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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter XVIII.--Introduction to Proverbs viii. 22 continued. Contrast between the Father's operations immediately and naturally in the Son...

Select Works And Letters Or Athanasius by Athanasius

Chapter XVIII.--Introduction to Proverbs viii. 22 continued. Contrast between the Father's operations immediately and naturally in the Son...

Chapter XVIII. -- Introduction to Proverbs viii.22 continued. Contrast between the Father's operations immediately and naturally in the Son, instrumentally by the creatures; Scripture terms illustrative of this. Explanation of these illustrations; which should be interpreted by the doctrine of the Church; perverse sense put on them by the Arians, refuted. Mystery of Divine Generation. Contrast between God's Word and man's word drawn out at length. Asterius betrayed into holding two Unoriginates; his inconsistency. Baptism how by the Son as well as by the Father. On the Baptism of heretics. Why Arian worse than other heresies.

31. But the sentiment of Truth in this matter must not be hidden, but must have high utterance. For the Word of God was not made for us, but rather we for Him, and in Him all things were created .' Nor for that we were weak, was He strong and made by the Father alone, that He might frame us by means of Him as an instrument; perish the thought! it is not so. For though it had seemed good to God not to make things originate, still had the Word been no less with God, and the Father in Him. At the same time, things originate could not without the Word be brought to be; hence they were made through Him, -- and reasonably. For since the Word is the Son of God by nature proper to His essence, and is from Him, and in Him , as He said Himself, the creatures could not have come to be, except through Him. For as the light enlightens all things by its radiance, and without its radiance nothing would be illuminated, so also the Father, as by a hand , in the Word wrought all things, and without Him makes nothing. For instance, God said, as Moses relates, Let there be light,' and Let the waters be gathered together,' and let the dry land appear,' and Let Us make man ;' as also Holy David in the Psalm, He spake and they were made; He commanded and they were created .' And He spoke , not that, as in the case of men, some under-worker might hear, and learning the will of Him who spoke might go away and do it; for this is what is proper to creatures, but it is unseemly so to think or speak of the Word. For the Word of God is Framer and Maker, and He is the Father's Will . Hence it is that divine Scripture says not that one heard and answered, as to the manner or nature of the things which He wished made; but God only said, Let it become,' and he adds, And it became;' for what He thought good and counselled, that forthwith the Word began to do and to finish. For when God commands others, whether the Angels, or converses with Moses, or commands Abraham, then the hearer answers; and the one says, Whereby shall I know ?' and the other, Send some one else ;' and again, If they ask me, what is His Name, what shall I say to them ?' and the Angel said to Zacharias, Thus saith the Lord ;' and he asked the Lord, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on Jerusalem?' and waits to hear good words and comfortable. For each of these has the Mediator Word, and the Wisdom of God which makes known the will of the Father. But when that Word Himself works and creates, then there is no questioning and answer, for the Father is in Him and the Word in the Father; but it suffices to will, and the work is done; so that the word He said' is a token of the will for our sake, and It was so,' denotes the work which is done through the Word and the Wisdom, in which Wisdom also is the Will of the Father. And God said' is explained in the Word,' for, he says, Thou hast made all things in Wisdom;' and By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made fast;' and There is one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him .'

32. It is plain from this that the Arians are not fighting with us about their heresy; but while they pretend us, their real fight is against the Godhead Itself. For if the voice were ours which says, This it My Son ,' small were our complaint of them; but if it is the Father's voice, and the disciples heard it, and the Son too says of Himself, Before all the mountains He begat me ,' are they not fighting against God, as the giants in story, having their tongue, as the Psalmist says, a sharp sword for irreligion? For they neither feared the voice of the Father, nor reverenced the Saviour's words, nor trusted the Saints, one of whom writes, Who being the Brightness of His glory and the Expression of His subsistence,' and Christ the power of God and the Wisdom of God ;' and another says in the Psalm, With Thee is the well of life, and in Thy Light shall we see light,' and Thou madest all things in Wisdom ;' and the Prophets say, And the Word of the Lord came to me ;' and John, In the beginning was the Word;' and Luke, As they delivered them unto us which from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word ;' and as David again says, He sent His Word and healed them .' All these passages proscribe in every light the Arian heresy, and signify the eternity of the Word, and that He is not foreign but proper to the Father's Essence. For when saw any one light without radiance? or who dares to say that the expression can be different from the subsistence? or has not a man himself lost his mind who even entertains the thought that God was ever without Reason and without Wisdom? For such illustrations and such images has Scripture proposed, that, considering the inability of human nature to comprehend God, we might be able to form ideas even from these however poorly and dimly, and as far as is attainable . And as the creation contains abundant matter for the knowledge of the being of a God and a Providence (for by the greatness and beauty of the creatures proportionably the Maker of them is seen '), and we learn from them without asking for voices, but hearing the Scriptures we believe, and surveying the very order and the harmony of all things, we acknowledge that He is Maker and Lord and God of all, and apprehend His marvellous Providence and governance over all things; so in like manner about the Son's Godhead, what has been above said is sufficient, and it becomes superfluous, or rather it is very mad to dispute about it, or to ask in an heretical way, How can the Son be from eternity? or how can He be from the Father's Essence, yet not a part? since what is said to be of another, is a part of him; and what is divided, is not whole.

33. These are the evil sophistries of the heterodox; yet, though we have already shewn their shallowness, the exact sense of these passages themselves and the force of these illustrations will serve to shew the baseless nature of their loathsome tenet. For we see that reason is ever, and is from him and proper to his essence, whose reason it is, and does not admit a before and an after. So again we see that the radiance from the sun is proper to it, and the sun's essence is not divided or impaired; but its essence is whole and its radiance perfect and whole , yet without impairing the essence of light, but as a true offspring from it. We understand in like manner that the Son is begotten not from without but from the Father, and while the Father remains whole, the Expression of His Subsistence is ever, and preserves the Father's likeness and unvarying Image, so that he who sees Him, sees in Him the Subsistence too, of which He is the Expression. And from the operation of the Expression we understand the true Godhead of the Subsistence, as the Saviour Himself teaches when He says, The Father who dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works ' which I do; and I and the Father are one,' and I in the Father and the Father in Me .' Therefore let this Christ -- opposing heresy attempt first to divide the examples found in things originate, and say, Once the sun was without his radiance,' or, Radiance is not proper to the essence of light,' or It is indeed proper, but it is a part of light by division; and then let it divide Reason, and pronounce that it is foreign to mind, or that once it was not, or that it was not proper to its essence, or that it is by division a part of mind.' And so of His Expression and the Light and the Power, let it do violence to these as in the case of Reason and Radiance; and instead let it imagine what it will . But if such extravagance be impossible for them, are they not greatly beside themselves, presumptuously intruding into what is higher than things originate and their own nature, and essaying impossibilities ?

34. For if in the case of these originate and irrational things offsprings are found which are not parts of the essences from which they are, nor subsist with passion, nor impair the essences of their originals, are they not mad again in seeking and conjecturing parts and passions in the instance of the immaterial and true God, and ascribing divisions to Him who is beyond passion and change, thereby to perplex the ears of the simple and to pervert them from the Truth? for who hears of a son but conceives of that which is proper to the father's essence? who heard, in his first catechising , that God has a Son and has made all things by His proper Word, but understood it in that sense in which we now mean it? who on the rise of this odious heresy of the Arians, was not at once startled at what he heard, as strange , and a second sowing, besides that Word which had been sown from the beginning? For what is sown in every soul from the beginning is that God has a Son, the Word, the Wisdom, the Power, that is, His Image and Radiance; from which it at once follows that He is always; that He is from the Father; that He is like; that He is the eternal offspring of His essence; and there is no idea involved in these of creature or work. But when the man who is an enemy, while men slept, made a second sowing , of He is a creature,' and There was once when He was not,' and How can it be?' thenceforth the wicked heresy of Christ's enemies rose as tares, and forthwith, as bereft of every right thought, they meddle like robbers, and venture to say, How can the Son always exist with the Father?' for men come of men and are sons, after a time; and the father is thirty years old, when the son begins to be, being begotten; and in short of every son of man, it is true that he was not before his generation. And again they whisper, How can the Son be Word, or the Word be God's Image? for the word of men is composed of syllables , and only signifies the speaker's will, and then is over and is lost.'

35. They then afresh, as if forgetting the proofs which have been already urged against them, pierce themselves through ' with these bonds of irreligion, and thus argue. But the word of truth confutes them as follows: -- if they were disputing concerning any man, then let them exercise reason in this human way, both concerning His Word and His Son; but if of God who created man, no longer let them entertain human thoughts, but others which are above human nature. For such as he that begets, such of necessity is the offspring; and such as is the Word's Father, such must be also His Word. Now man, begotten in time, in time also himself begets the child; and whereas from nothing he came to be, therefore his word also is over and continues not. But God is not as man, as Scripture has said; but is existing and is ever; therefore also His Word is existing and is everlastingly with the Father, as radiance of light. And man's word is composed of syllables, and neither lives nor operates anything, but is only significant of the speaker's intention, and does but go forth and go by, no more to appear, since it was not at all before it was spoken; wherefore the word of man neither lives nor operates anything, nor in short is man. And this happens to it, as I said before, because man who begets it, has his nature out of nothing. But God's Word is not merely pronounced, as one may say, nor a sound of accents, nor by His Son is meant His command ; but as radiance of light, so is He perfect offspring from perfect . Hence He is God also, as being God's Image; for the Word was God ' says Scripture. And man's words avail not for operation; hence man works not by means of words but of hands, for they have being, and man's word subsists not. But the Word of God,' as the Apostle says, is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. ' He is then Framer of all, and without Him was made not one thing ,' nor can anything be made without Him.

36. Nor must we ask why the Word of God is not such as our word, considering God is not such as we, as has been before said; nor again is it right to seek how the word is from God, or how He is God's radiance, or how God begets, and what is the manner of His begetting . For a man must be beside himself to venture on such points; since a thing ineffable and proper to God's nature, and known to Him alone and to the Son, this he demands to be explained in words. It is all one as if they sought where God is, and how God is, and of what nature the Father is. But as to ask such questions is irreligious, and argues an ignorance of God, so it is not holy to venture such questions concerning the generation of the Son of God, nor to measure God and His Wisdom by our own nature and infirmity. Nor is a person at liberty on that account to swerve in his thoughts from the truth, nor, if any one is perplexed in such inquiries, ought he to disbelieve what is written. For it is better in perplexity to be silent and believe, than to disbelieve on account of the perplexity: for he who is perplexed may in some way obtain mercy , because, though he has questioned, he has yet kept quiet; but when a man is led by his perplexity into forming for himself doctrines which beseem not, and utters what is unworthy of God, such daring recurs a sentence without mercy. For in such perplexities divine Scripture is able to afford him some relief, so as to take rightly what is written, and to dwell upon our word as an illustration; that as it is proper to us and is from us, and not a work external to us, so also God's Word is proper to Him and from Him, and is not a work; and yet is not like the word of man, or else we must suppose God to be man. For observe, many and various are men's words which pass away day by day; because those that come before others continue not, but vanish. Now this happens because their authors are men, and have seasons which pass away, and ideas which are successive; and what strikes them first and second, that they utter; so that they have many words, and yet after them all nothing at all remaining; for the speaker ceases, and his word forthwith is spent. But God's Word is one and the same, and, as it is written, The Word of God endureth for ever ,' not changed, not before or after other, but existing the same always. For it was fitting, whereas God is One, that His Image should be One also, and His Word One and One His Wisdom .

37. Wherefore I am in wonder how, whereas God is One, these men introduce, after their private notions, many images and wisdoms and words , and say that the Father's proper and natural Word is other than the Son, by whom He even made the Son and that He who is really Son is but notionally called Word, as vine, and way, and door, and tree of life; and that He is called Wisdom also in name, the proper and true Wisdom of the Father, which coexist ingenerately with Him, being other than the Son, by which He even made the Son, and named Him Wisdom as partaking of it. This they have not confined to words, but Arius composed in his Thalia, and the Sophist Asterius wrote, what we have stated above, as follows: Blessed Paul said not that he preached Christ, the Power of God or the Wisdom of God,' but without the addition of the article, God's power' and God's wisdom ,' thus preaching that the proper Power of God Himself which is natural to Him, and co-existent in Him ingenerately, is something besides, generative indeed of Christ, and creative of the whole world, concerning which he teaches in his Epistle to the Romans thus, -- The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal Power and Godhead .' For as no one would say that the Godhead there mentioned was Christ, but the Father Himself, so, as I think, His eternal Power and Godhead also is not the Only Begotten Son, but the Father who begat Him .' And he teaches that there is another power and wisdom of God, manifested through Christ. And shortly after the same Asterius says, However His eternal power and wisdom, which truth argues to be without beginning and ingenerate, the same must surely be one. For there are many wisdoms which are one by one created by Him, of whom Christ is the first-born and only-begotten; all however equally depend on their Possessor. And all the powers are rightly called His who created and uses them: -- as the Prophet says that the locust, which came to be a divine punishment of human sins, was called by God Himself not only a power, but a great power; and blessed David in most of the Psalms invites, not the Angels alone, but the Powers to praise God.'

38. Now are they not worthy of all hatred for merely uttering this? for if, as they hold, He is Son, not because He is begotten of the Father and proper to His Essence, but that He is called Word only because of things rational , and Wisdom because of things gifted with wisdom, and Power because of things gifted with power, surely He must be named a Son because of those who are made sons: and perhaps because there are things existing, He has even His existence , in our notions only . And then after all what is He? for He is none of these Himself, if they are but His names : and He has but a semblance of being, and is decorated with these names from us. Rather this is some recklessness of the devil, or worse, if they are not unwilling that they should truly subsist themselves, but think that God's Word is but in name. Is not this portentous, to say that Wisdom coexists with the Father, yet not to say that this is the Christ, but that there are many created powers and wisdoms, of which one is the Lord whom they go on to compare to the caterpillar and locust? and are they not profligate, who, when they hear us say that the Word coexists with the Father, forthwith murmur out, Are you not speaking of two Unoriginates?' yet in speaking themselves of His Unoriginate Wisdom,' do not see that they have already incurred themselves the charge which they so rashly urge against us ? Moreover, what folly is there in that thought of theirs, that the Unoriginate Wisdom coexisting with God is God Himself! for what coexists does not coexist with itself, but with some one else, as the Evangelists say of the Lord, that He was together with His disciples; for He was not together with Himself, but with His disciples; -- unless indeed they would say that God is of a compound nature, having wisdom a constituent or complement of His Essence, unoriginate as well as Himself , which moreover they pretend to be the framer of the world, that so they may deprive the Son of the framing of it. For there is nothing they would not maintain, sooner than hold the truth concerning the Lord.

39. For where at all have they found in divine Scripture, or from whom have they heard, that there is another Word and another Wisdom besides this Son, that they should frame to themselves such a doctrine? True, indeed, it is written, Are not My words like fire, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces ?' and in the Proverbs, I will make known My words unto you ;' but these are precepts and commands, which God has spoken to the saints through His proper and only true Word, concerning which the Psalmist said, I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy words .' Such words accordingly the Saviour signifies to be distinct from Himself, when He says in His own person, The words which I have spoken unto you .' For certainly such words are not offsprings or sons, nor are there so many words that frame the world, nor so many images of the One God, nor so many who have become men for us, nor as if from many such there were one who has become flesh, as John says; but as being the only Word of God was He preached by John, The Word was made flesh,' and all things were made by Him .' Wherefore of Him alone, our Lord Jesus Christ, and of His oneness with the Father, are written and set forth the testimonies, both of the Father signifying that the Son is One, and of the saints, aware of this and saying that the Word is One, and that He is Only-Begotten. And His works also are set forth; for all things, visible and invisible, have been brought to be through Him, and without Him was made not one thing .' But concerning another or any one else they have not a thought, nor frame to themselves words or wisdoms, of which neither name nor deed are signified by Scripture, but are named by these only. For it is their invention and Christ-opposing surmise, and they make the most of the name of the Word and the Wisdom; and framing to themselves others, they deny the true Word of God, and the real and only Wisdom of the Father, and thereby, miserable men, rival the Manichees. For they too, when they behold the works of God, deny Him the only and true God, and frame to themselves another, whom they can shew neither by work, nor in any testimony drawn from the divine oracles.

40. Therefore, if neither in the divine oracles is found another wisdom besides this Son, nor from the fathers have we heard of any such, yet they have confessed and written of the Wisdom coexisting with the Father unoriginately, proper to Him, and the Framer of the world, this must be the Son who even according to them is eternally coexistent with the Father. For He is Framer of all, as it is written, In Wisdom hast Thou made them all .' Nay, Asterius himself, as if forgetting what he wrote before, afterwards, in Caiaphas's fashion, involuntarily, when urging the Greeks, instead of naming many wisdoms, or the caterpillar, confesses but one, in these words; -- God the Word is one, but many are the things rational; and one is the essence and nature of Wisdom, but many are the things wise and beautiful.' And soon afterwards he says again: -- Who are they whom they honour with the title of God's children? for they will not say that they too are words, nor maintain that there are many wisdoms. For it is not possible, whereas the Word is one, and Wisdom has been set forth as one, to dispense to the multitude of children the Essence of the Word, and to bestow on them the appellation of Wisdom.' It is not then at all wonderful, that the Arians should battle with the truth, when they have collisions with their own principles and conflict with each other, at one time saying that there are many wisdoms, at another maintaining one; at one time classing wisdom with the caterpillar, at another saying that it coexists with the Father and is proper to Him; now that the Father alone is unoriginate, and then again that His Wisdom and His Power are unoriginate also. And they battle with us for saying that the Word of God is ever, yet forget their own doctrines, and say themselves that Wisdom coexists with God unoriginately . So dizzied are they in all these matters, denying the true Wisdom, and inventing one which is not, as the Manichees who make to themselves another God, after denying Him that is.

41. But let the other heresies and the Manichees also know that the Father of the Christ is One, and is Lord and Maker of the creation through His proper Word. And let the Ario-maniacs know in particular, that the Word of God is One, being the only Son proper and genuine from His Essence, and having with His Father the oneness of Godhead indivisible, as we said many times, being taught it by the Saviour Himself. Since, were it not so, wherefore through Him does the Father create, and in Him reveal Himself to whom He will, and illuminate them? or why too in the baptismal consecration is the Son named together with the Father? For if they say that the Father is not all-sufficient, then their answer is irreligious , but if He be, for this it is right to say, what is the need of the Son for framing the worlds, or for the holy laver? For what fellowship is there between creature and Creator? or why is a thing made classed with the Maker in the consecration of all of us? or why, as you hold, is faith in one Creator and in one creature delivered to us? for if it was that we might be joined to the Godhead, what need of the creature? but if that we might be united to the Son a creature, superfluous, according to you, is this naming of the Son in Baptism, for God who made Him a Son is able to make us sons also. Besides, if the Son be a creature, the nature of rational creatures being one, no help will come to creatures from a creature , since all need grace from God. We said a few words just now on the fitness that all things should be made by Him; but since the course of the discussion has led us also to mention holy Baptism, it is necessary to state, as I think and believe, that the Son is named with the Father, not as if the Father were not all-sufficient, not without meaning, and by accident; but, since He is God's Word and own Wisdom, and being His Radiance, is ever with the Father, therefore it is impossible, if the Father bestows grace, that He should not give it in the Son, for the Son is in the Father as the radiance in the light. For, not as if in need, but as a Father in His own Wisdom hath God founded the earth, and made all things in the Word which is from Him, and in the Son confirms the Holy Laver. For where the Father is, there is the Son, and where the light, there the radiance; and as what the Father worketh, He worketh through the Son , and the Lord Himself says, What I see the Father do, that do I also;' so also when baptism is given, whom the Father baptizes, him the Son baptizes; and whom the Son baptizes, he is consecrated in the Holy Ghost . And again as when the sun shines, one might say that the radiance illuminates, for the light is one and indivisible, nor can be detached, so where the Father is or is named, there plainly is the Son also; and is the Father named in Baptism? then must the Son be named with Him .

42. Therefore, when He made His promise to the saints, He thus spoke; I and the Father will come, and make Our abode in him;' and again, that, as I and Thou are One, so they may be one in Us.' And the grace given is one, given from the Father in the Son, as Paul writes in every Epistle, Grace unto you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ .' For the light must be with the ray, and the radiance must be contemplated together with its own light. Whence the Jews, as denying the Son as well as they, have not the Father either; for, as having left the Fountain of Wisdom ,' as Baruch reproaches them, they put from them the Wisdom springing from it, our Lord Jesus Christ (for Christ,' says the Apostle, is God's power and God's wisdom ),' when they said, We have no king but Cæsar .' The Jews then have the penal award of their denial; for their city as well as their reasoning came to nought. And these too hazard the fulness of the mystery, I mean Baptism; for if the consecration is given to us into the Name of Father and Son, and they do not confess a true Father, because they deny what is from Him and like His Essence, and deny also the true Son, and name another of their own framing as created out of nothing, is not the rite administered by them altogether empty and unprofitable, making a show, but in reality being no help towards religion? For the Arians do not baptize into Father and Son, but into Creator and creature, and into Maker and work . And as a creature is other than the Son, so the Baptism, which is supposed to be given by them, is other than the truth, though they pretend to name the Name of the Father and the Son, because of the words of Scripture, For not he who simply says, O Lord,' gives Baptism; but he who with the Name has also the right faith . On this account therefore our Saviour also did not simply command to baptize, but first says, Teach;' then thus: Baptize into the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost;' that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of Baptism.

43. There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith , and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed. So Gentiles also, though the name of God is on their lips, incur the charge of Atheism , because they know not the real and very God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So Manichees and Phrygians , and the disciples of the Samosatene, though using the Names, nevertheless are heretics, and the Arians follow in the same course, though they read the words of Scripture, and use the Names, yet they too mock those who receive the rite from them, being more irreligious than the other heresies, and advancing beyond them, and making them seem innocent by their own recklessness of speech. For these other heresies lie against the truth in some certain respect, either erring concerning the Lord's Body, as if He did not take flesh of Mary, or as if He has not died at all, nor become man, but only appeared, and was not truly, and seemed to have a body when He had not, and seemed to have the shape of man, as visions in a dream; but the Arians are without disguise irreligious against the Father Himself. For hearing from the Scriptures that His Godhead is represented in the Son as in an image, they blaspheme, saying, that it is a creature, and everywhere concerning that Image, they carry about with them the phrase, He was not,' as mud in a wallet , and spit it forth as serpents their venom. Then, whereas their doctrine is nauseous to all men, forthwith, as a support against its fall, they prop up the heresy with human patronage, that the simple, at the sight or even by the fear may overlook the mischief of their perversity. Right indeed is it to pity their dupes; well is it to weep over them, for that they sacrifice their own interest for that immediate phantasy which pleasures furnish, and forfeit their future hope. In thinking to be baptized into the name of one who exists not, they will receive nothing; and ranking themselves with a creature, from the creation they will have no help, and believing in one unlike and foreign to the Father in essence, to the Father they will not be joined, not having His own Son by nature, who is from Him, who is in the Father, and in whom the Father is, as He Himself has said; but being led astray by them, the wretched men henceforth remain destitute and stripped of the Godhead. For this phantasy of earthly goods will not follow them upon their death; nor when they see the Lord whom they have denied, sitting on His Father's throne, and judging quick and dead, will they be able to call to their help any one of those who have now deceived them; for they shall see them also at the judgment-seat, repenting for their deeds of sin and irreligion.

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