1. The Apostle in his letter to the Ephesians, reviewing in its manifold aspects the full and perfect mystery of the Gospel, mingles with other instructions in the knowledge of God the following: As ye also were called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, and through all, and in us all . He does not leave us in the vague and misleading paths of an indefinite teaching, or abandon us to the shifting fancies of imagination, but limits the unimpeded license of intellect and desire by the appointment of restraining barriers. He gives us no opportunity to be wise beyond what he preached, but defines in exact and precise language the faith fixed for all time, that there may be no excuse for instability of belief. He declares one faith, as he preaches one Lord, and pronounces one baptism, as he declares one faith of one Lord, that as there is one faith of one Lord, so there may be one baptism of one faith in one Lord. And since the whole mystery of the baptism and the faith is not only in one Lord, but also in one God, he completes the consummation of our hope by the confession of one God. The one baptism and the one faith are of one God, as they are of one Lord. Lord and God are each one, not by union of person but by distinction of properties: for, on the one hand, it is the property of Each to be one, whether of the Father in His Fatherhood, or of the Son in His Sonship, and on the other hand, that property of individuality, which Each possesses, constitutes for Each the mystery of His union with the Other. Thus the one Lord Christ cannot take away from God the Father His Lordship, or the one God the Father deny to the one Lord Christ His Godhead. If, because God is one, Christ is not also by nature divine, then we cannot allow that the one God is Lord, because there is one Lord Christ: that is, on the supposition that by their oneness' is signified not the mystery, but an exclusive unity. So there is one baptism and one faith of one Lord, as of one God.
2. But how can it be any longer one faith, if it does not steadfastly and sincerely confess one Lord and one God the Father: and how can the faith which is not one faith confess one Lord and one God the Father? Further, how can the faith be one, when its preachers are so at variance? One comes teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ, being in the weakness of our nature, groaned with anguish when the nails pierced His hands, that He lost the virtue of His own power and nature, and shrank shuddering from the death which threatened Him. Another even denies the cardinal doctrine of the Generation and pronounces Him a creature. Another will call Him, but not think Him, God on the ground that religion allows us to speak of more Gods than One, but He, Whom we recognise as God, must be conscious of sharing the divine nature . Again, how can Christ the Lord be one, when some say that as God He feels no pain, others make Him weak and fearful: to some He is God in name, to others God in nature: to some the Son by Generation, to others the Son by appellation? And if this is so, how can God the Father be one in the faith, when to some He is Father by His authority, to others Father by generation, in the sense that God is Father of the universe?
And yet, who will deny that whatever is not the one faith, is not faith at all? For in the one faith there is one Lord Christ, and God the Father is one. But the one Lord Jesus Christ is not one in the truth of the confession, as well as in name, unless He is Son, unless He is God , unless He is unchangeable, unless His Sonship and His Godhead have been eternally present in Him. He who preaches Christ other than He is, that is, other than Son and God, preaches another Christ. Nor is he in the one faith of the one baptism, for in the teaching of the Apostle the one faith is the faith of that one baptism, in which the one Lord is Christ, the Son of God Who is also God.
3. Yet it cannot be denied that Christ was Christ. It cannot be that He was incognisable to mankind. The books of the prophets have set their seal upon Him: the fulness of the times, which waxes daily, witnesses of Him: by the working of wonders the tombs of Apostles and Martyrs proclaim Him: the power of His name reveals Him: the unclean spirits confess Him, and the devils howling in their torment call aloud His name. In all we see the dispensation of His power. But our faith must preach Him as He is, namely, one Lord not in name but in confession, in one faith of one baptism: for on our faith in one Lord Christ depends our confession of one God the Father.
4. But these teachers of a new Christ, who deny to Him all that is His, preach another Lord Christ as well as another God the Father. The One is not the Begetter but the Creator, the Other not begotten, but created. Christ is therefore not very God, because He is not God by birth, and faith cannot recognise a Father in God, because there is no generation to constitute Him Father. They glorify God the Father indeed, as is His right and due, when they predicate of Him a nature unapproachable, invisible, inviolable, ineffable, and infinite, endued with omniscience and omnipotence, instinct with love, moving in all and permeating all, immanent and transcendent, sentient in all sentient existence. But when they proceed to ascribe to Him the unique glory of being alone good, alone omnipotent, alone immortal, who does not feel that this pious praise aims to exclude the Lord Jesus Christ from the blessedness, which by the reservation alone' is restricted to the glory of God? Does it not leave Christ in sinfulness and weakness and death, while the Father reigns in solitary perfection? Does it not deny in Christ a natural origin from God the Father, in the fear lest He should be thought to inherit by a birth, which bestows upon the Begotten the same virtue of nature as the Begetter, a blessedness natural to God the Father alone?
5. Unlearned in the teaching of the Gospels and Apostles, they extol the glory of God the Father, not, however, with the sincerity of a devout believer, but with the cunning of impiety, to wrest from it an argument for their wicked heresy. Nothing, they say, can be compared with His nature: therefore the Only-begotten God is excluded from the comparison, because He possesses a lower and weaker nature. And this they say of God, the living image of the living God, the perfect form of His blessed nature, the only-begotten offspring of His unbegotten substance; Who is not truly the image of God unless He possesses the perfect glory of the Father's blessedness: and reproduces in its exactitude the likeness of His whole nature. But if the Only-begotten God is the image of the Unbegotten God, the verity of that perfect and supreme nature resides in Him and makes Him the image of the very God. Is the Father omnipotent? The weak Son is not the image of omnipotence. Is He good? The Son, Whose divinity is of a lower stamp, does not reflect in His sinful nature the image of goodness. Is He incorporeal? The Son, Whose very spirit is confined to the limits of a body, is not in the form of the Incorporeal. Is He ineffable? The Son, Whom language can define, Whose nature the tongue can describe, is not the image of the Ineffable. Is He the true God? The Son possesses only a fictitious divinity, and the false cannot be the image of the True. The Apostle, however, does not ascribe to Christ a portion of the image, or a part of the form, but pronounces Him unreservedly the image of the invisible God and the form of God . And how could He declare more expressly the divine nature of the Son of God, than by saying that Christ is the image of the invisible God even in respect of His invisibility: for if the substance of Christ were discernible how could He be the image of an invisible nature?
6. But, as we pointed out in the former books, they seize the Dispensation of the assumed manhood as a pretext to dishonour His divinity, and distort the Mystery of our salvation into an occasion of blasphemy. Had they held fast the faith of the Apostle, they would neither have forgotten that He, Who was in the form of God, took the form of a servant, nor made use of the servant's form to dishonour the form of God (for the form of God includes the fulness of divinity), but they would have noted, reasonably and reverently, the distinction of occasions and mysteries, without dishonouring the divinity, or being misled by the Incarnation of Christ. But now, when we have, I am convinced, proved everything to the utmost, and pointed out the power of the divine nature underlying the birth of the assumed body, there is no longer room for doubt. He Who was at once man and the Only-begotten God performed all things by the power of God, and in the power of God accomplished all things through a true human nature. As begotten of God He possessed the nature of divine omnipotence, as born of the Virgin He had a perfect and entire humanity. Though He had a real body, He subsisted in the nature of God, and though He subsisted in the nature of God, He abode in a real body.
7. In our reply we have followed Him to the moment of His glorious death, and taking one by one the statements of their unhallowed doctrine, we have refuted them from the teaching of the Gospels and the Apostle. But even after His glorious resurrection there are certain things which they have made bold to construe as proofs of the weakness of a lower nature, and to these we must now reply. Let us adopt once more our usual method of drawing out from the words themselves their true signification, that so we may discover the truth precisely where they think to overthrow it. For the Lord spoke in simple words for our instruction in the faith, and His words cannot need support or comment from foreign and irrelevant sayings.
8. Among their other sins the heretics often employ as an argument the words of the Lord, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God . His Father is also their Father, His God their God; therefore He is not in the nature of God, for He pronounces God the Father of others as of Himself, and His unique Sonship ceases when He shares with others the nature and the origin which make Him Son and God. But let them add further the words of the Apostle, But when He saith All things are put in subjection, He is excepted Who did subject all things unto Him. And when all things have been subjected unto Him, then shall He Himself be subjected unto Him that did subject all things unto Himself, that God may be all in all , whereby, since they regard that subjection as a proof of weakness, they may dispossess Him of the virtue of His Father's nature, because His natural infirmity subjected Him to the dominion of a stronger nature. And after that, let them adopt their very strongest position and their impregnable defence, before which the truth of the Divine birth is to be demolished; namely, that if He is subjected, He is not God; if His God and Father is ours also, He shares all in common with creatures, and therefore is Himself also a creature: created of God and not begotten, since the creature has its substance out of nothing, but the begotten possesses the nature of its author.
9. Falsehood is always infamous, for the liar throwing off the bridle of shame dares to gainsay the truth, or else at times he hides behind some veil of pretext, that he may appear to defend with modesty what is shameless in intention. But in this case, when they sacrilegiously use the Scriptures to degrade the dignity of our Lord, there is no room for the blush or the false excuse; for there are occasions when even pardon accorded to ignorance is refused, and wilful misconstruction is exposed in its naked profanity. Let us postpone for a moment the exposition of this passage in the Gospel, and ask them first whether they have forgotten the preaching of the Apostle, who said, Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory . Who is so dull that he cannot comprehend that the mystery of godliness is simply the Dispensation of the flesh assumed by the Lord? At the outset then, he who does not agree in this confession is not in the faith of God. For the Apostle leaves no doubt that all must confess that the hidden secret of our salvation is not the dishonour of God, but the mystery of great godliness, and a mystery no longer kept from our eyes, but manifested in the flesh; no longer weak through the nature of flesh, but justified in the Spirit. And so by the justification of the Spirit is removed from our faith the idea of fleshly weakness; through the manifestation of the flesh is revealed that which was secret, and in the unknown cause of that which was secret is contained the only confession, the confession of the mystery of great godliness. This is the whole system of the faith set forth by the Apostle in its proper order. From godliness proceeds the mystery, from the mystery the manifestation in the flesh, from the manifestation in the flesh the justification in the Spirit: for the mystery of godliness which was manifested in the flesh, to be truly a mystery, was manifested in the flesh through the justification of the Spirit. Again, we must not forget what manner of justification in the Spirit is this manifestation in the flesh: for the mystery which was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, and believed on in this world, this same mystery was received up in glory. Thus is it in every way a mystery of great godliness, when it is manifested in the flesh, when it is justified in the Spirit, when it is seen of angels, when it is preached among the nations, when it is believed on in the world, and when it is received up in glory. The preaching follows the seeing, and the believing the preaching, and the consummation of all is the receiving up in glory: for the assumption into glory is the mystery of great godliness, and by faith in the Dispensation we are prepared to be received up, and to be conformed to the glory of the Lord. The assumption of flesh is therefore also the mystery of great godliness, for through the assumption of flesh the mystery was manifested in the flesh. But we must believe that the manifestation in the flesh also is this same mystery of great godliness, for His manifestation in the flesh is His justification in the Spirit, and His assumption into glory. And now what room does our faith leave for any to think that the secret of the Dispensation of godliness is the enfeebling of the divinity, when through the assumption of glory is to be confessed the mystery of great godliness? What was infirmity' is now the mystery:' what was necessity' becomes godliness .' And now let us turn to the meaning of the Evangelist's words, that the secret of our salvation and our glory may not be converted into an occasion of blasphemy.
10. You credit with the weight of irresistible authority, heretic, that saying of the Lord, I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God . The same Father, you say, is His Father and ours, the same God His God and ours. He partakes, therefore, of our weakness, for in the possession of the same Father we are not inferior as sons, and in the service of the same God we are equal as servants. Since, then, we are of created origin and a servant's nature, but have a common Father and God with Him, He is in common with our nature a creature and a servant. So runs this infatuated and unhallowed teaching. It produces also the words of the Prophet, Thy God hath anointed Thee, O God, to prove that Christ does not partake of that glorious nature which belongs to God, since the God Who anoints Him is preferred before Him as His God .
11. We do not know Christ the God unless we know God the Begotten. But to be born God is to belong to the nature of God, for the name Begotten signifies indeed the manner of His origin, but does not make Him different in kind from the Begetter. And if so, the Begotten owes indeed to His Author the source of His being, but is not dispossessed of the nature of that Author, for the birth of God can arise but from one origin, and have but one nature. If its origin is not from God, it is not a birth; if it is anything but a birth, Christ is not God. But He is God of God, and therefore God the Father stands to God the Son as God of His birth and Father of His nature, for the birth of God is from God, and in the specific nature of God.
12. See in all that He said, how carefully the Lord tempers the pious acknowledgment of His debt, so that neither the confession of the birth could be held to reflect upon His divinity, nor His reverent obedience to infringe upon His sovereign nature. He does not withhold the homage due from Him as the Begotten, Who owed to His Author His very existence, but He manifests by His confident bearing the consciousness of participation in that nature, which belongs to Him by virtue of the origin whereby He was born as God. Take, for instance, the words, He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father also , and, The words that I say, I speak not from Myself . He does not speak from Himself: therefore He receives from His Author that which He says. But if any have seen Him, they have seen the Father also: they are conscious, by this evidence, given to shew that God is in Him, that a nature, one in kind with that of God, was born from God to subsist as God. Take again the words, That which the Father hath given unto Me, is greater than all , and, I and the Father are one . To say that the Father gave, is a confession that He received His origin: but the unity of Himself with the Father is a property of His nature derived from that origin. Take another instance, He hath given all judgment unto the Son, that all may honour the Son even as they honour the Father . He acknowledges that the judgment is given to Him, and therefore He does not put His birth in the background: but He claims equal honour with the Father, and therefore He does not resign His nature. Yet another example, I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me , and, The Father is greater than I . The One is in the Other: recognise, then, the divinity of God, the Begotten of God: the Father is greater than He: perceive, then, His acknowledgment of the Father's authority. In the same way He says, The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He hath seen the Father doing: for what things soever He doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner . He doeth nothing of Himself: that is, in accordance with His birth the Father prompts His actions: yet what things soever the Father doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner; that is, He subsists as nothing less than God, and by the Father's omnipotent nature residing in Him, can do all that God the Father does. All is uttered in agreement with His unity of Spirit with the Father, and the properties of that nature, which He possesses by virtue of His birth. That birth, which brought Him into being, constituted Him divine, and His being reveals the consciousness of that divine nature. God the Son confesses God His Father, because He was born of Him; but also, because He was born, He inherits the whole nature of God.
13. So the Dispensation of the great and godly mystery makes Him, Who was already Father of the divine Son, also His Lord in the created form which He assumed, for He, Who was in the form of God, was found also in the form of a servant. Yet He was not a servant, for according to the Spirit He was God the Son of God. Every one will agree also that there is no servant where there is no lord. God is indeed Father in the Generation of the Only-begotten God, but only in the case that the Other is a servant can we call Him Lord as well as Father. The Son was not at the first a servant by nature, but afterwards began to be by nature something which He was not before. Thus the Father is Lord on the same grounds as the Son is servant. By the Dispensation of His nature the Son had a Lord, when He made Himself a servant by the assumption of manhood.
14. Being, then, in the form of a servant, Jesus Christ, Who before was in the form of God, said as a man, I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God. He was speaking as a servant to servants: how can we then dissociate the words from Christ the servant, and transfer them to that nature, which had nothing of the servant in it? For He Who abode in the form of God took upon Him the form of a servant, this form being the indispensable condition of His fellowship as a servant with servants. It is in this sense that God is His Father and the Father of men, His God and the God of servants. Jesus Christ was speaking as a man in the form of a servant to men and servants; what difficulty is there then in the idea, that in His human aspect the Father is His Father as ours, in His servant's nature God is His God as all men's?
15. These, then, are the words with which He prefaces the message, Go unto My brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God. I ask, Are they to be understood as His brethren with reference to the form of God or to the form of a servant? And has our flesh kinship with Him in regard to the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him, that we should be reckoned His brothers in respect of His divinity? No, for the Spirit of prophecy recognises clearly in what respect we are the brethren of the Only-begotten God. It is as a worm and no man that He says, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren . As a worm, which is born without the ordinary process of conception, or else comes up into the world, already living, from the depths of the earth, He speaks here in manifestation of the fact that He had assumed flesh and also brought it up, living, from Hades. Throughout the Psalm He is foretelling by the Spirit of prophecy the mysteries of His Passion: it is therefore in respect of the Dispensation, in which He suffered, that He has brethren. The Apostle also recognises the mystery of this brotherhood, for he calls Him not only the firstborn from the dead , but also the firstborn among many brethren . Christ is the Firstborn among many brethren in the same sense in which He is Firstborn from the dead: and as the mystery of death concerns His body, so the mystery of brotherhood also refers to His flesh. Thus God has brethren according to His flesh, for the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us : but the Only-begotten Son, unique as the Only-begotten, has no brethren.
16. By assuming flesh, however, He acquired our nature in our totality, and became all that we are, but did not lose that which He was before. Both before by His heavenly origin, and now by His earthly constitution, God is His Father. By His earthly constitution God is His Father, since all things are from God the Father, and God is Father to all things, since from Him and in Him are all things. But to the Only-begotten God, God is Father, not only because the Word became flesh; His Fatherhood extends also to Him Who was, as God the Word, with God in the beginning. Thus, when the Word became flesh, God was His Father both by the birth of God the Word, and by the constitution of His flesh: for God is the Father of all flesh, though not in the same way that He is Father to God the Word. But God the Word, though He did not cease to be God, really did become flesh: and while He thus dwelt He was still truly the Word, just as when the Word became flesh He was still truly God as well as man. For to dwell' can only be said of one who abides in something: and to become flesh of one who is born. He dwelt among us; that is, He assumed our flesh. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; that is, He was God in the reality of our body. If Christ Jesus, the man according to the flesh, robbed God the Word of the divine nature, or was not according to the mystery of godliness also God the Word, then it reduces His nature to our level that God is His Father, and our Father, His God and our God. But if God the Word, when He became the man Christ Jesus, did not cease to be God the Word, then God is at the same time His Father and ours, His God and ours, only in respect of that nature, by which the Word is our brother, and the message to His brethren, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and My God and your God, is not that of the Only-begotten God the Word, but of the Word made flesh.
17. The Apostle here speaks in carefully guarded words, which by their definiteness can give no occasion to the ungodly. We have seen that the Evangelist makes the Lord use the word Brethren' in the preface to the message, thus signifying that the whole message, being addressed to His brethren, refers to His fellowship in that nature which makes Him their brother. Thus he makes manifest that the mystery of godliness, which is here proclaimed, is no degradation of His divinity. The community with Him, by which God is our Father and His, our God and His, exists in regard to the Dispensation of the flesh: we are counted His brethren, because He was born into the body. No one disputes that God the Father is also the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, but this reverent confession offers no occasion for irreverence. God is His God but not as possessing a different order of divinity from His. He was begotten God of the Father, and born a servant by the Dispensation: and so God is His Father because He is God of God, and God is His God, because He is flesh of the Virgin. All this the Apostle confirms in one short and decisive sentence, Making mention of you in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation . When he speaks of Him as Jesus Christ, he mentions His God: when his theme is the glory of Christ, he calls God His Father. To Christ, as having glory, God is Father: to Christ, as being Jesus, God is God. For the angel, when speaking of Christ the Lord, Who should be born of Mary, calls Him by the name Jesus :' but to the prophets Christ the Lord is Spirit .' The Apostle's words in this passage seem to many, on account of the Latin, somewhat obscure, for Latin has no articles, which the beautiful and logical usage of Greek employs. The Greek runs, ho Theos tou Kuriou hemon 'Iesou Christou, ho pater tes doxes, which we might translate into Latin, if the usage of the article were permitted, Ille Deus illius Domini nostri Jesu Christi, ille pater illius claritatis' (The God of the Lord [of us] Jesus Christ, the Father of the glory). In this form The God of the Jesus Christ,' and the Father of the glory,' the sentence expresses, so far as we can comprehend them, certain truths of His nature. Where the glory of Christ is concerned, God is His Father; where Christ is Jesus, there the Father is His God. In the Dispensation by which He is a servant, He has as God Him Whom, in the glory by which He is God, He has as Father.
18. Time and the lapse of ages make no difference to a Spirit . Christ is one and the same Christ, whether in the body, or abiding by the Spirit in the prophets. Speaking through the mouth of the holy Patriarch David, He says, Thy God, O God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows , which refers to no less a mystery than the Dispensation of His assumption of flesh. He, Who now sends the message to His brethren that their Father is His Father, and their God His God, announced Himself then as anointed by His God above His fellows. No one is fellow to the Only-begotten Christ, God the Word: but we know that we are His fellows by the assumption which made Him flesh. That anointing did not exalt the blessed and incorruptible Begotten Who abides in the nature of God, but it established the mystery of His body, and sanctified the manhood which He assumed. To this the Apostle Peter witnesses, Of a truth in this city were they gathered together against Thy holy Son Jesus, Whom Thou didst anoint : and on another occasion, Ye know that the saying was published through all Jud√¶a, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached: even Jesus of Nazareth, how that God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost and with power . Jesus was anointed, therefore, that the mystery of the regeneration of flesh might be accomplished. Nor are we left in doubt how He was thus anointed with the Spirit of God and with power, when we listen to the Father's voice, as it spoke when He came up out of the Jordan, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee . Thus is testified the sanctification of His flesh, and in this testimony we must recognise His anointing with the power of the Spirit.
19. But the Word was God, and with God in the beginning, and therefore the anointing could neither be related nor explained, if it referred to that nature, of which we are told nothing, except that it was in the beginning. And in fact He Who was God had no need to anoint Himself with the Spirit and power of God, when He was Himself the Spirit and power of God. So He, being God, was anointed by His God above His fellows. And, although there were many Christs (i.e. anointed persons) according to the Law before the Dispensation of the flesh, yet Christ, Who was anointed above His fellows, came after them, for He was preferred above His anointed fellows. Accordingly, the words of the prophecy bring out the fact that the anointing took place in time, and comparatively late in time. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity: therefore Thy God, O God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. Now, a fact which follows later upon other facts, cannot be dated before them. That a reward be deserved postulates as a prior condition the existence of one who can deserve it, for merit earned implies that there has been one capable of acquiring it. If, therefore, we attribute the birth of the Only-begotten God to this anointing, which is His reward for loving righteousness and hating iniquity, we shall be regarding Him not as born, but as promoted by unction, to be the Only-begotten God. But then we imply that He advanced with gradual progress and promotion to perfect divinity, and that He was not born God, but afterwards for His merit anointed God. Thus we shall make Christ as God Himself conditioned, whereas He is the final cause of all conditions; and what becomes then of the Apostle's words, All things are through Him and in Him, and He is before all, and in Him all things consist ? The Lord Jesus Christ was not deified because of anything, or by means of anything, but was born God: God by origin, not promoted to divinity for any cause after His birth, but as the Son; and one in kind with God because begotten of Him. His anointing then, though it is the result of a cause, did not enhance that in Him, which could not be made more perfect. It concerned that part of Him which was to be made perfect through the perfection of the Mystery: that is, our manhood was sanctified in Christ by unction. If then the prophet here also teaches us the dispensation of the servant, for which Christ is anointed by His God above His fellows, and that because He loved righteousness and hated iniquity, then surely the words of the prophet must refer to that nature in Christ, by which He has fellows through His assumption of flesh. Can we doubt this when we note how carefully the Spirit of prophecy chooses His words? God is anointed by His God; that is, in His own nature He is God, but in the dispensation of the anointing God is His God. God is anointed: but tell me, is that Word anointed, Who was God in the beginning? Manifestly not, for the anointing comes after His divine birth. It was then not the begotten Word, God with God in the beginning, Who was anointed, but that nature in God which came to Him through the dispensation later than His divinity : and when His God anointed Him, He anointed in Him the whole nature of the servant, which He assumed in the mystery of His flesh.
20. Let no one then defile with his godless interpretations the mystery of great godliness which was manifested in the flesh, or reckon himself equal to the Only-begotten in respect of His divine substance. Let Him be our brother and our fellow, inasmuch as the Word made flesh dwelt among us, inasmuch as the man Jesus Christ is Mediator between God and man. Let Him, after the manner of servants, have a common Father and a common God with us, and as anointed above His fellows, let Him be of the same nature as His anointed fellows, though His be an unction of special privilege. In the mystery of the Mediatorship let Him be at once very man and very God, Himself God of God, but having a common Father and God with us in that community by which He is our brother.
21. But perhaps that subjection, that delivering of the kingdom, and lastly that end betoken the dissolution of His nature, or the loss of His power, or the enfeebling of His divinity. Many argue thus: Christ is included in the common subjection of all to God, and by the condition of subjection loses His divinity: He surrenders His Kingdom, therefore He is no longer King: the end which overtakes Him entails as its consequence the loss of His power.
22. It will not be out of place here if we review the full meaning of the Apostle's teaching upon this subject. Let us take, then, each single sentence and expound it, that we may grasp the entire Mystery by comprehending it in its fulness. The words of the Apostle are, For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ are all made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then they that are Christ's at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered the Kingdom to God, even the Father, when He shall have emptied all authority and all power. For He must reign until He put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be conquered is death. But when He saith, All things are put in subjection, He is excepted Who did subject all things unto Him. But when all things have been subjected to Him, then shall He also Himself be subjected to Him, that did subject all things unto Him, that God may be all in all .
23. The Apostle who was chosen not of men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ, to be the teacher of the Gentiles , expounds in language as express as he can command the secrets of the heavenly Dispensations. He who had been caught up into the third heaven and had heard unspeakable words , reveals to the perception of human understanding as much as human nature can receive. But he does not forget that there are things which cannot be understood in the moment of hearing. The infirmity of man needs time to review before the true and perfect tribunal of the mind, that which is poured indiscriminately into the ears. Comprehension follows the spoken words more slowly than hearing, for it is the ear which hears, but the reason which understands, though it is God Who reveals the inner meaning to those who seek it. We learn this from the words written among many other exhortations to Timothy, the disciple instructed from a babe in the Holy Scriptures by the glorious faith of his grandmother and mother : Understand what I say, for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things . The exhortation to understand is prompted by the difficulty of understanding. But God's gift of understanding is the reward of faith, for through faith the infirmity of sense is recompensed with the gift of revelation. Timothy, that man of God' as the Apostle witnesses of him , Paul's true child in the faith , is exhorted to understand because the Lord will give him understanding in all things: let us, therefore, knowing that the Lord will grant us understanding in all things, remember that the Apostle exhorts us also to understand.
24. And if, by an error incident to human nature, we be clinging to some preconception of our own, let us not reject the advance in knowledge through the gift of revelation. If we have hitherto used only our own judgment, let that not make us ashamed to change its decisions for the better. Guiding this advance wisely and carefully, the same blessed Apostle writes to the Philippians, Let us therefore as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you. Only, wherein we have hastened, in that same let us walk . Reason cannot anticipate with preconceptions the revelation of God. For the Apostle has here shewn us wherein consists the wisdom of those who have the perfect wisdom, and for those who are otherwise minded, he awaits the revelation of God, that they may obtain the perfect wisdom. If any, then, have otherwise conceived this profound dispensation of the hidden knowledge, and if that which we offer them is in any respect more right or better approved, let them not be ashamed to receive the perfect wisdom, as the Apostle advises, through the revelation of God, and if they hate to abide in untruth let them not love ignorance more. If to them, who had another wisdom, God has revealed this also, the Apostle exhorts them to hasten on the road in which they have started, to cast aside the notions of their former ignorance, and obtain the revelation of perfect understanding by the path into which they have eagerly entered. Let us, therefore, keep on in the path along which we have hastened: or, if the error of our wandering steps has delayed our eager haste, let us, notwithstanding, start again through the revelation of God towards the goal of our desire, and not turn our feet from the path. We have hastened towards Christ Jesus the Lord of Glory, the King of the eternal ages, in Whom are restored all things in Heaven and in earth, by Whom all things consist, in Whom and with Whom we shall abide for ever. So long as we walk in this path we have the perfect wisdom: and if we have another wisdom, God will reveal to us what is the perfect wisdom. Let us, then, examine in the light of the Apostle's faith the mystery of the words before us: and let our treatment be, as it always has been, a refutation from the actual truth of the Apostle's confession of every interpretation, which they would profanely foist upon his words.
25. Three assertions are here disputed, which, in the order in which the Apostle makes them, are first the end, then the delivering, and lastly the subjection. The object is to prove that Christ ceases to exist at the end, that He loses His kingdom, when He delivers it up, that He strips Himself of the divine nature, when He is subjected to God.
26. At the outset take note that this is not the order of the Apostle's teaching, for in that order the surrender of the Kingdom is first, then the subjection, and lastly the end. But every cause is itself the result of its particular cause, so that, in every chain of causation, each cause, itself producing a result, has inevitably its underlying antecedent. Thus the end will come, but when He has delivered the Kingdom to God. He will deliver the Kingdom, but when He has abolished all authority and power. He will abolish all authority and power, because He must reign. He will reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. He will put all enemies under His feet, because God has subjected everything under His feet. God has so subjected them as to make death the last enemy to be conquered by Him. Then, when all things are subjected unto God, except Him Who subjected all things unto Him, He too will be subjected unto Him, Who subjects all to Himself. But the cause of the subjection is none other than that God may be all in all; and therefore the end is that God is all in all.
27. Before going any further we must now enquire whether the end is a dissolution, or the delivering a forfeiture, or the subjection an enfeebling of Christ. And if we find that these are contraries, which cannot be connected as causes and effects, we shall be able to understand the words in the true sense in which they were spoken.
28. Christ is the end of the law ; but, tell me, is He come to destroy it or to fulfil it? And if Christ, the end of the law, does not destroy it, but fulfils it (as He says, I am come not to destroy the law but fulfil it ), is not the end of the law, so far from being its dissolution, the very opposite, namely its final perfection? All things are advancing towards an end, but that end is a condition of rest in the perfection, which is the goal of their advance, and not their abolition. Further, all things exist for the sake of the end, but the end itself is not the means to anything beyond: it is an ultimate, all-embracing whole, which rests in itself. And because it is self-contained, and works for no other time or object than itself, the goal is always that to which our hopes are directed. Therefore the Lord exhorts us to wait with patient and reverent faith until the end comes: Blessed is He that endureth to the end . It is not a blessed dissolution, which awaits us, nor is non-existence the fruit, and annihilation the appointed reward of faith: but the end is the final attainment of the promised blessedness, and they are blessed who endure until the goal of perfect happiness is reached, when the expectation of faithful hope has no object beyond. Their end is to abide with unbroken rest in that condition, towards which they are pressing. Similarly, as a deterrent, the Apostle warns us of the end of the wicked, Whose end is perdition, . . . . . but our expectation is in heaven . Suppose then we interpret the end as a dissolution, we are forced to acknowledge that, since there is an end for the blessed and for the wicked, the issue levels the godly with the ungodly, for the appointed end of both is a common annihilation. What of our expectation in heaven, if for us as well as for the wicked the end is a cessation of being? But even if there remains for the saints an expectation, whereas for the wicked there waits the end they have deserved, we cannot conceive that end as a final dissolution. What punishment would it be for the wicked to be beyond the feeling of avenging torments, because the capability of suffering has been removed by dissolution? The end is, therefore, a culminating and irrevocable condition which awaits us, reserved for the blessed and prepared for the wicked.
29. We can therefore no longer doubt that by the end is meant an ultimate and final condition and not a dissolution. We shall have something more to say upon this subject, when we come to the explanation of this passage, but for the present this is enough to make our meaning clear. Let us, therefore, turn now to the delivering of the Kingdom, and see whether it means a surrender of rule, whether the Son by delivering ceases to possess that which He delivers to the Father. If this is what the wicked contend in their unreasoning infatuation, they must allow that the Father, by delivering, lost all, when He delivered all to the Son, if delivery implies the surrender of that which is delivered. For the Lord said, All things have been delivered unto Me of My Father , and again, All authority hath been given unto Me in heaven and earth . If, therefore, to deliver is to yield possession, the Father no longer possessed that which He delivered. But if the Father did not cease to possess that which He delivered, neither does the Son surrender that which He delivers. Therefore, if He did not lose by the delivering that which He delivered, we must recognise that only the Dispensation explains how the Father still possesses what He delivered, and the Son does not forfeit what He gave.
30. As to the subjection, there are other facts which come to the help of our faith, and prevent us from putting an indignity on Christ upon this score, but above all this passage contains its own defence. First, however, I appeal to common reason: is the subjection still to be understood as the subordination of servitude to lordship, weakness to power, meanness to honour, qualities the opposite of one another? Is the Son in this manner subjected to the Father by the distinction of a different nature? If, indeed, we would think so, we shall find in the Apostle's words a preventive for such errors of the imagination. When all things are subjected to Him, says He, then must He be subjected to Him, Who subjects all things to Himself; and by this then' he means to denote the temporal Dispensation. For if we put any other construction on the subjection, Christ, though then to be subjected, is not subjected now, and thus we make Him an insolent and impious rebel, whom the necessity of time, breaking as it were and subduing His profane and overweening pride, will reduce to a tardy obedience. But what does He Himself say? I am not come to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me : and again, Therefore hath the Father loved Me because I do all things that are pleasing unto Him : and, Father, Thy will be done . Or hear the Apostle, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death . Although He humbled Himself, His nature knew no humiliation: though He was obedient, it was a voluntary obedience, for He became obedient by humbling Himself. The Only-begotten God humbled Himself, and obeyed His Father even to the death of the Cross: but as what, as man or as God, is He to be subjected to the Father, when all things have been subjected to Him? Of a truth this subjection is no sign of a fresh obedience, but the Dispensation of the Mystery, for the allegiance is eternal, the subjection an event within time. The subjection is then in its signification simply a demonstration of the Mystery.
31. What that is must be understood in view of this same hope of our faith. We cannot be ignorant that the Lord Jesus Christ rose again from the dead, and sits at the right hand of God, for we have also the witness of the Apostle, According to the working of the strength of His might, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world but also in that which is to came, and put all things in subjection under His feet . The language of the Apostle, as befits the power of God, speaks of the future as already past: for that which is to be wrought by the completion of time already exists in Christ, in Whom is all fulness, and future' refers only to the temporal order of the Dispensation, not to a new development. Thus, God has put all things under His feet, though they are still to be subjected. By their subjection, conceived as already past, is expressed the immutable power of Christ: by their subjection, as future, is signified their consummation at the end of the ages as the result of the fulness of time.
32. The meaning of the abolishing of every power which is against Him is not obscure. The prince of the air, the power of spiritual wickedness, shall be delivered to eternal destruction, as Christ says, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which My Father hath prepared for the devil and his angels . The abolishing is not the same as the subjecting. To abolish the power of the enemy is to sweep away for ever his prerogative of power, so that by the abolition of his power is brought to an end the rule of his kingdom. Of this the Lord testifies when He says, My kingdom is not of this world : as He had once before testified that the ruler of that kingdom is the prince of the world, whose power shall be destroyed by the abolition of the rule of His kingdom . A subjection, on the other hand, which implies obedience and allegiance, is a proof of submission and mutability.
33. So when their authority is abolished, His enemies shall be subjected: and so subjected, that He shall subject them to Himself. Moreover He shall so subject them to Himself, that God shall subject them to Him. Was the Apostle ignorant, think you, of the force of these words in the Gospel, No one cometh to Me, except the Father draw Him to Me which stand side by side with those other words, No one cometh unto the Father but by Me : just as in this Epistle Christ subjects His enemies to Himself, yet God subjects them to Him, and He witnesses throughout this, his work of subjection, that God is working in Him? Except through Him there is no approach to the Father, but there is also no approach to Him, unless the Father draw us. Understanding Him to be the Son of God, we recognise in Him the true nature of the Father. Hence, when we learn to know the Son, God the Father calls us: when we believe the Son, God the Father receives us; for our recognition and knowledge of the Father is in the Son, Who shews us in Himself God the Father, Who draws us, if we be devout, by His fatherly love into a mutual bond with His Son. So then the Father draws us, when, as the first condition, He is acknowledged Father: but no one comes to the Father except through the Son, because we cannot know the Father, unless faith in the Son is active in us, since we cannot approach the Father in worship, unless we first adore the Son, while if we know the Son, the Father draws us to eternal life and receives us. But each result is the work of the Son, for by the preaching of the Father, Whom the Son preaches, the Father brings us to the Son, and the Son leads us to the Father. The statement of this Mystery was necessary for the more perfect understanding of the present passage, to shew that through the Son the Father draws us and receives us; that we might understand the two aspects, the Son subjecting all to Himself, and the Father subjecting all to Him. Through the birth the nature of God is abiding in the Son, and does that which He Himself does. What He does God does, but what God does in Him, He Himself does: in the sense that where He acts Himself we must believe the Son of God acts; and where God acts, we must perceive the properties of the Father's nature existing in Him as the Son.
34. When authorities and powers are abolished, His enemies shall be subjected under His feet. The same Apostle tells who are these enemies, As touching the Gospel they are enemies for your sakes, but as touching the election they are beloved for the fathers' sake . We remember that they are enemies of the cross of Christ; let us remember also that, because they are beloved for the fathers' sake, they are reserved for the subjection, as the Apostle says, I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved, even as it is written, There shall come out of Sion a Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: and this is the covenant firm Me to them, when I have taken away their sins . So His enemies shall be subjected under His feet.
35. But we must not forget what follows the subjection, namely, Last of all is death conquered by Him . This victory over death is nothing else than the resurrection from the dead: for when the corruption of death is stayed, the quickened and now heavenly nature is made eternal, as it is written, For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in strife. O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy strife ? In the subjection of His enemies death is conquered; and, death conquered, life immortal follows. The Apostle tells us also of the special reward attained by this subjection which is made perfect by the subjection of belief: Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory, according to the works of His power, whereby He is able to subject all things to Himself . There is then another subjection, which consists in a transition from one nature to another, for our nature ceases, so far as its present character is concerned, and is subjected to Him, into Whose form it passes. But by ceasing' is implied not an end of being, but a promotion into something higher. Thus our nature by being merged into the image of the other nature which it receives, becomes subjected through the imposition of a new form.
36. Hence the Apostle, to make his explanation of this Mystery complete, after saying that death is the last enemy to be conquered, adds: But when He saith, All things are put in subjection except Him, Who did subject all things to Him, then must He be subjected to Him, that did subject all things to Him, that God may be all in all . The first step of the Mystery is that all things are subjected to Him: then He is subjected to Him, Who subjects all things to Himself. As we are subjected to the glory of the rule of His body, so He also, reigning in the glory of His body, is by the same Mystery in turn subjected to Him, Who subjects all things to Himself. And we are subjected to the glory of His body, that we may share that splendour with which He reigns in the body, since we shall be conformed to His body.
37. Nor are the Gospels silent concerning the glory of His present reigning body. It is written that the Lord said, Verily, I say unto you, there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. And it came to pass, after six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter and James and John His brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart. And Jesus was transfigured before them, and His face did shine as the sun, and His garments became as snow. Thus was shewn to the Apostles the glory of the body of Christ coming into His Kingdom: for in the fashion of His glorious Transfiguration, the Lord stood revealed in the splendour of His reigning body.
38. He promised also to the Apostles the participation in this His glory. So shall it be in the end of the world. The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather together out of His Kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity, and He shall send them into the furnace of fire: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear . Were their natural and bodily ears closed to the hearing of the words, that the Lord should need to admonish them to hear? Yet the Lord, hinting at the knowledge of the Mystery, commands them to listen to the doctrine of the faith. In the end of the world all things that cause stumbling shall be removed from His Kingdom. We see the Lord then reigning in the splendour of His body, until the things that cause stumbling are removed. And we see ourselves, in consequence, conformed to the glory of His body in the Kingdom of the Father, shining as with the splendour of the sun, the splendour in which He shewed the fashion of His Kingdom to the Apostles, when He was transfigured on the mountain.
39. He shall deliver the Kingdom to God the Father, not in the sense that He resigns His power by the delivering, but that we, being conformed to the glory of His body, shall form the Kingdom of God. It is not said, He shall deliver up His Kingdom, but, He shall deliver up the Kingdom , that is, deliver up to God us who have been made the Kingdom by the glorifying of His body. He shall deliver us into the Kingdom, as it is said in the Gospel, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world . The just shall shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father, and the Son shall deliver to the Father, as His Kingdom, those whom He has called into His Kingdom, to whom also He has promised the blessedness of this Mystery, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God . While He reigns, He shall remove all things that cause stumbling, and then the just shall shine as the sun in the Kingdom of the Father. Afterwards He shall deliver the Kingdom to the Father, and those whom He has handed to the Father, as the Kingdom, shall see God. He Himself witnesses to the Apostles what manner of Kingdom this is: The Kingdom of God is within you . Thus it is as King that He shall deliver up the Kingdom, and if any ask Who it is that delivers up the Kingdom, let him hear, Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep; since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead . All that is said on the point before us concerns the Mystery of the body, since Christ is the firstfruits of the dead. Let us gather also from the words of the Apostle by what Mystery Christ rose from the dead: Remember that Christ hath risen from the dead, of the seed of David . Here he teaches that the death and resurrection are due only to the Dispensation by which Christ was flesh.
40. In His body, the same body though now made glorious, He reigns until the authorities are abolished, death conquered, and His enemies subdued. This distinction is carefully preserved by the Apostle: the authorities and powers are abolished, the enemies are subjected . Then, when they are subjected, He, that is the Lord, shall be subjected to Him that subjecteth all things to Himself, that God may be all in all , the nature of the Father's divinity imposing itself upon the nature of our body which was assumed. It is thus that God shall be all in all: according to the Dispensation He becomes by His Godhead and His manhood the Mediator between men and God, and so by the Dispensation He acquires the nature of flesh, and by the subjection shall obtain the nature of God in all things, so as to be God not in part, but wholly and entirely. The end of the subjection is then simply that God may be all in all, that no trace of the nature of His earthly body may remain in Him. Although before this time the two were combined within Him, He must now become God only; not, however, by casting off the body, but by translating it through subjection; not by losing it through dissolutions, but by transfiguring it in glory: adding humanity to His divinity, not divesting Himself of divinity by His humanity. And He is subjected, not that He may cease to be, but that God may be all in all, having, in the mystery of the subjection, to continue to be that which He no longer is , not having by dissolution to be robbed of Himself, that is, to be deprived of His being.
41. We have a sufficient and sacred guarantee for this belief in the authority of the Apostle. Through the Dispensation, and within time, the Lord Jesus Christ, the firstfruits of them that sleep, is to be subjected, that God may be all in all, and this subjection is not the debasement of His divinity, but the promotion of His assumed nature, for He Who is God and Man is now altogether God. But some may think that, when we say He was both glorified in the body whilst reigning in the body, and is hereafter to be subjected that God may be all in all, our belief finds no support for itself in the Gospels nor yet in the Epistles. We will, therefore, produce testimony of our faith, not only from the words of the Apostle, but also from our Lord's mouth. We will shew that Christ said first with His own lips what He afterwards said by the mouth of Paul.
42. Does He not reveal to His Apostles the Dispensation of this glory by the express signification of the words, Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God hath been glorified in Him, God hath glorified Him in Himself, and straightway hath He glorified Him . In the words, Now is the Son of Man honoured, and God is honoured in Him, we have first the glory of the Son of Man, then the glory of God in the Son of Man. So there is first signified the glory of the body, which it borrows from its association with the divine nature: and then follows the promotion to a fuller glory derived from an addition to the glory of the body. If God hath been honoured in Him, God hath honoured Him in Himself, and straightway hath God honoured Him. God has glorified Him in Himself, because He has already been glorified in Him. God was glorified in Him: this refers to the glory of the body, for by this glory is expressed in a human body the glory of God, in the glory of the Son of Man is seen the divine glory. God was glorified in Him, and therefore hath God glorified Him in Himself: that is, by His promotion to the Godhead, whose glory was increased in Him, God has glorified Him in Himself. Already before this He was reigning in the glory which springs from the divine glory: from henceforth, however, He is Himself to pass into the divine glory. God hath glorified Him in Himself: that is, in that nature by which God is what He is. That God may be all in all: that His whole being, leaving behind the Dispensation by which He is man, may be eternally transformed into divinity. Nor is the time of this hidden from us: And God hath glorified Him in Himself, and straightway hath He glorified Him. At the moment when Judas arose to betray Him, He signified as present the glory which He would obtain after His Passion through the Resurrection, but assigned to the future the glory with which God would glorify Him with Himself. The glory of God is seen in Him in the power of the Resurrection, but He Himself, out of the Dispensation of subjection, will be taken eternally into the glory of God, that is, into God, the all in all.
43. But what absurd folly is it of the heretics to regard as unattainable for God that goal to which man hopes to attain, to imply that He is powerless to effect in Himself that which He is mighty to effect in us. It is not the language of reason or common sense to say that God is bound by some necessity of His nature to consult our happiness, but cannot bestow the like blessings upon Himself. God does not, indeed, need any further blessedness, for His nature and power stand fast in their eternal perfection. But although in the Dispensation, that mystery of great godliness, He Who is God became man, He is not powerless to make Himself again entirely God, for without doubt He will transform us also into that which as yet we are not. The final sequel of man's life and death is the resurrection: the assured reward of our warfare is immortality and incorruption, not the ceaseless persistence of everlasting punishment, but the unbroken enjoyment and happiness of eternal glory. These bodies of earthly origin shall be exalted to the fashion of a higher nature, and conformed to the glory of the Lord's body. But what then of God found in the form of a servant? Though already, while still in the form of a servant, glorified in the body, shall He not be also conformed to God? Shall He bestow upon us the form of His glorified body, and yet be able to do for His own body nothing more than He does for Himself in common with us? For the most part the heretics interpret the words, Then shall He be subjected to Him that did subject all things to Himself, that God may be all in all, as if they meant that the Son is to be subjected to God the Father, in order that by the subjection of the Son, God the Father may be all in all. But is there still lacking in God some perfection which He is to obtain by the subjection of the Son? Can they believe that God does not already possess that final accession of blessed divinity, because it is said that by the coming of the fulness of time He shall be made all in all?
44. To me, who hold that God cannot be known except by devotion, even to answer such objections seems no less unholy than to support them. What presumption to suppose that words can adequately describe His nature, when thought is often too deep for words, and His nature transcends even the conceptions of thought! What blasphemy even to discuss whether anything is lacking in God, whether He is Himself full, or it remains for Him to be fuller than His fulness! If God, Who is Himself the source of His own eternal divinity, were capable of progress, that He should be greater to-day than yesterday, He could never reach the time when nothing would be wanting to Him, for the nature to which advance is still possible must always in its progress leave some ground ahead still untrodden: if it be subject to the law of progress, though always progressing it must always be susceptible of further progress. But to Him, Who abides in perfect fulness, Who for ever is, there is no fulness left by which He can be made more full, for perfect fulness cannot receive an accession of further fulness. And this is the attitude of thought in which reverence contemplates God, namely, that nothing is wanting to Him, that He is full.
45. But the Apostle does not neglect to say with what manner of confession we should bear witness of God. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past tracing out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him? For of Him, and through Him, and in Him are all things. To Him be the glory for ever and ever . No earthly mind can define God, no understanding can penetrate with its perception to sound the depth of His wisdom. His judgments defy the searching scrutiny of His creatures: the trackless paths of His knowledge baffle the zeal of all pursuers. His ways are plunged in the depths of incomprehensibility: nothing can be fathomed or traced to the end in the things of God. No one has ever been taught to know His mind, no one besides Himself ever permitted to share His counsel. But all this applies to us men only, and not to Him, through Whom are all things, the Angel of mighty Counsel , Who said, No one knoweth the Son save the Father: neither doth any one know the Father save the Son, and him to whom the Son hath willed to reveal Him . It is to curb our own feeble intellect, when it strains itself to fathom the depth of the divine nature with its descriptions and definitions, that we must re-echo the language of the Apostle's exclamation, lest we should attempt by rash conjecture to snatch from God more than He has been pleased to reveal to us.
46. It is a recognised axiom of natural philosophy, that nothing falls within the scope of the senses unless it is subjected to their observation, as for instance an object placed before the eyes, or an event posterior to the birth of human sense and intelligence. The former we can see and handle, and therefore the mind is qualified to pass a verdict upon it, since it can be examined by the senses of touch and sight. The latter, which is an event in time, produced or constituted since the origin of man, falls within the limits in which the discerning sense may claim to pass judgment, since it is not prior in time to our perception and reason. For our sight cannot perceive the invisible, since it only distinguishes the seen; our reason cannot project itself into the time when it was not, because it can only judge of that, to which it is prior in time. And even within these limits, the infirmity which is bound up with its nature robs it of absolutely certain knowledge of the sequence of cause and effect. How much less then can it go back behind the time when it had its origin, and comprehend with its perception things which existed before it in the realms of eternity?
47. The Apostle then recognised that nothing can fall within our knowledge, except it be posterior in time to the faculty of sense. Accordingly when he had asserted the depth of the wisdom of God, the infinity of His inscrutable judgments, the secret of His unsearchable ways, the mystery of His unfathomable mind, the incomprehensibility of His uncommunicated counsel, he continued, For who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and in Him are all things. The eternal God is neither subject to limitation, nor did human reason and intelligence exercise their functions before He had His being. His whole being is therefore a depth, which we can neither examine nor penetrate. We say His whole being, not to define it as limited, but to understand it in its unlimited boundlessness: because of no one has He received His being, no antecedent giver can claim service from Him in return for a gift bestowed: for of Him and through Him and in Him are all things. He does not lack things that are of Him and through Him and in Him. The Source and Maker of all, Who contains all, Who is beyond all, does not need that which is within Him, the Creator His creatures, the Possessor His possessions. Nothing is prior to Him, nothing derived from any other than Him, nothing beyond Him. What element of fulness is still lacking in God, which time will supply to make Him all in all? Whence can He receive it, if outside Him is nothing, and while nothing is outside Him, He is eternally Himself? And if He is eternally Himself, and there is nothing outside Him, with what increase shall He be made full, by what addition shall He be made other than He is? Did He not say, I am and I change not ? What possibility is there of change in Him? What scope for progress? What is prior to eternity? What more divine than God? The subjection of the Son will not therefore make God to be all in all, nor will any cause perfect Him, from Whom and through Whom and in Whom are all causes. He remains God as He ever was, and He needs nothing further, for what He is, He is eternally of Himself and for Himself.
48. But neither is it necessary for the Only-begotten God that He should change. He is God, and that is the name of full and perfect divinity. For, as we said before, the meaning of the repeated glorifying, and the cause of the subjection is that God may be all in all: but it is a Mystery, not a necessity, that God is to be all in all. Christ abode in the form of God when He assumed the form of a servant, not being subjected to change, but emptying Himself; hiding within Himself, and remaining master of Himself though He was emptied. He constrained Himself even to the form and fashion of a man, lest the weakness of the assumed humility should not be able to endure the immeasurable power of His nature. His unbounded might contracted itself, until it could fulfil the duty of obedience even to the endurance of the body to which it was yoked. But since He was self-contained even when He emptied Himself, His authority suffered no diminution, for in the humiliation of the emptying He exercised within Himself the power of that authority which was emptied.
49. It is therefore for the promotion of us, the assumed humanity, that God shall be all in all. He Who was found in the form of a servant, though He was in the form of God, is now again to be confessed in the glory of God the Father: that is, without doubt He dwells in the form of God, in Whose glory He is to be confessed. All is therefore a dispensation only, and not a change of His nature; for He abides still in Him, in Whom He ever was. But there intervenes a new nature, which began in Him with His human birth, and so all that He obtains is on behalf of that nature which before was not God, since after the Mystery of the Dispensation God is all in all. It is, therefore, we who are the gainers, we who are promoted, for we shall be conformed to the glory of the body of God. Further the Only-begotten God, despite His human birth, is nothing less than God, Who is all in all. That subjection of the body, by which all that is fleshly in Him, is swallowed up into the spiritual nature, will make Him to be God and all in all, since He is Man also as well as God; and His humanity which advances towards this goal is ours also. We shall be promoted to a glory conformable to that of Him Who became Man for us, being renewed unto the knowledge of God, and created again in the image of the Creator, as the Apostle says, Having put off the old man with his doings, and put on the new man, which is being renewed unto the knowledge of God, after the image of Him that created him . Thus is man made the perfect image of God. For, being conformed to the glory of the body of God, he is exalted to the image of the Creator, after the pattern assigned to the first man. Leaving sin and the old man behind, he is made a new man unto the knowledge of God, and arrives at the perfection of his constitution, since through the knowledge of his God he becomes the perfect image of God. Through godliness he is promoted to immortality, through immortality he shall live for ever as the image of his Creator.