Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.29 Answer to Eunomius Part 1

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.29 Answer to Eunomius Part 1

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25.01.29 Answer to Eunomius Part 1

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Answer to Eunomius' Second Bookhyperlink

The first part of my contentions against Eunomius has with God's help been sufficiently established in the preceding work, as all who will may see from what I have worked out, how in that former part his fallacy has been completely exposed, and its falsehood has no further force against the truth, except in the case of those who show a very shameless animus against her. But since, like some robber's ambuscade, he has got together a second work against orthodoxy, again with God's help the truth takes up arms through me against the array of her enemies, commanding my arguments like a general and directing them at her pleasure against the foe; following whose steps I shall boldly venture on the second part of my contentions, nothing daunted by the array of falsehood, notwithstanding its display of numerous arguments. For faithful is He who has promised that "a thousand shall be chased by one," and that "ten thousand shall be put to flight by two"hyperlink , victory in battle being due not to numbers, but to righteousness. For even as bulky Goliath, when he shook against the Israelites that ponderous spear we read of, inspired no fear in his opponent, though a shepherd and unskilled in the tactics of war, but having met him in fight loses his own head by a direct reversal of his expectations, so our Goliath, the champion of this alien system, stretching forth his blasphemy against his opponents as though his hand were on a naked sword, and flashing the while with sophisms fresh from his whetstone, has failed to inspire us, though no soldiers, with any fear of his prowess, or to find himself free to exult in the dearth of adversaries; on the contrary, he has found us warriors improvised from the Lord's sheepfold, untaught in logical warfare, and thinking it no detriment to be so, but simply slinging our plain, rude argument of truth against him. Since then, that shepherd who is in the record, when he had cast down the alien with his sling, and broken his helmet with the stone, so that it gaped under the violence of the blow, did not confine his valour to gazing on his fallen foe, but running in upon him, and depriving him of his head, returns bearing it as a trophy to his people, parading that braggart head through the host of his countrymen; looking to this example it becomes us also to advance nothing daunted to the second part of our labours, but as far as possible to imitate David's valour, and, like him, after the first blow to plant our foot upon the fallen foe, so that enemy of the truth may be exhibited as much as possible as a headless trunk. For separated as he is from the true faith he is far more truly beheaded than that Philistine. For since Christ is the head of every man, as saith the Apostlehyperlink , and it is only reasonable that the believer alone should be so termed (for Christ, I take it, cannot be the head of the unbelieving also), it follows that he who is severed from the saving faith must be headless like Goliath, being severed from the true head by his own sword which he had whetted against the truth; which head it shall be our task not to cut off, but to show that it is cut off.

And let no one suppose that it is through pride or desire of human reputation that I go down to this truceless and implacable warfare to engage with the foe. For if it were allowed me to pass a peaceful life meddling with no one, it would be far enough from my disposition to wantonly disturb my tranquillity, by voluntarily provoking and stirring up a war against myself. But now that God's city, the Church, is besieged, and the great wall of the faith is shaken, battered by the encircling engines of heresy, and there is no small risk of the word of the Lord being swept into captivity through their devilish onslaught, deeming it a dreadful thing to decline taking part in the Christian conflict, I have not turned aside to repose, but have looked on the sweat of toil as more honourable than the relaxation of repose, knowing well that just as every man, as saith the Apostle, shall receive his own rewardhyperlink according to his own labour, so as a matter of course he shall receive punishment for neglect of labour proportioned to his strength. Accordingly I supported the first encounter in the discussion with good courage, discharging from my shepherd's scrip, i. e. from the teaching of the Church, my natural and unpremeditated arguments for the subversion of this blasphemy, needing not at all the equipment of arguments from profane sources to qualify me for the contest; and now also I do not hang back from the second part of the encounter, fixing my hope like great Davidhyperlink on Him "Who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight," if haply the hand of the writer may in my case also be guided by Divine power to the overthrow of these heretical opinions, and my fingers may serve for the overthrow of their malignant array by directing my argument with skill and precision against the foe. But as in human conflicts those who excel in valour and might, secured by their armour and having previously acquired military skill by their training for facing danger, station themselves at the head of their column, encountering danger for those ranged behind them, while the rest of the company, though serving only to give an appearance of numbers, seem nevertheless, if only by their serried shields, to conduce to the common good, so in these our conflicts that noble soldier of Christ and vehement champion against the aliens, the mighty spiritual warrior Basil-equipped as he is with the whole armour described by the Apostle, and secured by the shield of faith, and ever holding before him that weapon of defence, the sword of the spirit-fights in the van of the Lord's host by his elaborated argument against this heresy, alive and resisting and prevailing over the foe, while we the common herd, sheltering ourselves beneath the shield of that champion of the faith, shall not hold back from any conflicts within the compass of our power, according as our captain may lead us on against the foe. As he, then, in his refutation of the false and untenable opinion maintained by this heresy, affirms that "ungenerate" cannot be predicated of God except as a mere notion or conception, whereof he has adduced proofs supported by common sense and the evidence of Scripture, while Eunomius, the author of the heresy, neither falls in with his statements nor is able to overturn them, but in his conflict with the truth, the more clearly the light of true doctrine shines forth, the more, like nocturnal creatures, does he shun the light, and, no longer able to find the sophistical hiding-places to which he is accustomed, he wanders about at random, and getting into the labyrinth of falsehood goes round and round in the same place, almost the whole of his second treatise being taken up with this empty trifling-it is well accordingly that our battle with those opposed to us should take place on the same ground whereon our champion by his own treatise has been our leader.

First of all, however, I think it advisable to run briefly over our own doctrinal views and our opponent's disagreement with them, so that our review of the propositions in question may proceed methodically. Now the main point of Christian orthodoxyhyperlink is to believe that the Only-begotten God, Who is the truth and the true light, and the power of God and the life, is truly all that He is said to be, both in other respects and especially in this, that He is God and the truth, that is to say, God in truth, ever being what He is conceived to be and what He is called, Who never at any time was not, nor ever will cease to be, Whose being, such as it is essentially, is beyond the reach of the curiosity that would try to comprehend it. But to us, as saith the word of Wisdom,hyperlink He makes Himself known that He is "by the greatness and beauty of His creatures proportionately" to the things that are known, vouchsafing to us the gift of faith by the operations of His hands, but not the comprehension of what He is. Whereas, then, such is the opinion prevailing among all Christians, (such at least as are truly worthy of the appellation, those, I mean, who have been taught by the law to worship nothing that is not very God, and by that very act of worship confess that the Only-begotten is God in truth, and not a God falsely so called,) there arose this deadly blight of the Church, bringing barrenness on the holy seeds of the faith, advocating as it does the errors of Judaism, and partaking to a certain extent in the impiety of the Greeks. For in its figment of a created God it advocates the error of the Greeks, and in not accepting the Son it supports that of the Jews. This school, then, which would do away with the very Godhead of the Lord and teach men to conceive of Him as a created being, and not that which the Father is in essence and power and dignity, since these misty ideas find no support when exposed on all sides to the light of truth, have overlooked all those names supplied by Scripture for the glorification of God, and predicated in like manner of the Father and of the Son, and have betaken themselves to the word "ungenerate," a term fabricated by themselves to throw contempt on the greatness of the Only-begotten God. For whereas an orthodox confession teaches us to believe in the Only-begotten God so that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father, these men, rejecting the orthodox terms whereby the greatness of the Son is signified as on a par with the dignity of the Father, draw from thence the beginnings and foundations of their heresy in regard to His Divinity. For as the Only-begotten God, as the voice of the Gospel teaches, came forth from the Father and is of Him, misrepresenting this doctrine by a change of terms, they make use of them to rend the true faith in pieces. For whereas the truth teaches that the Father is from no pre-existing cause, these men have given to such a view the name of "ungeneracy," and signify the substance of the Only-begotten from the Father by the term "generation,"-then comparing the two terms "ungenerate" and "generate" as contradictories to each other, they make use of the opposition to mislead their senseless followers. For, to make the matter clearer by an illustration, the expressions, He was generated and He was not generated, are much the same as, He is seated and He is not seated, and all such-like expressions. But they, forcing these expressions away from the natural significance of the terms, are eager to put another meaning upon them with a view to the subversion of orthodoxy. For whereas, as has been said, the words "is seated" and "is not seated" are not equivalent in meaning (the one expression being contradictory of the other), they pretend that this formal contradiction in expression indicates an essential difference, ascribing generation to the Son and non-generation to the Father as their essential attributes. Yet, as it is impossible to regard a man's sitting down or not as the essence of the man (for one would not use the same definition for a man's sitting as for the man himself), so, by the analogy of the above example, the non-generated essence is in its inherent idea something wholly different from the thing expressed by "not having been generated." But our opponents, with an eye to their evil object, that of establishing their denial of the Godhead of the Only-begotten, do not say that the essence of the Father is ungenerate, but, conversely, they declare ungeneracy to be His essence, in order that by this distinction in regard to generation they may establish, by the verbal opposition, a diversity of natures. In the direction of impiety they look with ten thousand eyes, but with regard to the impracticability of their own contention they are as incapable of vision as men who deliberately close their eyes. For who but one whose mental optics are utterly purblind can fail to discern the loose and unsubstantial character of the principle of their doctrine, and that their argument in support of ungeneracy as an essence has nothing to stand upon? For this is the way in which their error would establish itself.

But to the best of my ability I will raise my voice to rebut our enemies' argument. They say that God is declared to be without generation, that the Godhead is by nature simple, and that which is simple admits of no composition. If, then, God Who is declared to be without generation is by His nature without composition, His title of Ungenerate must belong to His very nature, and that nature is identical with ungeneracy. To whom we reply that the terms incomposite and ungenerate are not the same thing, for the former represents the simplicity of the subject, the other its being without origin, and these expressions are not convertible in meaning, though both are predicated of one subject. But from the appellation of Ungenerate we have been taught that He Who is so named is without origin, and from the appellation of simple that He is free from all admixture (or composition), and these terms cannot be substituted for each other. There is therefore no necessity that, because the Godhead is by its nature simple, that nature should be termed ungeneracy; but in that He is indivisible and without composition, He is spoken of as simple, while in that He was not generated, He is spoken of as ungenerate.

Now if the term ungenerate did not signify the being without origin, but the idea of simplicity entered into the meaning of such a term, and He were called ungenerate in their heretical sense, merely because He is simple and incomposite, and if the terms simple and ungenerate are the same in meaning, then too must the simplicity of the Son be equivalent with ungeneracy. For they will not deny that God the Only-begotten is by His nature simple, unless they are prepared to deny that He is God. Accordingly the term simplicity will in its meaning have no such connection with being ungenerate as that, by reason of its incomposite character, His nature should be termed ungeneracy; or they draw upon themselves one of two absurd alternatives, either denying the Godhead of the Only-begotten, or attributing ungeneracy to Him also. For if God is simple, and the term simplicity is, according to them, identical with ungenerate, they must either make out the Son to be of composite nature, by which term it is implied that neither is He God, or if they allow His Godhead, and God (as I have said) is simple, then they make Him out at the same time to be ungenerate, if the terms simple and ungenerate are convertible. But to make my meaning clearer I will recapitulate. We affirm that each of these terms has its own peculiar meaning, and that the term indivisible cannot be rendered by ungenerate, nor ungenerate by simple; but by simple we understand uncompounded, and by ungenerate we are taught to understand what is without origin. Furthermore we hold that we are bound to believe that the Son of God, being Himself God, is Himself also simple, because God is free from all compositeness; and in like manner in speaking of Him also by the appellation of Son we neither denote simplicity of substance, nor in simplicity do we include the notion of Son, but the term Son we hold to indicate that He is of the substance of the Father, and the term simple we hold to mean what the word bears upon its face. Since, then, the meaning of the term simple in regard to essence is one and the same whether spoken of the Father or of the Son, differing in no degree, while there is a wide difference between generate and ungenerate (the one containing a notion not contained in the other), for this reason we assert that there is no necessity that, the Father being ungenerate, His essence should, because that essence is simple, be defined by the term ungenerate. For neither of the Son, Who is simple, and Whom also we believe to be generated, do we say that His essence is simplicity. But as the essence is simple and not simplicity, so also the essence is ungenerate and not ungeneracy. In like manner also the Son being generated, our reason is freed from any necessity that, because His essence is simple, we should define that essence as generateness; but here again each expression has its peculiar force. For the term generated suggests to you a source whence, and the term simple implies freedom from composition. But this does not approve itself to them. For they maintain that since the essence of the Father is simple, it cannot be considered as other than ungeneracy; on which account also He is said to be ungenerate. In answer to whom we may also observe that, since they call the Father both Creator and Maker, whereas He Who is so called is simple in regard to His essence, it is high time for such sophists to declare the essence of the Father to be creation and making, since the argument about simplicity introduces into His essence any signification of any name we give Him. Either, then, let them separate ungeneracy from the definition of the Divine essence, allowing the term no more than its proper signification, or, if by reason of the simplicity of the subject they define His essence by the term ungeneracy, by a parity of reasoning let them likewise see creation and making in the essence of the Father, not as though the power residing in the essence created and made, but as though the power itself meant creation and making. But if they reject this as bad and absurd, let them be persuaded by what logically follows to reject the other proposition as well. For as the essence of the builder is not the thing built, no more is ungeneracy the essence of the Ungenerate. But for the sake of clearness and conciseness I will restate my arguments. If the Father is called ungenerate, not by reason of His having never been generated, but because His essence is simple and incomposite, by a parity of reasoning the Son also must be called ungenerate, for He too is a simple and incomposite essence. But if we are compelled to confess the Son to be generated because He was generated, it is manifest that we must address the Father as ungenerate, because He was not generated. But if we are compelled to this conclusion by truth and the force of our premises, it is clear that the term ungenerate is no part of the essence, but is indicative of a difference of conceptions, distinguishing that which is generated from that which is ungenerate. But let us discuss this point also in addition to what I have said. If they affirm that the term ungenerate signifies the essencehyperlink (of the Father), and not that He has His substance without origin, what term will they use to denote the Father's being without origin, when they have set aside the term ungenerate to indicate His essence? For if we are not taught the distinguishing difference of the Persons by the term ungenerate, but are to regard it as indicating His very nature as flowing in a manner from the subject-matter, and disclosing what we seek in articulate syllables, it must follow that God is not, or is not to be called, ungenerate, there being no word left to express such peculiar significance in regard to Him. For inasmuch as according to them the term ungenerate does not mean without origin, but indicates the Divine nature, their argument will be found to exclude it altogether, and the term ungenerate slips out of their teaching in respect to God. For there being no other word or term to represent that the Father is ungenerate, and that term signifying, according to their fallacious argument, something else, and not that He was not generated, their whole argument falls and collapses into Sabellianism. For by this reasoning we must hold the Father to be identical with the Son, the distinction between generated and ungenerate having been got rid of from their teaching, so that they are driven to one of two alternatives: either they must again adopt the view of the term as denoting a difference in the attributes proper to either Person, and not as denoting the nature, or, abiding by their conclusions as to the word, they must side with Sabellius. For it is impossible that the difference of the persons should be without confusion, unless there be a distinction between generated and ungenerate. Accordingly if the term denotes difference, essence will in no way be denoted by the appellation. For the definitions of difference and essence are by no means the same. But if they divert the meaning of the word so as to signify nature, they must be drawn into the heresy of those who are called "Son-Fathershyperlink ," all accuracy of definition in regard to the Persons being rejected from their account. But if they say that there is nothing to hinder the distinction between generated and ungenerate from being rendered by the term ungenerate, and that term represents the essence too, let them distinguish for us the kindred meanings of the word, so that the notion of ungenerate may properly apply to either of them taken by itself. For the expression of the difference by means of this term involves no ambiguity, consisting as it does of a verbal opposition. For as an equivalent to saying "The Son has, and the Father has not, been generated," we too assent to the statement that the latter is ungenerate and the former generated, by a sort of verbal correlation. But from what point of view a clear manifestation of essence can be made by this appellation, this they are unable to say. But keeping silence on this head, our novel theologian weaves us a web of trifling subtleties in his former treatise. Because God, saith he, being simple, is called ungenerate, therefore God is ungeneracy. What has the notion of simplicity to do with the idea of ungenerate? For not only is the Only-begotten generated, but, without controversy, He is simple also. But, saith he, He is without parts also, and incomposite. But what is this to the point? For neither is the Son multiform and composite: and yet He is not on that account ungenerate.

But, saith he, He is without both quantity and magnitude. Granted: for the Son also is unlimited by quantity and magnitude, and yet is He the Son. But this is not the point. For the task set before us is this: in what signification of ungenerate is essence declared? For as this word marks the difference of the properties, so they maintain that the essence also is indicated without ambiguity by one of the things signified by the appellation.

But this thing he leaves untold, and only says that ungeneracy should not be predicated of God as a mere conception. For what is so spoken, saith he, is dissolved, and passes away with its utterance. But what is there that is uttered but is so dissolved? For we do not keep undissolved, like those who make pots or bricks, what we utter with our voice in the mould of the speech which we form once for all with our lips, but as soon as one speech has been sent forth by our voice, what we have said ceases to exist. For the breath of our voice being dispersed again into the air, no trace of our words is impressed upon the spot in which such dispersion of our voice has taken place: so that if he makes this the distinguishing characteristic of a term that expresses a mere conception, that it does not remain, but vanishes with the voice that gives it utterance, he may as well at once call every term a mere conception, inasmuch as no substance remains in any term subsequent to its utterance. No, nor will he be able to show that ungeneracy itself, which he excepts from the products of conception, is indissoluble and fixed when it has been uttered, for this expression of the voice through the lips does not abide in the air. And from this we may see the unsubstantial character of his assertions; because, even if without speech we describe in writing our mental conceptions, it is not as though the substantial objects of our thoughts will acquire their significance from the letters, while the non-substantial will have no part in what the letters express. For whatever comes into our mind, whether intellectually existing, or otherwise, it is possible for us at our discretion to store away in writing. And the voice and letters are of equal value for the expression of thought, for we communicate what we think by the latter as well as by the former. What he sees, then, to justify his making the mental conception perish with the voice only, I fail to comprehend. For in the case of all speech uttered by means of sound, the passage of the breath indeed which conveys the voice is towards its kindred element, but the sense of the words spoken is engraved by hearing on the memory of the hearer's soul, whether it be true or false. Is not this, then, a weak interpretation of this "conception" of his that our writer offers, when he characterizes and defines it by the dissolution of the voice? And for this reason the understanding hearer, as saith Isaiah, objects to this inconceivable account of mental conception, showing it, to use the man's own words, to be a veritably dissoluble and unsubstantial one, and he discusses scientifically the force inherent in the term, advancing his argument by familiar examples to the contemplation of doctrine. Against whom Eunomius exalting himself with this pompous writing, endeavours to overthrow the true account of mental conception, after this manner.

But before we examine what he has written, it may be better to enquire with what purpose it is that he refuses to admit that ungenerate can be predicated of God by way of conception. Now the tenet which has been held in common by all who have received the word of our religion is, that all hope of salvation should be placed in Christ, it being impossible for any to be found among the righteous, unless faith in Christ supply what is desired. And this conviction being firmly established in the souls of the faithful, and all honour and glory and worship being due to the Only-begotten God as the Author of life, Who doeth the works of the Father, as the Lord Himself saith in the Gospelhyperlink , and Who falls short of no excellence in all knowledge of that which is good, I know not how they have been so perverted by malignity and jealousy of the Lord's honour, that, as though they judged the worship paid by the faithful to the Only-begotten God to be a detriment to themselves, they oppose His Divine honours, and try to persuade us that nothing that is said of them is true. For with them neither is He very God, though called so, it would seem, by Scripture, nor, though called Son, has He a nature that makes good the appellation, nor has He a community of dignity or of nature with the Father. For, say they, it is not possible for Him that is begotten to be of equal honour with Him Who made Him, either in dignity, or in power, or in nature, because the life of the latter is infinite, and His existence from eternity, while the life of the Son is in a manner circumscribed, the beginning of His being begotten limiting His life at the commencement, and preventing it from being coextensive with the eternity of the Father, so that His life also is to be regarded as defective; and the Father was not always what He now is and is said to be, but, having been something else before, He afterwards determined that He would be a Father, or rather that He would be so called. For not even of the Son was He rightly called Father, but of a creature supposititiously invested with the title of son. And every way, say they, the younger is of necessity inferior to the elder, the finite to the eternal, that which is begotten by the will of the begetter, to the begetter himself, both in power, and dignity, and nature, and precedence due to age, and all other prerogatives of respect. But how can we justly dignify with the honours due to the true God that which is wanting in the perfection of the diviner attributes? Thus they would establish the doctrine that one who is limited in power, and wanting in the perfection of life, and subject to a superior, and doing nothing of himself but what is sanctioned by the authority of the more powerful, is in no divine honour and consideration, but that, while we call him God, we are employing a term empty of all grandeur in its significance. And since such statements as these, when stripped of their plausible dress, move indignation and make the hearer shudder at their strangeness (for who can tolerate an evil counsellor nakedly and unadvisably urging the overthrow of the majesty of Christ?), they therefore try to pervert foolish hearers with these foreign notions by enveloping their malignant and insidious arguments in a number of seductive fallacies. For after laying down such premises as might naturally lead the mind of the hearers in the desired direction, they leave the hearer to draw his conclusion for himself.

For after saying that the Only-begotten God is not the same in essence with the true Father, and after sophistically inferring this from the opposition between generate and ungenerate, they work in silence to the conclusion, their impiety prevailing by the natural course of inference. And as the poisoner makes his drug acceptable to his victim by sweetening its deadliness with honey, and, as for himself, has only to offer it, while the drug insinuating itself into the vitals without further action on the part of the poisoner does its deadly work,-so, too, do our opponents act. For qualifying their pernicious teaching with their sophistical refinements, as with honey, when they have infused into the mind of the hearer the venomous fallacy that God the Only-begotten is not very God, they cause all the rest to be inferred without saying a word. For when they are persuaded that He is not truly God, it follows as a matter of course that no other Divine attribute is truly applicable. For if He is truly neither Son nor God, except by an abuse of terms, then the other names which are given to Him in Holy Scripture are a divergence from the truth. For the one thing cannot be predicated of Him with truth, and the other be destitute of it; but they must needs follow one another, so that, if He be truly God, it follows that He is Judge and King, and that His several attributes are such as they are described, while, if His godhead be falsely asserted, neither will the truth hold respecting any of His other attributes. They, then, having been deceived into the persuasion that the attribute of Godhead is falsely applied to the Only-begotten, it follows that He is not rightly the object of worship and adoration, or, in fact, of any of the honours that are paid to God. In order, then, to render their attack upon the Saviour efficacious, this is the blasphemous method that they have adopted. There is no need, they urge, of looking at the collective attributes by which the Son's equality in honour and dignity with the Father is signified, but from the opposition between generate and ungenerate we must argue a distinctive difference of nature; for the Divine nature is that which is denoted by the term ungenerate. Again, since all men of sense regard it as impracticable to indicate the ineffable Being by any force of words, because neither does our knowledge extend to the comprehension of what transcends knowledge, nor does the ministry of words have such power in us as to avail for the full enunciation of our thought, where the mind is engaged on anything eminently lofty and divine,-these wise folk, on the contrary, convicting men in general of want of sense and ignorance of logic, assert their own knowledge of such matters, and their ability to impart it to whomsoever they will; and accordingly they maintain that the divine nature is simply ungeneracy per se, and declaring this to be sovereign and supreme, they make this word comprehend the whole greatness of Godhead, so as to necessitate the inference that if ungeneracy is the main point of the essence, and the other divine attributes are bound up with it, viz. Godhead, power, imperishableness and so on-if (I say) ungeneracy mean these, then, if this ungeneracy cannot be predicated of something, neither can the rest. For as reason, and risibility, and capacity of knowledge are proper to man, and what is not humanity may not be classed among the properties of his nature, so, if true Godhead consists in ungeneracy, then, to whatsoever thing the latter name does not properly belong, no one at all of the other distinguishing attributes of Godhead will be found in it. If, then, ungeneracy is not predicable of the Son, it follows that no other of His sublime and godlike attributes are properly ascribed to Him. This, then, they define as a right comprehension of the divine mysteries-the rejection of the Son's Godhead-all but shouting in the ear of those who would listen to them; "To you it is given to be perfect in knowledgehyperlink , if only you believe not in God the Only-begotten as being very God, and honour not the Son as the Father is honoured, but regard Him as by nature a created being, not Lord and Master, but slave and subject." For this is the aim and object of their design, though the blasphemy is cloaked in different terms.

Accordingly, enveloping his former special-pleading in the mazy evolutions of his sophistries, and dealing subtly with the term ungenerate, he steals away the intelligence of his dupes, saying to them, "Well, then, if neither by way of conception it is so, nor by deprivation, nor by division (for He is without parts), nor as being another in Himselfhyperlink (for He is the one only ungenerate), He Himself must be, in essence, ungenerate.

Seeing, then, the mischief resulting to the dupes of this fallacious reasoning-that to assent to His not being very God is a departure from our confession of Him as our Lord, to which conclusion indeed his words would bring his teaching-our master does not indeed deny that ungenerate is no partial predicate of God, himself also admitting that God is without quantity, or magnitude, or parts; but the statement that this term ought not to be applied to Him by way of mental conception he impugns, and gives his proofs. But again, shifting from this position, our writer in the second of his treatises meets us with his sophistry, combating his own statements in regard to mental conception.

It will presently be time to bring to their own recollection the method of this argument. Suffice it first to say this. There is no faculty in human nature adequate to the full comprehension of the divine essence. It may be that it is easy to show this in the case of human capacity alone, and to say that the incorporeal creation is incapable of taking in and comprehending that nature which is infinite will not be far short of the truth, as we may see by familiar examples; for as there are many and various things that have fleshly life, winged things, and things of the earth, some that mount above the clouds by virtue of their wings, others that dwell in hollows or burrow in the ground, on comparing which it would appear that there was no small difference between the inhabitants of air and of land; while, if the comparison be extended to the stars and the fixed circumference, it will be seen that what soars aloft on wings is not less widely removed from heaven than from the animals that are on the earth; so, too, the strength of angels compared with our own seems preeminently great, because, undisturbed by sensation, it pursues its lofty themes with pure naked intelligence. Yet, if we weigh even their comprehension with the majesty of Him Who really is, it may be that if any one should venture to say that even their power of understanding is not far superior to our own weakness, his conjecture would fall within the limits of probability, for wide and insurmountable is the interval that divides and fences off untreated from created nature. The latter is limited, the former not. The latter is confined within its own boundaries according to the pleasure of its Maker. The former is bounded only by infinity. The latter stretches itself out within certain degrees of extension, limited by time and space: the former transcends all notion of degree, baffling curiosity from every point of view. In this life we can apprehend the beginning and the end of all things that exist, but the beatitude that is above the creature admits neither end nor beginning, but is above all that is connoted by either, being ever the same, self-dependent, not travelling on by degrees from one point to another in its life; for there is no participation of other life in its life, such that we might infer end and beginning; but, be it what it may, it is life energizing in itself, not becoming greater or less by addition or diminution. For increase has no place in the infinite, and that which is by its nature passionless excludes all notion of decrease. And as, when looking up to heaven, and in a measure apprehending by the visual organs the beauty that is in the height, we doubt not the existence of what we see, but if asked what it is, we are unable to define its nature, but we simply admire as we contemplate the overarching vault, the reverse planetary motionhyperlink , the so-called Zodiac graven obliquely on the pole, whereby astronomers observe the motion of bodies revolving in an opposite direction, the differences of luminaries according to their magnitude, and the specialities of their rays, their risings and settings that take place according to the circling year ever at the same seasons undeviatingly, the conjunctions of planets, the courses of those that pass below, the eclipses of those that are above, the obumbrations of the earth, the reappearance of eclipsed bodies, the moon's multiform changes, the motion of the sun midway within the poles, and how, filled with his own light, and crowned with his encircling beams, and embracing all things in his sovereign light, he himself also at times suffers eclipse (the disc of the moon, as they say, passing before him), and how, by the will of Him Who has so ordained, ever running his own particular course, he accomplishes his appointed orbit and progress, opening out the four seasons of the year in succession; we, as I say, when we contemplate these phenomena by the aid of sight, are in no doubt of their existence, though we are as far from comprehending their essential nature as if sight had not given us any glimpse whatever of what we have seen; and even so, with regard to the Creator of the world, we know that He exists, but of His essential nature we cannot deny that we are ignorant. But, boasting as they do that they know these things, let them first tell us about the things of inferior nature; what they think of the body of the heavens, of the machinery which conveys the stars in their eternal courses, or of the sphere in which they move; for, however far speculation may proceed, when it comes to the uncertain and incomprehensible it must stop. For though any one say that another body, like in fashion (to that body of the heavens), fitting to its circular shape, checks its velocity, so that, ever turning in its course, it revolves conformably to that other upon itself, being retained by the force that embraces it from flying off at a tangent, yet how can he assert that these bodies will remain unspent by their constant friction with each other? And how, again, is motion produced in the case of two coeval bodies mutually conformed, when the one remains motionless (for the inner body, one would have thought, being held as in a vice by the motionlessness of that which embraces it, will be quite unable to act); and what is it that maintains the embracing body in its fixedness, so that it remains unshaken and unaffected by the motion of that which fits into it? And if in restless curiosity of thought we should conceive of some position for it that should keep it stationary, we must go on in logical consistency to search for the base of that base, and of the next, and of the next, and so on, and so the inquiry, proceeding from like to like, will go on to infinity, and end in helpless perplexity, still, even when some body has been put for the farthest foundation of the system of the universe, reaching after what is beyond, so that there is no stopping in our inquiry after the limit of the embracing circles. But not so, say others: but (according to the vain theory of those who have speculated on these matters) there is an empty space spread over the back of the heavens, working in which vacuum the motion of the universe revolves upon itself, meeting with no resistance from any solid body capable of retarding it by opposition and of checking its course of revolution. What, then, is that vacuum, which they say is neither a body nor an idea? How far does it extend, and what succeeds it, and what relation exists between the firm, resisting body, and that void and unsubstantial one? What is there to unite things so contrary by nature? and how can the harmony of the universe consist out of elements so incongruous; and what can any one say of Heaven itself? That it is a mixture of the elements which it contains, or one of them, or something else beside them? What, again, of the stars themselves? whence comes their radiance? what is it and how is it composed? and what is the reason of their difference in beauty and magnitude? and the seven inner orbs revolving in an opposite direction to the motion of the universe, what are they, and by what influence are they propelled? Then, too, what is that immaterial and ethereal empyrean, and the intermediate air which forms a wall of partition between that element in nature which gives heat and consumes, and that which is moist and combustible? And how does earth below form the foundation of the whole, and what is it that keeps it firmly in its place? what is it that controls its downward tendency? If any one should interrogate us on these and such-like points, will any of us be found so presumptuous as to promise an explanation of them? No! the only reply that can be given by men of sense is this:-that He Who made all things in wisdom can alone furnish an account of His creation. For ourselves, "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God," as saith the Apostlehyperlink .

If, then, the lower creation which comes under our organs of sense transcends human knowledge, how can He, Who by His mere will made the worlds, be within the range of our apprehension? Surely this is vanity, and lying madness, as saith the Prophethyperlink , to think it possible to comprehend the things which are incomprehensible. So may we see tiny children busying themselves in their play. For oft-times, when a sunbeam streams down upon them through a window, delighted with its beauty they throw themselves on what they see, and are eager to catch the sunbeam in their hands, and struggle with one another, and grasp the light in the clutch of their fingers, and fancy they have imprisoned the ray in them, but presently when they unclasp their hands and find that the sunbeam which they held has slipped through their fingers, they laugh and clap their hands. In like manner the children of our generation, as saith the parable, sit playing in the market-places; for, seeing the power of God shining in upon their souls through the dispensations of His providence, and the wonders of His creation like a warm ray emanating from the natural sun, they marvel not at the Divine gift, nor adore Him Whom such things reveal, but passing beyond the limits of the soul's capabilities, they seek with their sophistical understanding to grasp that which is intangible, and think by their reasonings to lay hold of what they are persuaded of; but when their argument unfolds itself and discloses the tangled web of their sophistries, men of discernment see at once that what they have apprehended is nothing at all; so pettily and so childishly labouring in vain at impossibilities do they set themselves to include the inconceivable nature of God in the few syllables of the term "ungenerate," and applaud their own folly, and imagine God to be such that human reasoning can include Him under one single term: and while they pretend to follow the teaching of the sacred writers, they are not afraid of raising themselves above them. For what cannot be shown to have been said by any of those blessed ones, any words of whose are recorded in the sacred books, these things, as saith the Apostle, "understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirmhyperlink ," they nevertheless say they know, and boast of guiding others to such knowledge. And on this account they declare that they have apprehended that God the Only-begotten is not what He is called. For to this conclusion they are compelled by their premises.


1 This Book is entitled in the Munich and Venice mss. "an Antirrhetic against Eunomius' second Essay (logon)": in the Paris Editions as "Essay XII. (logoj I B) of our Father among the Saints, Gregory of Nyssa against Eunomius (1615), against Eunomius' second Essay (1638)." The discrepance of number seems to have arisen from the absence of any title to Book VI. in the Munich and Venice mss. But the Book preceding this, i. e. Book XII., is named as such by the Paris Editt. of 1638: and cited elsewhere as such. Photius, after saying that Gregory far excelled, in these books, Theodore (of Mopsuestia), and Sophronius, who also wrote against Eunomius, particularly praises this last book.

2 Deut. xxxii. 30; Joshua xxiii. 10.

3 1 Cor. xi. 2.

4 1 Cor. iii. 14.

5 Psalm cxliv. 1.

6 eusebeiaj. That this is the predominant idea in the word will be seen from the following definitions: "Piety is a devout life joined with a right faith" (Oecumenius on 1 Tim. iv. p. 754). "Piety is the looking up to the one only God, Who is believed to be and is the true God, and the life in accordance with this" (Eusebius, P. E. i. p. 3). "Piety is the science of adoration" (Suidas).

7 Wisdom of Solomon xiii. 5. "For by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionately (analogwz) the maker of them is seen." Compare Romans i. 20.

8 Essence, substance, ousia. Most of this controversy might have been avoided by agreeing to banish the word ousia entirely from this sort of connection with the Deity. Even Celsus the Neo-platonist had said, "God does not partake of substance" (ousiaj). "Exactly," Origen replies, "God is partaken of, viz., by those who have His spirit, rather than partakes of anything Himself. Indeed, the subject of substance involves questions complicated and difficult to decide; most especially on this point. Supposing, that is, an absolute Substance, motionless, incorporeal, is God beyond this Substance in rank and power. granting a share of it to those to whom according to His Word He chooses to communicate it? Or is He Himself this Substance, though described as invisible in that passage about the Saviour (Coloss. i. 15) `Who is the image of the invisible God,

0' where invisible means incorporeal? Another point is this: is the Only-Begotten and First-Born of all Creatures to be pronounced the Substance of substances, the Original Idea of all ideas, while the Father God Himself is beyond all these?" (c. Cels. vi. 64). (Such a question as this last, however, could not have been asked a century later, when Athanasius had dispelled all traces of Neo-platonic subordination from the Christian Faith. Uncreated Spirit, not Invisible First Substance, is the mark of all in the Triune-God. But the effort of Neo-platonism to rise above every term that might seem to include the Deity had not been thrown away. Even "God is Spirit" is only a conception, not a definition, of the Deity; while "God is substance" ought to be regarded as an actual contradiction in terms.)

9 i. e. who hold the Father and the Son to be one and the same Person, i. e. Sabellians. "He here overthrows the heresy of Sabellius, by marking the persons of the Father and the Son: for the Church does not imagine a Son-Fatherhood (uiopatorian), such as the figment of that African" (Ammonius caten. ad Joh. I. i. p. 14).

10 S John x. 37.

11 Eunomius arrived at the same conclusions as Arius, but by a different path. "The true name of God is 'Agennhtoj, and this name is incommunicable to other essences." He attacked both the Arians and the orthodox. The former he reproached for saying that we can know God only in part: the latter for saying that we know God only through the Universe, and the Son, the Author of the Universe. He maintained, on the contrary, that it was unworthy of a Christian to profess the impossibility of knowing the Divine Nature, and the manner in which the Son is generated. Rather, the mind of the believer rises above every sensible and intelligible essence, and does not stop even at the generation of the Son, but mounts above, aspiring to possess the First Cause. Is this bold assertion, Denys (De la Philosophie a'Origène, p. 446) asks, so contrary as it is to the teaching of the Fathers, a reminiscence of Origen, or a direct borrowing from Plato or the Neoplatonists? The language in which it is expressed certainly belongs to the latter (upokiyaj, epekeina, poqoj, to prwton, glixomenoj): but Origen himself, less wise in this matter than Clement, was not far from believing that there was a Way above Him Whom S. John calls the Way, a Light above the Light that "lighteth every man that cometh into the world," an "Eternal Gospel" above the present Gospel; and that these were not inaccessible at once to human creatures. Only they could not be reached in themselves, and without a Mediator, until Christ, having vanquished His enemies, had given back the kingdom to the Father, and God was "all in all."-This doctrine of the 'Agennhtoj, then, made it necessary for Basil and Gregory to throw their whole weight against Eunomius, rather than against Macedonius, who, as inconsequent through not dealing alike with the Second and Third Person, could not be so dangerous an enemy.

12 As being another. Oehler reads wj eteron: the Paris editt. have estin eteron, due to the correction of John the Franciscan, whose ms., however, (the Pithoean) had wste (wj ti?). These words of Eunomius are found in Basil lib. i c. Eunomium, tom. i. p. 711 (Paris 1638), even more fully quoted than here: and wj eteron is found there.

13 Gregory here refers to the apparent "retrograde" motion of the planets, i. e. that, while passing through part of their orbits, they appear to us to move in a direction contrary to the order of the Zodiac. In what follows he represents the views of the ancient astronomy, imagining a series of concentric spheres, allotted to the several planets, the planetary motions being accomplished by the rotation of the spheres. Beyond the planetary spheres is the sphere allotted to the fixed stars, within which the others revolve. See Gale, Opusc. Mythol. (1688), p 550; and Introduction to Colet's Lectures on Corinthians, pp. xl-xliii.

14 Heb. i. 2.

15 The thought is found in Psalm xxxix, 6.

16 1 Tim. i. 7. S. Gregory quotes from memory, viz., peri wn diateinontai for peri tinan diabebaiountai.