Book X. Theological differences are not the result of honest reasoning, but of reasoning distorted, as in the case of the Arians, by preconceived opinions, whose cause is sin and their result hypocrisy (§§ 1-3). Hilary has fallen on the evil times foretold by the Apostle; truth is banished and so is he, yet his sufferings do not affect his joy in the Lord (§ 4). In the preceding books he has stated the exact truth, of which he now gives a summary (§§ 5-8). But the further objection is raised that, while God is impassible, Christ in His Passion suffered fear and pain (§ 9). But He Who taught others not to fear death could not fear it Himself (§ 10). He died of His own free will, knowing that in three days His Body and Spirit would rise again (§§ 11, 12). Nor did He fear bodily tortures, for pain is an affection of the weak human soul, which inhabits our body, and is not felt by the body itself (§§ 13, 14). And, although the Virgin fulfilled entirely the part of a human mother, yet the Begetter was Divine. Christ, when He took the form of a servant, remained still in the form of God, and was born perfect even as the Begetter was perfect, for Mary was not the cause, but only the means, of His human life (§§ 15, 16). St. Paul draws a clear distinction between the First Man, who was earthy, and the Second Man, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and in Whom what is Flesh, in one aspect, is Bread from heaven in another (§§ 17, 18). He is therefore perfect Man as well as perfect God, and did not inherit the flesh or the soul of Adam. His whole human nature is derived from the Holy Ghost, by Whom the Virgin conceived (§§ 19, 20). Again (§ 21) the Arians argue that the Word was in Jesus in the same sense in which the Spirit was in the Prophets, and reproach the Catholics with denying the true humanity of Christ. Hilary replies that just as Christ was the cause of the birth of His own human Body, so He was the Author of His own human Soul: for no soul is transmitted. Thus His human nature is complete; He has taken the form of a servant, but all the while He is in the form of God, i.e. He Who is God and also Man is one Christ, Who was born and died and rose (§ 22). In all this He endured passion but not pain, even as air or water, if pierced by a blow, is unaffected by it. The blow is real, and the Passion was real; but it was not inflicted on our limited humanity but on a human nature which could walk on water and pass through locked doors (§ 23). If it be argued that He wept, hungered, thirsted, Hilary answers that He could wipe away tears and supply needs, and therefore was not subject to them; that though He endured them, as true Man, He was not affected by them. Such sufferings are habitual with men, and He endured them to show that He had a true Body (§ 24). For such a Body He had, although (since He was not conceived in sin) one free from the defects of our bodies; not sinful flesh, but only the likeness of sinful flesh. For He was the Word made Flesh, and continued to be true God as He had been before (§§ 25, 26). The Lord of glory suffered neither fear nor pain in His Passion, as is shown by the powers which He exercised on the verge of death (§§ 27, 28). His utterances in the Garden and on the Cross are not evidences of pain or fear, for they may be matched by lofty expressions of calmness and hope (§§ 29-32). Thus no proof of fear or pain or weakness can be drawn from the circumstances of the Passion. Nor was the Cross a shame, for it was His road from humiliation to glory (§ 33), nor the descent to hell a degradation, for all the while He was in heaven. How different the faith of the Thief on the cross to that of the Arian! (§ 34). The argument is summed up in § 35. Next the Agony is considered. Christ does not say that He is sorrowful on account of death, but unto death. It is anxiety on the Apostles' account, lest their faith should fail; a fear which reached to His death, not beyond, for He knew that after His death His glory would revive their faith. This was the fear in which He was comforted by the Angel; for Himself He was fearless, being conscious of His Godhead (§§ 36-43). He was free from pain and fear, for it is the sinful body which transmits these affections to the soul. Yet even human bodies rise sometimes superior to them, e.g. Daniel and other heroes of faith: how much more Christ (§§ 44-46). In the same way we must understand His bearing our suffering and our sin (§ 47), for, as St. Paul says, His Passion was itself a triumph (§ 48). The complaint that He was forsaken by the Father is similarly explained (§ 49). The purpose of the Arian arguments is to displace the truth of Christ as very God and very man in favour of one or other heretical hypothesis, all of which the Church rejects (§§ 50-52). Our reason must recognise its limitations and be content to believe, without understanding, apparently contradictory truths (§§ 53, 54). Christ weeping over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus is equally inexplicable, yet certain (§§ 55, 56). His laying down and taking again His life is accounted for by the two natures inseparably united in one Person (§§ 57-62). After a short summary (§ 63) he returns to the union of two natures, which is the stumbling-block of worldly wisdom (§ 64), and shows it to be the only reasonable explanation of the facts (§§ 65, 66). As St. Paul says, our belief must be according to the Scriptures; the necessity and the rewards of faith (§§ 67-70). The seeming infirmity of Christ was assumed for our instruction and for our salvation.
1. It is manifest that there is nothing which men have ever said which is not liable to opposition. Where the will dissents the mind also dissents: under the bias of opposing judgment it joins battle, and denies the assertions to which it objects. Though every word we say be incontrovertible if gauged by the standard of truth, yet so long as men think or feel differently, the truth is always exposed to the cavils of opponents, because they attack, under the delusion of error or prejudice, the truth they misunderstand or dislike. For decisions once formed cling with excessive obstinacy: and the passion of controversy cannot be driven from the course it has taken, when the will is not subject to the reason. Enquiry after truth gives way to the search for proofs of what we wish to believe; desire is paramount over truth. Then the theories we concoct build themselves on names rather than things: the logic of truth gives place to the logic of prejudice: a logic which the will adjusts to defend its fancies, not one which stimulates the will through the understanding of truth by the reason. From these defects of partisan spirit arise all controversies between opposing theories. Then follows an obstinate battle between truth asserting itself, and prejudice defending itself: truth maintains its ground and prejudice resists. But if desire had not forestalled reason: if the understanding of the truth had moved us to desire what was true: instead of trying to set up our desires as doctrines, we should let our doctrines dictate our desires; there would be no contradiction of the truth, for every one would begin by desiring what was true, not by defending the truth of that which he desired.
2. Not unmindful of this sin of wilfulness, the Apostle, writing to Timothy, after many injunctions to bear witness to the faith and to preach the word, adds, For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears will heap up teachers to themselves after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 For when their unhallowed zeal shall drive them beyond the endurance of sound doctrine, they will heap up teachers for their lusts, that is, construct schemes of doctrine to suit their own desires, not wishing to be taught, but getting together teachers who will tell them what they wish: that the crowd of teachers whom they have ferreted out and gathered together, may satisfy them with the doctrines of their own tumultuous desires. And if these madmen in their godless folly do not know with what spirit they reject the sound, and yearn after the corrupt doctrine, let them hear the words of the same Apostle to the same Timothy, But the Spirit says expressly that in the last days some shall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils through the hypocrisy of lying talk. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 What advancement of doctrine is it to discover what one fancies, and not what one ought to learn? Or what piety in doctrine is it not to desire what one ought to learn, but to heap up doctrine after our desires? But this is what the promptings of seducing spirits supply. They confirm the falsehoods of pretended godliness, for a canting hypocrisy always succeeds to defection from the faith: so that at least in word the reverence is retained, which the conscience has lost. Even that pretended piety they make impious by all manner of lies, violating by schemes of false doctrine the sacredness of the faith: for they pile up doctrines to suit their desires, and not according to the faith of the Gospel. They delight, with an uncontrollable pleasure, to have their itching ears tickled by the novelty of their favourite preaching; they estrange themselves utterly from the hearing of the truth, and surrender themselves entirely to fables: so that their incapacity for either speaking or understanding the truth invests their discourse with what is, to them, a semblance of truth.
3. We have clearly fallen on the evil times prophesied by the Apostle; for nowadays teachers are sought after who preach not God but a creature. And men are more zealous for what they themselves desire, than for what the sound faith teaches. So far have their itching ears stirred them to listen to what they desire, that for the moment that preaching alone rules among their crowd of doctors which estranges the Only-begotten God from the power and nature of God the Father, and makes Him in our faith either a God of the second order, or not a God at all; in either case a damning profession of impiety, whether one profess two Gods by making different grades of divinity; or else deny divinity altogether to Him Who drew His nature by birth from God. Such doctrines please those whose ears are estranged from the hearing of the truth and turned to fables, while the hearing of this our sound faith is not endured, and is driven bodily into exile with its preachers.
4. But though many may heap up teachers according to their desires, and banish sound doctrine, yet from the company of the Saints the preaching of truth can never be exiled. From our exile we shall speak by these our writings, and the Word of God which cannot be bound will run unhindered, warning us of this time which the Apostle prophesied. For when men show themselves impatient of the true message, and heap up teachers according to their own human desires, we can no longer doubt about the times, but know that while the preachers of sound doctrine are banished truth is banished too. We do not complain of the times: we rejoice rather, that iniquity has revealed itself in this our exile, when, unable to endure the truth, it banishes the preachers of sound doctrine, that it may heap up for itself teachers after its own desires. We glory in our exile, and rejoice in the Lord that in our person the Apostle's prophecy should be fulfilled.
5. In the earlier books, then, while maintaining the profession of a faith, I trust, sincere, and a truth uncorrupted, we arranged the method of our answer throughout, so that (though such are our limitations, that human language can never be safe from exception) no one could contradict us without an open profession of godlessness. For so completely have we demonstrated the true meaning of those texts which they cunningly filch from the Gospels and appropriate for their own teaching, that if any one denies it, he cannot escape on the plea of ignorance, but is condemned out of his own mouth of godlessness. Further, we have, according to the gift of the Holy Ghost, so cautiously proceeded throughout in our proof of the faith, that no charge could possibly be trumped up against us. For it is their way to fill the ears of the unwary with declarations that we deny the birth of Christ , when we preach the unity of the Godhead; and they say that by the text, I and the Father are one John 10:30, we confess that God is solitary: thus, according to them, we say that the Unbegotten God descended into the Virgin, and was born man, and that He refers the opening word 'I' to the dispensation of His flesh, but adds to it the proof of His divinity, And the Father, as being the Father of Himself as man; and further, that, consisting of two Persons, human and divine, He said of Himself, We are one.
6. But we have always maintained the birth existing out of time: we have taught that God the Son is God of the same nature with God the Father, not co-equal with the Unbegotten, for He was not Himself Unbegotten, but, as the Only-begotten, not unequal because begotten; that the Two are One, not by the giving of a double name to one Person, but by a true begetting and being begotten; that neither are there two Gods, different in kind, in our faith, nor is God solitary because He is one, in the sense in which we confess the mystery of the Only-begotten God: but that the Son is both indicated in the name of, and exists in, the Father, Whose name and Whose nature are in Him, while the Father by His name implies, and abides in, the Son, since a son cannot be spoken of, or exist, except as born of a father. Further, we say that He is the living copy of the living nature, the impression of the divine seal upon the divine nature, so undistinguished from God in power and kind, that neither His works nor His words nor His form are other than the Father's: but that, since the image by nature possesses the nature of its author, the Author also has worked and spoken and appeared through His natural image.
7. But by the side of this timeless and ineffable generation of the Only-begotten, which transcends the perception of human understanding, we taught as well the mystery of God born to be man from the womb of the Virgin, showing how according to the plan of the Incarnation, when He emptied Himself of the form of God and took the form of a servant, the weakness of the assumed humanity did not weaken the divine nature, but that Divine power was imparted to humanity without the virtue of divinity being lost in the human form. For when God was born to be man the purpose was not that the Godhead should be lost, but that, the Godhead remaining, man should be born to be God. Thus Emmanuel is His name, which is God with us Matthew 1:23, that God might not be lowered to the level of man, but man raised to that of God. Nor, when He asks that He may be glorified John 17:5, is it in any way a glorifying of His divine nature, but of the lower nature He assumed: for He asks for that glory which He had with God before the world was made.
8. As we are answering all, even their most insensate statements, we come now to the discussion of the unknown hour. Now, even if, as they say, the Son had not known it, this could give no ground for an attack upon His Godhead as the Only-begotten. It was not in the nature of things that His birth should avail to put His beginning back, until it was equivalent to the existence which is unbegotten, and had no beginning; and the Father reserves as His prerogative, to demonstrate His authority as the Unbegotten, the fixing of this still undetermined day. Nor may we conclude that in His Person there is any defect in that nature which contained by right of birth all the fullness of that nature which a perfect birth could impart. Nor again could the ignorance of day and hour be imputed in the Only-begotten God to a lower degree of Divinity. It is to demonstrate against the Sabellian heretics that the Father's authority is without birth or beginning, that this prerogative of unbegotten authority is not granted to the Son. But if, as we have maintained, when He said that He knew not the day, He kept silence not from ignorance, but in accordance with the Divine Plan, all occasion for irreverent declarations must be removed, and the blasphemous teachings of heresy thwarted, that the truth of the Gospel may be illustrated by the very words which seem to obscure it.
9. Thus the greater number of them will not allow Him to have the impossible nature of God because He feared His Passion and showed Himself weak by submitting to suffering. They assert that He Who feared and felt pain could not enjoy that confidence of power which is above fear, or that incorruption of spirit which is not conscious of suffering: but, being of a nature lower than God the Father, He trembled with fear at human suffering, and groaned before the violence of bodily pain. These impious assertions are based on the words, My soul is sorrowful even unto death Matthew 26:38, and
Father if it be possible let this cup pass away from Me , and also, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me ? to which they also add, Father into Your hands I commend My Spirit. Luke 23:46 All these words of our holy faith they appropriate to the use of their unholy blasphemy: that He feared, Who was sorrowful, and even prayed that the cup might be taken away from Him; that He felt pain, because He complained that God had deserted Him in His suffering; that He was infirm, because He commended His Spirit to the Father. His doubts and anxieties preclude us, they say, from assigning to Him that likeness to God which would belong to a nature equal to God as being born His Only-begotten. He proclaims His own weakness and inferiority by the prayer to remove the cup, by the complaint of desertion and the commending of His Spirit.
10. Now first of all, before we show from these very texts, that He was subject to no infirmity of fear or sorrow on His own account, let us ask,
What can we find for Him to fear, that the dread of an unendurable pain should have seized Him? The objects of His fear, which they allege, are, I suppose, suffering and death. Now I ask those who are of this opinion, Can we reasonably suppose that He feared death, Who drove away the terrors of death from His Apostles, exhorting them to the glory of martyrdom with the words, He that does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worth of Me; and, He that finds his life shall lose it, and he that has lost his life for My sake shall find it Matthew 10:38-39 ? If to die for Him is life, what pain can we think He had to suffer in the mystery of death, Who rewards with life those who die for Him? Could death make Him fear what could be done to the body, when He exhorted the disciples, Fear not those which kill the body Matthew 10:28 ?
11. Further, what terror had the pain of death for Him, to Whom death was an act of His own free will? In the human race death is brought on either by an attack upon the body of an external enemy, such as fever wound, accident or fall: or our bodily nature is overcome by age, and yields to death. But the Only-begotten God, Who had the power of laying down His life, and of taking it up again John 10:18, after the drought of vinegar, having borne witness that His work of human suffering was finished, in order to accomplish in Himself the mystery of death, bowed His head and gave up His Spirit. If it has been granted to our mortal nature of its own will to breathe its last breath, and seek rest in death; if the buffeted soul may depart, without the breaking up of the body, and the spirit burst forth and flee away, without being as it were violated in its own home by the breaking and piercing and crushing of limbs; then fear of death might seize the Lord of life; if, that is, when He gave up the ghost and died, His death were not an exercise of His own free will. But if He died of His own will, and through His own will gave back His Spirit, death had no terror; because it was in His own power.
12. But perchance with the fearfulness of human ignorance, He feared the very power of death, which He possessed; so, though He died of His own accord, He feared because He was to die. If any think so, let them ask
To which was death terrible, to His Spirit or to His body? If to His body, are they ignorant that the Holy One should not see corruption , that within three days He was to revive the temple of His body ? But if death was terrible to His Spirit, should Christ fear the abyss of hell, while Lazarus was rejoicing in Abraham's bosom? It is foolish and absurd, that He should fear death, Who could lay down His soul, and take it up again, Who, to fulfil the mystery of human life, was about to die of His own free will. He cannot fear death Whose power and purpose in dying is to die but for a moment: fear is incompatible with willingness to die, and the power to live again, for both of these rob death of his terrors.
13. But was it perhaps the physical pain of hanging on the cross, or the rough cords with which He was bound, or the cruel wounds, where the nails were driven in, that dismayed Him? Let us see of what body the Man Jesus was, that pain should dwell in His crucified, bound, and pierced body.
14. The nature of our bodies is such, that when endued with life and feeling by conjunction with a sentient soul, they become something more than inert, insensate matter. They feel when touched, suffer when pricked, shiver with cold, feel pleasure in warmth, waste with hunger, and grow fat with food. By a certain transfusion of the soul, which supports and penetrates them, they feel pleasure or pain according to the surrounding circumstances. When the body is pricked or pierced, it is the soul which pervades it that is conscious, and suffers pain. For instance a flesh-wound is felt even to the bone, while the fingers feel nothing when we cut the nails which protrude from the flesh. And if through some disease a limb becomes withered, it loses the feeling of living flesh: it can be cut or burnt, it feels no pain whatever, because the soul is no longer mingled with it. Also when through some grave necessity part of the body must be cut away, the soul can be lulled to sleep by drugs, which overcome the pain, and produce in the mind a death-like forgetfulness of its power of sense. Then limbs can be cut off without pain: the flesh is dead to all feeling, and does not heed the deep thrust of the knife, because the soul within it is asleep. It is, therefore, because the body lives by admixture with a weak soul, that it is subject to the weakness of pain.
15. If the Man Jesus Christ began His bodily life with the same beginning as our body and soul, if He were not, as God, the immediate Author of His own body and soul alike, when He was fashioned in the likeness and form of man, and born as man, then we may suppose that He felt the pain of our body; since by His beginning, a conception like ours, He had a body animated with a soul like our own. But if through His own act He took to Himself flesh from the Virgin, and likewise by His own act joined a soul to the body thus conceived, then the nature of His suffering must have corresponded with the nature of His body and soul. For when He emptied Himself of the form of God and received the form of a servant when the Son of God was born also Son of Man, without losing His own self and power, God the Word formed the perfect living Man. For how was the Son of God born Son of Man, how did He receive the form of a servant, still remaining in the form of God, unless (God the Word being able of Himself to take flesh from the Virgin and to give that flesh a soul, for the redemption of our soul and body), the Man Christ Jesus was born perfect, and made in the form of a servant by the assumption of the body, which the Virgin conceived? For the Virgin conceived, what she conceived, from the Holy Ghost alone , and though for His birth in the flesh she supplied from herself that element, which women always contribute to the seed planted in them, still Jesus Christ was not formed by an ordinary human conception. In His birth, the cause of which was transmitted solely by the Holy Ghost, His mother performed the same part as in all human conceptions: but by virtue of His origin He never ceased to be God.
16. This deep and beautiful mystery of His assumption of manhood the Lord Himself reveals in the words, No man has ascended into heaven, but He that descended from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven. John 3:13 'Descended from heaven' refers to His origin from the Spirit: for though Mary contributed to His growth in the womb and birth all that is natural to her sex, His body did not owe to her its origin. The 'Son of Man' refers to the birth of the flesh conceived in the Virgin; 'Who is in heaven' implies the power of His eternal nature: an infinite nature, which could not restrict itself to the limits of the body, of which it was itself the source and base. By the virtue of the Spirit and the power of God the Word, though He abode in the form of a servant, He was ever present as Lord of all, within and beyond the circle of heaven and earth. So He descended from heaven and is the Son of Man, yet is in heaven: for the Word made flesh did not cease to be the Word. As the Word, He is in heaven, as flesh He is the Son of Man. As Word made flesh, He is at once from heaven, and Son of Man, and in heaven, for the power of the Word, abiding eternally without body, was present still in the heaven He had left: to Him and to none other the flesh owed its origin. So the Word made flesh, though He was flesh, yet never ceased to be the Word.
17. The blessed Apostle also perfectly describes this mystery of the ineffable birth of Christ's body in the words, The first man was from the soil of the ground, the second man from heaven. Calling Him 'Man' he expresses His birth from the Virgin, who in the exercise of her office as mother, performed the duties of her sex in the conception and birth of man. And when he says, The second man from heaven he testifies His origin from the Holy Ghost, Who came upon the Virgin. As He is then man, and from heaven, this Man was born of the Virgin, and conceived of the Holy Ghost. So speaks the Apostle.
18. Again the Lord Himself revealing this mystery of His birth, speaks thus: I am the living bread Who have descended from Heaven: if any one shall eat of My bread he shall live for ever John 6:51 : calling Himself the Bread since He is the origin of His own body. Further, that it may not be thought the Word left His own virtue and nature for the flesh, He says again that it is His bread; since He is the bread which descends from heaven, His body cannot be regarded as sprung from human conception, because it is shown to be from heaven. And His language concerning His bread is an assertion that the Word took a body, for He adds, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have not life in you. Hence, inasmuch as the Being Who is Son of Man descended also as bread from heaven, by the 'Bread descending from heaven' and by the 'Flesh and Blood of the Son of Man' must be understood His assumption of the flesh, conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin.
19. Being, then, Man with this body, Jesus Christ is both the Son of God and Son of Man, Who emptied Himself of the form of God, and received the form of a servant. There is not one Son of Man and another Son of God; nor one in the form of God, and another born perfect man in the form of a servant: so that, as by the nature determined for us by God, the Author of our being, man is born with body and soul, so likewise Jesus Christ, by His own power, is God and Man with flesh and soul, possessing in Himself whole and perfect manhood, and whole and perfect Godhead.
20. Yet many, with the art by which they seek to prove their heresy, are wont to delude the ears of the unlearned with the error, that as the body and soul of Adam both sinned, so the Lord must have taken the soul and body of Adam from the Virgin, and that it was not the whole Man that she conceived from the Holy Ghost. If they had understood the mystery of the Incarnation, these men would have understood at the same time the mystery that the Son of Man is also Son of God. As if in receiving so much from the Virgin, He received from her His soul also; whereas though flesh is always born of flesh, every soul is the direct work of God.
21. With a view to deprive of substantive divinity the Only-begotten God, Who was God the Word with God in the beginning, they make Him merely the utterance of the voice of God. The Son is related to God His Father, they say, as the words to the speaker. They are trying to creep into the position, that it was not God the eternal Word, abiding in the form of God, Who was born as Christ the Man, Whose life therefore springs from a human origin, not from the mystery of a spiritual conception; that He was not God the Word, making Himself man by birth from the Virgin, but the Word of God dwelling in Jesus as the spirit of prophecy dwelt in the prophets. They accuse us of saying that Christ was born man with body and soul different from ours. But we preach the Word made flesh, Christ emptying Himself of the form of God and taking the form of a servant, perfect according to the fashion of human form, born a man after the likeness of ourselves: that being true Son of God, He is indeed true Son of Man, neither the less Man because born of God, nor the less God because Man born of God.
22. But as He by His own act assumed a body from the Virgin, so He assumed from Himself a soul; though even in ordinary human birth the soul is never derived from the parents. If, then, the Virgin received from God alone the flesh which she conceived, far more certain is it that the soul of that body can have come from God alone. If, too, the same Christ be the Son of Man, Who is also the Son of God (for the whole Son of Man is the whole Son of God), how ridiculous is it to preach besides the Son of God, the Word made flesh, another I know not whom, inspired, like a prophet, by God the Word; whereas our Lord Jesus Christ is both Son of Man and Son of God. Yet because His soul was sorrowful unto death, and because He had the power to lay down His soul and the power to take it up again, they want to derive it from some alien source, and not from the Holy Ghost, the Author of His body's conception: for God the Word became man without departing from the mystery of His own nature. He was born also not to be at one time two separate beings, but that it might be made plain, that He Who was God before He was Man, now that He has taken humanity, is God and Man. How could Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have been born of Mary, except by the Word becoming flesh: that is by the Son of God, though in the form of God, taking the form of a slave? When He Who was in the form of God took the form of a slave, two contraries were brought together. Thus it was just as true, that He received the form of a slave, as that He remained in the form of God. The use of the one word 'form' to describe both natures compels us to recognise that He truly possessed both. He is in the form of a servant, Who is also in the form of God. And though He is the latter by His eternal nature, and the former in accordance with the divine Plan of Grace, the word has its true significance equally in both cases, because He is both: as truly in the form of God as in the form of Man. Just as to take the form of a servant is none other than to be born a man, so to be in the form of God is none other than to be God: and we confess Him as one and the same Person, not by loss of the Godhead, but by assumption of the manhood: in the form of God through His divine nature, in the form of man from His conception by the Holy Ghost, being found in fashion as a man. That is why after His birth as Jesus Christ, His suffering, death, and burial, He also rose again. We cannot separate Him from Himself in all these diverse mysteries, so that He should be no longer Christ; for Christ, Who took the form of a servant, was none other than He Who was in the form of God: He Who died was the same as He Who was born: He Who rose again as He Who died; He Who is in heaven as He Who rose again; lastly, He Who is in heaven as He Who before descended from heaven.
23. So the Man Jesus Christ, Only-begotten God, as flesh and as Word at the same time Son of Man and Son of God, without ceasing to be Himself, that is, God, took true humanity after the likeness of our humanity. But when, in this humanity, He was struck with blows, or smitten with wounds, or bound with ropes, or lifted on high, He felt the force of suffering, but without its pain. Thus a dart passing through water, or piercing a flame, or wounding the air, inflicts all that it is its nature to do: it passes through, it pierces, it wounds; but all this is without effect on the thing it strikes; since it is against the order of nature to make a hole in water, or pierce flame, or wound the air, though it is the nature of a dart to make holes, to pierce and to wound. So our Lord Jesus Christ suffered blows, hanging, crucifixion and death: but the suffering which attacked the body of the Lord, without ceasing to be suffering, had not the natural effect of suffering. It exercised its function of punishment with all its violence; but the body of Christ by its virtue suffered the violence of the punishment, without its consciousness. True, the body of the Lord would have been capable of feeling pain like our natures, if our bodies possessed the power of treading on the waters, and walking over the waves without weighing them down by our tread or forcing them apart by the pressure of our steps, if we could pass through solid substances, and the barred doors were no obstacle to us. But, as only the body of our Lord could be borne up by the power of His soul in the waters, could walk upon the waves, and pass through walls, how can we judge of the flesh conceived of the Holy Ghost on the analogy of a human body? That flesh, that is, that Bread, is from Heaven; that humanity is from God. He had a body to suffer, and He suffered: but He had not a nature which could feel pain. For His body possessed a unique nature of its own; it was transformed into heavenly glory on the Mount, it put fevers to flight by its touch, it gave new eyesight by its spittle.
24. It may perhaps be said, 'We find Him giving way to weeping, to hunger and thirst: must we not suppose Him liable to all the other affections of human nature?' But if we do not understand the mystery of His tears, hunger, and thirst, let us remember that He Who wept also raised the dead to life: that He did not weep for the death of Lazarus, but rejoiced ; that He Who thirsted, gave from Himself rivers of living water. John 7:38 He could not be parched with thirst, if He was able to give the thirsty drink. Again, He Who hungered could condemn the tree which offered no fruit for His hunger : but how could His nature be overcome by hunger if He could strike the green tree barren by His word? And if, beside the mystery of weeping, hunger and thirst, the flesh He assumed, that is His entire manhood, was exposed to our weaknesses: even then it was not left to suffer from their indignities. His weeping was not for Himself; His thirst needed no water to quench it; His hunger no food to stay it. It is never said that the Lord ate or drank or wept when He was hungry, or thirsty, or sorrowful. He conformed to the habits of the body to prove the reality of His own body, to satisfy the custom of human bodies by doing as our nature does. When He ate and drank, it was a concession, not to His own necessities, but to our habits.
25. For Christ had indeed a body, but unique, as befitted His origin. He did not come into existence through the passions incident to human conception: He came into the form of our body by an act of His own power. He bore our collective humanity in the form of a servant, but He was free from the sins and imperfections of the human body: that we might be in Him, because He was born of the Virgin, and yet our faults might not be in Him, because He is the source of His own humanity, born as man but not born under the defects of human conception. It is this mystery of His birth which the Apostle upholds and demonstrates, when he says, He humbled Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of a man and being formed in fashion as a man Philippians 2:7: that is, in that He took the form of a servant, He was born in the form of a man: in that He was made in the likeness of a man, and formed in fashion as a man, the appearance and reality of His body testified His humanity, yet, though He was formed in fashion as a man, He knew not what sin was. For His conception was in the likeness of our nature, not in the possession of our faults. For lest the words, He took the form of a servant, might be understood of a natural birth, the Apostle adds, made in the likeness of a man, and formed in fashion as a man. The truth of His birth is thus prevented from suggesting the defects incident to our weak natures, since the form of a servant implies the reality of His birth, and found in fashion as a man, the likeness of our nature. He was of Himself born man through the Virgin, and found in the likeness of our degenerate body of sin: as the Apostle testifies in his letter to the Romans, For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His Son in the likeness of flesh of sin, condemned sin of sin. Romans 8:3 He was not found in the fashion of a man: but found in fashion as a man: nor was His flesh the flesh of sin, but the likeness of the flesh of sin. Thus the fashion of flesh implies the truth of His birth, and the likeness of the flesh of sin removes Him from the imperfections of human weakness. So the Man Jesus Christ as man was truly born, as Christ had no sin in His nature: for, on His human side, He was born, and could not but be a man; on His divine side, He could never cease to be Christ. Since then Jesus Christ was man, He submitted as man to a human birth: yet as Christ He was free from the infirmity of our degenerate race.
26. The Apostles' belief prepares us for the understanding of this mystery; when it testifies that Jesus Christ was found in fashion as a man and was sent in the likeness of the flesh of sin. For being fashioned as a man, He is in the form of a servant, but not in the imperfections of a servant's nature; and being in the likeness of the flesh of sin, the Word is indeed flesh, but is in the likeness of the flesh of sin and not the flesh of sin itself. In like manner Jesus Christ being man is indeed human, but even thus cannot be anything else but Christ, born as man by the birth of His body, but not human in defects, as He was not human in origin. The Word made flesh could not but be the flesh that He was made; yet He remained always the Word, though He was made flesh. As the Word made flesh could not vacate the nature of His Source, so by virtue of the origin of His nature He could not but remain the Word: but at the same time we must believe that the Word is that flesh which He was made; always, however, with the reserve, that when He dwelt among us, the flesh was not the Word, but was the flesh of the Word dwelling in the flesh.
Though we have proved this, still we will see whether in the whole range of suffering, which He endured, we can anywhere detect in our Lord the weakness of bodily pain. We will put off for a time the discussion of the passages on the strength of which heresy has attributed fear to our Lord; now let us turn to the facts themselves: for His words cannot signify fear if His actions display confidence.
27. Do you suppose, heretic, that the Lord of glory feared to suffer? Why, when Peter made this error through ignorance, did He not call him 'Satan' and a 'stumbling-block Matthew 16:22-23?' Thus was Peter, who deprecated the mystery of the Passion, established in the faith by so sharp a rebuke from the lips of the gentle Christ, Whom not flesh and blood, but the Father in Heaven had revealed to him.
What phantom hope are you chasing when you deny that Christ is God, and attribute to Him fear of suffering? He afraid, Who went forth to meet the armed bands of His captors? Weakness in His body, at Whose approach the pursuers reeled and broke their ranks and fell prone, unable to endure His Majesty as He offered Himself to their chains? What weakness could enthral His body, Whose nature had such power?
28. But perhaps He feared the pain of wounds. Say then, What terror had the thrust of the nail for Him Who merely by His touch restored the ear that was cut off? You who assert the weakness of the Lord, explain this work of power at the moment when His flesh was weak and suffering. Peter drew his sword and smote: the High Priest's servant stood there, lopped of his ear. How was the flesh of the ear restored from the bare wound by the touch of Christ? Amidst the flowing blood, and the wound left by the cleaving sword, when the body was so maimed, whence sprang forth an ear which was not there? Whence came that which did not exist before? Whence was restored that which was wanting? Did the hand, which created an ear, feel the pain of the nails? He prevented another from feeling the pain of a wound: did He feel it Himself? His touch could restore the flesh that was cut off; was He sorrowful because He feared the piercing of His own flesh? And if the body of Christ had this virtue, dare we allege infirmity in that nature, whose natural force could counteract all the natural infirmities of man?
29. But, perhaps, in their misguided and impious perversity, they infer His weakness from the fact that His soul was sorrowful unto death. Matthew 26:38 It is not yet the time to blame you, heretic, for misunderstanding the passage. For the present I will only ask you, Why do you forget that when Judas went forth to betray Him, He said, Now is the Son of Man glorified John 13:31 ? If suffering was to glorify Him, how could the fear of it have made Him sorrowful? How, unless He was so void of reason, that He feared to suffer when suffering was to glorify Him?
30. But perhaps He may be thought to have feared to the extent that He prayed that the cup might be removed from Him: Abba, Father, all things are possible unto You: remove this cup from Me. Mark 14:36 To take the narrowest ground of argument, might you not have refuted for yourself this dull impiety by your own reading of the words, Put up your sword into its sheath: the cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it John 18:11 ? Could fear induce Him to pray for the removal from Him of that which, in His zeal for the Divine Plan, He was hastening to fulfil? To say He shrank from the suffering He desired is not consistent. You allow that He suffered willingly: would it not be more reverent to confess that you had misunderstood this passage, than to rush with blasphemous and headlong folly to the assertion that He prayed to escape suffering, though you allow that He suffered willingly?
31. Yet, I suppose, you will arm yourself also for your godless contention with these words of the Lord, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me ? Perhaps you think that after the disgrace of the cross, the favour of His Father's help departed from Him, and hence His cry that He was left alone in His weakness. But if you regard the contempt, the weakness, the cross of Christ as a disgrace, you should remember His words, Verily I say unto you, From henceforth you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven.
32. Where, pray, can you see fear in His Passion? Where weakness? Or pain? Or dishonour? Do the godless say He feared? But He proclaimed with His own lips His willingness to suffer. Do they maintain that He was weak? He revealed His power, when His pursuers were stricken with panic and dared not face Him. Do they contend that He felt the pain of the wounds in His flesh? But He showed, when He restored the wounded flesh of the ear, that, though He was flesh, He did not feel the pain of fleshly wounds. The hand which touched the wounded ear belonged to His body: yet that hand created an ear out of a wound: how then can that be the hand of a body which was subject to weakness?
33. But, they say, the cross was a dishonour to Him; yet it is because of the cross that we can now see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, that He Who was born man of the womb of the Virgin has returned in His Majesty with the clouds of heaven. Your irreverence blinds you to the natural relations of cause and event: not only does the spirit of godlessness and error, with which you are filled, hide from your understanding the mystery of faith, but the obtuseness of heresy drags you below the level of ordinary human intelligence. For it stands to reason that whatever we fear, we avoid: that a weak nature is a prey to terror by its very feebleness: that whatever feels pain possesses a nature always liable to pain: that whatever dishonours is always a degradation. On what reasonable principle, then, do you hold that our Lord Jesus Christ feared that towards which He pressed: or awed the brave, yet trembled Himself with weakness: or stopped the pain of wounds, yet felt the pain of His own: or was dishonoured by the degradation of the cross, yet through the cross sat down by God on high, and returned to His Kingdom?
34. But perhaps you think your impiety has still an opportunity left to see in the words, Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit Luke 23:46, a proof that He feared the descent into the lower world, and even the necessity of death. But when you read these words and could not understand them, would it not have been better to say nothing, or to pray devoutly to be shown their meaning, than to go astray with such barefaced assertions, too mad with your own folly to perceive the truth? Could you believe that He feared the depths of the abyss, the scorching flames, or the pit of avenging punishment, when you listen to His words to the thief on the cross, Verily, I say unto you, Today shall you be with Me in Paradise ? Such a nature with such power could not be shut up within the confines of the nether world, nor even subjected to fear of it. When He descended to Hades, He was never absent from Paradise (just as He was always in Heaven when He was preaching on earth as the Son of Man), but promised His martyr a home there, and held out to him the transports of perfect happiness. Bodily fear cannot touch Him Who reaches indeed down as far as Hades, but by the power of His nature is present in all things everywhere. As little can the abyss of Hell and the terrors of death lay hold upon the nature which rules the world, boundless in the freedom of its spiritual power, confident of the raptures of Paradise; for the Lord Who was to descend to Hades, was also to dwell in Paradise. Separate, if you can, from His indivisible nature a part which could fear punishment: send the one part of Christ to Hades to suffer pain, the other, you must leave in Paradise to reign: for the thief says, Remember me when You come in Your Kingdom. It was the groan he heard, I suppose, when the nails pierced the hands of our Lord, which provoked in him this blessed confession of faith: he learned the Kingdom of Christ from His weakened and stricken body! He begs that Christ will remember him when He comes in His Kingdom: you say that Christ feared as He hung dying upon the cross. The Lord promises him, Today shall you be with Me in Paradise; you would subject Christ to Hades and fear of punishment. Your faith has the opposite expectation. The thief confessed Christ in His Kingdom as He hung on the cross, and was rewarded with Paradise from the cross: you who impute to Christ the pain of punishment and the fear of death, will fail of Paradise and His Kingdom.
35. We have now seen the power that lay in the acts and words of Christ. We have incontestably proved that His body did not share the infirmity of a natural body, because its power could expel the infirmities of the body that when He suffered, suffering laid hold of His body, but did not inflict upon it the nature of pain: and this because, though the form of our body was in the Lord, yet He by virtue of His origin was not in the body of our weakness and imperfection. He was conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin, who performed the office of her sex, but did not receive the seed of His conception from man. She brought forth a body, but one conceived of the Holy Ghost; a body possessing inherent reality, but with no infirmity in its nature. That body was truly and indeed body, because it was born of the Virgin: but it was above the weakness of our body, because it had its beginning in a spiritual conception.
36. But even now that we have proved what was the faith of the Apostle, the heretics think to meet it by the text, My soul is sorrowful even unto death. These words, they say, prove the consciousness of natural infirmity which made Christ begin to be sorrowful. Now, first, I appeal to common intelligence: what do we mean by sorrowful unto death? It cannot signify the same as 'to be sorrowful because of death:' for where there is sorrow because of death, it is the death that is the cause of the sadness. But a sadness even to death implies that death is the finish, not the cause, of the sadness. If then He was sorrowful even to death, not because of death, we must enquire, whence came His sadness? He was sorrowful, not for a certain time, or for a period which human ignorance could not determine, but even unto death. So far from His sadness being caused by His death, it was removed by it.
37. That we may understand what was the cause of His sadness, let us see what precedes and follows this confession of sadness: for in the Passover supper our Lord completely signified the whole mystery of His Passion and our faith. After He had said that they should all be offended in Him , but promised that He would go before them into Galilee , Peter protested that though all the rest should be offended, he would remain faithful and not be offended. Matthew 26:33 But the Lord knowing by His Divine Nature what should come to pass, answered that Peter would deny Him thrice: that we might know from Peter how the others were offended, since even he lapsed into so great peril to his faith by the triple denial. After that, He took Peter, James and John, chosen, the first two to be His martyrs, John to be strengthened for the proclamation of the Gospel, and declared that He was sorrowful unto death. Then He went before, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet, not as I will, but as You will. He prays that the cup may pass from Him, when it was certainly already before Him: for even then was being fulfilled that pouring forth of His blood of the New Testament for the sins of many. He does not pray that it may not be with Him; but that it may pass away from Him. Then He prays that His will may not be done, and wills that what He wishes to be effected, may not be granted Him. For He says, Yet not as I will, but as You will: signifying by His spontaneous prayer for the cup's removal His fellowship with human anxiety, yet associating Himself with the decree of the Will which He shares inseparably with the Father. To show, moreover, that He does not pray for Himself, and that He seeks only a conditional fulfilment of what He desires and prays for, He prefaces the whole of this request with the words, My Father, if it is possible. Is there anything for the Father the possibility of which is uncertain? But if nothing is impossible to the Father, we can see on what depends this condition, if it is possible : for this prayer is immediately followed by the words, And He came to His disciples and finds them sleeping, and says to Peter, Could ye not watch one hour with Me? Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation: for the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Is the cause of this sadness and this prayer any longer doubtful? He bids them watch and pray with Him for this purpose, that they may not enter into temptation; for the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. They were under the promise made in the constancy of faithful souls not to be offended, yet, through weakness of the flesh, they were to be offended. It is not, therefore, for Himself that He is sorrowful and prays: it is for those whom He exhorts to watchfulness and prayer, lest the cup of suffering should be their lot: lest that cup which He prays may pass away from Him, should abide with them.
38. And the reason He prayed that the cup might be removed from Him, if that were possible, was that, though with God nothing is impossible, as Christ Himself says, Father, all things are possible to You Mark 14:36, yet for man it is impossible to withstand the fear of suffering, and only by trial can faith be proved. Wherefore, as Man He prays for men that the cup may pass away, but as God from God, His will is in unison with the Father's effectual will. He teaches what He meant by If it is possible, in His words to Peter, Lo, Satan has sought you that He might sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. Luke 22:31-32 The cup of the Lord's Passion was to be a trial for them all, and He prays the Father for Peter that his faith may not fail: that when he denied through weakness, at least he might not fail of penitential sorrow, for repentance would mean that faith survived.
39. The Lord was sorrowful then unto death because in presence of the death, the earthquake, the darkened day, the rent veil, the opened graves, and the resurrection of the dead, the faith of the disciples would need to be established which had been so shaken by the terror of the night arrest, the scourging, the striking, the spitting upon, the crown of thorns, the bearing of the cross, and all the insults of the Passion, but most of all by the condemnation to the accursed cross. Knowing that all this would be at an end after His Passion, He was sad unto death. He knew, too, that the cup could not pass away unless He drank it, for He said, My Father, this cup cannot pass from Me unless I drink it: Your will be done : that is, with the completion of His Passion, the fear of the cup would pass away which could not pass away unless He drank it: the end of that fear would follow only when His Passion was completed and terror destroyed , because after His death, the stumbling-block of the disciples' weakness would be removed by the glory of His power.
40. Although by His words, Your will be done, He surrendered the Apostles to the decision of His Father's will, in regard to the offense of the cup, that is, of His Passion, still He repeated His prayer a second and a third time. After that He said, Sleep on now, and take your rest. Matthew 26:45 It is not without the consciousness of some secret reason that He Who had reproached them for their sleep, now bade them sleep on, and take their rest. Luke is thought to have given us the meaning of this command. After He had told us how Satan had sought to sift the Apostles as it were wheat, and how the Lord had been entreated that the faith of Peter might not fail , he adds that the Lord prayed earnestly, and then that an angel stood by Him comforting Him, and as the angel stood by Him, He prayed the more earnestly, so that the sweat poured from His body in drops of blood. The Angel was sent, then, to watch over the Apostles, and when the Lord was comforted by him, so that He no longer sorrowed for them, He said, without fear of sadness, Sleep on now, and take your rest. Matthew and Mark are silent about the angel, and the request of the devil: but after the sorrowfulness of His soul, the reproach of the sleepers, and the prayer that the cup may be taken away, there must be some good reason for the command to the sleepers which follows; unless we assume that He Who was about to leave them, and Himself had received comfort from the Angel sent to Him, meant to abandon them to their sleep, soon to be arrested and kept in durance.
41. We must not indeed pass over the fact that in many manuscripts, both Latin and Greek, nothing is said of the angel's coming or the Bloody Sweat. But while we suspend judgment, whether this is an omission, where it is wanting, or an interpolation, where it is found (for the discordance of the copies leaves the question uncertain), let not the heretics encourage themselves that herein lies a confirmation of His weakness, that He needed the help and comfort of an angel. Let them remember the Creator of the angels needs not the support of His creatures. Moreover His comforting must be explained in the same way as His sorrow. He was sorrowful for us, that is, on our account; He must also have been comforted for us, that is, on our account. If He sorrowed concerning us, He was comforted concerning us. The object of His comfort is the same as that of His sadness. Nor let any one dare to impute the Sweat to a weakness, for it is contrary to nature to sweat blood. It was no infirmity, for His power reversed the law of nature. The bloody sweat does not for one moment support the heresy of weakness, while it establishes against the heresy which invents an apparent body , the reality all His body. Since, then, His fear was concerning us, and His prayer on our behalf, we are forced to the conclusion that all this happened on our account, for whom He feared, and for whom He prayed.
42. Again the Gospels fill up what is lacking in one another: we learn some things from one, some from another, and so on, because all are the proclamation of the same spirit. Thus John, who especially brings out the working of spiritual causes in the Gospel, preserves this prayer of the Lord for the Apostles, which all the others passed over: how He prayed, namely, Holy Father, keep them in Your Name....while I was them I kept them in Your Name: those whom You gave Me I have kept. That prayer was not for Himself but for His Apostles; nor was He sorrowful for Himself, since He bids them pray that they be not tempted; nor is the angel sent to Him, for He could summon down from Heaven, if He would, twelve thousand angels Matthew 26:53; nor did He fear because of death when He was troubled unto death. Again, He does not pray that the cup may pass over Himself, but that it may pass away from Himself, though before it could pass away He must have drunk it. But, further, 'to pass away' does not mean merely 'to leave the place,' but 'not to exist any more at all:' which is shown in the language of the Gospels and Epistles: for example, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not perish : also the Apostle says, Behold the old things are passed away; they have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 And again, The fashion of this world shall pass away. 1 Corinthians 7:31 The cup, therefore, of which He prays to the Father, cannot pass away unless it be drunk; and when He prays, He prays for those whom He preserved, so long as He was with them, whom He now hands over to the Father to preserve. Now that He is about to accomplish the mystery of death He begs the Father to guard them. The presence of the angel who was sent to Him (if this explanation be true) is not of doubtful significance. Jesus showed His certainty that the prayer was answered when, at its close, He bade the disciples sleep on. The effect of this prayer and the security which prompted the command, 'sleep on,' is noticed by the Evangelist in the course of the Passion, when he says of the Apostles just before they escaped from the hands of the pursuers, That the word might be fulfilled which He had spoken, Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one of them. John 18:9 He fulfils Himself the petition of His prayer, and they are all safe; but He asks that those whom He has preserved the Father will now preserve in His own Name. And they are preserved: the faith of Peter does not fail: it cowered, but repentance followed immediately.
43. Combine the Lord's prayer in John, the request of the devil in Luke, the sorrowfulness unto death, and the protest against sleep, followed by the command, Sleep on, in Matthew and Mark, and all difficulty disappears. The prayer in John, in which He commends the Apostles to His Father, explains the cause of His sorrowfulness, and the prayer that the cup may pass away. It is not from Himself that the Lord prays the suffering may be taken away. He beseeches the Father to preserve the disciples during His coming passion. In the same way, the prayer against Satan in St. Luke explains the confidence with which He permitted the sleep He had just forbidden.
44. There was, then, no place for human anxiety and trepidation in that nature, which was more than human. It was superior to the ills of earthly flesh; a body not sprung from earthly elements, although His origin as Son of Man was due to the mystery of the conception by the Holy Ghost. The power of the Most High imparted its power to the body which the Virgin bare from the conception of the Holy Ghost. The animated body derives its conscious existence from association with a soul, which is diffused throughout it, and quickens it to perceive pains inflicted from without. Thus the soul, warned by the happy glow of its own heavenly faith and hope, soars above its own origin in the beginnings of an earthly body, and raises that body to union with itself in thought and spirit, so that it ceases to feel the suffering of that which, all the while, it suffers. Why need we then say more about the nature of the Lord's body, that of the Son of Man Who came down from heaven? Even earthly bodies can sometimes be made indifferent to the natural necessities of pain and fear.
45. Did the Jewish children fear the flames blazing up with the fuel cast upon them in the fiery furnace at Babylon? Did the terror of that terrible fire prevail over their nature, conceived though it was like ours Daniel 3:23? Did they feel pain, when the flames surrounded them? Perhaps, however, you may say they felt no pain, because they were not burnt: the flames were deprived of their burning nature. To be sure it is natural to the body to fear burning, and to be burnt by fire. But through the spirit of faith their earthly bodies (that is, bodies which had their origin according to the principles of natural birth) could neither be burnt nor made afraid. What, therefore, in the case of men was a violation of the order of nature, produced by faith in God, cannot be judged in God's case natural, but as an activity of the Spirit commencing with His earthly origin. The children were bound in the midst of the fire; they had no fear as they mounted the blazing pile: they felt not the flame as they prayed: though in the midst of the furnace, they could not be burnt. Both the fire and their bodies lost their proper natures; the one did not burn, the others were not burnt. Yet in all other respects, both fire and bodies retained their natures: for the bystanders were consumed, and the ministers of punishment were themselves punished. Impious heretic, you will have it that Christ suffered pain from the piercing of the nails, that He felt the bitterness of the wound, when they were driven through His hands: why, pray, did not the children fear the flames? Why did they suffer no pain? What was the nature in their bodies, which overcame that of fire? In the zeal of their faith and the glory of a blessed martyrdom they forgot to fear the terrible; should Christ be sorrowful from fear of the cross, Christ, Who even if He had been conceived with our sinful origin, would have been still God upon the cross, Who was to judge the world and reign for ever and ever? Could He forget such a reward, and tremble with the anxiety of dishonourable fear?
46. Daniel, whose meat was the scanty portion of a prophet Daniel 1:8-16, did not fear the lions' den. The Apostles rejoiced in suffering and death for the Name of Christ. To Paul his sacrifice was the crown of righteousness. 2 Timothy 4:6, 8 The Martyrs sang hymns as they offered their necks to the executioner, and climbed with psalms the blazing logs piled for them. The consciousness of faith takes away the weakness of nature, transforms the bodily senses that they feel no pain, and so the body is strengthened by the fixed purpose of the soul, and feels nothing except the impulse of its enthusiasm. The suffering which the mind despises in its desire of glory, the body does not feel, so long as the soul invigorates it. It is, then, a natural effect in man, that the zeal of the soul glowing for glory should make him unconscious of suffering, heedless of wounds, and regardless of death. But Jesus Christ the Lord of glory, the hem of Whose garment can heal, Whose spittle and word can create; for the man with the withered hand at His command stretched it forth whole, he who was born blind felt no more the defect of his birth, and the smitten ear was made sound as the other; dare we think of His pierced body in that pain and weakness, from which the spirit of faith in Him rescued the glorious and blessed Martyrs?
47. The Only-begotten God, then, suffered in His person the attacks of all the infirmities to which we are subject; but He suffered them in the power of His own nature, just as He was born in the power of His own nature, for at His birth He did not lose His omnipotent nature by being born. Though born under human conditions, He was not so conceived: His birth was surrounded by human circumstances, but His origin went beyond them. He suffered then in His body after the manner of our infirm body, yet bore the sufferings of our body in the power of His own body. To this article of our faith the prophet bears witness when he says, He bears our sins and grieves for us: and we esteemed Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted: He was wounded for our transgressions and made weak for our sins. It is then a mistaken opinion of human judgment, which thinks He felt pain because He suffered. He bore our sins, that is, He assumed our body of sin, but was Himself sinless. He was sent in the likeness of the flesh of sin, bearing sin indeed in His flesh but our sin. So too He felt pain for us, but not with our senses; He was found in fashion as a man, with a body which could feel pain, but His nature could not feel pain; for, though His fashion was that of a man, His origin was not human, but He was born by conception of the Holy Ghost.
For the reasons mentioned, He was esteemed 'stricken, smitten and afflicted.' He took the form of a servant: and 'man born of a Virgin' conveys to us the idea of One Whose nature felt pain when He suffered. But though He was wounded it was 'for our transgressions.' The wound was not the wound of His own transgressions: the suffering not a suffering for Himself. He was not born man for His own sake, nor did He transgress in His own action. The Apostle explains the principle of the Divine Plan when he says, We beseech you through Christ to be reconciled to God. Him, Who knew no sin, He made to be sin on our behalf. To condemn sin through sin in the flesh, He Who knew no sin was Himself made sin; that is, by means of the flesh to condemn sin in the flesh, He became flesh on our behalf but knew not flesh : and therefore was wounded because of our transgressions.
48. Again, the Apostle knows nothing in Christ about fear of pain. When He wishes to speak of the dispensation of the Passion, He includes it in the mystery of Christ's Divinity. Forgiving us all our trespasses, blotting out the bond written in ordinances, that was against us, which was contrary to us: taking it away, and nailing it to the cross; stripping off from Himself His flesh, He made a show of principalities and powers openly triumphing over them in Himself. Colossians 2:13-15 Was that the power, think you, to yield to the wound of the nail, to wince under the piercing blow, to convert itself into a nature that can feel pain? Yet the Apostle, who speaks as the mouthpiece of Christ 2 Corinthians 13:3, relating the work of our salvation through the Lord, describes the death of Christ as 'stripping off from Himself His flesh, boldly putting to shame the powers and triumphing over them in Himself.' If His passion was a necessity of nature and not the free gift of your salvation: if the cross was merely the suffering of wounds, and not the fixing upon Himself of the decree of death made out against you: if His dying was a violence done by death, and not the stripping off of the flesh by the power of God: lastly, if His death itself was anything but a dishonouring of powers, an act of boldness, a triumph: then ascribe to Him infirmity, because He was therein subject to necessity and nature, to force, to fear and disgrace. But if it is the exact opposite in the mystery of the Passion, as it was preached to us, who, pray, can be so senseless as to repudiate the faith taught by the Apostles, to reverse all feelings of religion, to distort into the dishonourable charge of natural weakness, what was an act of free-will, a mystery, a display of power and boldness, a triumph? And what a triumph it was, when He offered Himself to those who sought to crucify Him, and they could not endure His presence: when He stood under sentence of death, Who shortly was to sit on the right hand of power: when He prayed for His persecutors while the nails were driven through Him: when He completed the mystery as He drained the draught of vinegar; when He was numbered among the transgressors and meanwhile granted Paradise: that when He was lifted on the tree, the earth quaked: when He hung on the cross, sun and day were put to flight: that He left His own body, yet called life back to the bodies of others : was buried a corpse and rose again God: as man suffered all weaknesses for our sakes, as God triumphed in them all.
49. There is still, the heretics say, another serious and far reaching confession of weakness, all the more so because it is in the mouth of the Lord Himself, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me Matthew 27:46? They construe this into the expression of a bitter complaint, that He was deserted and given over to weakness. But what a violent interpretation of an irreligious mind! How repugnant to the whole tenor of our Lord's words! He hastened to the death, which was to glorify Him, and after which He was to sit on the right hand of power; with all those blessed expectations could He fear death, and therefore complain that His God had betrayed Him to its necessity, when it was the entrance to eternal blessedness?
50. Further their heretical ingenuity presses on in the path prepared by their own godlessness, even to the entire absorption of God the Word into the human soul, and consequent denial that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, was the same as the Son of God. So either God the Word ceased to be Himself while He performed the function of a soul in giving life to a body , or the man who was born was not the Christ at all, but the Word dwelt in him, as the Spirit dwelt in the prophets. These absurd and perverse errors have grown in boldness and godlessness till they assert that Jesus Christ was not Christ until He was born of Mary. He Who was born was not a pre-existent Being, but began at that moment to exist.
Hence follows also the error that God the Word, as it were some part of the Divine power extending itself in unbroken continuation, dwelt within that man who received from Mary the beginning of his being, and endowed him with the power of Divine working: though that man lived and moved by the nature of his own soul.
51. Through this subtle and mischievous doctrine they are drawn into the error that God the Word became soul to the body, His nature by self-humiliation working the change upon itself, and thus the Word ceased to be God; or else, that the Man Jesus, in the poverty and remoteness from God of His nature, was animated only by the life and motion of His own human soul, wherein the Word of God, that is, as it were, the might of His uttered voice, resided. Thus the way is opened for all manner of irreverent theorising: the sum of which is, either that God the Word was merged in the soul and ceased to be God: or that Christ had no existence before His birth from Mary, since Jesus Christ, a mere man of ordinary body and soul, began to exist only at His human birth and was raised to the level of the Power, which worked within Him, by the extraneous force of the Divine Word extending itself into Him. Then when God the Word, after this extension, was withdrawn, He cried, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? or at least when the divine nature of the Word once more gave place within Him to a human soul, He Who had hitherto relied on His Father's help, now separated from it, and abandoned to death, bemoaned His solitude and chid His deserter. Thus in every way arises a deadly danger of error in belief, whether it be thought that the cry of complaint denotes a weakness of nature in God the Word, or that God the Word was not pre-existent because the birth of Jesus Christ from Mary was the beginning of His being.
52. Amid these irreverent and ill-grounded theories the faith of the Church, inspired by the teaching of the Apostles, has recognised a birth of Christ, but no beginning. It knows of the dispensation, but of no division : it refuses to make a separation in Jesus Christ ; whereby Jesus is one and Christ another; nor does it distinguish the Son of Man from the Son of God, lest perhaps the Son of God be not regarded as Son of Man also. It does not absorb the Son of God in the Son of Man; nor does it by a tripartite belief tear asunder Christ, Whose coat woven from the top throughout was not parted, dividing Jesus Christ into the Word, a body and a soul; nor, on the other hand, does it absorb the Word in body and soul. To it He is perfectly God the Word, and perfectly Christ the Man. To this alone we hold fast in the mystery of our confession, namely, the faith that Christ is none other than Jesus, and the doctrine that Jesus is none other than Christ.
53. I am not ignorant how much the grandeur of the divine mystery baffles our weak understanding, so that language can scarcely express it, or reason define it, or thought even embrace it. The Apostle, knowing that the most difficult task for an earthly nature is to apprehend, unaided, God's mode of action (for then our judgment were keener to discern than God is mighty to effect), writes to his true son according to the faith, who had received the Holy Scripture from his childhood, As I exhorted you to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that you might charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, the which minister questionings, rather than the edification of God which is in faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-4 He bids him forbear to handle wordy genealogies and fables, which minister endless questionings. The edification of God, he says, is in faith: he limits human reverence to the faithful worship of the Almighty, and does not suffer our weakness to strain itself in the attempt to see what only dazzles the eye. If we look at the brightness of the sun, the sight is strained and weakened: and sometimes when we scrutinise with too curious gaze the source of the shining light, the eyes lose their natural power, and the sense of sight is even destroyed. Thus it happens that through trying to see too much we see nothing at all. What must we then expect in the case of God, the Sun of Righteousness? Will not foolishness be their reward, who would be over wise? Will not dull and brainless stupor usurp the place of the burning light of intelligence? A lower nature cannot understand the principle of a higher: nor can Heaven's mode of thought be revealed to human conception, for whatever is within the range of a limited consciousness, is itself limited. The divine power exceeds therefore the capacity of the human mind. If the limited strains itself to reach so far, it becomes even feebler than before. It loses what certainty it had: instead of seeing heavenly things it is only blinded by them. No mind can fully comprehend the divine: it punishes the obstinacy of the curious by depriving them of their power. Would we look at the sun we must remove as much of his brilliancy as we need, in order to see him: if not, by expecting too much, we fall short of the possible. In the same way we can only hope to understand the purposes of Heaven, so far as is permitted. We must expect only what He grants to our apprehension: if we attempt to go beyond the limit of His indulgence, it is withdrawn altogether. There is that in God which we can perceive: it is visible to all if we are content with the possible. Just as with the sun we can see something, if we are content to see what can be seen, but if we strain beyond the possible we lose all: so is it with the nature of God. There is that which we can understand if we are content with understanding what we can: but aim beyond your powers and you will lose even the power of attaining what was within your reach.
54. The mystery of that other timeless birth I will not yet touch upon: its treatment demands an ampler space than this. For the present I will speak of the Incarnation only. Tell me, I pray, you who pry into secrets of Heaven, the mystery of Christ born of a Virgin and His nature; whence will you explain that He was conceived and born of a Virgin? What was the physical cause of His origin according to your disputations? How was He formed within His mother's womb? Whence His body and His humanity? And lastly, what does it mean that the Son of Man descended from heaven Who remained in heaven John 3:13? It is not possible by the laws of bodies for the same object to remain and to descend: the one is the change of downward motion; the other the stillness of being at rest. The Infant wails but is in Heaven: the Boy grows but remains ever the immeasurable God. By what perception of human understanding can we comprehend that He ascended where He was before, and He descended Who remained in heaven? The Lord says, What if you should behold the Son of Man ascending there where He was before ? The Son of Man ascends where He was before: can sense apprehend this? The Son of Man descends from heaven, Who is in heaven: can reason cope with this? The Word was made flesh: can words express this? The Word becomes flesh, that is, God becomes Man: the Man is in heaven: the God is from heaven. He ascends Who descended: but He descends and yet does not descend. He is as He ever was, yet He was not ever what He is. We pass in review the causes, but we cannot explain the manner: we perceive the manner, and we cannot understand the causes. Yet if we understand Christ Jesus even thus, we shall know Him: if we seek to understand Him further we shall not know Him at all.
55. Again, how great a mystery of word and act it is that Christ wept, that His eyes filled with tears from the anguish of His mind. Luke 19:41 Whence came this defect in His soul that sorrow should wring tears from His body? What bitter fate, what unendurable pain, could move to a flood of tears the Son of Man Who descended from heaven? Again, what was it in Him which wept? God the Word? Or His human soul? For though weeping is a bodily function, the body is but a servant; tears are, as it were, the sweat of the agonised soul. Again, what was the cause of His weeping? Did He owe to Jerusalem the debt of His tears, Jerusalem, the godless parricide, whom no suffering could requite for the slaughter of Apostles and Prophets, and the murder of her Lord Himself? He might weep for the disasters and death which befall mankind: but could He grieve for the fall of that doomed and desperate race? What, I ask, was this mystery of weeping? His soul wept for sorrow; was not it the soul which sent forth the Prophets? Which would so often have gathered the chickens together under the shadow of His wings ? But God the Word cannot grieve, nor can the Spirit weep: nor could His soul possibly do anything before the body existed. Yet we cannot doubt that Jesus Christ truly wept.
56. No less real were the tears He shed for Lazarus. John 11:35 The first question here is, What was there to weep for in the case of Lazarus? Not his death, for that was not unto death, but for the glory of God: for the Lord says, That sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be honoured through him. The death which was the cause of God's being glorified could not bring sorrow and tears. Nor was there any occasion for tears in His absence from Lazarus at the time of his death. He says plainly, Lazarus is dead, and I rejoice for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent that you may believe. His absence then, which aided the Apostles' belief, was not the cause of His sorrow: for with the knowledge of Divine omniscience, He declared the death of the sick man from afar. We can find, then, no necessity for tears, yet He wept. And again I ask, To whom must we ascribe the weeping? To God, or the soul, or the body? The body, of itself, has no tears except those it sheds at the command of the sorrowing soul. Far less can God have wept, for He was to be glorified in Lazarus. Nor is it reason to say His soul recalled Lazarus from the tomb: can a soul linked to a body, by the power of its command, call another soul back to the dead body from which it has departed? Can He grieve Who is about to be glorified? Can He weep Who is about to restore the dead to life? Tears are not for Him Who is about to give life, or grief for Him Who is about to receive glory. Yet He Who wept and grieved was also the Giver of life.
57. If there are many points which we treat scantily it is not because we have nothing to say, or do not know what has already been said; our purpose is, by abstaining from too laborious a process of argument, to render the results as attractive as possible to the reader. We know the deeds and words of our Lord, yet we know them not: we are not ignorant of them, yet they cannot be understood. The facts are real, but the power behind them is a mystery. We will prove this from His own words, For this reason does the Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again. This commandment received I from the Father. He lays down His life of Himself, but I ask who lays it down? We confess without hesitation, that Christ is God the Word: but on the other hand, we know that the Son of Man was composed of a soul and a body: compare the angel's words to Joseph, Arise and take the child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead who sought the soul of the child. Matthew 2:20 Whose soul is it? His body's, or God's? If His body's, what power has the body to lay down the soul, when it is only by the working of the soul that it is quickened into life? Again, how could the body, which apart from the soul is inert and dead, receive a command from the Father? But if, on the other hand, any man suppose that God the Word laid aside His soul, that He might take it up again, he must prove that God the Word died, that is, remained without life and feeling like a dead body, and took up His soul again to be quickened once more into life by it.
58. But, further, no one who is endued with reason can impute to God a soul; though it is written in many places that the soul of God hates sabbaths and new moons: and also that it delights in certain things. But this is merely a conventional expression to be understood in the same way as when God is spoken of as possessing body, with hands, and eyes, and fingers, and arms, and heart. As the Lord said, A Spirit has not flesh and bones Luke 24:39: He then Who is, and changes not Malachi 3:6, cannot have the limbs and parts of a tangible body. He is a simple and blessed nature, a single, complete, all-embracing Whole. God is therefore not quickened into life, like bodies, by the action of an indwelling soul, but is Himself His own life.
59. How does He then lay down His soul, or take it up again? What is the meaning of this command He received? God could not lay it down, that is, die, or take it up again, that is, come to life. But neither did the body receive the command to take it up again; it could not do so of itself, for He said of the Temple of His body, Destroy this temple and after three days I will raise it up. John 2:19 Thus it is God Who raises up the temple of His body. And Who lays down His soul to take it again? The body does not take it up again of itself: it is raised up by God. That which is raised up again must have been dead, and that which is living does not lay down its soul. God then was neither dead nor buried: and yet He said, In that she has poured this ointment upon My body she did it for My burial. Matthew 26:12 In that it was poured upon His body it was done for His burial: but the His is not the same as Him. It is quite another use of the pronoun when we say, 'it was done for the burial of Him,' and when we say, ' His body was anointed.' nor is the sense the same in ' His body was buried,' and ' He was buried.'
60. To grasp this divine mystery we must see the God in Him without ignoring the Man; and the Man without ignoring the God. We must not divide Jesus Christ, for the Word was made flesh: yet we must not call Him buried, though we know He raised Himself again: must not doubt His resurrection, though we dare not deny He was buried. Jesus Christ was buried, for He died: He died, and even cried out at the moment of death, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Yet He, Who uttered these words, said also: Verily I say unto you, This day shall you be with Me in Paradise Luke 23:43, and He Who promised Paradise to the thief cried aloud, Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit; and having said this He gave up the Ghost.
61. You who trisect Christ into the Word, the soul and the body, or degrade the whole Christ, even God the Word, into a single member of our race, unfold to us this mystery of great godliness which was manifested in the flesh. 1 Timothy 3:16 What Spirit did Christ give up? Who commended His Spirit into the hands of His Father? Who was to be in Paradise that same day? Who complained that He was deserted of God? The cry of the deserted betokens the weakness of the dying: the promise of Paradise the sovereign power of the living God. To commend His Spirit denoted confidence: to give up His Spirit implied His departure by death. Who then, I demand, was it Who died? Surely He Who gave up His Spirit? But Who gave up His Spirit? Certainly He Who commended it to His Father. And if He Who commended His Spirit is the same as He Who gave it up and died, was it the body which commended its soul, or God Who commended the body's soul? I say 'soul,' because there is no doubt it is frequently synonymous with 'spirit,' as might be gathered merely from the language here: Jesus gave up His 'Spirit' when He was on the point of death. If, therefore, you hold the conviction that the body commended the soul, that the perishable commended the living, the corruptible the eternal, that which was to be raised again, that which abides unchanged, then, since He Who commended His Spirit to the Father was also to be in Paradise with the thief that same day, I would fain know if, while the sepulchre received Him, He was abiding in heaven, or if He was abiding in heaven, when He cried out that God had deserted Him.
62. It is one and the same Lord Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, Who expresses Himself in all these utterances, Who is man when He says He is abandoned to death: yet while man still rules in Paradise as God, and though reigning in Paradise, as Son of God commends His Spirit to His Father, as Son of Man gives up to death the Spirit He commended to the Father. Why do we then view as a disgrace that which is a mystery? We see Him complaining that He is left to die, because He is Man: we see Him, as He dies, declaring that He reigned in Paradise, because He is God. Why should we harp, to support our irreverence, on what He said to make us understand His death, and keep back what He proclaimed to demonstrate His immortality? The words and the voice are equally His, when He complains of desertion, and when He declares His rule: by what method of heretical logic do we split up our belief and deny that He Who died was at the same time He Who rules? Did He not testify both equally of Himself, when He commended His Spirit, and when He gave it up? But if He is the same, Who commended His Spirit, and gave it up, if He dies when ruling and rules when dead: then the mystery of the Son of God and Son of Man means that He is One, Who dying reigns, and reigning dies.
63. Stand aside then, all godless unbelievers, for whom the divine mystery is too great, who do not know that Christ wept not for Himself but for us, to prove the reality of His assumed manhood by yielding to the emotion common to humanity: who do not perceive that Christ died not for Himself, but for our life, to renew human life by the death of the deathless God: who cannot reconcile the complaint of the deserted with the confidence of the Ruler: who would teach us that because He reigns as God and complains that He is dying, we have here a dead man and the reigning God. For He Who dies is none other than He Who reigns, He Who commends His spirit than He Who gives it up: He Who was buried, rose again: ascending or descending He is altogether one.
64. Listen to the teaching of the Apostle and see in it a faith instructed not by the understanding of the flesh but by the gift of the Spirit. The Greeks seek after wisdom, he says, and the Jews ask for a sign; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ Jesus, the power of God, God. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 Is Christ divided here so that Jesus the crucified is one, and Christ, the power and wisdom of God, another? This is to the Jews a stumbling-block and unto the Gentiles foolishness; but to us Christ Jesus is the power of God, and the wisdom of God: wisdom, however, not known of the world, nor understood by a secular philosophy. Hear the same blessed Apostle when he declares that it has not been understood, We speak the wisdom of God, which has been hidden in a mystery, which God foreordained before the world for our glory: which none of the rulers of this world has known: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 Does not the Apostle know that this wisdom of God is hidden in a mystery, and cannot be known of the rulers of this world? Does he divide Christ into a Lord of Glory and a crucified Jesus? Nay, rather, he contradicts this most foolish and impious idea with the words, For I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
65. The Apostle knew nothing else, and he determined to know nothing else: we men of feebler wit, and feebler faith, split up, divide and double Jesus Christ, constituting ourselves judges of the unknown, and blaspheming the hidden mystery. For us Christ crucified is one, Christ the wisdom of God another: Christ Who was buried different from Christ Who descended from Heaven: the Son of Man not at the same time also Son of God. We teach that which we do not understand: we seek to refute that which we cannot grasp. We men improve upon the revelation of God: we are not content to say with the Apostle, Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies, who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus, that died, yea, rather, that was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God, Who also makes intercession for us. Romans 8:33-34 Is He Who intercedes for us other than He Who is at the right hand of God? Is not He Who is at the right hand of God the very same Who rose again? Is He Who rose again other than He Who died? He Who died than He Who condemns us? Lastly, is not He Who condemns us also God Who justifies us? Distinguish, if you can, Christ our accuser from God our defender, Christ Who died from Christ Who condemns, Christ sitting at the right hand of God and praying for us from Christ Who died. Whether, therefore, dead or buried, descended into Hades or ascended into Heaven, all is one and the same Christ: as the Apostle says, Now this 'He ascended' what is it, but that He also descended to the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that He may fill all things. Ephesians 4:9-10 How far then shall we push our babbling ignorance and blasphemy, professing to explain what is hidden in the mystery of God? He that descended is the same also that ascended. Can we longer doubt that the Man Christ Jesus rose from the dead, ascended above the heavens and is at the right hand of God? We cannot say His body descended into Hades, which lay in the grave. If then He Who descended is one with Him, Who ascended; if His body did not go down into Hades, yet really arose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, what remains, except to believe in the secret mystery, which is hidden from the world and the rulers of this age, and to confess that, ascending or descending, He is but One, one Jesus Christ for us, Son of God and Son of Man, God the Word and Man in the flesh, Who suffered, died, was buried, rose again, was received into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God: Who possesses in His one single self, according to the Divine Plan and nature, in the form of God and in the form of a servant, the Human and Divine without separation or division.
66. So the Apostle moulding our ignorant and haphazard ideas into conformity with truth says of this mystery of the faith, For He was crucified through weakness but He lives through the power of God. 2 Corinthians 13:4 Preaching the Son of Man and Son of God, Man through the Divine Plan, God through His eternal nature, he says, that He Who was crucified through weakness is He Who lives through the power of God. His weakness arises from the form of a servant, His nature remains because of the form of God. He took the form of a servant, though He was in form of God: therefore there can be no doubt as to the mystery according to which He both suffered and lived. There existed in Him both weakness to suffer, and power of God to give life: and hence He Who suffered and lived cannot be more than One, or other than Himself.
67. The Only-begotten God suffered indeed all that men can suffer: but let us express ourselves in the words and faith of the Apostle. He says, For I delivered unto you first of all how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 This is no unsupported statement of his own, which might lead to error, but a warning to us to confess that Christ died and rose after a real manner, not a nominal, since the fact is certified by the full weight of Scripture authority; and that we must understand His death in that exact sense in which Scripture declares it. In his regard for the perplexities and scruples of the weak and sensitive believer, he adds these solemn concluding words, according to the Scriptures, to his proclamation of the death and the resurrection. He would not have us grow weaker, driven about by every wind of vain doctrine, or vexed by empty subtleties and false doubts: he would summon faith to return, before it were shipwrecked, to the haven of piety, believing and confessing the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Son of God, according to the Scriptures, this being the safeguard of reverence against the attack of the adversary, so to understand the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as it was written of Him. There is no danger in faith: the reverent confession of the hidden mystery of God is always safe. Christ was born of the Virgin, but conceived of the Holy Ghost according to the Scriptures. Christ wept, but according to the Scriptures: that which made Him weep was also a cause of joy. Christ hungered; but according to the Scriptures, He used His power as God against the tree which bore no fruit, when He had no food. Christ suffered: but according to the Scriptures, He was about to sit at the right hand of Power. He complained that He was abandoned to die: but according to the Scriptures, at the same moment He received in His kingdom in Paradise the thief who confessed Him. He died: but according to the Scriptures, He rose again and sits at the right hand of God. In the belief of this mystery there is life: this confession resists all attack.
68. The Apostle is careful to leave no room for doubt: we cannot say,
Christ was born, suffered, was dead and buried, and rose again: but how, by what power, by what division of parts of Himself? Who wept? Who rejoiced? Who complained? Who descended? And Who ascended? He rests the merits of faith entirely on the confession of unquestioning reverence. The righteousness, he says, which is of faith says thus, Say not in your heart, Who has ascended into heaven, that is, to bring Christ down: or Who has descended into the abyss: that is, to bring Christ up from the dead? But what says the Scripture? Your word is near, in your mouth, and in your heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach: because if you shall confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in your heart, that God has raised Him up from the dead, you shall be saved. Romans 10:6-9 Faith perfects the righteous man: as it is written, Abraham believed God and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Did Abraham impugn the word of God, when he was promised the inheritance of the Gentiles, and an abiding posterity as many as the sand or the stars for multitude? To the reverent faith, which trusts implicitly on the omnipotence of God, the limits of human weakness are no barrier. Despising all that is feeble and earthly in itself, it believes the divine promise, even though it exceeds the possibilities of human nature. It knows that the laws which govern man are no hindrance to the power of God, Who is as bountiful in the performance as He is gracious in the promise. Nothing is more righteous than Faith. For as in human conduct it is equity and self-restraint that receive our approval, so in the case of God, what is more righteous for man than to ascribe omnipotence to Him, Whose Power He perceives to be without limits?
69. The Apostle then looking in us for the righteousness which is of Faith, cuts at the root of incredulous doubt and godless unbelief. He forbids us to admit into our hearts the cares of anxious thought, and points to the authority of the Prophet's words, Say not in your heart, Who has ascended into heaven ? Then He completes the thought of the Prophet's words with the addition, That is to bring Christ down. The perception of the human mind cannot attain to the knowledge of the divine: but neither can a reverent faith doubt the works of God. Christ needed no human help, that any one should ascend into heaven to bring Him down from His blessed Home to His earthly body. It was no external force which drove Him down to the earth. We must believe that He came, even as He did come: it is true religion to confess Jesus Christ not brought down, but descending. The mystery both of the time and the method of His coming, belongs to Him alone. We may not think because He came but recently, that therefore He must have been brought down, nor that His coming in time depended upon another, who brought Him down.
Nor does the Apostle give room for unbelief in the other direction. He quotes at once the words of the Prophet, Or Who has descended into the abyss , and adds immediately the explanation, That is to bring Christ back from the dead. He is free to return into heaven, Who was free to descend to the earth. All hesitation and doubt is then removed. Faith reveals what omnipotence plans: history relates the effect, God Almighty was the cause.
70. But there is demanded from us an unwavering certainty. The Apostle expounding the whole secret of the Scripture passes on, Your word is near, in your mouth and in your heart. Deuteronomy 30:14 The words of our confession must not be tardy or deliberately vague: there must be no interval between heart and lips, lest what ought to be the confession of true reverence become a subterfuge of infidelity. The word must be near us, and within us; no delay between the heart and the lips; a faith of conviction as well as of words. Heart and lips must be in harmony, and reveal in thought and utterance a religion which does not waver. Here too, as before, the Apostle adds the explanation of the Prophet's words, That is the word of Faith, which we preach; because if you shall confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him up from the dead, you shall be saved. Piety consists in rejecting doubt, righteousness in believing, salvation in confessing. Trifle not with ambiguities, be not stirred up to vain babblings, do not debate in any way the powers of God, or impose limits upon His might, cease searching again and again for the causes of unsearchable mysteries: confess rather that Jesus is the Lord, and believe that God raised Him from the dead; herein is salvation. What folly is it to depreciate the nature and character of Christ, when this alone is salvation, to know that He is the Lord. Again, what an error of human vanity to quarrel about His resurrection, when it is enough for eternal life to believe that God raised Him up. In simplicity then is faith, in faith righteousness, and in confession true godliness. For God does not call us to the blessed life through arduous investigations. He does not tempt us with the varied arts of rhetoric. The way to eternity is plain and easy; believe that Jesus was raised from the dead by God and confess that He is the Lord. Let no one therefore wrest into an occasion for impiety, what was said because of our ignorance. It had to be proved to us, that Jesus Christ died, that we might live in Him.
71. If then He said, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me Mark 15:34, and Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit Luke 23:46, that we might be sure that He did die, was not this, in His care for our faith, rather a scattering of our doubts, than a confession of His weakness? When He was about to restore Lazarus, He prayed to the Father: but what need had He of prayer, Who said, Father, I thank You, that You have heard Me; and I know that You hear Me always, but because of the multitude I said it, that they may believe that You sent Me John 11:41-42 ? He prayed then for us, that we may know Him to be the Son; the words of prayer availed Him nothing, but He said them for the advancement of our faith. He was not in want of help, but we of teaching. Again He prayed to be glorified; and immediately was heard from heaven the voice of God the Father glorifying Him: but when they wondered at the voice, He said, This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. The Father is besought for us, He speaks for us: may all this lead us to believe and confess! The answer of the Glorifier is granted not to the prayer for glory, but to the ignorance of the bystanders: must we not then regard the complaint of suffering, when He found His greatest joy in suffering, as intended for the building up of our faith? Christ prayed for His persecutors, because they knew not what they did. He promised Paradise from the cross, because He is God the King. He rejoiced upon the cross, that all was finished when He drank the vinegar, because He had fulfilled all prophecy before He died. He was born for us, suffered for us, died for us, rose again for us. This alone is necessary for our salvation, to confess the Son of God risen from the dead: why then should we die in this state of godless unbelief? If Christ, ever secure of His divinity, made clear to us His death, Himself indifferent to death, yet dying to assure that it was true humanity that He had assumed: why should we use this very confession of the Son of God that for us He became Son of Man and died as the chief weapon to deny His divinity?
Source. Translated by E.W. Watson and L. Pullan. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 9. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1899.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/330210.htm>.
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