, so that he speak the truth--in catholic peace and with peaceful study inquire, whether God indiscriminately appeared to our fathers before Christ came in the flesh, or whether it was any one person of the Trinity, or whether severally, as it were by turns.[ Return ]
17. And first, in that which is written in Genesis, viz., that God spake with man whom He had formed out of the dust; if we set apart the figurative meaning, and treat it so as to place faith in the narrative even in the letter, it should appear that God then spake with man in the appearance of a man. This is not indeed expressly laid down in the book, but the general tenor of its reading sounds in this sense, especially in that which is written, that Adam heard the voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, and hid himself among the trees of the garden; and when God said, "Adam, where art thou?"(1) replied, "I heard Thy voice, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself from Thy face." For I do not see how such a walking and conversation of God can be understood literally, except He appeared as a man. For it can neither be said that a voice only of God was framed, when God is said to have walked, or that He who was walking in a place was not visible; while Adam, too, says that he hid himself from the face of God. Who then was He? Whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Whether altogether indiscriminately did God the Trinity Himself speak to man in the form of man? The context, indeed, itself of the Scripture nowhere, it should seem, indicates a change from person to person; but He seems still to speak to the first man, who said, "Let there be light," and, "Let there be a firmament," and so on through each of those days; whom we usually take to be God the Father, making by a word whatever He willed to make. For He made all things by His word, which Word we know, by the right rule of faith, to be His only Son. If, therefore, God the Father spake to the first man, and Himself was walking in the garden in the cool of the evening, and if it was from His face that the sinner hid himself amongst the trees of the garden, why are we not to go on to understand that it was He also who appeared to Abraham and to Moses, and to whom He would, and how He would, through the changeable and visible creature, subjected to Himself, while He Himself remains in Himself and in His own substance, in which He is unchangeable and invisible? But, possibly, it might be that the Scripture passed over in a hidden way from person to person, and while it had related that the Father said "Let there be light," and the rest which it mentioned Him to have done by the Word, went on to indicate the Son as speaking to the first man; not unfolding this openly, but intimating it to be understood by those who could understand it.
18. Let him, then, who has the strength whereby he can penetrate this secret with his mind's eye, so that to him it appears clearly, either that the Father also is able, or that only the Son and Holy Spirit are able, to appear to human eyes through a visible creature; let him, I say, proceed to examine these things if he can, or even to express and handle them in words; but the thing itself, so far as concerns this testimony of Scripture, where God spake with man, is, in my judgment, not discoverable, because it does not evidently appear even whether Adam usually saw God with the eyes of his body; especially as it is a great question what manner of eyes it was that were opened when they tasted the forbidden fruit;(2) for before they had tasted, these eyes were closed. Yet I would not rashly assert, even if that scripture implies Paradise to have been a material place, that God could not have walked there in any way except in some bodily form. For it might be said, that only words were framed for the man to hear, without seeing any form. Neither, because it is written, "Adam hid himself from the face of God," does it follow forthwith that he usually saw His face. For what if he himself indeed could not see, but feared to be himself seen by Him whose voice he had heard, and had felt His presence as he walked? For Cain, too, said to God, "From Thy face I will hide myself;"(3) yet we are not therefore compelled to admit that he was wont to behold the face of God with his bodily eyes in any visible form, although he had heard the voice of God questioning and speaking with him of his sin. But what manner of speech it was that God then uttered to the outward ears of men, especially in speaking to the first man, it is both difficult to discover, and we have not undertaken to say in this discourse. But if words alone and sounds were wrought, by which to bring about some sensible presence of God to those first men, I do not know why I should not there understand the person of God the Father, seeing that His person is manifested also in that voice, when Jesus appeared in glory on the mount before the three disciples;(1) and in that when the dove descended upon Him at His baptism;(2) and in that where He cried to the Father concerning His own glorification and it was answered Him, "I have both glorified, and will glorify again."(3) Not that the voice could be wrought without the work of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (since the Trinity works indivisibly), but that such a voice was wrought as to manifest the person of the Father only; just as the Trinity wrought that human form from the Virgin Mary, yet it is the person of the Son alone; for the invisible Trinity wrought the visible person of the Son alone. Neither does anything forbid us, not only to understand those words spoken to Adam as spoken by the Trinity, but also to take them as manifesting the person of that Trinity. For we are compelled to understand of the Father only, that which is said, "This is my beloved Son."(4) For Jesus can neither be believed nor understood to be the Son of the Holy Spirit, or even His own Son. And where the voice uttered, "I have both glorified, and will glorify again," we confess it was only the person of the Father; since it is the answer to that word of the Lord, in which He had said, "Father, glorify thy Son," which He could not say except to God the Father only, and not also to the Holy Spirit, whose Son He was not. But here, where it is written, "And the Lord God said to Adam," no reason can be given why the Trinity itself should not be understood.
19. Likewise, also, in that which is written, "Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and thy father's house," it is not clear whether a voice alone came to the ears of Abraham, or whether anything also appeared to his eyes. But a little while after, it is somewhat more clearly said, "And the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land."(5) But neither there is it expressly said in what form God appeared to him, or whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit appeared to him. Unless, perhaps, they think that it was the Son who appeared to Abraham, because it is not written, God appeared to him, but "the Lord appeared to him." For the Son seems to be called the Lord as though the name was appropriated to Him; as e.g. the apostle says, "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him."(6) But since it is found that God the Father also is called Lord in many places,--for instance, "The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee;"(7) and again, "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand; "a since also the Holy Spirit is found to be called Lord, as where the apostle says, "Now the Lord is that Spirit;" and then, lest any one should think the Son to be signified, and to be called the Spirit on account of His incorporeal substance, has gone on to say, "And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;(9) and no one ever doubted the Spirit of the Lord to be the Holy Spirit: therefore, neither here does it appear plainly whether it was any person of the Trinity that appeared to Abraham, or God Himself the Trinity, of which one God it is said, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve."(10) But under the oak at Mature he saw three men, whom he invited, and hospitably received, and ministered to them as they feasted. Yet Scripture at the beginning of that narrative does not say, three men appeared to him, but, "The Lord appeared to him." And then, setting forth in due order after what manner the Lord appeared to him, it has added the account of the three men, whom Abraham invites to his hospitality in the plural number, and afterwards speaks to them in the singular number as one; and as one He promises him a son by Sara, viz. the one whom the Scripture calls Lord, as in the beginning of the same narrative, "The Lord," it says, "appeared to Abraham." He invites them then, and washes their feet, and leads them forth at their departure, as though they were men; but he speaks as with the Lord God, whether when a son is promised to him, or when the destruction is shown to him that was impending over Sodom.(11)[ Return ]
20. That place of Scripture demands neither a slight nor a passing consideration. For if one man had appeared, what else would those at once cry out, who say that the Son was visible also in His own substance before He was born of the Virgin, but that it was Himself? since it is said, they say, of the Father, "To the only invisible God."(1) And yet, I could still go on to demand, in what manner "He was found in fashion as a man," before He had taken our flesh, seeing that his feet were washed, and that He fed upon earthly food? How could that be, when He was still "in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God?"(2) For, pray, had He already "emptied Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant, and made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man?" when we know when it was that He did this through His birth of the Virgin. How, then, before He had done this, did He appear as one man to Abraham? or, was not that form a reality? I could put these questions, if it had been one man that appeared to Abraham, and if that one were believed to be the Son of God. But since three men appeared, and no one of them is said to be greater than the rest either in form, or age, or power, why should we not here understand, as visibly intimated by the visible creature, the equality of the Trinity, and one and the same substance in three persons?(3)
21. For, lest any one should think that one among the three is in this way intimated to have been the greater, and that this one is to be understood to have been the Lord, the Son of God, while the other two were His angels; because, whereas three appeared, Abraham there speaks to one as the Lord: Holy Scripture has not forgotten to anticipate, by a contradiction, such future cogitations and opinions, when a little while after it says that two angels came to Lot, among whom that just man also, who deserved to be freed from the burning of Sodom, speaks to one as to the Lord. For so Scripture goes on to say, "And the Lord went His way, as soon as He left communing with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place."(4)[ Return ]
"But there came two angels to Sodom at even." Here, what I have begun to set forth must be considered more attentively. Certainly Abraham was speaking with three, and called that one, in the singular number, the Lord. Perhaps, some one may say, he recognized one of the three to be the Lord, but the other two His angels. What, then, does that mean which Scripture goes on to say, "And the Lord went His way, as soon as He had left communing with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place: and there came two angels to Sodom at even?" Are we to suppose that the one who, among the three, was recognized as the Lord, had departed, and had sent the two angels that were with Him to destroy Sodom? Let us see, then, what follows. "There came," it is said, "two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them, rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house." Here it is clear, both that there were two angels, and that in the plural number they were invited to partake of hospitality, and that they were honorably designated lords, when they perchance were thought to be men.
22. Yet, again, it is objected that except they were known to be angels of God, Lot would not have bowed himself with his face to the ground. Why, then, is both hospitality and food offered to them, as though they wanted such human succor? But whatever may here lie hid, let us now pursue that which we have undertaken. Two appear; both are called angels; they are invited plurally; he speaks as with two plurally, until the departure from Sodom. And then Scripture goes on to say, "And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that they said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, and there thou shalt be saved,(5) lest thou be consumed. And Lot said unto them, Oh! not so, my lord: behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight,"(6) etc. What is meant by his saying to them, "Oh! not so, my lord," if He who was the Lord had already departed, and had sent the angels? Why is it said, "Oh! not so, nay lord," and not, "Oh! not so, my lords?" Or if he wished to speak to one of them, why does Scripture say, "But Lot said to them. Oh! not so, my lord: be hold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight," etc.? Are we here, too, to understand two persons in the plural number, but when the two are addressed as one, then the one Lord God of one substance? But which two persons do we here understand?--of the Father and of the Son, or of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, or of the Son and of the Holy Spirit? The last, perhaps, is the more suitable; for they said of themselves that they were sent, which is that which we say of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For we find nowhere in the Scriptures that the Father was sent.(1)[ Return ]
23. But when Moses was sent to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, it is written that the Lord appeared to him thus: "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."(2) He is here also first called the Angel of the Lord, and then God. Was an angel, then, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? Therefore He may be rightly understood to be the Saviour Himself, of whom the apostle says, "Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever."(3) He, therefore, "who is over all, God blessed for ever," is not unreasonably here understood also to be Himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. But why is He previously called the Angel of the Lord, when He appeared in a flame of fire out of the bush? Was it because it was one of many angels, who by an economy [or arrangement] bare the person of his Lord? or was something of the creature assumed by Him in order to bring about a visible appearance for the business in hand, and that words might thence be audibly uttered, whereby the presence of the Lord might be shown, in such way as was fitting, to the corporeal senses of man, by means of the creature made subject? For if he was one of the angels, who could easily affirm whether it was the person of the Son which was imposed upon him to announce, or that of the Holy Spirit, or that of God the Father, or altogether of the Trinity itself, who is the one and only God, in order that he might say, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?" For we cannot say that the Son of God is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and that the Father is not; nor will any one dare to deny that either the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity itself, whom we believe and understand to be the one God, is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he who is not God, is not the God of those fathers. Furthermore, if not only the Father is God, as all, even heretics, admit; but also the Son, which, whether they will or not, they are compelled to acknowledge, since the apostle says, "Who is over all, God blessed for ever;" and the Holy Spirit, since the same apostle says, "Therefore glorify God in your body;" when he had said above, "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God?"(4) and these three are one God, as catholic soundness believes: it is not sufficiently apparent which person of the Trinity that angel bare, if he was one of the rest of the angels, and whether any person, and not rather that of the Trinity itself. But if the creature was assumed for the purpose of the business in hand, whereby both to appear to human eyes, and to sound in human ears, and to be called the Angel of the Lord, and the Lord, and God; then cannot God here be understood to be the Father, but either the Son or the Holy Spirit. Although I cannot call to mind that the Holy Spirit is anywhere else called an angel, which yet may be understood from His work; for it is said of Him, "And He will show you s things to come;"(6) and "angel" in Greek is certainly equivalent to "messenger"(7) in Latin: but we read most evidently of the Lord Jesus Christ in the prophet, that He is called "the Angel of Great Counsel,"(1) while both the Holy Spirit and the Son of God is God and Lord of the angels.[ Return ]
24. Also in the going forth of the children of Israel from Egypt it is written, "And the Lord went before them, by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire. He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."(2) Who here, too, would doubt that God appeared to the eyes of mortal men by the corporeal creature made subject to Him, and not by His own substance? But it is not similarly apparent whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity itself, the one God. Nor is this distinguished there either, in my judgment, where it is written, "The glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud, and the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel,"(3) etc.[ Return ]
25. But now of the clouds, and voices, and lightnings, and the trumpet, and the smoke on Mount Sinai, when it was said, "And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace; and all the people that was in the camp trembled; and when the voice of the trumpet sounded long and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice."(4) And a little after, when the Law had been given in the ten commandments, it follows in the text, "And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking." And a little after, "And [when the people saw it,] they removed and stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness(5) where God was, and the Lord said unto Moses,"(6) etc. What shall I say about this, save that no one can be so insane as to believe the smoke, and the fire, and the cloud, and the darkness, and whatever there was of the kind, to be the substance of the word and wisdom of God which is Christ, or of the Holy Spirit? For not even the Arians ever dared to say that they were the substance of God the Father. All these things, then, were wrought through the creature serving the Creator, and were presented in a suitable economy (dispensatio) to human senses; unless, perhaps, because it is said,"And Moses drew near to the cloud where God was," carnal thoughts must needs suppose that the cloud was indeed seen by the people, but that within the cloud Moses with the eyes of the flesh saw the Son of God, whom doting heretics will have to be seen in His own substance. Forsooth, Moses may have seen Him with the eyes of the flesh, if not only the wisdom of God which is Christ, but even that of any man you please and howsoever wise, can be seen with the eyes of the flesh; or if, because it is written of the elders of Israel, that "they saw the place where the God of Israel had stood," and that "there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness,"(7) therefore we are to believe that the word and wisdom of God in His own substance stood within the space of an earthly place, who indeed "reacheth firmly from end to end, and sweetly ordereth all things;"(8) and that the Word of God, by whom all things were made,(9) is in such wise changeable, as now to contract, now to expand Himself; (may the Lord cleanse the hearts of His faithful ones from such thoughts !) But indeed all these visible and sensible things are, as we have often said, exhibited through the creature made subject in order to signify the invisible and intelligible God, not only the Father, but also the Son and the Holy Spirit," of whom are all things, and through whom are all things, and in whom are all things;"(10) although "the invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead."(11)
26. But as far as concerns our present undertaking, neither on Mount Sinai do I see how it appears, by all those things which were fearfully displayed to the senses of mortal men, whether God the Trinity spake, or the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit severally. But if it is allowable, without rash assertion, to venture upon a modest and hesitating conjecture from this passage, if it is possible to understand it of one person of the Trinity, why do we not rather understand the Holy Spirit to be spoken of, since the Law itself also, which was given there, is said to have been written upon tables of stone with the finger of God,(1) by which name we know the Holy Spirit to be signified in the Gospel.(2) And fifty days are numbered from the slaying of the lamb and the celebration of the Passover until the day in which these things began to be done in Mount Sinai; just as after the passion of our Lord fifty days are numbered from His resurrection, and then came the Holy Spirit which the Son of God had promised. And in that very coming of His, which we read of in the Acts of the Apostles, there appeared cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them:(3) which agrees with Exodus, where it is written, "And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire;" and a little after, "And the sight of the glory of the Lord," he says, "was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel."(4) Or if these things were therefore wrought because neither the Father nor the Son could be there presented in that mode without the Holy Spirit, by whom the Law itself must needs be written; then we know doubtless that God appeared there, not by His own substance, which remains invisible and unchangeable, but by the appearance above mentioned of the creature; but that some special person of the Trinity appeared, distinguished by a proper mark, as far as my capacity of understanding reaches, we do not see.[ Return ]
26. There is yet another difficulty which troubles most people, viz. that it is written, "And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend;" whereas a little after, the same Moses says, "Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found grace in Thy sight, show me now Thyself plainly, that I may see Thee, that I may find grace in Thy sight, and that I may consider that this nation is Thy people;" and a little after Moses again said to the Lord, "Show me Thy glory." What means this then, that in everything which was done, as above said. God was thought to have appeared by His own substance; whence the Son of God has been believed by these miserable people to be visible not by the creature, but by Himself; and that Moses, entering into the cloud, appeared to have had this very object in entering, that a cloudy darkness indeed might be shown to the eyes of the people, but that Moses within might hear the words of God, as though he beheld His face; and, as it is said, "And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend;" and yet, behold, the same Moses says, "If I have found grace in Thy sight, show me Thyself plainly?" Assuredly he knew that he saw corporeally, and he sought the true sight of God spiritually. And that mode of speech accordingly which was wrought in words, was so modified, as if it were of a friend speaking to a friend. Yet who sees God the Father with the eyes of the body? And that Word, which was in the beginning, the Word which was with God, the Word which was God, by which all things were made,(5)--who sees Him with the eyes of the body? And the spirit of wisdom, again, who sees with the eyes of the body? Yet what is, "Show me now Thyself plainly, that I, may see Thee," unless, Show me Thy substance? But if Moses had not said this, we must indeed have borne with those foolish people as we could, who think that the substance of God was made visible to his eyes through those things which, as above mentioned, were said or done. But when it is here demonstrated most evidently that this was not granted to him, even though he desired it; who will dare to say, that by the like forms which had appeared visibly to him also, not the creature serving God, but that itself which is God, appeared to the eyes of a mortal man?
28. Add, too, that which the Lord afterward said to Moses, "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see my face, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shall stand upon a rock: and it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee into a watch-tower(6) of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: and I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back parts; but my face shall not be seen."(7)[ Return ]
Not unfitly is it commonly understood to be prefigured from the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, that His "back parts" are to be taken to be His flesh, in which He was born of the Virgin, and died, and rose again; whether they are called back parts(1) on account of the posteriority of mortality, or because it was almost in the end of the world, that is, at a late period,(2) that He deigned to take it: but that His "face" was that form of God, in which He "thought it not robbery to be equal with God,"(3) which no one certainly can see and live; whether because after this life, in which we are absent from the Lord,(4) and where the corruptible body presseth down the soul,(5) we shall see "face to facet,"(6) as the apostle says--(for it is said in the Psalms, of this life, "Verily every man living is altogether vanity;"(7) and again, "For in Thy sight shall no man living be justified;"(8) and in this life also, according to John, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know," he says, "that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,"(9) which he certainly intended to be understood as after this life, when we shall have paid the debt of death, and shall have received the promise of the resurrection);--or whether that even now, in whatever degree we spiritually understand the wisdom of God, by which all things were made, in that same degree we die to carnal affections, so that, considering this world dead to us, we also ourselves die to this world, and say what the apostle says, "The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."(10) For it was of this death that he also says, "Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ, why as though living in the world are ye subject to ordinances?"(11) Not therefore without cause will no one be able to see the "face," that is, the manifestation itself of the wisdom of God, and live. For it is this very appearance, for the contemplation of which every one sighs who strives to love God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind; to the contemplation of which, he who Loves his neighbor, too, as himself builds up his neighbor also as far as he may; on which two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.(12) And this is signified also in Moses himself. For when he had said, on account of the love of God with which he was specially inflamed, "If I have found grace in thy sight, show me now Thyself plainly, that I may find grace in Thy sight;" he immediately subjoined, on account of the love also of his neighbor, "And that I may know that this nation is Thy people." It is therefore that "appearance" which hurries away every rational soul with the desire of it, and the more ardently the more pure that soul is; and it is the more pure the more it rises to spiritual things; and it rises the more to spiritual things the more it dies to carnal things. But whilst we are absent from the Lord, and walk by faith, not by sight,(13) we ought to see the "back parts" of Christ, that is His flesh, by that very faith, that is, standing on the solid foundation of faith, which the rock signifies,(14) and beholding it from such a safe watch-tower, namely in the Catholic Church, of which it is said, "And upon this rock I will build my Church."(15) For so much the more certainly we love that face of Christ, which we earnestly desire to see, as we recognize in His back parts how much first Christ loved us.
29. But in the flesh itself, the faith in His resurrection saves and justifies us. For, "If thou shalt believe," he says, "in thine heart, that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved;"(16) and again, "Who was delivered," he says, "for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification."(17) So that the reward of our faith is the resurrection of the body of our Lord.(18) For even His enemies believe that that flesh died on the cross of His passion, but they do not believe it to have risen again. Which we believing most firmly, gaze upon it as from the solidity of a rock: whence we wait with certain hope for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body;(19) because we hope for that in the members of Christ, that is, in ourselves, which by a sound faith we acknowledge to be perfect in Him as in our Head. Thence it is that He would not have His back parts seen, unless as He passed by, that His resurrection may be believed. For that which is Pascha in Hebrew, is translated Passover.(20) Whence John the Evangelist also says, "Before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come, that He should pass out of this world unto the Father."(21)
30. But they who believe this, but believe it not in the Catholic Church, but in some schism or in heresy, do not see the back parts of the Lord from "the place that is by Him." For what does that mean which the Lord says, "Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock?" What earthly place is "by" the Lord, unless that is "by Him" which touches Him spiritually? For what place is not "by" the Lord, who "reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth order all things,"(1) and of whom it is said, "Heaven is His throne, and earth is His footstool;" and who said, "Where is the house that ye build unto me, and where is the place of my rest? For has not my hand made all those things?"(2) But manifestly the Catholic Church itself is understood to be "the place by Him," wherein one stands upon a rock, where he healthfully sees the "Pascha Domini," that is, the "Passing by"(3) of the Lord, and His back parts, that is, His body, who believes in His resurrection. "And thou shalt stand," He says, "upon a rock while my glory passeth by." For in reality, immediately after the majesty of the Lord had passed by in the glorification of the Lord, in which He rose again and ascended to the Father, we stood firm upon the rock. And Peter himself then stood firm, so that he preached Him with confidence, whom, before he stood firm, he had thrice from fear denied;(4) although, indeed, already before placed in predestination upon the watch-tower of the rock, but with the hand of the Lord still held over him that he might not see. For he was to see His back parts, and the Lord had not yet "passed by," namely, from death to life; He had not yet been glorified by the resurrection.
31. For as to that, too, which follows in Exodus, "I will cover thee with mine hand while I pass by, and I will take away my hand and thou shalt see my back parts;" many Israelites, of whom Moses was then a figure, believed in the Lord after His resurrection, as if His hand had been taken off from their eyes, and they now saw His back parts. And hence the evangelist also mentions that prophesy of Isaiah, "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes."(5) Lastly, in the Psalm, that is not unreasonably understood to be said in their person, "For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me." "By day," perhaps, when He performed manifest miracles, yet was not acknowledged by them; but "by night," when He died in suffering, when they thought still more certainly that, like any one among men, He was cut off and brought to an end. But since, when He had already passed by, so that His back parts were seen, upon the preaching to them by the Apostle Peter that it behoved Christ to suffer and rise again, they were pricked in their hearts with the grief of repentance,(6) that that might come to pass among the baptized which is said in the beginning of that Psalm, "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;" therefore, after it had been said, "Thy hand is heavy upon me," the Lord, as it were, passing by, so that now He removed His hand, and His back parts were seen, there follows the voice of one who grieves and confesses and receives remission of sins by faith in the resurrection of the Lord: "My moisture," he says, "is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."(7) For we ought not to be so wrapped up in the darkness of the flesh, as to think the face indeed of God to be invisible, but His back visible, since both appeared visibly in the form of a servant; but far be it from us to think anything of the kind in the form of God; far be it from us to think that the Word of God and the Wisdom of God has a face on one side, and on the other a back, as a human body has, or is at all changed either in place or time by any appearance or motion.(8)
35. Wherefore, if in those words which were spoken in Exodus, and in all those corporeal appearances, the Lord Jesus Christ was manifested; or if in some cases Christ was manifested, as the consideration of this passage persuades us, in others the Holy Spirit, as that which we have said above admonishes us; at any rate no such result follows, as that God the Father never appeared in any such form to the Fathers. For many such appearances happened in those times, without either the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit being expressly named and designated in them; but yet with some intimations given through certain very probable interpretations, so that it would be too rash to say that God the Father never appeared by any visible forms to the fathers or the prophets. For they gave birth to this opinion who were not able to understand in respect to the unity of the Trinity such texts as, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God;"(9) and, "Whom no man hath seen, nor can see."(1) Which texts are understood by a sound faith in that substance itself, the highest, and in the highest degree divine and unchangeable, whereby both the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is the one and only God. But those visions were wrought through the changeable creature, made subject to the unchangeable God, and did not manifest God properly as He is, but by intimations such as suited the causes and times of the several circumstances.[ Return ]
33. I do not know in what manner these men understand that the Ancient of Days appeared to Daniel(2), from whom the Son of man, which He deigned to be for our sakes, is understood to have received the kingdom; namely, from Him who says to Him in the Psalms, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee; ask of me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance; and who has "put all things under His feet."(4) If, however, both the Father giving the kingdom, and the Son receiving it, appeared to Daniel in bodily form, how can those men say that the Father never appeared to the prophets, and, therefore, that He only ought to be understood to be invisible whom no man has seen, nor can see? For Daniel has told us thus: "I beheld," he says, "till the thrones were set,(5) and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened," etc. And a little after, "I saw," he says, "in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."(6) Behold the Father giving, and the Son receiving, an eternal kingdom; and both are in the sight of him who prophesies, in a visible form. It is not, therefore, unsuitably believed that God the Father also was wont to appear in that manner to mortals.
34. Unless, perhaps, some one shall say, that the Father is therefore not visible, because He appeared within the sight of one who was dreaming; but that therefore the Son and the Holy Spirit are visible, because Moses saw all those things being awake; as if, forsooth, Moses saw the Word and the Wisdom of God with fleshly eyes, or that even the human spirit which quickens that flesh can be seen, or even that corporeal thing which is called wind;--how much less can that Spirit of God be seen, who transcends the minds of all men, and of angels, by the ineffable excellence of the divine substance? Or can any one fall headlong into such an error as to dare to say, that the Son and the Holy Spirit are visible also to men who are awake, but that the Father is not visible except to those who dream? How, then, do they understand that of the Father alone, "Whom no man hath seen, nor can see."? When men sleep, are they then not men? Or cannot He, who can fashion the likeness of a body to signify Himself through the visions of dreamers, also fashion that same bodily creature to signify Himself to the eyes of those who are awake? Whereas His own very substance, whereby He Himself is that which He is, cannot be shown by any bodily likeness to one who sleeps, or by any bodily appearance to one who is awake; but this not of the Father only, but also of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And certainly, as to those who are moved by the visions of waking men to believe that not the Father, but only the Son, or the Holy Spirit, appeared to the corporeal sight of men,--to omit the great extent of the sacred pages, and their manifold interpretation, such that no one of sound reason ought to affirm that the person of the Father was nowhere shown to the eyes of waking men by any corporeal appearance;--but, as I said, to omit this, what do they say of our father Abraham, who was certainly awake and ministering, when, after Scripture had premised, "The Lord appeared unto Abraham," not one, or two, but three men appeared to him; no one of whom is said to have stood prominently above the others, no one more than the others to have shone with greater glory, or to have acted more authoritatively?(7)
35. Wherefore, since in that our threefold division we determined to inquire,(8) first, whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit; or whether sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Holy Spirit; or whether, without any distinction of persons, as it is said, the one and only God, that is, the Trinity itself, appeared to the fathers through those forms of the creature: now that we have examined, so far as appeared to be sufficient what places of the Holy Scriptures we could, a modest and cautious consideration of divine mysteries leads, as far as I can judge, to no other conclusion, unless that we may not rashly affirm which person of the Trinity appeared to this or that of the fathers or the prophets in some body or likeness of body, unless when the context attaches to the narrative some probable intimations on the subject. For the nature itself, or substance, or essence, or by whatever other name that very thing, which is God, whatever it be, is to be called, cannot be seen corporeally: but we must believe that by means of the creature made subject to Him, not only the Son, or the Holy Spirit, but also the Father, may have given intimations of Himself to mortal senses by a corporeal form or likeness. And since the case stands thus, that this second book may not extend to an immoderate length, let us consider what remains in those which follow.[ Return ]
1. I WOULD have them believe, who are willing to do so, that I had rather bestow labor in reading, than in dictating what others may read. But let those who will not believe this, but are both able and willing to make the trial, grant me whatever answers may be gathered from reading, either to my own inquiries, or to those interrogations of others, which for the character I bear in the service of Christ, and for the zeal with which I burn that our faith may be fortified against the error of carnal and natural men,(1) I must needs bear with; and then let them see how easily I would refrain from this labor, and with how much even of joy I would give my pen a holiday. But if what we have read upon these subjects is either not sufficiently set forth, or is not to be found at all, or at any rate cannot easily be found by us, in the Latin tongue, while we are not so familiar with the Greek tongue as to be found in any way competent to read and understand therein the books that treat of such topics, in which class of writings, to judge by the little which has been translated for us, I do not doubt that everything is contained that we can profitably seek;(2) while yet I cannot resist my brethren when they exact of me, by that law by which I am made their servant, that I should minister above all to their praiseworthy studies in Christ by my tongue and by my pen, of which two yoked together in me, Love is the charioteer; and while I myself confess that I have by writing learned many things which I did not know: if this be so, then this my labor ought not to seem superfluous to any idle, or to any very learned reader; while it is needful in no small part, to many who are busy, and to many who are unlearned, and among these last to myself. Supported, then, very greatly, and aided by the writings we have already read of others on this subject, I have undertaken to inquire into and to discuss, whatever it seems to my judgment can be reverently inquired into and discussed, concerning the Trinity, the one supreme and supremely good God; He himself exhorting me to the inquiry, and helping me in the discussion of it; in order that, if there are no other writings of the kind, there may be something for those to have and read who are willing and capable; but if any exist already, then it may be so much the easier to find some such writings, the more there are of the kind in existence.
2. Assuredly, as in all my writings I desire not only a pious reader, but also a free corrector, so I especially desire this in the present inquiry, which is so important that I would there were as many inquirers as there are objectors. But as I do not wish my reader to be bound down to me, so I do not wish my corrector to be bound down to himself. Let not the former love me more than the catholic faith, let not the latter love himself more than the catholic verity. As I say to the former, Do not be willing to yield to my writings as to the canonical Scriptures; but in these, when thou hast discovered even what thou didst not previously believe, believe it unhesitatingly; while in those, unless thou hast understood with certainty what thou didst not before hold as certain, be unwilling to hold it fast: so I say to the latter, Do not be willing to amend my writings by thine own opinion or disputation, but from the divine text, or by unanswerable reason. If thou apprehendest anything of truth in them, its being there does not make it mine, but by understanding and loving it, let it be both thine and mine; but if thou convictest anything of falsehood, though it have once been mine, in that I was guilty of the error, yet now by avoiding it let it be neither thine nor mine.
3. Let this third book, then, take its beginning at the point to which the second had reached. For after we had arrived at this, I that we desired to show that the Son was not l therefore less than the Father, because the Father sent and the Son was sent; nor the Holy Spirit therefore less than both, because we read in the Gospel that He was sent both by the one and by the other; we undertook then to inquire, since the Son was sent thither, where He already was, for He came into the world, and "was in the world;"(1) since also the Holy Spirit was sent thither, where He already was, for "the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world, and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice;"(2) whether the Lord was therefore "sent" because He was born in the flesh so as to be no longer hidden, and, as it were, came forth from the bosom of the Father, and appeared to the eyes of men in the form of a servant; and the Holy Spirit also was therefore "sent," because He too was seen as a dove in a corporeal form,(3) and in cloven tongues, like as of fire;(4) so that, to be sent, when spoken of them, means to go forth to the sight of mortals in some corporeal form from a spiritual hiding-place; which, because the Father did not, He is said only to have sent, not also to be sent. Our next inquiry was, Why the Father also is not sometimes said to be sent, if He Himself was manifested through those corporeal forms which appeared to the eyes of the ancients. But if the Son was manifested at these times, why should He be said to be "sent" so long after, when the fullness of time was come that He should be born of a woman;(5) since, indeed, He was sent before also, viz., when He appeared corporeally in those forms? Or if He were not rightly said to be "sent," except when the Word was made flesh;(6) why should the Holy Spirit be read of as "sent," of whom such an incarnation never took place? But if neither the Father, nor the Son, but the Holy Spirit was manifested through these ancient appearances; why should He too be said to be "sent" now, when He was also sent before in these various manners? Next we subdivided the subject, that it might be handled most carefully, and we made the question threefold, of which one part was explained in the second book, and two remain, which I shall next proceed to discuss. For we have already inquired and determined, that not only the Father, nor only the Son, nor only the Holy Spirit appeared in those ancient corporeal forms and visions. but either indifferently the Lord God, who is understood to be the Trinity itself, or some one person of the Trinity, whichever the text of the narrative might signify, through intimations supplied by the context.[ Return ]
4. Let us, then, continue our inquiry now in order. For under the second head in that division the question occurred, whether the creature was formed for that work only, wherein God, in such way as He then judged it to be fitting, might be manifested to human sight; or whether angels, who already existed, were so sent as to speak in the person of God, assuming a corporeal appearance from the corporeal creature for the purpose of their ministry; or else changing and turning their own body itself, to which they are not subject, but govern it as subject to themselves, into whatever forms they would, that were appropriate and fit for their actions, according to the power given to them by the Creator. And when this part of the question shall have been investigated, so far as God permit, then, lastly, we shall have to see to that question with which we started, viz., whether the Son and the Holy Spirit were also "sent" before; and if it be so, then what difference there is between that sending and the one of which we read in the Gospel; or whether neither of them were sent, except when either the Son was made of the Virgin Mary, or when the Holy Spirit appeared in a visible form, whether as a dove or in tongues of fire.(1)
5. I confess, however, that it reaches further than my purpose can carry me to inquire whether the angels. secretly working by the spiritual quality of their body abiding still in them, assume somewhat from the inferior and more bodily elements, which, being fitted to themselves, they may change and turn like a garment into any corporeal appearances they will, and those appearances themselves also real, as real water was changed by our Lord into real wine;(2) or whether they transform their own bodies themselves into that which they would, suitably to the particular act. But it does not signify to the present question which of these it is. And although I be not able to understand these things by actual experience, seeing that I am a man, as the angels do who do these things, and know them better than I know them, viz., how far my body is changeable by the operation of my will; whether it be by my own experience of myself, or by that which I have gathered from others; yet it is not necessary here to say which of these alternatives I am to believe upon the authority of the divine Scriptures, lest I be compelled to prove it, and so my discourse become too long upon a subject which does not concern the present question.
6. Our present inquiry then is, whether the angels were then the agents both in showing those bodily appearances to the eyes of men and in sounding those words in their ears when the sensible creature itself, serving the Creator at His beck, was turned for the time into whatever was needful; as it is written in the book of Wisdom, "For the creature serveth Thee, who art the Maker, increaseth his strength against the unrighteous for their punishment, and abateth his strength for the benefit of such as put their trust in Thee. Therefore, even then was it altered into all fashions, and was obedient to Thy grace, that nourisheth all things according to the of them that longed for Thee."(3) For the power of the will of God reaches through the spiritual creature even to visible and sensible effects of the corporeal creature. For where does not the wisdom of the omnipotent God work that which He wills, which "reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth order all things"?(4)[ Return ]
7. But there is one kind of natural order in the conversion and changeableness of bodies, which, although itself also serves the bidding of God, yet by reason of its unbroken continuity has ceased to cause wonder; as is the case, for instance, with those things which are changed either in very short, or at any rate not long, intervals of time, in heaven, or earth, or sea; whether it be in rising, or in setting, or in change of appearance from time to time; while there are other things, which, although arising from that same order, yet are less familiar on account of longer intervals of time. And these things, although the many stupidly wonder at them, yet are understood by those who inquire into this present world, and in the progress of generations become so much the less wonderful, as they are the more often repeated and known by more people. Such are the eclipses of the sun and moon, and some kinds of stars, appearing seldom, and earthquakes, and unnatural births of living creatures, and other similar things; of which not one takes place without the will of God; yet, that it is so, is to most people not apparent. And so the vanity of philosophers has found license to assign these things also to other causes, true causes perhaps, but proximate ones, while they are not able to see at all the cause that is higher than all others, that is, the will of God; or again to false causes, and to such as are not even put forward out of any diligent investigation of corporeal things and motions, but from their own guess and error.
8. I will bring forward an example, if I can, that this may be plainer. There is, we know, in the human body, a certain bulk of flesh and an outward form, and an arrangement and distraction of limbs, and a temperament of health; and a soul breathed into it governs this body, and that soul a rational one; which, therefore, although changeable, yet can be partaker of that unchangeable wisdom, so that "it may partake of that which is in and of itself;"(5) as it is written in the Psalm concerning all saints, of whom as of living stones is built that Jerusalem which is the mother of us all, eternal in the heavens. For so it is sung, "Jerusalem is builded as a city, that is partaker of that which is in and of itself."(1) For "in and of itself," in that place, is understood of that chiefest and unchangeable good, which is God, and of His own wisdom and will. To whom is sung in another place, "Thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same."(2)[ Return ]
Let us take, then, the case of a wise man, such that his rational soul is already partaker of the unchangeable and eternal truth, so that he consults it about all his actions, nor does anything at all, which he does not by it know ought to be done, in order that by being subject to it and obeying it he may do rightly. Suppose now that this man, upon counsel with the highest reason of the divine righteousness, which he hears with the ear of his heart in secret, and by its bidding, should weary his body by toil in some office of mercy, and should contract an illness; and upon consulting the physicians, were to be told by one that the cause of the disease was overmuch dryness of the body, but by another that it was overmuch moisture; one of the two no doubt would allege the true cause and the other would err, but both would pronounce concerning proximate causes only, that is, corporeal ones. But if the cause of that dryness were to be inquired into, and found to be the self-imposed toil, then we should have come to a yet higher cause, which proceeds from the soul so as to affect the body which the soul governs. Yet neither would this be the first cause, for that doubtless was a higher cause still, and lay in the unchangeable wisdom itself, by serving which in love, and by obeying its ineffable commands, the soul of the wise man had undertaken that self-imposed toil; and so nothing else but the will of God would be found most truly to be the first cause of that illness. But suppose now in that office of pious toil this wise man had employed the help of others to co-operate in the good work, who did not serve God with the same will as himself, but either desired to attain the reward of their own carnal desires, or shunned merely carnal unpleasantnesses;--suppose, too, he had employed beasts of burden, if the completion of the work required such a provision, which beasts of burden would be certainly irrational animals, and would not therefore move their limbs under their burdens because they at all thought of that good work, but from the natural appetite of their own liking, and for the avoiding of annoyance;--suppose, lastly, he had employed bodily things themselves that lack all sense, but were necessary for that work, as e.g. corn, and wine, and oils, clothes, or money, or a book, or anything of the kind;--certainly, in all these bodily things thus employed in this work, whether animate or inanimate, whatever took place of movement, of wear and tear, of reparation, of destruction, of renewal or of change in one way or another, as places and times affected them; pray, could there be, I say, any other cause of all these visible and changeable facts, except the invisible and unchangeable will of God, using all these, both bad and irrational souls, and lastly bodies, whether such as were inspired and animated by those souls, or such as lacked all sense, by means of that upright soul as the seat of His wisdom, since primarily that good and holy soul itself employed them, which His wisdom had subjected to itself in a pious and religious obedience?[ Return ]
9. What, then, we have alleged by way of example of a single wise man, although of one still bearing a mortal body and still seeing only in part, may be allowably extended also to a family, where there is a society of such men, or to a city, or even to the whole world, if the chief rule and government of human affairs were in the hands of the wise, and of those who were piously and perfectly subject to God; but because this is not the case as yet (for it behoves us first to be exercised in this our pilgrimage after mortal fashion, and to be taught with stripes by force of gentleness and patience), let us turn our thoughts to that country itself that is above and heavenly, from which we here are pilgrims. For there the will of God, "who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flaming fire,"(3) presiding among spirits which are joined in perfect peace and friendship, and combined in one will by a kind of spiritual fire of charity, as it were in an elevated and holy and secret seat, as in its own house and in its own temple, thence diffuses itself through all things by certain most perfectly ordered movements of the creature first spiritual, then corporeal; and uses all according to the unchangeable pleasure of its own purpose, whether incorporeal things or things corporeal, whether rational or irrational spirits, whether good by His grace or evil through their own will. But as the mort gross and inferior bodies are governed in due order by the more subtle and powerful ones, so all bodies are governed by the living spirit; and the living spirit devoid of reason, by the reasonable living spirit; and the reasonable living spirit that makes default and sins, by the living and reasonable spirit that is pious and just; and that by God Himself, and so the universal creature by its Creator, from whom and through whom and in whom it is also created and established.(1) And so it comes to pass that the will of God is the first and the highest cause of all corporeal appearances and motions. For nothing is done visibly or sensibly, unless either by command or permission from the interior palace, invisible and intelligible, of the supreme Governor, according to the unspeakable justice of rewards and punishments, of favor and retribution, in that far-reaching and boundless commonwealth of the whole creature.
10. If, therefore, the Apostle Paul, although he still bare the burden of the body, which is subject to corruption and presseth down the soul,(2) and although he still saw only in part and in an enigma,(3) wishing to depart and be with Christ,(4) and groaning within himself, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of his body,(5) yet was able to preach the Lord Jesus Christ significantly, in one way by his tongue, in another by epistle, in another by the sacrament of His body and blood (since, certainly, we do not call either the tongue of the apostle, or the parchments, or the ink, or the significant sounds which his tongue uttered, or the alphabetical signs written on skins, the body and blood of Christ; but that only which we take of the fruits of the earth and consecrate by mystic prayer, and then receive duly to our spiritual health in memory of the passion of our Lord for us: and this, although it is brought by the hands of men to that visible form, yet is not sanctified to become so great a sacrament, except by the spirit of God working invisibly; since God works everything that is done in that work through corporeal movements, by setting in motion primarily the invisible things of His servants, whether the souls of men, or the services of hidden spirits subject to Himself): what wonder if also in the creature of heaven and earth, of sea and air, God works the sensible and visible things which He wills, in order to signify and manifest Himself in them, as He Himself knows it to be fitting, without any appearing of His very substance itself, whereby He is, which is altogether unchangeable, and more inwardly and secretly exalted than all spirits whom He has created?[ Return ]
11. For since the divine power administers the whole spiritual and corporeal creature, the waters of the sea are summoned and poured out upon the face of the earth on certain days of every year. But when this was done at the prayer of the holy Elijah; because so continued and long a course of fair weather had gone before, that men were famished; and because at that very hour, in which the servant of God prayed, the air itself had not, by any moist aspect, put forth signs of the coming rain; the divine power was apparent in the great and rapid showers that followed, and by which that miracle was granted and dispensed.(6) In like manner, God works ordinarily through thunders and lightnings: but because these were wrought in an unusual manner on Mount Sinai, and those sounds were not uttered with a confused noise, but so that it appeared by most sure proofs that certain intimations were given by them, they were miracles.(7) Who draws up the sap through the root of the vine to the bunch of grapes, and makes the wine, except God; who, while man plants and waters, Himself giveth the increase?(8) But when, at the command of the Lord, the water was turned into wine with an extraordinary quickness, the divine power was made manifest, by the confession even of the foolish.(9) Who ordinarily clothes the trees with leaves and flowers except God? Yet, when the rod of Aaron the priest blossomed, the Godhead in some way conversed with doubting humanity.(10) Again, the earthy matter certainly serves in common to the production and formation both of all kinds of wood and of the flesh of all animals: and who makes these things, but He who said, Let the earth bring them forth;(11) and who governs and guides by the same word of His, those things which He has created? Yet, when He changed the same matter out of the rod of Moses into the flesh of a serpent, immediately and quickly, that change, which was unusual, although of a thing which was changeable, was a miracle.(1) But who is it that gives life to every living thing at its birth, unless He who gave life to that serpent also for the moment, as there was need.(2)[ Return ]
And who is it that restored to the corpses their proper souls when the dead rose again,(3) unless He who gives life to the flesh in the mother's womb, in order that they may come into being who yet are to die? But when such things happen in a continuous kind of river of ever-flowing succession, passing from the hidden to the visible, and from the visible to the hidden, by a regular and beaten track, then they are called natural; when, for the admonition of men, they are thrust in by an unusual changeableness, then they are called miracles.[ Return ]
12. I see here what may occur to a weak judgment, namely, why such miracles are wrought also by magic arts; for the wise men of Pharaoh likewise made serpents, and did other like things. Yet it is still more a matter of wonder, how it was that the power of those magicians, which was able to make serpents, when it came to very small flies, failed altogether. For the lice, by which third plague the proud people of Egypt were smitten, are very short-lived little flies; yet. there certainly the magicians failed, saying, "This is the finger of God."(4) And hence it is given us to understand that not even those angels and powers of the air that transgressed, who have been thrust down into that lowest darkness, as into a peculiar prison, from their habitation in that lofty ethereal purity, through whom magic arts have whatever power they have, can do anything except by power given from above. Now that power is given either to deceive the deceitful, as it was given against the Egyptians, and against the magicians also themselves, in order that in the seducing of those spirits they might seem admirable by whom they were wrought, but to be condemned by the truth of God; or for the admonishing of the faithful, lest they should desire to do anything of the kind as though it were a great thing, for which reason they have been handed down to us also by the authority of Scripture; or lastly, for the exercising, proving, and manifesting of the patience of the righteous. For it was not by any small power of visible miracles that Job lost all that he had, and both his children and his bodily health itself.(5)[ Return ]
13. Yet it is not on this account to be thought that the matter of visible things is subservient to the bidding of those wicked angels; but rather to that of God, by whom this power is given, just so far as He, who is unchangeable, determines in His lofty and spiritual abode to give it. For water and fire and earth are subservient even to wicked men, who are condemned to the mines, in order that they may do therewith what they will, but only so far as is permitted. Nor, in truth, are those evil angels to be called creators, because by their means the magicians, withstanding the servant of God, made frogs and serpents; for it was not they who created them. But, in truth, some hidden seeds of all things that are born corporeally and visibly, are concealed in the corporeal elements of this world. For those seeds that are visible now to our eyes from fruits and living things, are quite distinct from the hidden seeds of those former seeds; from which, at the bidding of the Creator, the water produced the first swimming creatures and fowl, and the earth the first buds after their kind, and the first living creatures after their kind.(6) For neither at that time were those seeds so drawn forth into products of their several kinds, as that the power of production was exhausted in those products; but oftentimes, suitable combinations of circumstances are wanting, whereby they may be enabled to burst forth and complete their species. For, consider, the very least shoot is a seed; for, if fitly consigned to the earth, it produces a tree. But of this shoot there is a yet more subtle seed in some grain of the same species, and this is visible even to us. But of this grain also there is further still a seed, which, although we are unable to see it with our eyes, yet we can conjecture its existence from our reason; because, except there were some such power in those elements, there would not so frequently be produced from the earth things which had not been sown there; nor yet so many animals, without any previous commixture of male and female; whether on the land, or in the water, which yet grow, and by commingling bring forth others, while themselves sprang up without any union of parents. And certainly bees do not conceive the seeds of their young by commixture, but gather them as they lie scattered over the earth with their mouth.(1) For the Creator of these invisible seeds is the Creator of all things Himself; since whatever comes forth to our sight by being born, receives the first beginnings of its course from hidden seeds, and takes the successive increments of its proper size and its distinctive forms from these as it were original rules. As therefore we do not call parents the creators of men, nor farmers the creators of corn,--although it is by the outward application of their actions that the power(2) of God operates within for the creating these things;--so it is not right to think not only the bad but even the good angels to be creators, if, through the subtilty of their perception and body, they know the seeds of things which to us are more hidden, and scatter them secretly through fit temperings of the elements, and so furnish opportunities of producing things, and of accelerating their increase. But neither do the good angels do these things, except as far as God commands, nor do the evil ones do them wrongfully, except as far as He righteously permits. For the malignity of the wicked one makes his own will wrongful; but the power to do so, he receives rightfully, whether for his own punishment, or, in the case of others, for the punishment of the wicked, or for the praise of the good.
14. Accordingly, the Apostle Paul, distinguishing God's creating and forming within, from the operations of the creature which are applied from without, and drawing a similitude from agriculture, says, "I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."(3) As, therefore, in the case of spiritual life itself, no one except God can work righteousness in our minds, yet men also are able to preach the gospel as an outward means, not only the good in sincerity, but also the evil in pretence;(4) so in the creation of visible things it is God that works from within; but the exterior operations, whether of good or bad, of angels or men, or even of any kind of animal, according to His own absolute power, and to the distribution of faculties, and the several appetites for things pleasant, which He Himself has imparted, are applied by Him to that nature of things wherein He creates all things, in like manner as agriculture is to the soil. Wherefore I can no more call the bad angels, evoked by magic arts, the creators of the frogs and serpents, than I can say that bad men were creators of the corn crop, which I see to have sprung up through their labor.
15. Just as Jacob, again, was not the creator of the colors in the flocks, because he placed the various colored rods for the several mothers, as they drank, to look at in conceiving.(5) Yet neither were the cattle themselves creators of the variety of their own offspring, because the variegated image, impressed through their eyes by the sight of the varied rods, clave to their soul, but could affect the body that was animated by the spirit thus affected only through sympathy with this commingling, so far as to stain with color the tender beginnings of their offspring. For that they are so affected from themselves, whether the soul from the body, or the body from the soul, arises in truth from suitable reasons, which immutably exist in that highest wisdom of God Himself, which no extent of place contains; and which, while it is itself unchangeable, yet quits not one even of those things which are changeable, because there is not one of them that is not created by itself. For it was the unchangeable and invisible reason of the wisdom of God, by which all things are created, which caused not rods, but cattle, to be born from cattle; but that the color of the cattle conceived should be in any degree influenced by the variety of the rods, came to pass through the soul of the pregnant cattle being affected through their eyes from without, and so according to its own measure drawing inwardly within itself the rule of formation, which it received from the innermost power of its own Creator. How great, however, may be the power of the soul in affecting and changing corporeal substance (although certainly it cannot be called the creator of the body, because every cause of changeable and sensible substance, and all its measure and number and weight, by which are brought to pass both its being at all and its being of such and such a nature, arise from the intelligible and unchangeable life, which is above all things, and which reaches even to the most distant and earthly things), is a very copious subject, and one not now necessary. But I thought the act of Jacob about the cattle should be noticed, for this reason, viz. in order that it might be perceived that, if the man who thus placed those rods cannot be called the creator of the colors in the lambs and kids; nor yet even the souls themselves of the mothers, which colored the seeds conceived in the flesh by the image of variegated color, conceived through the eyes of the body, so far as nature permitted it; much less can it be said that the creators of the frogs and serpents were the bad angel, through whom the magicians of Pharaoh then made them.[ Return ]
16. For it is one thing to make and administer the creature from the innermost and highest turning-point of causation, which He alone does who is God the Creator; but quite another thing to apply some operation from without in proportion to the strength and faculties assigned to each by Him, so that what is created may come forth into being at this time or at that, and in this or that way. For all these things in the way of original and beginning have already been created in a kind of texture of the elements, but they come forth when they get the opportunity.(1) For as mothers are pregnant with young, so the world itself is pregnant with the causes of things that are born; which are not created in it, except from that highest essence, where nothing either springs up or dies, either begins to be or ceases. But the applying from without of adventitious causes,which, although they are not natural, yet are to be applied according to nature, in order that those things which are contained and hidden in the secret bosom of nature may break forth and be outwardly created in some way by the unfolding of the proper measures and numbers and weights which they have received in secret from Him "who has ordered all things in measure and number and weight:"(2) this is not only in the power of bad angels, but also of bad men, as I have shown above by the example of agriculture.
17. But lest the somewhat different condition of animals should trouble any one, in that they have the breath of life with the sense of desiring those things that are according to nature, and of avoiding those things that are contrary to it; we must consider also, how many men there are who know from what herbs or flesh, or from what juices or liquids you please, of whatever sort, whether so placed or so buried, or so bruised or so mixed, this or that animal is commonly born; yet who can be so foolish as to dare to call himself the creator of these animals? Is it, therefore, to be wondered at, if just as any, the most worthless of men, can know whence such or such worms and flies are produced; so the evil angels in proportion to the subtlety of their perceptions discern in the more hidden seeds of the elements whence frogs and serpents are produced, and so through certain and known opportune combinations applying these seeds by secret movements, cause them to be created, but do not create them? Only men do not marvel at those things that are usually done by men. But if any one chance to wonder at the quickness of those growths, in that those living beings were so quickly made, let him consider how even this may be brought about by men in proportion to the measure of human capability. For whence is it that the same bodies generate worms more quickly in summer than in winter, or in hotter than in colder places? Only these things are applied by men with so much the more difficulty, in proportion as their earthly and sluggish members are wanting in subtlety of perception, and in rapidity of bodily motion. And hence it arises that in the case of any kind of angels, in proportion as it is easier for them to draw out the proximate causes from the elements, so much the more marvellous is their rapidity in works of this kind.
18. But He only is the creator who is the chief former of these things. Neither can any one be this, unless He with whom primarily rests the measure, number, and weight of all things existing; and He is God the one Creator, by whose unspeakable power it comes to pass, also, that what these angels were able to do if they were permitted, they are therefore not able to do because they are not permitted. For there is no other reason why they who made frogs and serpents were not able to make the most minute flies, unless because the greater power of God was present prohibiting them, through the Holy Spirit; which even the magicians themselves confessed, saying, "This is the finger of God."(1) But what they are able to do by nature, yet cannot do, because they are prohibited; and what the very condition of their nature itself does not suffer them to do; it is difficult, nay, impossible, for man to search out, unless through that gift of God which the apostle mentions when he says, "To another the discerning of spirits."(2) For we know that a man can walk, yet that he cannot do so if he is not permitted; but that he cannot fly, even if he be permitted. So those angels, also, are able to do certain things if they are permitted by more powerful angels, according to the supreme commandment of God; but cannot do certain other things, not even if they are permitted by them; because He does not permit from whom they have received such and such a measure of natural powers: who, even by His angels, does not usually permit what He has given them power to be able to do.
19. Excepting, therefore, those corporeal things which are done in the order of nature in a perfectly usual series of times, as e.g., the rising and setting of the stars, the generations and deaths of animals, the innumerable diversities of seeds and buds, the vapors and the clouds, the snow and the rain, the lightnings and the thunder, the thunderbolts and the hail, the winds and the fire, cold and heat, and all like things; excepting also those which in the same order of nature occur rarely, such as eclipses, unusual appearances of stars, and monsters, and earthquakes. and such like;--all these, I say, are to be excepted, of which indeed the first and chief cause is only the will of God; whence also in the Psalm, when some things of this kind had been mentioned, "Fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy wind," lest any one should think those to be brought about either by chance or only from corporeal causes, or even from such as are spiritual, but exist apart from the will of God, it is added immediately, "fulfilling His word."(3)[ Return ]
Excepting, therefore, all these things as I just now said, there are some also of another kind; which, although from the same corporeal substance, are yet brought within reach of our senses in order to announce something from God, and these are properly called miracles and signs; yet is not the person of God Himself assumed in all things which are announced to us by the Lord God. When, however, that person is assumed, it is sometimes made manifest as art angel; sometimes in that form which is not an angel in his own proper being, although it is ordered and ministered by an angel. Again, when it is assumed in that form which is not an angel in his own proper being; sometimes in this case it is a body itself already existing, assumed after some kind of change, in order to make that message manifest; sometimes it is one that comes into being for the purpose, and that being accomplished, is discarded. Just as, also, when men are the messengers, sometimes they speak the words of God in their own person, as when it is premised, "The Lord said," or, "Thus saith the Lord,"(4) or any other such phrase, but sometimes without any such prefix, they take upon themselves the very person of God, as e.g.: "I will instruct time, and teach thee in the way wherein thou shalt go:"(5) so, not only in word, but also in act, the signifying of the person of God is imposed upon the prophet, in order that he may bear that person in the ministering of the prophecy; just as he, for instance, bore that person who divided his garment into twelve parts, and gave ten of them to the servant of King Solomon, to the future king of Israel.(6) Sometimes, also, a thing which was not a prophet in his own proper self, and which existed already among earthly things, was assumed in order to signify this; as Jacob, when he had seen the dream, upon waking up did with the stone, which when asleep he had under his head.(7) Sometimes a thing is made in the same kind, for the mere purpose; so as either to continue a little while in existence, as that brazen serpent was able to do which was lifted up in the wilderness,(8) and as written records are able to do likewise; or so as to pass away after having accomplished its ministry, as the bread made for the purpose is consumed in the receiving of the sacrament.
20. But because these things are known to men, in that they are done by men, they may well meet with reverence as being holy things, but they cannot cause wonder as being miracles. And therefore those things which are done by angels are the more wonderful to us, in that they are more difficult and more known; but they are known and easy to them as being their own actions. An angel speaks in the person of God to man, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;" the Scripture having said just before, "The angel of the Lord appeared to him."(1) And a man also speaks in the person of God, saying, "Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee, O Israel: I am the Lord thy God."(2) A rod was taken to serve as a sign, and was changed into a serpent by angelical power;(3) but although that power is wanting to man, yet a stone was taken also by man for a similar sign.(4) There is a wide difference between the deed of the angel and the deed of the man. The former is both to be wondered at and to be understood, the latter only to be understood. That which is understood from both, is perhaps one and the same; but those things from which it is understood, are different. Just as if the name of God were written both in gold and in ink; the former would be the more precious, the latter the more worthless; yet that which is signified in both is one and the same. And although the serpent that came from Moses' rod signified the same thing as Jacob's stone, yet Jacob's stone signified something better than did the serpents of the magicians. For as the anointing of the stone signified Christ in the flesh, in which He was anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows;(5) so the rod of Moses, turned into a serpent, signified Christ Himself made obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.(6) Whence it is said, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life;."(7) just as by gazing on that serpent which was lifted up in the wilderness, they did not perish by the bites of the serpents. For "our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed."(8) For by the serpent death is understood, which was wrought by the serpent in paradise,(9) the mode of speech expressing the effect by the efficient. Therefore the rod passed into the serpent, Christ into death; and the serpent again into the rod, whole Christ with His body into the resurrection; which body is the Church;(10) and this shall be in the end of time, signified by the tail, which Moses held, in order that it might return into a rod.(11) But the serpents of the magicians, like those who are dead in the world, unless by believing in Christ they shall have been as it were swallowed up by,(12) and have entered into, His body, will not be able to rise again in Him. Jacob's stone, therefore, as I said, signified something better than did the serpents of the magicians; yet the deed of the magicians was much more wonderful. But these things in this way are no hindrance to the understanding of the matter; just as if the name of a man were written in gold, and that of God in ink.
21. What man, again, knows how the angels made or took those clouds and fires in order to signify the message they were bearing, even if we supposed that the Lord or the Holy Spirit was manifested in those corporeal forms? Just as infants do not know of that which is placed upon the altar and consumed after the performance of the holy celebration, whence or in what manner it is made, or whence it is taken for religious use. And if they were never to learn from their own experience or that of others, and never to see that species of thing except during the celebration of the sacrament, when it is being offered and given; and if it were told them by the most weighty authority whose body and blood it is; they will believe nothing else, except that the Lord absolutely appeared in this form to the eyes of mortals, and that that liquid actually flowed from the piercing of a side(13) which resembled this. But it is certainly a useful caution to myself, that I should remember what my own powers are, and admonish my brethren that they also remember what theirs are, lest human infirmity pass on beyond what is safe. For how the angels do these things, or rather, how God does these things by His angels, and how far He wills them to be done even by the bad angels, whether by permitting, or commanding, or compelling, from the hidden seat of His own supreme power; this I can neither penetrate by the sight of the eyes, nor make clear by assurance of reason, nor be carried on to comprehend it by reach of intellect, so as to speak thereupon to all questions that may be asked respecting these matters, as certainly as if I were an angel, or a prophet, or an apostle. "For the thoughts of mortal men are miserable, and our devices are but uncertain. For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind, that museth upon many things. And hardly do we guess aright at things that are upon earth, and with labor do we find the things that are before us; but the things that are in heaven, who hath searched out?" But because it goes on to say, "And Thy counsel who hath known, except Thou give wisdom, and send Thy Holy Spirit from above;"(14) therefore we refrain indeed from searching out the things which are in heaven, under which kind are contained I both angelical bodies according to their proper dignity, and any corporeal action of those bodies; yet, according to the Spirit of God sent to us from above, and to His grace imparted to our minds, I dare to say confidently, that neither God the Father, nor His Word, nor His Spirit, which is the one God, is in any way changeable in regard to that which He is, and whereby He is that which He is; and much less is in this regard visible. Since there are no doubt some things changeable, yet not visible, as are our thoughts, and memories, and wills, and the whole incorporeal creature; but there is nothing that is visible that is not also changeable.[ Return ]
Wherefore the substance, or, if it is better so to say, the essence of God,(1) wherein we understand, in proportion to our measure, in however small a degree, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit since it is in no way changeable, can in no way in its proper self be visible.
22. It is manifest, accordingly, that all those appearances to the fathers, when God was presented to them according to His own dispensation, suitable to the times, were wrought through the creature. And if we cannot discern in what manner He wrought them by ministry of angels, yet we say that they were wrought by angels; but not from our own power of discernment, lest we should seem to any one to be wise beyond our measure, whereas we are wise so as to think soberly, as God hath dealt to us the measure of faith;(2) and we believe, and therefore speak.(3) For the authority is extant of the divine Scriptures, from which our reason ought not to turn aside; nor by leaving the solid support of the divine utterance, to fall headlong over the precipice of its own surmisings, in matters wherein neither the perceptions of the body rule, nor the clear reason of the truth shines forth. Now, certainly, it is written most clearly in the Epistle to the Hebrews, when the dispensation of the New Testament was to be distinguished from the dispensation of the Old, according to the fitness of ages and of times, that not only those visible things, but also the word itself, was wrought by angels. For it is said thus: "But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"(4) Whence it appears that all those things were not only wrought by angels, but wrought also on our account, that is, on account of the people of God, to whom is promised the inheritance of eternal life. As it is written also to the Corinthians, "Now all these things happened unto them in a figure: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world arecome."(5) And then, demonstrating by plain consequence that as at that time the word was spoken by the angels, so now by tim Son; "Therefore," he says, "we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" And then, as though you asked, What salvation?--in order to show that he is now speaking of the New Testament, that is, of the word which was spoken not by angels, but by the Lord, he says, "Which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will."(6)
23. But some one may say, Why then is it written, "The Lord said to Moses;" and not, rather, The angel said to Moses? Because, when the crier proclaims the words of the judge, it is not usually written in the record, so and so the crier said, but so and so the judge. In like manner also, when the holy prophet speaks, although we say, The prophet said, we mean nothing else to be understood than that the Lord said; and if we were to say, The Lord said, we should not put the prophet aside, but only intimate who spake by him. And, indeed, these Scriptures often reveal the angel to be the Lord, of whose speaking it is from time to time I said, "the Lord said," as we have shown already. But on account of those who, since the Scripture in that place specifies an angel, will have the Son of God Himself and in Himself to be understood, because He is called an angel by the prophet, as announcing the will of His Father and of Himself; I have therefore thought fit to produce a plainer testimony from this epistle, where it is not said by an angel, but "by angels."
24. For Stephen, too, in the Acts of the Apostles, relates these things in that manner in which they are also written in the Old Testament: "Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken," he says; "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia."(1) But lest any one, should think that the God of glory appeared then to the eyes of any mortal in that which He is in Himself, he goes on to say that an angel appeared to Moses. "Then fled Moses," he says, "at that saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons. And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold. Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet,"(3) etc. Here, certainly, he speaks both of angel and of Lord; and of the same as the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; as is written in Genesis.
25. Can there be any one who will say that the Lord appeared to Moses by an angel, but to Abraham by Himself? Let us not answer this question from Stephen, but from the book itself, whence Stephen took his narrative. For, pray, because it is written, "And the Lord God said unto Abraham;"(3) and a little after, "And the Lord God appeared unto Abraham;"(4) were these things, for this reason, not done by angels? Whereas it is said in like manner in another place, "And the Lord appeared to him in the plains of Mature, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;" and yet it is added immediately, "And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him:"(5) of whom we have already spoken. For how will these people, who either will not rise from the words to the meaning, or easily throw themselves down from the meaning to the words,--how, I say, will they be able to explain that God was seen in three men, except they confess that they were angels, as that which follows also shows? Because it is not said an angel spoke or appeared to him, will they therefore venture to say that the vision and voice granted to Moses was wrought by an angel because it is so written, but that God appeared and spake in His own substance to Abraham because there is no mention made of an angel? What of the fact, that even in respect to Abraham an angel is not left unmentioned? For when his son was ordered to be offered up as a sacrifice, we read thus: "And it came to pass after these things that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains that I will tell thee of." Certainly God is here mentioned, not an angel. But a little afterwards Scripture hath it thus: "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him." What can be answered to this? Will they say that God commanded that Isaac should be slain, and that an angel forbade it? and further, that the father himself, in opposition to the decree of God, who had commanded that he should be slain, obeyed the angel, who had bidden him spare him? Such an interpretation is to be rejected as absurd. Yet not even for it, gross and abject as it is, does Scripture leave any room, for it immediately adds: "For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, on account of me."(6) What is "on account of me," except on account of Him who had commanded him to be slain? Was then the God of Abraham the same as the angel, or was it not rather God by an angel? Consider what follows. Here, certainly, already an angel has been most clearly spoken of; yet notice the context: "And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place, The Lord saw:(7) as it is said to this day, In the mount the Lord was seen."(8) Just as that which a little before God said by an angel, "For now I know that thou fearest God;" not because it was to be understood that God then came to know, but that He brought it to pass that through God Abraham himself came to know what strength of heart he had to obey God, even to the sacrificing of his only son: after that mode of speech in which the effect is signified by the efficient,--as cold is said to be sluggish, because it makes men sluggish; so that He was therefore said to know, because He had made Abraham himself to know, who might well have not discerned the firmness of his own faith, had it not been proved by such a trial. So here, too, Abraham called the name of the place "The Lord saw," that is, caused Himself to be seen. For he goes on immediately to say, "As it is said to this day, In the mount the Lord was seen." Here you see the same angel is called Lord: wherefore, unless because the Lord spake by the angel? But if we pass on to that which follows, the angel altogether speaks as a prophet, and reveals expressly that God is speaking by the angel. "And the angel of the Lord," he says, "called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself I have sworn, saith the Lord; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, on account of me,"(1) etc. Certainly these words, viz. that he by whom the Lord speaks should say, "Thus saith the Lord," are commonly used by the prophets also. Does the Son of God say of the Father, "The Lord saith," while He Himself is that Angel of the Father? What then? Do they not see how hard pressed they are about these three men who appeared to Abraham, when it had been said before, "The Lord appeared to him?" Were they not angels because they are called men? Let them read Daniel, saying, "Behold the man Gabriel."(2)
26. But why do we delay any longer to stop their mouths by another most clear and most weighty proof, where not an angel in the singular nor men in the plural are spoken of, but simply angels; by whom not any particular word was wrought, but the Law itself is most distinctly declared to be given; which certainly none of the faithful doubts that God gave to Moses for the control of the children of Israel, or yet, that it was given by angels. So Stephen speaks: "Ye stiff-necked," he says, "and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the Law by the disposition of angels,(3) and have not kept it."(4) What is more evident than this? What more strong than such an authority? The Law, indeed, was given to that people by the disposition of angels; but the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ was by it prepared and pre-announced; and He Himself, as the Word of God, was in some wonderful and unspeakable manner in the angels, by whose disposition the Law itself was given. And hence He said in the Gospel, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me."(5) Therefore then the Lord was speaking by the angels; and the son of God, who was to be the Mediator of God and men, from the seed of Abraham, was preparing His own advent by the angels, that He might find some by whom He would be received, confessing themselves guilty, whom the Law unfulfilled had made transgressors. And hence the apostle also says to the Galatians, "Wherefore then serveth the Law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made, which [seed] was ordered(6) through angels in the hand of a mediator;"(7) that is, ordered through angels in His own hand. For He was not born in limitation, but in power. But you learn in another place that he does not mean any one of the angels as a mediator, but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in so far as He deigned to be made man: "For there is one God," he says, "and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus."(8) Hence that passover in the killing of the lamb:(9) hence all those things which are figuratively spoken in the Law, of Christ to come in the flesh, and to suffer, but also to rise again, which Law was given by the disposition of angels; in which angels, were certainly the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and in which, sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Holy Spirit, and sometimes God, without any distinction of person, was figuratively signified by them, although appearing in visible and sensible forms, yet by His own creature, not by His substance, in order to the seeing of which, hearts are cleansed through all those things which are seen by the eyes and heard by the ears.
27. But now, as I think, that which we had undertaken to show in this book has been sufficiently discussed and demonstrated, according to our capacity; and it has been established, both by probable reason, so far as a man, or rather, so far as I am able, and by strength of authority, so far as the divine declarations from the Holy Scriptures have been made clear, that those words and bodily appearances which were given to these ancient fathers of ours before the incarnation of the Saviour, when God was said to appear, were wrought by angels: whether themselves speaking or doing something in the person of God, as we have shown that the prophets also were wont to do, or assuming from the creature that which they themselves were not, wherein God might be shown in a figure to men; which manner of showing also, Scripture teaches by many examples, that the prophets, too, did not omit. It remains, therefore, now for us to consider,--since both in the Lord as born of a virgin, and in the Holy Spirit descending in a corporeal form like a dove.(1) and in the tongues like as of fire, which appeared with a sound from heaven on the day of Pentecost, after the ascension of the Lord,(2) it was not the Word of God Himself by His own substance, in which He is equal and eternal with the Father, nor the Spirit of the Father and of the Son by His own substance, in which He Himself also is equal and co-eternal with both, but assuredly a creature, such as could be formed and exist in these fashions, which appeared to corporeal and mortal senses,--it remains, I say, to consider what difference there is between these manifestations and those which were proper to the Son of God and to the Holy Spirit, although wrought by the visible creature;(3) which subject we shall more conveniently begin in another book.
| HOMEPAGE |[ CONTENTS ]