4. The petty exactitude of these men about syllables and words is not, as might be supposed, simple and straightforward; nor is the mischief to which it tends a small one. There is involved a deep and covert design against true religion. Their pertinacious contention is to show that the mention of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is unlike, as though they will thence find it easy to demonstrate that there is a variation in nature. They have an old sophism, invented by Aetius, the champion of this heresy, in one of whose Letters there is a passage to the effect that things naturally unlike are expressed in unlike terms, and, conversely, that things expressed in unlike terms are naturally unlike. In proof of this statement he drags in the words of the Apostle, |One God and Father of whom are all things,...and one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things.| |Whatever, then,| he goes on, |is the relation of these terms to one another, such will be the relation of the natures indicated by them; and as the term of whom' is unlike the term by whom,' so is the Father unlike the Son.| On this heresy depends the idle subtilty of these men about the phrases in question. They accordingly assign to God the Father, as though it were His distinctive portion and lot, the phrase |of Whom;| to God the Son they confine the phrase |by Whom;| to the Holy Spirit that of |in Whom,| and say that this use of the syllables is never interchanged, in order that, as I have already said, the variation of language may indicate the variation of nature. Verily it is sufficiently obvious that in their quibbling about the words they are endeavouring to maintain the force of their impious argument.
By the term |of whom| they wish to indicate the Creator; by the term |through whom,| the subordinate agent or instrument; by the term |in whom,| or |in which,| they mean to shew the time or place. The object of all this is that the Creator of the universe may be regarded as of no higher dignity than an instrument, and that the Holy Spirit may appear to be adding to existing things nothing more than the contribution derived from place or time.