Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.58 The Great Catechism Part 2

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to | Download

Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05: 25.01.58 The Great Catechism Part 2

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 05 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25.01.58 The Great Catechism Part 2

Other Subjects in this Topic:

Chapter VI.

But you will perhaps seek to know the cause of this error of judgment; for it is to this point that the train of our discussion tends. Again, then, we shall be justified in expecting to find some starting-point which will throw light on this inquiry also. An argument such as the following we have received by tradition from the Fathers; and this argument is no mere mythical narrative, but one that naturally invites our credence. Of all existing things there is a twofold manner of apprehension, the consideration of them being divided between what appertains to intellect and what appertains to the senses; and besides these there is nothing to be detected in the nature of existing things, as extending beyond this division. Now these two worlds have been separated from each other by a wide interval, so that the sensible is not included in those qualities which mark the intellectual, nor this last in those qualities which distinguish the sensible, but each receives its formal character from qualities opposite to those of the other. The world of thought is bodiless, impalpable, and figureless; but the sensible is, by its very name, bounded by those perceptions which come through the organs of sense. But as in the sensible world itself, though there is a considerable mutual opposition of its various elements, yet a certain harmony maintained in those opposites has been devised by the wisdom that rules the Universe, and thus there is produced a concord of the whole creation with itself, and the natural contrariety does not break the chain of agreement;in like manner, owing to the Divine wisdom,there is an admixture and interpenetration ofthe sensible with the intellectual department, in order that all things may equally have a share in the beautiful, and no single one of existing things be without its share in that superior world.For this reason the corresponding locality of the intellectual world is a subtitle and mobile essence, which, in accordance with its supramundane habitation, has in its peculiar nature large affinity with the intellectual part. Now, by a provision of the supreme Mind there is an intermixture of the intellectual with the sensible world, in order that nothing in creation may be thrown asidehyperlink as worthless, as says the Apostle, or be left without its portion of the Divine fellowship. On this account it is that the com mixture of the intellectual and sensible in man is effected by the Divine Being, as the description of the cosmogony instructs us. It tells us that God, taking dust of the ground, formed the man, and by an inspiration from Himself He planted life in the work of His hand, that thus the earthy might be raised up to the Divine, and so one certain grace of equal value might pervade the whole creation, the lower nature being mingled with the supramundane. Since, then, the intellectual nature had a previous existence, and to each of the angelic powers a certain operation was assigned, for the organization of the whole, by the authority that presides over all things, there was a certain power ordained to hold together and sway the earthly regionhyperlink , constituted for this purpose by the power that administers the Universe. Upon that there was fashioned that thing moulded of earth, an "image" copied from the superior Power. Now this living being was man. In him, by an ineffable influence, the godlike beauty of the intellectual nature was mingled. He to whom the administration of the earth has been consigned takes it ill and thinks it not to be borne, if, of that nature which has been subjected to him, any being shall be exhibited bearing likeness to his transcendent dignity. But the question, how one who had been created for no evil purpose by Him who framed the system of the Universe in goodness fell away, nevertheless, into this passion of envy, it is not a part of my present business minutely to discuss; though it would not be difficult, and it would not take long, to offer an account to those who are amenable to persuasion. For the distinctive difference between virtue and vice is not to be contemplated as that between two actually subsisting phenomena; but as there is a logical opposition between that which is and that which is not, and it is not possible to say that, as regards subsistency, that which is not is distinguished from that which is, but we say that nonentity is only logically opposed to entity, in the same way also the word vice is opposed to the word virtue, not as being any existence in itself, but only as becoming thinkable by the absence of the better. As we say that blindness is logically opposed to sight, not that blindness has of itself a natural existence, being only a deprivation of a preceding faculty, so also we say that vice is to be regarded as the deprivation of goodness, just as a shadow which supervenes at the passage of the solar ray. Since, then, the uncreated nature is incapable of admitting of such movement as is implied in turning or change or alteration, while everything that subsists through creation has connection with change, inasmuch as the subsistence itself of the creation had its rise in change, that which was not passing by the Divine power into that which is; and since the above-mentioned power was created too, and could choose by a spontaneous movement whatever he liked, when he had closed his eyes to the good and the ungrudging like one who in the sunshine lets his eyelids down upon his eyes and sees only darkness, in this way that being also, by his very unwillingness to perceive the good, became cognisant of the contrary to goodness. Now this is Envy. Well, it is undeniable that the beginning of any matter is the cause of everything else that by consequence follows upon it, as, for instance, upon health there follows a good habit of body, activity, and a pleasurable life, but upon sickness, weakness, want of energy, and life passed in distaste of everything; and so, in all other instances, things follow by consequence their proper beginnings. As, then, freedom from the agitation of the passions is the beginning and groundwork of a life in accordance with virtue, so the bias to vice generated by that Envy is the constituted road to all these evils which have been since displayed. For when once he, who by his apostacy from goodness had begotten in himself this Envy, had received this bias to evilhyperlink , like a rock, torn asunder from a mountain ridge, which is driven down headlong by its own weight, in like manner he, dragged away from his original natural propension to goodness and gravitating with all his weight in the direction of vice, was deliberately forced and borne away as by a kind of gravitation to the utmost limit of iniquity; and as for that intellectual power which he had received from his Creator to co-operate with the better endowments, this he made his assisting instrument in the discovery of contrivances for the purposes of vice, while by his crafty skill he deceives and circumvents man, persuading him to become his own murderer with his own hands. For seeing that man by the commission of the Divine blessing had been elevated to a lofty pre-eminence (for he was appointed king over the earth and all things on it; he was beautiful in his form, being created an image of the archetypal beauty; he was without passion in his nature, for he was an imitation of the unimpassioned; he was full of frankness, delighting in a face-to-face manifestation of the personal Deity),-all this was to the adversary the fuel to his passion of envy. Yet could he not by any exercise of strength or dint of force accomplish his purpose, for the strength of God's blessing over-mastered his own force. His plan, therefore, is to withdraw man from this enabling strength, that thus he may be easily captured by him and open to his treachery. As in a lamp when the flame has caught the wick and a person is unable to blow it out, he mixes water with the oil and by this devices will dull the flame, in the same way the enemy, by craftily mixing up badness in man's will, has produced a kind of extinguishment and dulness in the blessing, on the failure of which that which is opposed necessarily enters. For to life is opposed death, to strength weakness, to blessing curse, to frankness shame, and to all that is good whatever can be conceived as opposite. Thus it is that humanity is in its present evil condition, since that beginning introduced the occasions for such an ending.

Chapter VII.

Yet let no one ask, "How was it that, if God foresaw the misfortune that would happen to man from want of thought, He came to create him, since it was, perhaps, more to his advantage not to have been born than to be in the midst of such evils?" This is what they who have been carried away by the false teaching of the Manichees put forward for the establishment of their error, as thus able to show that the Creator of human nature is evil. For if God is not ignorant of anything that is, and yet man is in the midst of evil, the argument for the goodness of God could not be upheld; that is, if He brought forth into life the man who was to be in this evil. For if the operating force which is in accordance with the good is entirely that of a nature which is good, then this painful and perishing life, they say, can never be referred to the workmanship of the good, but it is necessary to suppose for such a life as this another author, from whom our nature derives its tendency to misery. Now all these and the like assertions seem to those who are thoroughly imbued with the heretical fraud, as with some deeply ingrained stain, to have a certain force from their superficial plausibility. But they who have a more thorough insight into the truth clearly perceive that what they say is unsound, and admits of speedy demonstration of its fallacy. In my opinion, too, it is well to put forward the Apostle as pleading with us on these points for their condemnation. In his address to the Corinthians he makes a distinction between the carnal and spiritual dispositions of souls; showing, I think, by what he says that it is wrong to judge of what is morally excellent, or, on the other hand, of what is evil, by the standard of the senses; but that, by withdrawing the mind from bodily phenomena, we must decide by itself and from itself the true nature of moral excellence and of its opposite. "The spiritual man," he says, "judgeth all thingshyperlink ." This, I think, must have been the reason of the invention of these deceptive doctrines on the part of those who propound them, viz. that when they define the good they have an eye only to the sweetness of the body's enjoyment, and so, because from its composite nature and constant tendency to dissolution that body is unavoidably subject to suffering and sicknesses, and because upon such conditions of suffering there follows a sort of sense of pain, they decree that the formation of man is the work of an evil deity. Since, if their thoughts had taken a loftier view, and, withdrawing their minds from this disposition to regard the gratifications of the senses, they had looked at the nature of existing things dispassionately, they would have understood that there is no evil other than wickedness. Now all wickedness has its form and character in the deprivation of the good; it exists not by itself, and cannot be contemplated as a subsistence. For no evil of any kind lies outside and independent of the will; but it is the non-existence of the good that is so denominated. Now that which is not has no substantial existence, and the Maker of that which has no substantial existence is not the Maker of things that have substantial existence. Therefore the God of things that are is external to the causation of things that are evil, since He is not the Maker of things that are non-existent. He Who formed the sight did not make blindness. He Who manifested virtue manifested not the deprivation thereof. He Who has proposed as the prize in the contest of a free will the guerdon of all good to those who are living virtuously, never, to please Himself, subjected mankind to the yoke of a strong compulsion, as if he would drag it unwilling, as it were his lifeless tool, towards the right. But if, when the light shines very brightly in a clear sky, a man of his own accord shuts his eyelids to shade his sight, the sun is clear of blame on the part of him who sees not.

Chapter VIII.

Nevertheless one who regards only the dissolution of the body is greatly disturbed, and makes it a hardship that this life of ours should be dissolved by death; it is, he says, the extremity of evil that our being should be quenched by this condition of mortality. Let him, then, observe through this gloomy prospect the excess of the Divine benevolence. He may by this, perhaps, be the more induced to admire the graciousness of God's care for the affairs of man. To live is desirable to those who partake of life, on account of the enjoyment of things to their mind; since, if any one lives in bodily pain, not to be is deemed by such an one much more desirable than to exist in pain. Let us inquire, then, whether He Who gives us our outfit for living has any other object in view than how we may pass our life under the fairest circumstances. Now since by a motion of our self-will we contracted a fellowship with evil, and, owing to some sensual gratification, mixed up this evil with our nature like some deleterious ingredient spoiling the taste of honey, and so, falling away from that blessedness which is involved in the thought of passionlessness, we have been viciously transformed-for this reason, Man, like some earthen potsherd, is resolved again into the dust of the ground, in order to secure that he may part with the soil which he has now contracted, and that he may, through the resurrection, be reformed anew after the original pattern; at least if in this life that now is he has preserved what belongs to that image. A doctrine such as this is set before us by Moses under the disguise of an historical mannerhyperlink . And yet this disguise of history contains a teaching which is most plain. For after, as he tells us, the earliest of mankind were brought into contact with what was forbidden, and thereby were stripped naked of that primal blessed condition, the Lord clothed these, His first-formed creatures, with coats of skins. In my opinion we are not bound to take these skins in their literal meaning. For to what sort of slain and flayed animals did this clothing devised for these humanities belong? But since all skin, after it is separated from the animal, is dead, I am certainly of opinion that He Who is the healer of our sinfulness, of His foresight invested man subsequently with that capacity of dying which had been the special attribute of the brute creation. Not that it was to last for ever; for a coat is something external put on us, lending itself to the body for a time, but not indigenous to its nature. This liability to death, then, taken from the brute creation, was, provisionally, made to envelope the nature created for immortality. It enwrapped it externally, but not internally. It grasped the sentient part of man; but laid no hold upon the Divine image. This sentient part, however, does not disappear, but is dissolved. Disappearance is the passing away into non-existence, but dissolution is the dispersion again into those constituent elements of the world of which it was composed. But that which is contained in them perishes not, though it escapes the cognisance of our senses.

Now the cause of this dissolution is evident from the illustration we have given of it. For since the senses have a close connection with what is gross and earthy, while the intellect is in its nature of a nobler and more exalted character than the movements involved in sensation, it follows that as, through the estimate which is made by the senses, there is an erroneous judgment as to what is morally good, and this error has wrought the effect of substantiating a contrary condition, that part of us which has thus been made useless is dissolved by its reception of this contrary. Now the bearing of our illustration is as follows. We supposed that some vessel has been composed of clay, and then, for some mischief or other, filled with melted lead, which lead hardens and remains in a non-liquid state; then that the owner of the vessel recovers it, and, as he possesses the potter's art, pounds to bits the ware which held the lead, and then remoulds the vessel after its former pattern for his own special use, emptied now of the material which had been mixed with it: by a like process the maker of our vessel, now that wickedness has intermingled with our sentient part, I mean that connected with the body, will dissolve the material which has received the evil, and, re-moulding it again by the Resurrection without any admixture of the contrary matter, will recombine the elements into the vessel in its original beauty. Now since both soul and body have a common bond of fellowship in their participation of the sinful affections, there is also an analogy between the soul's and body's death. For as in regard to the flesh we pronounce the separation of the sentient life to be death, so in respect of the soul we call the departure of the real life death. While, then, as we have said before, the participation in evil observable both in soul and body is of one and the same character, for it is through both that the evil principle advances into actual working, the death of dissolution which came from that clothing of dead skins does not affect the soul. For how can that which is uncompounded be subject to dissolution? But since there is a necessity that the defilements which sin has engendered in the soul as well should be removed thence by some remedial process, the medicine which virtue supplies has, in the life that now is, been applied to the healing of such mutilations as these. If, however, the soul remains unhealedhyperlink , the remedy is dispensed in the life that follows this. Now in the ailments of the body there are sundry differences, some admitting of an easier, others requiring a more difficult treatment. In these last the use of the knife, or cauteries, or draughts of bitter medicines are adopted to remove the disease that has attacked the body. For the healing of the soul's sicknesses the future judgment announces something of the same kind, and this to the thoughtless sort is held out as the threat of a terrible correctionhyperlink , in order that through fear of this painful retribution they may gain the wisdom of fleeing from wickedness: while by those of more intelligence it is believed to be a remedial process ordered by God to bring back man, His peculiar creature, to the grace of his primal condition. They who use the knife or cautery to remove certain unnatural excrescences in the body, such as wens or warts, do not bring to the person they are serving a method of healing that is painless, though certainly they apply the knife without any intention of injuring the patient. In like manner whatever material excrescences are hardening on our souls, that have been sensualized by fellowship with the body's affections, are, in the day of the judgmenthyperlink , as it were cut and scraped away by the ineffable wisdom and power of Him Who, as the Gospel says, "healeth those that are sickhyperlink ." For, as He says again, "they that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sickhyperlink ." Since, then, there has been inbred in the soul a strong natural tendency to evil, it must suffer, just as the excision of a warthyperlink gives a sharp pain to the skin of the body; for whatever contrary to the nature has been inbred in the nature attaches itself to the subject in a certain union of feeling, and hence there is produced an abnormal intermixture of our own with an alien quality, so that the feelings, when the separation from this abnormal growth comes, are hurt and lacerated. Thus when the soul pines and melts away under the correction of its sins, as prophecy somewhere tells ushyperlink , there necessarily follow, from its deep and intimate connection with evil, certain unspeakable and inexpressible pangs, the description of which is as difficult to render as is that of the nature of those good things which are the subjects of our hope. For neither the one nor the other is capable of being expressed in words, or brought within reach of the understanding. If, then, any one looks to the ultimate aim of the Wisdom of Him Who directs the economy of the universe, he would be very unreasonable and narrow-minded to call the Maker of man the Author of evil; or to say that He is ignorant of the future, or that, if He knows it and has made him, He is not uninfluenced by the impulse to what is bad. He knew what was going to be, yet did not prevent the tendency towards that which actually happened. That humanity, indeed, would be diverted from the good, could not be unknown to Him Who grasps all things by His power of foresight, and Whose eyes behold the coming equally with the past events. As, then, He had in sight the perversion, so He devised man's recall to good. Accordingly, which was the better way?-never to have brought our nature into existence at all, since He foresaw that the being about to be created would fall away from that which is morally beautiful; or to bring him back by repentance, and restore his diseased nature to its original beauty? But, because of the pains and sufferings of the body which are the necessary accidents of its unstable nature, to call God on that account the Maker of evil, or to think that He is not the Creator of man at all, in hopes thereby to prevent the supposition of His being the Author of what gives us pain,-all this is an instance of that extreme narrow-mindedness which is the mark of those who judge of moral good and moral evil by mere sensation. Such persons do not understand that that only is intrinsically good which sensation does not reach, and that the only evil is estrangement from the good. But to make pains and pleasures the criterion of what is morally good and the contrary, is a characteristic of the unreasoning nature of creatures in whom, from their want of mind and understanding, the apprehension of real goodness has no place. That man is the work of God, created morally noble and for the noblest destiny, is evident not only from what has been said, but from a vast number of other proofs; which, because they are so many, we shall here omit. But when we call God the Maker of man we do not forget how carefully at the outsethyperlink we defined our position against the Greeks. It was there shown that the Word of God is a substantial and personified being, Himself both God and the Word; Who has embraced in Himself all creative power, or rather Who is very power with an impulse to all good; Who works out effectually whatever He wills by having a power concurrent with His will; Whose will and work is the life of all things that exist; by Whom, too, man was brought into being and adorned with the highest excellences after the fashion of Deity. But since that alone is unchangeable in its nature which does not derive its origin through creation, while whatever by the uncreated being is brought into existence out of what was nonexistent, from the very first moment that it begins to be, is ever passing through change, and if it acts according to its nature the change is ever to the better, but if it be diverted from the straight path, then a movement to the contrary succeeds,-since, I say, man was thus conditioned, and in him the changeable element in his nature had slipped aside to the exact contrary, so that this departure from the good introduced in its train every form of evil to match the good (as, for instance, on the defection of life there was brought in the antagonism of death; on the deprivation of light darkness supervened; in the absence of virtue vice arose in its place, and against every form of good might be reckoned a like number of opposite evils), by whom, I ask, was man, fallen by his recklessness into this and the like evil state (for it was not possible for him to retain even his prudence when he had estranged himself from prudence, or to take any wise counsel when he had severed himself from wisdom),-by whom was man to be recalled to the grace of his original state? To whom belonged the restoration of the fallen one, the recovery of the lost, the leading back the wanderer by the hand? To whom else than entirely to Him Who is the the Lord of his nature? For Him only Who at the first had given the life was it possible, or fitting, to recover it when lost. This is what we are taught and learn from the Revelation of the truth, that God in the beginning made man and saved him when he had fallen.

Chapter IX.

Up to this point, perhaps, one who has followed the course of our argument will agree with it, inasmuch as it does not seem to him that anything has been said which is foreign to the proper conception of the Deity. But towards what follows and constitutes the strongest part of this Revelation of the truth, he will not be similarly disposed; the human birth, I mean, the growth of infancy to maturity, the eating and drinking, the fatigue and sleep, the sorrow and tears, the false accusation and judgment hall, the cross of death and consignment to the tomb. All these things, included as they are in this revelation, to a certain extent blunt the faith of the more narrow-minded, and so they reject the sequel itself in consequence of these antecedents. They will not allow that in the Resurrection from the dead there is anything consistent with the Deity, because of the unseemly circumstances of the Death. Well, I deem it necessary first of all to remove our thoughts for a moment from the grossness of the carnal element, and to fix them on what is morally beautiful in itself, and on what is not, and on the distinguishing marks by which each of them is to be apprehended. No one, I think, who has reflected will challenge the assertion that, in the whole nature of things, one thing only is disgraceful, and that is vicious weakness; while whatever has no connection with vice is a stranger to all disgrace; and whatever has no mixture in it of disgrace is certainly to be found on the side of the beautiful; and what is really beautiful has in it no mixture of its opposite. Now whatever is to be regarded as coming within the sphere of the beautiful becomes the character of God. Either, then, let them show that there was viciousness in His birth, His bringing up, His growth, His progress to the perfection of His nature, His experience of death and return from death; or, if they allow that the aforesaid circumstances of His life remain outside the sphere of viciousness, they will perforce admit that there is nothing of disgrace in this that is foreign to viciousness. Since, then, what is thus removed from every disgraceful and vicious quality is abundantly shown to be morally beautiful, how can one fail to pity the folly of men who give it as their opinion that what is morally beautiful is not becoming in the case of God?

Chapter X.

"But the nature of man," it is said, "is narrow and circumscribed, whereas the Deity is infinite. How could the infinite be included in the atomhyperlink ?" But who is it that says the infinitude of the Deity is comprehended in the envelopment of the flesh as if it were in a vessel? Not even in the case of our own life is the intellectual nature shut up within the boundary of the flesh. On the contrary, while the body's bulk is limited to the proportions peculiar to it, the soul by the movements of its thinking faculty can coincidehyperlink at will with the whole of creation. It ascends to the heavens, and sets foot within the deep. It traverses the breadth of the world, and in the restlessness of its curiosity makes its way into the regions that are beneath the earth; and often it is occupied in the scrutiny of the wonders of heaven, and feels no weight from the appendagehyperlink of the body. If, then, the soul of man, although by the necessity of its nature it is transfused through the body, yet presents itself everywhere at will, what necessity is there for saying that the Deity is hampered by an environment of fleshly nature, and why may we not, by examples which we are capable of understanding, gain some reasonable idea of God's plan of salvation? There is an analogy, for instance, in the flame of a lamp, which is seen to embrace the material with which it is suppliedhyperlink . Reason makes a distinction between the flame upon the material, and the material that kindles the flame, though in fact it is not possible to cut off the one from the other so as to exhibit the flame separate from the material, but they both united form one single thing. But let no one, I beg, associate also with this illustration the idea of the perishableness of the flame; let him accept only what is apposite in the image; what is irrelevant and incongruous let him reject. What is there, then, to prevent our thinking (just as we see flame fastening on the materialhyperlink , and yet not inclosed in it) of a kind of union or approximation of the Divine nature with humanity, and yet in this very approximation guarding the proper notion of Deity, believing as we do that, though the Godhead be in man, it is beyond all circumscription?

Chapter XI.

Should you, however, ask in what way Deity is mingled with humanity, you will have occasion for a preliminary inquiry as to what the coalescence is of soul with flesh. But supposing you are ignorant of the way in which the soul is in union with the body, do not suppose that that other question is bound to come within your comprehension; rather, as in this case of the union of soul and body, while we have reason to believe that the soul is something other than the body, because the flesh when isolated from the soul becomes dead and inactive, we have yet no exact knowledge of the method of the union, so in that other inquiry of the union of Deity with manhood, while we are quite aware that there is a distinction as regards degree of majesty between the Divine and the mortal perishable nature, we are not capable of detecting how the Divine and the human elements are mixed up together. The miracles recorded permit us not to entertain a doubthyperlink that God was born in the nature of man. But how-this, as being a subject unapproachable by the processes of reasoning, we decline to investigate. For though we believe, as we do, that all the corporeal and intellectual creation derives its subsistence from the incorporeal and uncreated Being, yet the whence or the how, these we do not make a matter for examination along with our faith in the thing itself. While we accept the fact, we pass by the manner of the putting together of the Universe, as a subject which must not be curiously handled, but one altogether ineffable and inexplicable.

Chapter XII.

If a person requires proofs of God's having been manifested to us in the flesh, let him look at the Divine activities. For of the existence of the Deity at all one can discover no other demonstration than that which the testimony of those activities supplies. When, that is, we take a wide survey of the universe, and consider the dispensations throughout the world, and the Divine benevolences that operate in our life, we grasp the conception of a power overlying all, that is creative of all things that come into being, and is conservative of them as they exist. On the same principle, as regards the manifestation of God in the flesh, we have established a satisfactory proof of that apparition of Deity, in those wonders of His operations; for in all his work as actually recorded we recognize the characteristics of the Divine nature. It belongs to God to give life to men, to uphold by His providence all things that exist. It belongs to God to bestow meat and drink on those who in the flesh have received from Him the boon of life, to benefit the needy, to bring back to itself, by means of renewed health, the nature that has been perverted by sickness. It belongs to God to rule with equal sway the whole of creation; earth, sea, air, and the realms above the air. It is His to have a power that is sufficient for all things, and above all to be stronger than death and corruption. Now if in any one of these or the like particulars the record of Him had been wanting, they who are external to the faith had reasonably taken exceptionhyperlink to the gospel revelation. But if every notion that is conceivable of God is to be traced in what is recorded of Him, what is there to hinder our faith?

Chapter XIII.

But, it is said, to be born and to die are conditions peculiar to the fleshly nature. I admit it. But what went before that Birth and what came after that Death escapes the mark of our common humanity. If we look to either term of our human life, we understand both from what we take our beginning, and in what we end. Man commenced his existence in a weakness and in a weakness completes it. But in the instance of the Incarnation neither did the birth begin with a weakness, nor in a weakness did the death terminate; for neither did sensual pleasure go before the birth, nor did corruption follow upon the death. Do you disbelieve this marvel? I quite welcome your incredulity. You thus entirely admit that those marvellous facts are supernatural, in the very way that you think that what is related is above belief. Let this very fact, then, that the proclamation of the mystery did not proceed in terms that are natural, be a proof to you of the manifestation of the Deity. For if what is related of Christ were within the bounds of nature, where were the Godhead? But if the account surpasses nature, then the very facts which you disbelieve are a demonstration that He who was thus proclaimed was God. A man is begotten by the conjunction of two persons, and after death is left in corruption. Had the Gospel comprised no more than this, you certainly would not have deemed him to be God, the testimony to whom was conveyed in terms peculiar only to our nature. But when you are told that He was born, and yet transcended our common humanity both in the manner of His birth, and by His incapacity of a change to corruption, it would be well if, in consequence of this, you would direct your incredulity upon the other point, so as to refuse to suppose Him to be one of those who have manifestly existed as mere men; for it follows of necessity that a person who does not believe that such and such a being is mere man, must be led on to the belief that He is God. Well, he who has recorded that He was born has related also that He was born of a Virgin. If, therefore, on the evidence stated, the fact of His being born is established as a matter of faith, it is altogether incredible, on the same evidence, that He was not born in the manner stated. For the author who mentions His birth adds also, that it was of a Virgin; and in recording His death bears further testimony to His resurrection from the dead. If, therefore, from what you are told, you grant that He both was born and died, on the same grounds you must admit that both His birth and death were independent of the conditions of human weakness,-in fact, were above nature. The conclusion, therefore, is that He Who has thus been shown to have been born under supernatural circumstances was certainly Himself not limited by nature.

Chapter XIV.

"Then why," it is asked, "did the Deity descend to such humiliation? Our faith is staggered to think that God, that incomprehensible, inconceivable, and ineffable reality, transcending all glory of greatness, wraps Himself up in the base covering of humanity, so that His sublime operations as well are debased by this admixture with the grovelling earth."

Chapter XV.

Even to this objection we are not at a loss for an answer consistent with our idea of God. You ask the reason why God was born among men. If you take away from life the benefits that come to us from God, you would not be able to tell me what means you have of arriving at any knowledge of Deity. In the kindly treatment of us we recognize the benefactor; that is, from observation of that which happens to us, we conjecture the disposition of the person who operates it. If, then, love of man be a special characteristic of the Divine nature, here is the reason for which you are in search, here is the cause of the presence of God among men. Our diseased nature needed a healer. Man in his fall needed one to set him upright. He who had lost the gift of life stood in need of a life-giver, and he who had dropped away from his fellowship with good wanted one who would lead him back to good. He who was shut up in darkness longed for the presence of the light. The captive sought for a ransomer, the fettered prisoner for some one to take his part, and for a deliverer he who was held in the bondage of slavery. Were these, then, trifling or unworthy wants to importune the Deity to come down and take a survey of the nature of man, when mankind was so miserably and pitiably conditioned? "But," it is replied, "man might have been benefited, and yet God might have continued in a passionless state. Was it not possible for Him Who in His wisdom framed the universe, and by the simple impulse of His will brought into subsistence that which was not, had it so pleased Him, by means of some direct Divine command to withdraw man from the reach of the opposing power, and bring him back to his primal state? Whereas He waits for long periods of time to come round, He submits Himself to the condition of a human body, He enters upon the stage of life by being born, and after passing through each age of life in succession, and then tasting death, at last, only by the rising again of His own body, accomplishes His object,-as if it was not optional to Him to fulfil His purpose without leaving the height of His Divine glory, and to save man by a single commandhyperlink , letting those long periods of time alone. Needful, therefore, is it that in answer to objections such as these we should draw out the counter-statement of the truth, in order that no obstacle may be offered to the faith of those persons who will minutely examine the reasonableness of the gospel revelation. In the first place, then, as has been partially discussed beforehyperlink , let us consider what is that which, by the rule of contraries, is opposed to virtue. As darkness is the opposite of light, and death of life, so vice, and nothing else besides, is plainly the opposite of virtue. For as in the many objects in creation there is nothing which is distinguished by its opposition to light or life, but only the peculiar ideas which are their exact opposites, as darkness and death-not stone, or wood, or water, or man, or anything else in the world,-so, in the instance of virtue, it cannot be said that any created thing can be conceived of as contrary to it, but only the idea of vice. If, then, our Faith preached that the Deity had been begotten under vicious circumstances, an opportunity would have been afforded the objector of running down our belief, as that of persons who propounded incongruous and absurd opinions with regard to the Divine nature. For, indeed, it were blasphemous to assert that the Deity, Which is very wisdom, goodness, incorruptibility, and every other exalted thing in thought or word, had undergone change to the contrary. If, then, God is real and essential virtue, and no mere existencehyperlink of any kind is logically opposed to virtue, but only vice is so; and if the Divine birth was not into vice, but into human existence; and if only vicious weakness is unseemly and shameful-and with such weakness neither was God born, nor had it in His nature to be born,-why are they scandalized at the confession that God came into touch with human nature, when in relation to virtue no contrariety whatever is observable in the organization of man? For neither Reason, nor Understandinghyperlink , nor Receptivity for science, nor any other like quality proper to the essence of man, is opposed to the principle of virtue.

Chapter XVI.

"But," it is said, "this change in our body by birth is a weakness, and one born under such condition is born in weakness. Now the Deity is free from weakness. It is, therefore, a strange idea in connection with God," they say, "when people declare that one who is essentially free from weakness thus comes into fellowship with weakness." Now in reply to this let us adopt the same argument as before, namely that the word "weakness" is used partly in a proper, partly in an adapted sense. Whatever, that is, affects the will and perverts it from virtue to vice is really and truly a weakness; but whatever in nature is to be seen proceeding by a chain peculiar to itself of successive stages would be more fitly called a work than a weakness. As, for instance, birth, growth, the continuance of the underlying substance through the influx and efflux of the aliments, the meeting together of the component elements of the body, and, on the other hand, the dissolution of its component parts and their passing back into the kindred elements. Which "weakness," then, does our Mystery assert that the Deity came in contact with? That which is properly called weakness, which is vice, or that which is the result of natural movements? Well, if our Faith affirmed that the Deity was born under forbidden circumstances, then it would be our duty to shun a statement which gave this profane and unsound description of the Divine Being. But if it asserts that God laid hold on this nature of ours, the production of which in the first instance and the subsistence afterwards had its origin in Him, in what way does this our preaching fail in the reverence that befits Him? Amongst our notions of God no disposition tending to weakness goes along with our belief in Him. We do not say that a physician is in weakness when he is employed in healing one who is sohyperlink . For though he touches the infirmity he is himself unaffected by it. If birth is not regarded in itself as a weakness, no one can call life such. But the feeling of sensual pleasure does go before the human birth, and as to the impulse to vice in all living men, this is a disease of our nature. But then the Gospel mystery asserts that. He Who took our nature was pure from both these feelings. If, then, His birth had no connection with sensual pleasure, and His life none with vice, what "weakness" is there left which the mystery of our religion asserts that God participated in? But should any one call the separation of body and soul a weaknesshyperlink , far more justly might he term the meeting together of these two elements such. For if the severance of things that have been connected is a weakness, then is the union of things that are asunder a weakness also. For there is a feeling of movement in the uniting of things sundered as well as in the separation of what has been welded into one. The same term, then, by which the final movement is called, it is proper to apply to the one that initiated it. If the first movement, which we call birth, is not a weakness, it follows that neither the second, which we call death, and by which the severance of the union of the soul and body is effected, is a weakness. Our position is, that God was born subject to both movements of our nature; first, that by which the soul hastens to join the body, and then again that by which the body is separated from the soul; and that when the concrete humanity was formed by the mixture of these two, I mean the sentient and the intelligent element, through that ineffable and inexpressible conjunction, this result in the Incarnation followed, that after the soul and body had been once united the union continued for ever. For when our nature, following its own proper course, had even in Him been advanced to the separation of soul and body, He knitted together again the disunited elements, cementing them, as it were, together with the cement of His Divine power, and recombining what has been severed in a union never to be broken. And this is the Resurrection, namely the return, after they have been dissolved, of those elements that had been before linked together, into an indissoluble union through a mutual incorporation; in order that thus the primal grace which invested humanity might be recalled, and we restored to the everlasting life, when the vice that has been mixed up with our kind has evaporated through our dissolution, as happens to any liquid when the vessel that contained it is broken, and it is spilt and disappears, there being nothing to contain it. For as the principle of death took its rise in one person and passed on in succession through the whole of human kind, in like manner the principle of the Resurrection-life extends from one person to the whole of humanity. For He Who reunited to His own proper body the soul that had been assumed by Himself, by virtue of that power which had mingled with both of these component elements at their first framing, then, upon a more general scale as it werehyperlink , conjoined the intellectual to the sentient nature, the new principle freely progressing to the extremities by natural consequence. For when, in that concrete humanity which He had taken to Himself, the soul after the dissolution returned to the body, then this uniting of the several portions passes, as by a new principle, in equal force upon the whole human race. This, then, is the mystery of God's plan with regard to His death and His resurrection from the dead; namely, instead of preventing the dissolution of His body by death and the necessary results of nature, to bring both back to each other in the resurrection; so that He might become in Himself the meeting-ground both of life and death, having re-established in Himself that nature which death had divided, and being Himself the originating principle of the uniting those separated portions.

Chapter XVII.

But it will be said that the objection which has been brought against us has not yet been solved, and that what unbelievers have urged has been rather strengthened by all we have said. For if, as our argument has shown, there is such power in Him that both the destruction of death and the introduction of life resides in Him, why does He not effect His purpose by the mere exercise of His will, instead of working out our salvation in such a roundabout way, by being born and nurtured as a man, and even, while he was saving man, tasting death; when it was possible for Him to have saved man without subjecting Himself to such conditions? Now to this, with all candid persons, it were sufficient to reply, that the sick do not dictate to their physicians the measures for their recovery, nor cavil with those who do them good as to the method of their healing; why, for instance, the medical man felt the diseased part and devised this or that particular remedy for the removal of the complaint, when they expected another; but the patient looks to the end and aim of the good work, and receives the benefit with gratitude. Seeing, however, as says the Prophethyperlink , that God's abounding goodness keeps its utility concealed, and is not seen in complete clearness in this present life-otherwise, if the eyes could behold all that is hoped for, every objection of unbelievers would be removed,-but, as it is, abides the ages that are coming, when what is at present seen only by the eye of faith must be revealed, it is needful accordingly that, as far as we may, we should by the aid of arguments, the best within our reach, attempt to discover for these difficulties also a solution in harmony with what has gone before.


24 1 Tim. iv. 4; "rejected" (R.V.), better than "refused" (A.V.).

25 This is not making the Devil the Demiurge, but only the "angel of the Earth." And as the celestial regions and atmosphere of the earth were assigned to "angelic powers," so the Earth itself and her nations were assigned to subordinate angels. Origen had already developed, or rather christianized, this doctrine. Speaking of the Confusion of Tongues, he says, "And so each (nation) had to be handed over to the keeping of angels more or less severe, and or this character or of that, according as each had moved a greater or less distance from the East, and had prepared more or less bricks for stone, and more or less slime for mortar; and had built up more or less. This was that they might be punished for their boldness. These angels who had already created for each nation its peculiar tongue, were to lead their charges into various parts according to their deserts: one for instance to some burning clime, another to one which would chastise the dwellers in it with its freezing: ...those who retained the original speech through not having moved from the East are the only ones that became `the portion of the Lord.

0' ...They, too, alone are to be considered as having been under a ruler who did not take them in hand to be punished as the others were' (c. Cels. v. 30-1).

26 "We affirm that it is not easy, or perhaps possible, even for a philosopher to know the origin of evil without its being made known to him by an inspiration of God, whence it comes, and how it shall vanish. Ignorance of God is itself in the list of evils; ignorance of His way of healing and of serving Him aright is itself the greatest evil: we affirm that no one whatever can possibly know the origin of evil, who does not see that the standard of piety recognized by the average of established laws is itself an evil. No one, either can know it who has not grasped the truth about the Being who is called the Devil; what he was at the first, and how he became such as he is."-Origen (c. Cels. iv. 65).

27 1 Cor. ii. 15.

28 istorikwteron kai di' ainigmatwn.

29 "Here," says Semler, "our Author reveals himself as a scholar of Origen, and other doctors, wh,, had imbibed the heathen thoughts of Plato, and wished to rest their system upon a future (purely) moral improvement." There is certainly too little room left here for the application to the soul and body in this life of Christ's atonement.

30 skuqrwpwn epanorqwsij, lit. "a correction consisting in terrible (processes)" (subjective genitive). The following passage will illustrate this: "Now this requires a deeper investigation, before it can be decided whether some evil powers have had assigned them ...certain duties, like the State-executioners, who hold a melancholy (tetagmenoi epi twn skuqrwpwn <\=85_pragmatwn) but necessary office in the Constitution." Origen, c. Cels. vii. 70.

31 in the day of the judgment. The reading ktisewj, which Hervetus has followed, must be wrong here.

32 S. Matt. ix. 12.

33 S. Mark ii. 17.

34 of a wart; murmhkiaj. Gregory uses the same simile in his treatise On the Soul (iii. p. 204). The following "scholium" in Greek is found in the margin of two mss. of that treatise, and in that of one ms. of this treatise: "There is an affection of the skin which is called a wart. A small fleshy excrescence projects from the skin, which seems a part of it, and a natural growth upon it: but this is not really so; and therefore it requires removal for its cure. This illustration made use of by Gregory is exceedingly appropriate to the matter in hand."

35 Ps. xxxix. Ps. (xxxviii.) 11: "When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away" (A. V).

36 i. e. Chapter 1., throughout.

37 tw atomw: here, the individual body of man: "individno corpusculo," Zinus translates. Theodoret in his second ("Unconfused") Dialogue quotes this very passage about the "infiniteness of the Deity," and a "vessel," to prove the two natures of Christ.

38 efaploutai.

39 efolkiw.

40 There is a touch of Eutychianism in this illustration of the union of the Two Natures; as also in Gregory's answer (c. Eunom. iii. 265; v. 589) to Eunomius' charge of Two Persons against the Nicene party, viz. that "the flesh with all its peculiar marks and properties is taken up and transformed into the Divine nature"; whence arose that antimeqistasij twn onomatwn, i.e. reciprocal interchange of the properties human and Divine, which afterwards occasioned the Monophysite controversy. But Origen had used language still more incautious; "with regard to his mortal body and his human soul, we believe that owing to something rare than communion with Him to actual union and intermingling it has acquired the highest qualities, and partakes of His Divinity, and so has changed into God" (c. Cels. iii. 41).

41 fastening on the material. The word (aptqsqai) could mean either "fastening on," or "depending on," or "kindled from" (it has been used in this last sense just above). Krabinger selects the second, "quae a subjecto depender."

42 dia twn istoroumenwn qaumatwn ouk amfiballomen.

43 paregrafonto.

44 Origin answering the same objections says "I know not what sort of alteration of mankind it is that Celsus wants, when he doubts whether it were not possible to improve man by a display of Divine power, without any one being sent in the course of nature (fusei) for that purpose. Does he want this to take place among mankind by a sudden appearance of God destroying evil in their hearts at a blow, and causing virtue to spring up there? One might well inquire if it were fitting or possible that such a thing should happen. But we will suppose that it is so. What then? How will our assent to the truth be (in that case) praiseworthy? You yourself process to recognize a special Providence: therefore you ought just as much to have told us, as we you, why it is that God, knowing the affairs of men, does not correct them, and by a single stroke of His power rid Himself of the whole family of evil. But we confidently assert that He does send messengers for this very purpose: for His words appealing to men's noblest emotions are amongst them. But whereas there had been already great differences between the various ministers of the Word, the reformation of Jesus went beyond them all in greatness; for He did not mean to heal the men of one little corner only of the world, but He came to save all;" c. Cels. iv. 3, 4.

45 Ch. v.

46 fusij.

47 to dianohtikon.

48 So Origen (c. Cels. iv. 15) illustrates the kenwsij and sugkatabasij of Christ: "Nor was this change one from the heights of excellence to the depths of baseness (to ponhrotaton), for how can goodness and love be baseness? If they were, it would be high time to declare that the surgeon who inspects or touches grievous and unsightly cases in order to heal them undergoes such a change from good to bad."

49 There is no one word in English which would represent the full meaning of pafoj. "Sufferance" sometimes comes nearest to it, but not here, where Gregory is attempting to express that which in no way whatever attached to the Saylout, i. e. moral weakness, as opposed to physical infirmity.

50 upon a more general scale as it were. The Greek here is somewhat obscure; the best reading is Krabinger's; genikwtwrw tini logw thn noeran ousian th aisfhth sugkatemicen. Hervetus' translation is manifestly wrong; "Is generosiorem quondam intelligentem essentiam commiscuit sensili principio."-Soul and body have been reunited by the Resurrection, on a larger scale and to a wider extent (logw), than in the former instance of a single Person (in the Incarnation), the new principle of life progressing to the extremities of humanity by natural consequence: genikwterw will thus refer by comparison to "the first framing of these component elements." Or else it contrasts the amount of life with that of death: and is to be explained by Rom. v. 15, "But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." Krabinger's translation, "generaliori quâdam ratione," therefore seems correct. The mode of the union of soul and body is described in Gregory's Treatise on the Soul as kreittwn logoj, and in his Making of Man as afrastoj logoj, but in neither is there any comparison but with other less perfect modes of union; i. e. the reference is to quality, not to quantity, as here.

51 the Prophet, i. e. David; Ps. xxxi. 19: wj polu to plhfoj thj xrhstothtoj sou, k.t.l. Hervetus translates Gregory here "divitiae benignitatis," as if he had found ploutoj in the text, which does not appear. Jerome twice translates the xrhstothj of LXX. by "bonitas"; Aquila and Symmachus have ti polu to agaqon sou. This is the later sense of xrhstothj, which originally meant "serviceableness" and then "uprightness" (Psalm xiii. 2, Psalm xiii. 4, Psalm xxxvi. 3, Psalm cxix. 66), rather than "kindness."