Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.30 Answer to Eunomius Part 2

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.30 Answer to Eunomius Part 2

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25.01.30 Answer to Eunomius Part 2

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How pitiable are they for their cleverness! how wretched, how fatal is their over-wise philosophy! Who is there who goes of his own accord to the pit so eagerly as these men labour and bestir themselves to dig out their lake of blasphemy? How far have they separated themselves from the hope of the Christian! What a gulf have they fixed between themselves and the faith which saves! How far have they withdrawn themselves from Abraham the father of the faith! He indeed, if in the lofty spirit of the Apostle we may take the words allegorically, and so penetrate to the inner sense of the history, without losing sight of the truth of its facts-he, I say, went out by Divine command from his own country and kindred on a journey worthy of a prophet eager for the knowledge of Godhyperlink . For no local migration seems to me to satisfy the idea of the blessings which it is signified that he found. For going out from himself and from his country, by which I understand his earthly and carnal mind, and raising his thoughts as far as possible above the common boundaries of nature, and forsaking the soul's kinship with the senses,-so that untroubled by any of the objects of sense his eyes might be open to the things which are invisible, there being neither sight nor sound to distract the mind in its work,-"walking," as saith the Apostle, "by faith, not by sight," he was raised so high by the sublimity of his knowledge that he came to be regarded as the acme of human perfection, knowing as much of God as it was possible for finite human capacity at its full stretch to attain. Therefore also the Lord of all creation, as though He were a discovery of Abraham, is called specially the God of Abraham. Yet what saith the Scripture respecting him? That he went out not knowing whither he went, no, nor even being capable of learning the name of Him whom he loved, yet in no wise impatient or ashamed on account of such ignorance.

This, then, was the meaning of his safe guidance on the way to what he sought-that he was not blindly led by any of the means ready to hand for his instruction in the things of God, and that his mind, unimpeded by any object of sense, was never hindered from its journeying in quest of what lies beyond all that is known, but having gone by reasoning far beyond the wisdom of his countrymen, (I mean the philosophy of the Chaldees, limited as it was to the things which do appear,) and soaring above the things which are cognizable by sense, from the beauty of the objects of contemplation, and the harmony of the heavenly wonders, he desired to behold the archetype of all beauty. And so, too, all the other things which in the course of his reasoning he was led to apprehend as he advanced, whether the power of God, or His goodness, or His being without beginning, or His infinity, or whatever else is conceivable in respect to the divine nature, using them all as supplies and appliances for his onward journey, ever making one discovery a stepping-stone to another, ever reaching forth unto those things which were before, and setting in his heart, as saith the Prophet, each fair stage of his advancehyperlink , and passing by all knowledge acquired by his own ability as falling short of that of which be was in quest, when he had gone beyond every conjecture respecting the divine nature which is suggested by any name amongst all our conceptions of God, having purged his reason of all such fancies, and arrived at a faith unalloyed and free from all prejudice, he made this a sure and manifest token of the knowledge of God, viz. the belief that He is greater and more sublime than any token by which He may be known. On this account, indeed, after the ecstasy which fell upon him, and after his sublime meditations, falling back on his human weakness, "I am," saith he, "but dust and asheshyperlink ," that is to say, without voice or power to interpret that good which his mind had conceived. For dust and ashes seem to denote what is lifeless and barren; and so there arises a law of faith for the life to come, teaching those who would come to God, by this history of Abraham, that it is impossible to draw near to God, unless faith mediate, and bring the seeking soul into union with the incomprehensible nature of God. For leaving behind him the curiosity that arises from knowledge, Abraham, says the Apostle, "believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousnesshyperlink ." "Now it was not written for his sake," the Apostle says, "but for us," that God counts to men for righteousness their faith, not their knowledge. For knowledge acts, as it were, in a commercial spirit, dealing only with what is known. But the faith of Christians acts otherwise. For it is the substance, not of things known, but of things hoped for. Now that which we have already we no longer hope for. "For what a man hath," says the Apostle, "why doth he yet hope forhyperlink "? But faith makes our own that which we see not, assuring us by its own certainty of that which does not appear. For so speaks the Apostle of the believer, that "he endured as seeing Him Who is invisiblehyperlink ." Vain, therefore, is he who maintains that it is possible to take knowledge of the divine essence, by the knowledge which puffeth up to no purpose. For neither is there any man so great that he can claim equality in understanding with the Lord, for, as saith David, "Who is he among the clouds that shall be compared unto the Lord?hyperlink " nor is that which is sought so small that it can be compassed by the reasonings of human shallowness. Listen to the preacher exhorting not to be hasty to utter anything before God, "for God," (saith he,) "is in heaven above, and thou upon earth beneathhyperlink ."

He shows, I think, by the relation of these elements to each other, or rather by their distance, how far the divine nature is above the speculations of human reason. For that nature which transcends all intelligence is as high above earthly calculation as the stars are above the touch of our fingers; or rather, many times more than that.

Knowing, then, how widely the Divine nature differs from our own, let us quietly remain within our proper limits. For it is both safer and more reverent to believe the majesty of God to be greater than we can understand, than, after circumscribing His glory by our misconceptions, to suppose there is nothing beyond our conception of it.

And on other accounts also it may be called safe to let alone the Divine essence, as unspeakable, and beyond the scope of human reasoning. For the desire of investigating what is obscure and tracing out hidden things by the operation of human reasoning gives an entrance to false no less than to true notions, inasmuch as he who aspires to know the unknown will not always arrive at truth, but may also conceive of falsehood itself as truth. But the disciple of the Gospels and of Prophecy believes that He Who is, is; both from what he has learnt from the sacred writers, and from the harmony of things which do appear, and from the works of Providence. But what He is and how-leaving this as a useless and unprofitable speculation, such a disciple will open no door to falsehood against truth. For in speculative enquiry fallacies readily find place. But where speculation is entirely at rest, the necessity of error is precluded. And that this is a true account of the case, may be seen if we consider how it is that heresies in the churches have wandered off into many and various opinions in regard to God, men deceiving themselves as they are swayed by one mental impulse or another; and how these very men with whom our treatise is concerned have slipped into such a pit of profanity. Would it not have been safer for all, following the counsel of wisdom, to abstain from searching into such deep matters, and in peace and quietness to keep inviolate the pure deposit of the faith? But since, in fact, human nothingness has commenced intruding recklessly into matters that are above comprehension, and supporting by dogmatic teaching the figments of their vain imagination, there has sprung up in consequence a whole host of enemies to the truth, and among them these very men who are the subject of this treatise; dogmatizers of deceit who seek to limit the Divine Being, and all but openly idolize their own imagination, in that they deify the idea expressed by this "ungeneracy" of theirs, as not being only in a certain relation discernible in the Divine nature, but as being itself God, or the essence of God. Yet perchance they would have done better to look to the sacred company of the Prophets and Patriarchs, to whom "at sundry times, and in divers mannershyperlink ," the Word of truth spake, and, next in order, those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, that they might give honour due to the claims on their belief of the things attested by the Holy Spirit Himself, and abide within the limits of their teaching and knowledge, and not venture on themes which are not comprehended in the canon of the sacred writers. For those writers, by revealing God, so long unknown to human life by reason of the prevalence of idolatry, and making Him known to men, both from the wonders which manifest themselves in His works, and from the names which express the manifold variety of His power, lead men, as by the hand, to the understanding of the Divine nature, making known to them the bare grandeur of the thought of God; while the question of His essence, as one which it is impossible to grasp, and which bears no fruit to the curious enquirer, they dismiss without any attempt at its solution. For whereas they have set forth respecting all other things, that they were created, the heaven, the earth, the sea, times, ages, and the creatures that are therein, but what each is in itself, and how and whence, on these points they are silent; so, too, concerning God Himself, they exhort men to "believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Himhyperlink ," but in regard to His nature, as being above every name, they neither name it nor concern themselves about it. For if we have learned any names expressive of the knowledge of God, all these are related and have analogy to such names as denote human characteristics. For as they who would indicate some person unknown by marks of recognition speak of him as of good parentage and descent, if such happen to be the case, or as distinguished for his riches or his worth, or as in the prime of life, or of such or such stature, and in so speaking they do not set forth the nature of the person indicated, but give certain notes of recognition (for neither advantages of birth, nor of wealth, nor of reputation, nor of age, constitute the man; they are considered, simply as being observable in the man), thus too the expressions of Holy Scripture devised for the glory of God set forth one or another of the things which are declared concerning Him, each inculcating some special teaching. For by these expressions we are taught either His power, or that He admits not of deterioration, or that He is without cause and without limit, or that He is supreme above all things, or, in short, something, be it what it may, respecting Him. But His very essence, as not to be conceived by the human intellect or expressed in words, this it has left untouched as a thing not to be made the subject of curious enquiry, ruling that it be revered in silence, in that it forbids the investigation of things too deep for us, while it enjoins the duty of being slow to utter any word before God. And therefore, whosoever searches the whole of Revelation will find therein no doctrine of the Divine nature, nor indeed of anything else that has a substantial existence, so that we pass our lives in ignorance of much, being ignorant first of all of ourselves, as men, and then of all things besides. For who is there who has arrived at a comprehension of his own soul? Who is acquainted with its very essence, whether it is material or immaterial, whether it is purely incorporeal, or whether it exhibits anything of a corporeal character; how it comes into being, how it is composed, whence it enters into the body, how it departs from it, or what means it possesses to unite it to the nature of the body; how, being intangible and without form, it is kept within its own sphere, what difference exists among its powers, how one and the same soul, in its eager curiosity to know the things which are unseen, soars above the highest heavens, and again, dragged down by the weight of the body, falls back on material passions, anger and fear, pain and pleasure, pity and cruelty, hope and memory, cowardice and audacity, friendship and hatred, and all the contraries that are produced in the faculties of the soul? Observing which things, who has not fancied that he has a sort of populace of souls crowded together in himself, each of the aforesaid passions differing widely from the rest, and, where it prevails, holding lordship over them all, so that even the rational faculty falls under and is subject to the predominating power of such forces, and contributes its own co-operation to such impulses, as to a despotic lord? What word, then, of the inspired Scripture has taught us the manifold and multiform character of what we understand in speaking of the soul? Is it a unity composed of them all, and, if so, what is it that blends and harmonizes things mutually opposed, so that many things become one, while each element, taken by itself, is shut up in the soul as in some ample vessel? And how is it that we have not the perception of them all as being involved in it, being at one and the same time confident and afraid, at once hating and loving and feeling in ourselves the working as well of all other emotions confused and intermingled; but, on the contrary, take knowledge only of their alternate control, when one of them prevails, the rest remaining quiescent? What in short is this composition and arrangement, and this capacious void within us, such that to each is assigned its own post, as though hindered by middle walls of partition from holding intercourse with its neighbour? And then again what account has explained whether passion is the fundamental essence of the soul, or fear, or any of the other elements which I have mentioned; and what emotions are unsubstantial? For if these have an independent subsistence, then, as I have said, there is comprehended in ourselves not one soul, but a collection of souls, each of them occupying its distinct position as a particular and individual soul. But if we must suppose these to be a kind of emotion without subsistence, how can that which has no essential existence exercise lordship over us, having reduced us as it were to slave under whichsoever of these things may have happened to prevail? And if the soul is something that thought only can grasp, how can that which is manifold and composite be contemplated as such, when such an object ought to be contemplated by itself, independently of these bodily qualities? Then, as to the soul's power of growth, of desire, of nutrition, of change, and the fact that all the bodily powers are nourished, while feeling does not extend through all, but, as in things without life, some of our members are destitute of feeling, the bones for example, the cartilages, the nails, the hair, all of which take nourishment, but do not feel,-tell me who is there that understands this only half-complete operation of the soul as to these? And why do I speak of the soul? Even the inquiry as to that thing in the flesh itself which assumes all the corporeal qualities has not been pursued to any definite result. For if any one has made a mental analysis of that which is seen into its component parts, and, having stripped the object of its qualities, has attempted to consider it by itself, I fail to see what will have been left for investigation. For when you take from a body its colour, its shape, its degree of resistance, its weight, its quantity, its position, its forces active or passive, its relation to other objects, what remains, that can still be called a body, we can neither see of ourselves, nor are we taught it by Scripture. But how can he who is ignorant of himself take knowledge of anything that is above himself? And if a man is familiarized with such ignorance of himself, is he not plainly taught by the very fact not to be astonished at any of the mysteries that are without? Wherefore also, of the elements of the world, we know only so much by our senses as to enable us to receive what they severally supply for our living. But we possess no knowledge of their substance, nor do we count it loss to be ignorant of it. For what does it profit me to inquire curiously into the nature of fire, how it is struck out, how it is kindled, how, when it has caught hold of the fuel supplied to it, it does not let it go till it has devoured and consumed its prey; how the spark is latent in the flint, how steel, cold as it is to the touch, generates fire, how sticks rubbed together kindle flame how water shining in the sun causes a flash; and then again the cause of its upward tendency, its power of incessant motion?-Putting aside all which curious questions and investigations, we give heed only to the subservience of this fire to life, seeing that he who avails himself of its service fares no worse than he who busies himself with inquiries into its nature.

Wherefore Holy Scripture omits all idle inquiry into substance as superfluous and unnecessary. And methinks it was for this that John, the Son of Thunder, who with the loud voice of the doctrines contained in his Gospel rose above that of the preaching which heralded them, said at the close of his Gospel, "There are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be writtenhyperlink ." He certainly does not mean by these the miracles of healing, for of these the narrative leaves none unrecorded, even though it does not mention the names of all who were healed. For when he tells us that the dead were raised, that the blind received their sight, that the deaf heard, that the lame walked, and that He healed all manner of sickness and all manner of disease, he does not in this leave any miracle unrecorded, but embraces each and all in these general terms. But it may be that the Evangelist means this in his profound wisdom: that we are to learn the majesty of the Son of God not by the miracles alone which He did in the flesh. For these are little compared with the greatness of His other work. "But look thou up to Heaven! Behold its glories! Transfer your thought to the wide compass of the earth, and the watery depths! Embrace with your mind the whole world, and when you have come to the knowledge of supramundane nature, learn that these are the true works of Him Who sojourned for thee in the flesh," which (saith he), "if each were written"-and the essence, manner, origin, and extent of each given-the world itself could not contain the fulness of Christ's teaching about the world itself. For since God hath made all things in wisdom, and to His wisdom there is no limit (for "His understanding," saith the Scripture, "is infinite"hyperlink ), the world, that is bounded by limits of its own, cannot contain within itself the account of infinite wisdom. If, then, the whole world is too little to contain the teaching of the works of God, how many worlds could contain an account of the Lord of them all? For perhaps it will not be denied even by the tongue of the blasphemer that the Maker of all things, which have been created by the mere fiat of His will, is infinitely greater than all. If, then, the whole creation cannot contain what might be said respecting itself (for so, according to our explanation, the great Evangelist testifies), how should human shallowness contain all that might be said of the Lord of Creation? Let those grand talkers inform us what man is, in comparison with the universe, what geometrical point is so without magnitude, which of the atoms of Epicurus is capable of such infinitesimal reduction in the vain fancy of those who make such problems the object of their study, which of them falls so little short of non-existence, as human shallowness, when compared with the universe. As saith also great David, with a true insight into human weakness, "Mine age is as nothing unto Theehyperlink ," not saying that it is absolutely nothing, but signifying, by this comparison to the non-existent, that what is so exceedingly brief is next to nothing at all.

But, nevertheless, with only such a nature for their base of operations, they open their mouths wide against the unspeakable Power, and encompass by one appellation the infinite nature, confining the Divine essence within the narrow limits of the term ungeneracy, that they may thereby pave a way for their blasphemy against the Only-begotten; but although the great Basil had corrected this false opinion, and pointed out, in regard to the terms, that they have no existence in nature, but are attached as conceptions to the things signified, so far are they from returning to the truth, that they stick to what they have once advanced, as to birdlime, and will not loose their hold of their fallacious mode of argument, nor do they allow the term "ungeneracy" to be used in the way of a mental conception, but make it represent the Divine nature itself. Now to go through their whole argument, and to attempt to overthrow it by discussing word by word their frivolous and long-winded nonsense, would be a task requiring much leisure, and time, and freedom from calls of business. Just as I hear that Eunomius, after applying himself at his leisure, and laboriously, for a number of years exceeding those of the Trojan war, has fabricated this dream for himself in his deep slumbers studiously seeking, not how to interpret any of the ideas which he has arrived at, but how to drag and force them into keeping with his phrases, and going round and collecting out of certain books the words in them that sound grandest. And as beggars in lack of clothing pin and tack together tunics for themselves out of rags, so he, cropping here a phrase and there a phrase, has woven together for himself the patchwork of his treatise, glueing in and fixing together the joinings of his diction with much labour and pains, displaying therein a petty and juvenile ambition for combat, which any man who has an eye to actuality would disdain, just as a steadfast wrestler, no longer in the prime of life, would disdain to play the woman by over-niceness in dress. But to me it seems that, when the scope of the whole question has been briefly run through, his roundabout flourishes may well be let alone.

I have said, then (for I make my master's words my own), that reason supplies us with but a dim and imperfect comprehension of the Divine nature; nevertheless, the knowledge that: we gather from the terms which piety allows us to apply to it is sufficient for our limited capacity. Now we do not say that all these terms have a uniform significance; for some of them express qualities inherent in God, and others qualities that are not, as when we say that He is just or incorruptible, by the term "just" signifying that justice is found in Him, and by "incorruptible" that corruption is not. Again, by a change of meaning, we may apply terms to God in the way of accommodation, so that what is proper to God may be represented by a term which in no wise belongs to Him, and what is foreign to His nature may be represented by what belongs to Him. For whereas justice is the contradictory of injustice, and everlastingness the contrary of destruction, we may filly and without impropriety employ contraries in speaking of God, as when we say that He is ever existent, or that He is not unjust, which is equivalent to saying that He is just, and that He admits not of corruption. So, too, we may say that other names of God, by a certain change of signification, may be suitably employed to express either meaning, for example "good," and "immortal," and all expressions of like formation; for each of these terms, according as it is taken, is capable of indicating what does or what does not appertain to the Divine nature, so that, notwithstanding the formal change, our orthodox opinion in regard to the object remains immovably fixed. For it amounts to the same, whether we speak of God as unsusceptible of evil, or whether we call Him good; whether we confess that He is immortal, or say that He ever liveth. For we understand no difference in the sense of these terms, but we signify one and the same thing by both, though the one may seem to convey the notion of affirmation, and the other of negation. And so again, when we speak of God as the First Cause of all things, or again, when we speak of Him as without cause, we are guilty of no contradiction in sense, declaring as we do by either name that God is the prime Ruler and First Cause of all. Accordingly when we speak of Him as without cause, and as Lord of all, in the former case we signify what does not attach to Him, in the latter case what does; it being possible, as I have said, by a change of the things signified, to give an opposite sense to the words that express them, and to signify a property by a word which for the time takes a negative form, and vice versa. For it is allowable, instead of saying that He Himself has no primal cause, to describe Him as the First Cause of all, and again, instead of this, to hold that He alone exists ungenerately, so that while the words seem by the formal change to be at variance with each other, the sense remains one and the same. For the object to be aimed at, in questions respecting God, is not to produce a dulcet and melodious harmony of words, but to work out an orthodox formula of thought, whereby a worthy conception of God may be ensured. Since, then, it is only orthodox to infer that He Who is the First Cause of all is Himself without cause, if this opinion is established, what further contention of words remains for men of sense and judgment, when every word whereby such a notion is conveyed to us has the same signification? For whether you say that He is the First Cause and Principle of all, or speak of Him as without origin, whether you speak of Him as of ungenerate or eternal subsistence, as the Cause of all or as alone without cause, all these words are, in a manner, of like force, and equivalent to one another, as far as the meaning of the things signified is concerned; and it is mere folly to contend for this or that vocal intonation, as if orthodoxy were a thing of sounds and syllables rather than of the mind. This view, then, has been carefully enunciated by our great master, whereby all whose eyes are not blindfolded by the veil of heresy may clearly see that, whatever be the nature of God, He is not to be apprehended by sense, and that He transcends reason, though human thought, busying itself with curious inquiry, with such help of reason as it can command, stretches out its hand and just touches His unapproachable and sublime nature, being neither keen-sighted enough to see clearly what is invisible, nor yet so far withheld from approach as to be unable to catch some faint glimpse of what it seeks to know. For such knowledge it attains in part by the touch of reason, in part from its very inability to discern it, finding that it is a sort of knowledge to know that what is sought transcends knowledge (for it has learned what is contrary to the Divine nature, as well as all that may fittingly be conjectured respecting it). Not that it has been able to gain full knowledge of that nature itself about which it reasons, but from the knowledge of those properties which are, or are not, inherent in it, this mind of man sees what alone can be seen, that that which is far removed from all evil, and is understood in all good, is altogether such as I should pronounce ineffable and incomprehensible by human reason.

But although our great master has thus cleared away all unworthy notions respecting the Divine nature, and has urged and taught all that may be reverently and fittingly held concerning it, viz. that the First Cause is neither a corruptible thing, nor one brought into being by any birth, but that it is outside the range of every conception of the kind; and that from the negation of what is not inherent, and the affirmation of what may be with reverence conceived to be inherent therein, we may best apprehend what He is-nevertheless this vehement adversary of the truth opposes these teachings, and hopes with the sounding word "ungeneracy" to supply a clear definition of the essence of God.

And yet it is plain to every one who has given any attention to the uses of words, that the word incorruption denotes by the privative particle that neither corruption nor birth appertains to God: just as many other words of like formation denote the absence of what is not inherent rather than the presence of what is; e. g. harmless, painless, guileless, undisturbed, passionless, sleepless, undiseasedhyperlink , impossible, unblamable, and the like. For all these terms are truly applicable to God, and furnish a sort of catalogue and muster of evil qualities from which God is separate. Yet the terms employed give no positive account of that to which they are applied. We learn from them what it is not; but what it is, the force of the words does not indicate. For if some one, wishing to describe the nature of man, were to say that it is not lifeless, not insentient, not winged, not four-fooled, not amphibious, he would not indicate what it is: he would simply declare what it is not, and he would be no more making untrue statements respecting man than he would be positively defining his subject. In the same way, from the many things which are predicated of the Divine nature, we learn under what conditions we may conceive God as existing, but what He is essentially, such statements do not inform us.

While, however, we strenuously avoid all concurrence with absurd notions in our thoughts of God, we allow ourselves in the use of many diverse appellations in regard to Him, adapting them to our point of view. For whereas no suitable word has been found to express the Divine nature, we address God by many names, each by some distinctive touch adding something fresh to our notions respecting Him,-thus seeking by variety of nomenclature to gain some glimmerings for the comprehension of what we seek. For when we question and examine ourselves as to what God is, we express our conclusions variously, as that He is that which presides over the system and working of the things that are, that His existence is without cause, while to all else He is the Cause of being; that He is that which has no generation or beginning, no corruption, no turning backward, no diminution of supremacy; that He is that in which evil finds no place, and from which no good is absent.

And if any one would distinguish such notions by words, he would find it absolutely necessary to call that which admits of no changing to the worse unchanging and invariable, and to call the First Cause of all ungenerate, and that which admits not of corruption incorruptible; and that which ceases at no limit immortal and never failing; and that which presides over all Almighty. And so, framing names for all other Divine attributes in accordance with reverent conceptions of Him, we designate them now by one name, now by another, according to our varying lines of thought, as power, or strength, or goodness, or ungeneracy, or perpetuity.

I say, then, that men have a right to such word-building, adapting their appellations to their subject, each man according to his judgment; and that there is no absurdity in this, such as our controversialist makes a pretence of, shuddering at it as at some gruesome hobgoblin, and that we are fully justified in allowing the use of such fresh applications of words in respect to all things that can be named, and to God Himself.

For God is not an expression, neither hath He His essence in voice or utterance. But God is of Himself what also He is believed to be, but He is named, by those who call upon Him, not what He is essentially (for the nature of Him Who alone is is unspeakable), but He receives His appellations from what are believed to be His operations in regard to our life. To take an instance ready to our hand; when we speak of Him as God, we so call Him from regarding Him as overlooking and surveying all things, and seeing through the things that are hidden. But if His essence is prior to His works, and we understand His works by our senses, and express them in words as we are best able, why should we be afraid of calling things by words of later origin than themselves? For if we stay to interpret any of the attributes of God till we understand them, and we understand them only by what His works teach us, and if His power precedes its exercise, and depends on the will of God, while His will resides in the spontaneity of the Divine nature, are we not clearly taught that the words which represent things are of later origin than the things themselves, and that the words which are framed to express the operations of things are reflections of the things themselves? And that this is so, we are clearly taught by Holy Scripture, by the mouth of great David, when, as by certain peculiar and appropriate names, derived from his contemplation of the works of God, he thus speaks of the Divine nature: "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, long-suffering, and of great goodnesshyperlink ." Now what do these words tell us? Do they indicate His operations, or His nature? No one will say that they indicate aught but His operations. At what time, then, after showing mercy and pity, did God acquire His name from their display? Was it before man's life began? But who was there to be the object of pity? Was it, then, after sin entered into the world? But sin entered after man. The exercise, therefore, of pity, and the name itself, came after man. What then? will our adversary, wise as he is above the Prophets, convict David of error in applying names to God derived from his opportunities of knowing Him? or, in contending with him, will he use against him the pretence in his stately passage as out of a tragedy, saying that "he glories in the most blessed life of God with names drown from human imagination, whereas it gloried in itself alone, long before men were born to imagine them"? The Psalmist's advocate will readily admit that the Divine nature gloried in itself alone even before the existence of human imagination, but will contend that the human mind can speak only so much in respect of God as its capacity, instructed by His works, will allow. "For," as saith the Wisdom of Solomon, "by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the Maker of them is seenhyperlink ."

But in applying such appellations to the Divine essence, "which passeth all understanding," we do not seek to glory in it by the names we employ, but to guide our own selves by the aid of such terms towards the comprehension of the things which are hidden. "I said unto the Lord," saith the Prophet, "Thou art my God, my goods are nothing unto Theehyperlink ." How then are we glorifying the most blessed life of God, as this man affirms, when (as saith the Prophet) "our goods are nothing unto Him"? Is it that he takes "call" to mean "glory in"? Yet those who employ the latter word rightly, and who have been trained to use words with propriety, tell us that the word "glory in" is never used of mere indication, but that that idea is expressed by such words as "to make known," "to show," "to indicate," or some other of the kind, whereas the word for "glory in" means to be proud of, or delight in a thing, and the like. But he affirms that by employing names drawn from human imagination we "glory in" the blessed life. We hold, however, that to add any honour to the Divine nature, which is above all honour, is more than human infirmity can do. At the same time we do not deny that we endeavour, by words and names devised with due reverence, to give some notion of its attributes. And so, following studiously in the path of due reverence, we apprehend that the first cause is that which has its subsistence not from any cause superior to itself. Which view, if so be one accepts it as true, is praiseworthy for its truth alone. But if one should judge it to be superior to other aspects of the Divine nature, and so should say that God, exulting and rejoicing in this alone, glories in it, as of paramount excellence, one would find support only from the Muse by whom Eunomius is inspired, when he says, that "ungeneracy" glories in itself, that which, mark you, he calls God's essence, and styles the blessed and Divine life.

But let us hear how, "in the way most needed, and the form that preceded" (for with such rhymes he again gives us a taste of the flowers of style), let us hear, I say, how by such means he proposes to refute the opinion formed of him, and to keep in the dark the ignorance of those whom he has deluded. For I will use our dithyrambist's own verbal inflections and phraseology. When, says he, we assert that words by which thought is expressed die as soon as they are uttered, we add that whether words are uttered or not, whether they are yet in existence or not, God was and is ungenerate. Let us learn, then, what connection there is between the conception or the formation of words, and the things which we signify by this or that mode of utterance. Accordingly, if God is ungenerate before the creation of man, we must esteem as of no account the words which indicate that thought, inasmuch as they are dispersed along with the sounds that express them, if such thought happen to be named after human notion. For to be, and to be called, are not convertible terms. But God is by His nature what He is, but He is called by us by such names as the poverty of our nature will allow us to make use of, which is incapable of enunciating thought except by means of voice and words. Accordingly, understanding Him to be without origin, we enunciate that thought by the term ungenerate. And what harm is it to Him Who indeed is, that He should be named by us as we conceive Him to be? For His ungenerate existence is not the result of His being called ungenerate, but the name is the result of the existence. But this our acute friend fails to see, nor does he take a clear view of his own positions. For if he did, he would certainly have left off reviling those who flamed the word ungeneracy to express the idea in their minds. For look at what he says, "Words so spoken perish as soon as they are spoken; but God both is and was ungenerate, both after the words were spoken and before. You see that the Supreme Being is what He is, before the creation of all things, whether silent or not, being what He is neither in greater nor in less degree; while the use of words and names was not devised till after the creation of man, endowed by God with the faculty of reason and speech."

If, then, the creation is of later date than its Creator, and man is the latest in the scale of creation, and if speech is a distinctive characteristic of man, and verbs and nouns are the component elements of speech, and ungeneracy is a noun, how is it that he does not understand that he is combating his own arguments?For we, on our side, say that by human thought and intelligence words have been devised expressive of things which they represent, and he, on his side, allows that those who employ speech are demonstrably later in point of time than the Divine life, and that the Divine nature is now, and ever has been, without generation. If, then, he allows the blessed life to be anterior to man (for to that point I return), and we do not deny man's later creation, but contend that we have used forms of speech ever since we came into being and received the faculty of reason from our Maker, and if ungeneracy is a word expressive of a special idea, and every word is a part of human speech,-it follows that he who admits that the Divine nature was anterior to man must at the same time admit that the name invented by man to express that nature was itself later in being. For it was not likely that the use of speech should be exercised before the existence of creatures to use it, any more than that farming should be exercised before the existence of farmers, or navigation before that of navigators, or in fact any of the occupations of life before that of life itself. Why, then, does he contend with us, instead of following his premises to their legitimate conclusion?

He says that God was what He is, before the creation of man. Nor do we deny it. For whatsoever we conceive of God existed before the creation of the world. But we maintain that it received its name after the namer came into being. For if we use words for this purpose, that they may supply us with teaching about the things which they signify, and it is ignorance alone that requires teaching, while the Divine Nature, as comprehending all knowledge, is above all teaching, it follows that names were invented to denote the Supreme Being, not for His sake, but for our own. For He did not attach the term ungeneracy to His nature in order that He Himself might be instructed. For He Who knoweth all things has no need of syllables and words to instruct Him as to His own nature and majesty.

But that we might gain some sort of comprehension of what with reverence may be thought respecting Him, we have stamped our different ideas with certain words and syllables, labelling, as it were, our mental processes with verbal formulae to serve as characteristic notes and indications, with the object of giving a clear and simple declaration of our mental processes by means of words attached to, and expressive of, our ideas. Why, then, does he find fault with our contention that the term ungeneracy was devised to indicate the existence of God without origin or beginning, and that, independently of all exercise of speech, or silence, or thought, and before the very idea of creation, God was and remains ungenerate? If, indeed, any one Should argue that God was not ungenerate till the name ungeneracy had been found, the man might be pardonable for writing as he has written, in contravention of such an absurdity. But if no one denies that He existed before speech and reason, whereas, while the form of words by which the meaning is expressed is said by us to have been devised by mental conception, the end and aim of his controversy with us is to show that the name is not of man's device, but that it existed before our creation, though by whom it was spoken I do not knowhyperlink , what has the assertion that God existed ungenerately before all things, and the contention thathyperlink mental conception is posterior to God, got to do with this aim of his? For that God is not a conception has been fully demonstrated, so that we may press him with the same sort of argument, and reply, so to say, in his own words, e. g. "It is utter folly to regard understanding as of earlier birth than those who exercise it"; or again, as he proceeds a little below, "Nor as though we intended this, i. e. to make men, the latest of God's works of creation, anterior to the conceptions of their own understanding." Great indeed would be the force of the argument, if any one of us, out of sheer folly and madness, should argue that God was a conception of the mind. But if this is not so, nor ever has been, (for who would go to such a pitch of folly as to assert that He Who alone is, and Who brought all else whatsoever into being, has no substantial existence of His own, and to make Him out to be a mere conception of a name?) why does he fight with shadows, contending with imaginary propositions? Is not the cause of this unreasonable litigiousness clear, that, feeling ashamed of the fallacy respecting ungeneracy with which his dupes have been deluded (since it has been proved that the word is very far removed from the Divine essence), he is deliberately shuffling up his arguments, shifting the controversy from words to things, so that by throwing all into confusion the unwary may more easily be seduced, by imagining that God has been described by us either as a conception, or as posterior in existence to the invention of human terminology; and thus, leaving our argument unrefuted, he is shifting his position to another quarter of the field? For our conclusion was, as I have said, that the term ungeneracy does not indicate the Divine nature, but is applicable to it as the result of a conception by which the fact that God subsists without prior cause is pointed at. But what they were for establishing was this: that the word was indicative of the Divine essence itself. Yet how has it been established that the word has this force? I suppose the handling of this question is in reserve in some other of his writings. But here he makes it his main object to show that God exists ungenerately, just as though some one were simply questioning him on such points as these-what view he held as to the term ungenerate, whether he thought it invented to show that the First Cause was without beginning and origin, or as declaring the Divine essence itself; and he, with much assumption of gravity and wisdom, were replying that he, for his part, had no doubt that God was the Maker of heaven and earth. How widely this method of proceeding differs from, and is unconnected with, his first contention, you may see, in the same way as you may see how little his fine description of his controversy with us is connected with the question at issue. For let us look at the matter in this wise.


17 Heb. xi. 8.

18 Psalm lxxxiv. 5, "in whose heart are thy ways;" but LXX. anabaseij en th kardia autou dieqeto.

19 Gen. xviii. 27.

20 Gen. xv. 6; Rom. iv. 22.

21 Rom. viii. 24.

22 Heb. xi. 27.

23 Ps. lxxxix. 6.

24 Ecclesiastes v. 2.

25 Heb. i. 1.

26 Heb. xi. 6.

27 S. John xxi. 25.

28 Ps. cxlvii. 5.

29 Ps. xxxix. 5. LXX. upostasij mou (not aiwn, which would be the exact equivalent to the Heb.).

30 Oehler notices that the Paris editt. have not these words, aupnon, anoson: but that John the Franciscan is a witness that they were in his codex (the Pithaltzoean): for he says, "after this follows aupnoj anqrwpoj, which have crept in from the oversight of a not aupnoj copyist, and therefore ought to be expurged:" not being aware that very ancient copies write anqrwpoj anoj, so that anoson is the true reading, having been changed, but not introduced, by the error of a copyist.

31 Ps. ciii. 8.

32 Wisdom xiii. 5.

33 Ps. xvi. 2. S. Gregory quotes the LXX. twn agaqwn mou ou xreian exeij, which is closely followed by the Vulgate "bonorum meorum non eges," and the Arab. "Thou needest not my good actions." Heb. "I have no good beyond thee."

34 Oehler's reading and stopping are both faulty here, viz., ouk oida peri tinoj legomenon ti koinon exei k. t. l. Manifestly the stop should be at legomenon, and the reading of the editt. para tinoj is right.