But since the heretics, reading the next verse, take a perverse view of that also, because it is written, He founded me before the world ,' namely, that this is said of the Godhead of the Word and not of His incarnate Presence , it is necessary, explaining this verse also, to shew their error.
73. It is written, The Lord in Wisdom founded the earth ;' if then by Wisdom the earth is founded, how can He who founds be founded? nay, this too is said after the manner of proverbs , and we must in like manner investigate its sense; that we may know that, while by Wisdom the Father frames and founds the earth to be firm and steadfast , Wisdom Itself is founded for us, that It may become beginning and foundation of our new creation and renewal. Accordingly here as before, He says not, Before the world He hath made me Word or Son,' lest there should be as it were a beginning of His making. For this we must seek before all things, whether He is Son , and on this point specially search the Scriptures ;' for this it was, when the Apostles were questioned, that Peter answered, saying, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God .' This also the father of the Arian heresy asked as one of his first questions; If Thou be the Son of God ;' for he knew that this is the truth and the sovereign principle of our faith; and that, if He were Himself the Son, the tyranny of the devil would have its end; but if He were a creature, He too was one of those descended from that Adam whom he deceived, and he had no cause for anxiety. For the same reason the Jews of the day were angered, because the Lord said that He was Son of God, and that God was His proper Father. For had He called Himself one of the creatures, or said, I am a work,' they had not been startled at the intelligence, nor thought such words blasphemy, knowing, as they did, that even Angels had come among their fathers; but since He called Himself Son, they perceived that such was not the note of a creature, but of Godhead and of the Father's nature . The Arians then ought, even in imitation of their own father the devil, to take some special pains on this point; and if He has said, He founded me to be Word or Son,' then to think as they do; but if He has not so spoken, not to invent for themselves what is not.
74. For He says not, Before the world He founded me as Word or Son,' but simply, He founded me,' to shew again, as I have said, that not for His own sake but for those who are built upon Him does He here also speak, after the way of proverbs. For this knowing, the Apostle also writes, Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ; but let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon .' And it must be that the foundation should be such as the things built on it, that they may admit of being well compacted together. Being then the Word, He has not, as Word , any such as Himself, who may be compacted with Him; for He is Only-begotten; but having become man, He has the like of Him, those namely the likeness of whose flesh He has put on. Therefore according to His manhood He is founded, that we, as precious stones, may admit of building upon Him, and may become a temple of the Holy Ghost who dwelleth in us. And as He is a foundation, and we stones built upon Him, so again He is a Vine and we knit to Him as branches, -- not according to the Essence of the Godhead; for this surely is impossible; but according to His manhood, for the branches must be like the vine, since we are like Him according to the flesh. Moreover, since the heretics have such human notions, we may suitably confute them with human resemblances contained in the very matter they urge. Thus He saith not, He made me a foundation,' lest He might seem to be made and to have a beginning of being, and they might thence find a shameless occasion of irreligion; but, He founded me.' Now what is founded is founded for the sake of the stones which are raised upon it; it is not a random process, but a stone is first transported from the mountain and set down in the depth of the earth. And while a stone is in the mountain, it is not yet founded; but when need demands, and it is transported, and laid in the depth of the earth, then forthwith if the stone could speak, it would say, He now founded me, who brought me hither from the mountain.' Therefore the Lord also did not when founded take a beginning of existence; for He was the Word before that; but when He put on our body, which He severed and took from Mary, then He says He hath founded me;' as much as to say, Me, being the Word, He hath enveloped in a body of earth.' For so He is founded for our sakes, taking on Him what is ours , that we, as incorporated and compacted and bound together in Him through the likeness of the flesh, may attain unto a perfect man, and abide immortal and incorruptible.
75. Nor let the words before the world' and before He made the earth' and before the mountains were settled' disturb any one; for they very well accord with founded' and created;' for here again allusion is made to the Economy according to the flesh. For though the grace which came to us from the Saviour appeared, as the Apostle says, just now, and has come when He sojourned among us; yet this grace had been prepared even before we came into being, nay, before the foundation of the world, and the reason why is kindly and wonderful. It beseemed not that God should counsel concerning us afterwards, lest He should appear ignorant of our fate. The God of all then, -- creating us by His own Word, and knowing our destinies better than we, and foreseeing that, being made good ,' we should in the event be transgressors of the commandment, and be thrust out of paradise for disobedience, -- being loving and kind, prepared beforehand in His own Word, by whom also He created us , the Economy of our salvation; that though by the serpent's deceit we fell from Him, we might not remain quite dead, but having in the Word the redemption and salvation which was afore prepared for us, we might rise again and abide immortal, what time He should have been created for us a beginning of the ways,' and He who was the First-born of creation' should become first-born' of the brethren,' and again should rise first-fruits of the dead.' This Paul the blessed Apostle teaches in his writings; for, as interpreting the words of the Proverbs before the world' and before the earth was,' he thus speaks to Timothy ; Be partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God, who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and brought to light life .' And to the Ephesians; Blessed be God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself .'
76. How then has He chosen us, before we came into existence, but that, as he says himself, in Him we were represented beforehand? and how at all, before men were created, did He predestinate us unto adoption, but that the Son Himself was founded before the world,' taking on Him that economy which was for our sake? or how, as the Apostle goes on to say, have we an inheritance being predestinated,' but that the Lord Himself was founded before the world,' inasmuch as He had a purpose, for our sakes, to take on Him through the flesh all that inheritance of judgment which lay against us, and we henceforth were made sons in Him? and how did we receive it before the world was,' when we were not yet in being, but afterwards in time, but that in Christ was stored the grace which has reached us? Wherefore also in the Judgment, when every one shall receive according to his conduct, He says, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world .' How then, or in whom, was it prepared before we came to be, save in the Lord who before the world' was founded for this purpose; that we, as built upon Him, might partake, as well-compacted stones, the life and grace which is from Him? And this took place, as naturally suggests itself to the religious mind, that, as I said, we, rising after our brief death, may be capable of an eternal life, of which we had not been capable , men as we are, formed of earth, but that before the world' there had been prepared for us in Christ the hope of life and salvation. Therefore reason is there that the Word, on coming into our flesh, and being created in it as a beginning of ways for His works,' is laid as a foundation according as the Father's will was in Him before the world, as has been said, and before land was, and before the mountains were settled, and before the fountains burst forth; that, though the earth and the mountains and the shapes of visible nature pass away in the fulness of the present age, we on the contrary may not grow old after their pattern, but may be able to live after them, having the spiritual life and blessing which before these things have been prepared for us in the Word Himself according to election. For thus we shall be capable of a life not temporary, but ever afterwards abide and live in Christ; since even before this our life had been founded and prepared in Christ Jesus.
77. Nor in any other way was it fitting that our life should be founded, but in the Lord who is before the ages, and through whom the ages were brought to be; that, since it was in Him, we too might be able to inherit that everlasting life. For God is good; and being good always, He willed this, as knowing that our weak nature needed the succour and salvation which is from Him. And as a wise architect, proposing to build a house, consults also about repairing it, should it at any time become dilapidated after building, and, as counselling about this, makes preparation and gives to the workmen materials for a repair; and thus the means of the repair are provided before the house; in the same way prior to us is the repair of our salvation founded in Christ, that in Him we might even be new-created. And the will and the purpose were made ready before the world,' but have taken effect when the need required, and the Saviour came among us. For the Lord Himself will stand us in place of all things in the heavens, when He receives us into everlasting life. This then suffices to prove that the Word of God is not a creature, but that the sense of the passage is right . But since that passage, when scrutinized, has a right sense in every point of view, it may be well to state what it is; perhaps many words may bring these senseless men to shame. Now here I must recur to what has been said before, for what I have to say relates to the same proverb and the same Wisdom. The Word has not called Himself a creature by nature, but has said in proverbs, The Lord created me;' and He plainly indicates a sense not spoken plainly' but latent , such as we shall be able to find by taking away the veil from the proverb. For who, on hearing from the Framing Wisdom, The Lord created me a beginning of His ways,' does not at once question the meaning, reflecting how that creative Wisdom can be created? who on hearing the Only-begotten Son of God say, that He was created a beginning of ways,' does not investigate the sense, wondering how the Only-begotten Son can become a Beginning of many others? for it is a dark saying ; but a man of understanding,' says he, shall understand a proverb and the interpretation, the words of the wise and their dark sayings .'
78. Now the Only-begotten and very Wisdom of God is Creator and Framer of all things; for in Wisdom hast Thou made them all ,' he says, and the earth is full of Thy creation.' But that what came into being might not only be, but be good , it pleased God that His own Wisdom should condescend to the creatures, so as to introduce an impress and semblance of Its Image on all in common and on each, that what was made might be manifestly wise works and worthy of God . For as of the Son of God, considered as the Word, our word is an image, so of the same Son considered as Wisdom is the wisdom which is implanted in us an image; in which wisdom we, having the power of knowledge and thought, become recipients of the All-framing Wisdom; and through It we are able to know Its Father. For he who hath the Son,' saith He, hath the Father also;' and he that receiveth Me, receiveth Him that sent Me .' Such an impress then of Wisdom being created in us, and being in all the works, with reason does the true and framing Wisdom take to Itself what belongs to its own impress, and say, The Lord created me for His works;' for what the wisdom in us says, that the Lord Himself speaks as if it were His own; and, whereas He is not Himself created, being Creator, yet because of the image of Him created in the works , He says this as if of Himself. And as the Lord Himself has said, He that receiveth you, receiveth Me ,' because His impress is in us, so, though He be not among the creatures, yet because His image and impress is created in the works, He says, as if in His own person, The Lord created me a beginning of His ways for His works.' And therefore has this impress of Wisdom in the works been brought into being, that, as I said before, the world might recognise in it its own Creator the Word, and through Him the Father. And this is what Paul said, Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shewed it unto them: for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made .' But if so, the Word is not a creature in essence ; but the wisdom which is in us and so called, is spoken of in this passage in the Proverbs.
79. But if this too fails to persuade them, let them tell us themselves, whether there is any wisdom in the creatures or not ? If not how is it that the Apostle complains, For after that in the Wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God ?' or how is it if there is no wisdom, that a multitude of wise men ' are found in Scripture? for a wise man feareth and departeth from evil ;' and through wisdom is a house builded ;' and the Preacher says, A man's wisdom maketh his face to shine;' and he blames those who are headstrong thus, Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire in wisdom concerning this .' But if, as the Son of Sirach says, He poured her out upon all His works; she is with all flesh according to His gift, and He hath given her to them that love Him ,' and this outpouring is a note, not of the Essence of the Very Wisdom and Only-begotten, but of that wisdom which is imaged in the world, how is it incredible that the All-framing and true Wisdom Itself, whose impress is the wisdom and knowledge poured out in the world, should say, as I have already explained, as if of Itself, The Lord created me for His works?' For the wisdom in the world is not creative, but is that which is created in the works, according to which the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handywork .' This if men have within them , they will acknowledge the true Wisdom of God; and will know that they are made really after God's Image. And, as some son of a king, when the father wished to build a city , might cause his own name to be printed upon each of the works that were rising, both to give security to them of the works remaining, by reason of the show of his name on everything, and also to make them remember him and his father from the name, and having finished the city might be asked concerning it, how it was made, and then would answer, It is made securely, for according to the will of my father, I am imaged in each work, for my name was made in the works;' but saying this, he does not signify that his own essence is created, but the impress of himself by means of his name; in the same manner, to apply the illustration, to those who admire the wisdom in the creatures, the true Wisdom makes answer, The Lord created me for the works,' for my impress is in them; and I have thus condescended for the framing of all things.
80. Moreover, that the Son should be speaking of the impress that is within us as if it were Himself, should not startle any one, considering (for we must not shrink from repetition ) that, when Saul was persecuting the Church, in which was His impress and image, He said, as if He were Himself under persecution, Saul, why persecutest thou Me ?' Therefore (as has been said), as, supposing the impress itself of Wisdom which is in the works had said, The Lord created me for the works,' no one would have been startled, so, if He, the True and Framing Wisdom, the Only-begotten Word of God, should use what belongs to His image as about Himself, namely, The Lord created me for the works,' let no one, overlooking the wisdom created in the world and in the works, think that He created' is said of the Substance of the Very Wisdom, lest, diluting the wine with water , he be judged a defrauder of the truth. For It is Creative and Framer; but Its impress is created in the works, as the copy of the image. And He says, Beginning of ways,' since such wisdom becomes a sort of beginning. and, as it were, rudiments of the knowledge of God; for a man entering, as it were, upon this way first, and keeping it in the fear of God (as Solomon says , The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom'), then advancing upwards in his thoughts and perceiving the Framing Wisdom which is in the creation, will perceive in It also Its Father , as the Lord Himself has said, He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father,' and as John writes, He who acknowledgeth the Son, hath the Father also .' And He says, Before the world He founded me ,' since in Its impress the works remain settled and eternal. Then, lest any, hearing concerning the wisdom thus created in the works, should think the true Wisdom, God's Son, to be by nature a creature, He has found it necessary to add, Before the mountains, and before the earth, and before the waters, and before all hills He begets me,' that in saying, before every creature' (for He includes all the creation under these heads), He may shew that He is not created together with the works according to Essence. For if He was created for the works,' yet is before them, it follows that He is in being before He was created. He is not then a creature by nature and essence, but as He Himself has added, an Offspring. But in what differs a creature from an offspring, and how it is distinct by nature, has been shewn in what has gone before.
81. But since He proceeds to say, When He prepared the heaven, I was present with Him ,' we ought to know that He says not this as if without Wisdom the Father prepared the heaven or the clouds above (for there is no room to doubt that all things are created in Wisdom, and without It was made not even one thing); but this is what He says, All things took place in Me and through Me, and when there was need that Wisdom should be created in the works, in My Essence indeed I was with the Father, but by a condescension to things originate, I was disposing over the works My own impress, so that the whole world as being in one body, might not be at variance but in concord with itself.' All those then who with an upright understanding, according to the wisdom given unto them, come to contemplate the creatures, are able to say for themselves, By Thy appointment all things continue ;' but they who make light of this must be told, Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools;' for that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has revealed it unto them; for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things that are made, even His eternal Power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, but served the creature more than the Creator of all, who is blessed for ever. Amen .' And they will surely be shamed at hearing, For, after that in the wisdom of God (in the mode we have explained above), the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe .' For no longer, as in the former times, God has willed to be known by an image and shadow of wisdom, that namely which is in the creatures, but He has made the true Wisdom Itself to take flesh, and to become man, and to undergo the death of the cross; that by the faith in Him, henceforth all that believe may obtain salvation. However, it is the same Wisdom of God, which through Its own Image in the creatures (whence also It is said to be created), first manifested Itself, and through Itself Its own Father; and afterwards, being Itself the Word, has become flesh ,' as John says, and after abolishing death and saving our race, still more revealed Himself and through Him His own Father, saying, Grant unto them that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent .'
82. Hence the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of Him; for the knowledge of Father through Son and of Son from Father is one and the same, and the Father delights in Him, and in the same joy the Son rejoices in the Father, saying, I was by Him, daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him .' And this again proves that the Son is not foreign, but proper to the Father's Essence. For behold, not because of us has He come to be, as the irreligious men say, nor is He out of nothing (for not from without did God procure for Himself a cause of rejoicing), but the words denote what is His own and like. When then was it, when the Father rejoiced not? but if He ever rejoiced, He was ever, in whom He rejoiced. And in whom does the Father rejoice, except as seeing Himself in His own Image, which is His Word? And though in sons of men also He had delight, on finishing the world, as it is written in these same Proverbs , yet this too has a consistent sense. For even thus He had delight, not because joy was added to Him, but again on seeing the works made after His own Image; so that even this rejoicing of God is on account of His Image. And how too has the Son delight, except as seeing Himself in the Father? for this is the same as saying, He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father,' and I am in the Father and the Father in Me .' Vain then is your vaunt as is on all sides shewn, O Christ's enemies, and vainly did ye parade and circulate everywhere your text, The Lord created me a beginning of His ways,' perverting its sense, and publishing, not Solomon's meaning, but your own comment . For behold your sense is proved to be but a fantasy; but the passage in the Proverbs, as well as all that is above said, proves that the Son is not a creature in nature and essence, but the proper Offspring of the Father, true Wisdom and Word, by whom all things were made,' and without Him was made not one thing. '