It cannot possibly be proved from the Sacred Writings, that the angels are now confirmed in their estate.
This article also has been besprinkled with calumny; though I am of opinion, that it was done in ignorance by him from whose narration it is attributed to me. For I did not deny that this fact was incapable of proof from the Scriptures; but I inquired of him, |if it be denied, with what arguments from Scripture will you prove it?| I am not so rash as to say, that no proof can be given from Scripture for a matter, whose contrary I am not able satisfactorily to establish by Scripture, at least if such proof has not produced certainty in my own mind. For I ought to believe, that there are other persons who can prove this, though I am myself incapable; as those persons, in like manner, with whom I occasionally enter into conversation, ought to believe thus concerning themselves because I cannot instantly deny that they are unable to do what, I am sure, they will experience much difficulty in performing. For they must themselves be aware, that from their frequent conversations, and from the sermons which they address to the people, some judgment may be formed of their own progress in the knowledge of the truth and in understanding the Scriptures. I wish them, therefore to undertake the labour of proving that, about which they will not allow me to hesitate.
I know what has been written by St. Augustine, and others of the Fathers, about the estate of the angels, about their blessedness, their confirmation in good, and the certainty by which they know that they will never fall from this condition. I also know, that the schoolmen incline towards this opinion. But when I examine the arguments which they advance in its support, they do not appear to me to possess such strength as may justly entitle it to be prescribed for belief to other persons as an approved article of faith.
The passage generally quoted from St. Matthew, (xxii, 30,) |But they are as angels of God in heaven,| treats only on the similitude [between young children and angels,] in neither marrying nor being given in marriage; he does not say, that the angels of God are now happy in heaven.
That in Matt. xviii.10, |In heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven,| does not speak of the beatific vision, but of that vision with which those who stand around the throne of God wait for his commands. This is apparent from the design of Christ, who wished thus to persuade them |not to offend one of these little ones;| their beholding God, helps to confirm this persuasion, not the beatific sight, but such a sight of God as is suited for the reception of the [Divine] commands to keep these little ones.
|But ye are come to the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.| (Heb. xii.22. This does not necessarily prove, that angels are now blessed and confirmed in good; because, even now, those who are neither beatified nor confirmed in good do themselves belong to that celestial city, that is, those who are said to have |come to this heavenly city,| who still |walk by faith,| and |see through a glass darkly.| (1 Cor. xiii.12.) |Then the angels will be in a more unhappy condition than the souls of pious men, who are now enjoying blessedness with Christ and in his presence.| This reason which they adduce is not conclusive. For |the angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of eternal salvation| This service of theirs will endure to the end of the world. In the mean time, |those who have died in the Lord, rest from their labours.| (Rev. xiv.13.)
Neither is that a stronger argument, which says, |It is possible for the angels to fall, if they are not confirmed in good; and therefore they must always of necessity be tormented by a fear of their fall, which may happen; and by a fear which is the greater, on account of the clearer knowledge that they have of the evil into which the apostate angels are fallen.| For it is possible for the angels to be assured of their stability, that is, that they shall never fall away, although they be neither blessed, nor so far confirmed in that which is good as not to be capable of falling. They may be assumed, either with such a certainty as excludes all anxious |fear that hath torment,| but is consistent with that |fear and trembling,| with which we are commanded to |work out our salvation,| who are said to have |the full assurance of faith| concerning our salvation.
But what necessity is there to enter into this disputation, which cannot without great difficulty be decided from the Scriptures; and which, when it is decided, will be of small service to us. Let us rather devote our attention to this study. Doing now the will of God as the angels do in heaven, let us endeavour to be enabled hereafter to become partakers with them of eternal blessedness. This is especially our duty, since the things which have been written for us respecting the state of angels, and which are commanded to be received by faith, are exceedingly few in number.
This, therefore, is my reply to the former twenty of these articles, which have been ascribed partly to me alone, and partly also to Borrius. There is not one of them whose contrary has been believed by the Church Universal and held as an article of faith. Some of them, however, are so artfully constructed, that those which are their opposites savour of novelty and send forth an odour of falsehood. Beside the fact, that the greatest part of them are attributed to us through calumny. I now proceed to the consideration of the eleven which follow that I may see whether the fabricators have acted in a more happy and judicious manner, either in imputing them to me, or in reckoning them as errors or heresies. May God direct my mind and my hand, that I may with a good conscience declare those things which are in unison with the truth, and which may conduce to the peace and tranquillity of our brethren.
ARTICLE XXI (I.)
It is a new, heretical and Sabellian mode of speaking, nay, it is blasphemous, to say |that the Son of God is autoqeon (very God,)| for the Father alone is very God, but not the Son of the Holy Spirit.
Most of those persons who are acquainted with me at all, know with what deep fear, and with what conscientious solicitude, I treat that sublime doctrine of a Trinity of Persons. The whole manner of my teaching demonstrates, that when I am explaining this article I take no delight either in inventing new phrases, that are unknown to Scripture and to orthodox antiquity, or in employing such as have been fabricated by others. All my auditors too will testify, how willingly I bear with those who adopt a different mode of speaking from my own, provided they intend to convey a sound meaning. These things I premise, lest any one should suppose, that I had sought to stir up a controversy about this word, with other persons who had employed it.
But when, in the course of a particular disputation, a certain young man with much pertinacity and assurance defended not only the word itself, but likewise that meaning which I believe and know to be contrary to all antiquity, as well as to the truth of the Scriptures, and was not backward in expressing his serious disapproval of the more orthodox opinions; I was compelled to explain what were my sentiments about the word and its meaning.
I said that the word is not contained in the Scriptures; yet, because it had been used by the orthodox, both by Epiphanius, (Heres.69,) and by some divines in our days, I do not reject it, provided it be correctly received.
But it may be received in a two fold signification, according to the etymon of the word; and may mean, either one who is truly and in himself God, or one who is God from himself. In the former signification, I said, the word might be tolerated; but in the latter, it was in opposition to the Scriptures and to orthodox antiquity.
When the opponent still urged, that he received the word in this last sense, and that Christ was indeed autoqeon that is,. God from himself, who has in reality an essence in common with the Father, but not communicated by the Father; and when he asserted this with the greater boldness, because he knew that in this opinion he had Trelactrius of pious memory agreeing with him, from whose instructions he appeared to have derived his ideas on the subject; I said that this opinion was a novel one, which was never heard of by the ancients, and unknown both to the Greek and Latin Fathers; and that, when rigidly examined, it would be found to be heretical, and nearly allied to the opinion of Sabellius, which was, that the Father and the Son are not distinct persons, but one person called by different names. I added, that, from this opinion, the entirely opposite heresy might likewise be deduced, which is, that the, Son and the Father are two different persons, and two collateral gods; this is blasphemous. I proved my remarks by the following brief arguments: FIRST. It is the property of the person of the Father, to have his being from himself, or, which is a better phrase, to have his being from no one. But the Son is now said to have his being from himself, or rather, from no one: therefore, the Son is the Father; which is Sabellianism. SECONDLY. If the Son have an essence in common with the Father, but not communicated by the Father, he is collateral with the Father, and, therefore, they are two gods. Whereas, all antiquity defended the unity, the Divine essence in three distinct persons, and placed a salvo on it by this single explanation, |that the Son has the same essence directly, which is communicated to him by the Father; but that the Holy Spirit has the very same essence from the Father and the Son.|
This is the explanation which I adduced at that time, and in the maintenance of which I still persist: and I affirm, that in this opinion I have the Scriptures agreeing with me, as well as the whole of antiquity, both of the Greek and the Latin churches. It is therefore most wonderful, that our brethren have dared to charge this upon me as an erroneous sentiment. Yet, in doing this, they do not act with sincerity, since they do not explain the word autoqeon by removing its ambiguity; which they undoubtedly ought to have done, lest any person should suppose that I denied the Son to be in every sense, and therefore that he is not very and true God. This they ought the more particularly to have done, because they know that I have always made a distinction between these significations, and have admitted one of them, but rejected the other.
Since the matter really stands thus, I might simply accuse this article of making a false charge; because in a certain sense I confess the son to be autoqeon also the Holy Spirit, and not the Father alone. But, for the sake of justifying this phrase and opinion, the framers of it declare, |When it is said, the Son is God from himself, then the phrase must be received in this sense, the essence which the Son has, is from himself, that is, from no one. For the Son is to be considered as he is God, and as he is the Son. As God, he has his being from himself. As the Son, he has it from the Father. Or two things are to be subjects of consideration in the Son, his essence and his relation. According to his essence, the Son is from no one or from himself. According to his relation, he is from the Father.|
But I answer, FIRST. This mode of explanation cannot, except by an impropriety of speech, excuse him who says, |the Son has indeed an essence in common with the Father, but not communicated.|
SECONDLY. |The essence, which the Son has, is from no one,| is not tantamount to the phrase, |the Son, who has an essence, is from no one.| For, |Son| is the name of a person that has relation to a Father, and therefore without that relation it cannot become a subject either of definition or of consideration. But |Essence| is something absolute: and these two are so circumstanced between themselves, that |essence| does not enter into the definition of |Son,| except indirectly, thus, |he is the Son, who has the Divine essence communicated to him by the Father;| which amounts to this, |he is the Son, who is begotten of the Father.| For, to beget, is to communicate his essence.
THIRDLY. These two respects in which He is God and in which He is the Son, have not the same affection or relation between each other, as these two have, |to exist from himself or from no one,| and |to exist from the Father,| or |to have his essence from himself,| or |from no one,| and |to have it from the Father:| which I demonstrate thus by two most evident arguments. (1.) |God| and |the Son| are consentaneous and subordinate: for the Son is God. But |to derive his being from no one| and |to derive it from another,| |to have his essence from no one,| and |to have it from another,| are opposites, and cannot be spoken about the same person. In the comparison which they institute, those things which ought to be collated together are not properly compared, nor are they opposed to each of their parallels and classes or affinities. For a double ternary must here come under consideration, which is this:
HE IS GOD: -- HE IS THE FATHER: -- HE IS THE SON:
He has the Divine essence,: He has it from no one,: He has it from the Father:
These are affinities and parallels. (1.) |He is God,| and |has the Divine essence.| (2.) |He is the Father,| and, |has the Divine essence from no one.| (3.) |He is the Son,| and, |has the Divine essence from the Father.|
But, by the comparison which our objectors institute in their explanation, these things will be laid down as parallels. |He is God,| and |has his essence from no one.| If this comparison be correctly formed, then either the Father alone is God, or there are three collateral Gods. But far be it from me to charge with such a sentiment as this those who say, |the Son is autoqeon that is, God from himself.| For I know that they occasionally explain themselves in a modified manner. But their explanation does not agree with the phraseology which they employ. For this reason Beza excuses Calvin, and openly confesses |that he had not with sufficient strictness observed the difference between these particles a se and per se.|
I have stated only what follow as consequences from these phrases, and from the opinion which agrees with them; and I have therefore said, that people must refrain from the use of such phraseology. I abstain from proofs, multitudes of which I could bring from the Scriptures and the Fathers; and if necessity require, I will immediately produce them: for I have had them many years in readiness.
GOD is from eternity, having the Divine Essence.
THE FATHER is from no one, having the Divine Essence from no one, which others say is |from himself.|
THE SON is from the Father, having the Divine Essence from the Father.
This is a true parallelism, and one which, if in any manner it be inverted or transposed, will be converted into a heresy. So that I wonder much, how our brethren could consider it proper to make any mention of this matter; from which they would with far more correctness and prudence have abstained, if, while meditating upon it, they had weighed it in equal balances.