Book 1 Chapter 8.—AGAINST THOSE WHO THINK THAT WHAT IS JUST IS NOT GOOD.
At this stage some rise up, saying that the Lord, by reason of the rod, and threatening, and fear, is not good; misapprehending, as appears, the Scripture which says, “And he that feareth the Lord will turn to his heart;” and most of all, oblivious of His love, in that for us He became man. For more suitably to Him, the prophet prays in these words: “Remember us, for we are dust;” that is, Sympathize with us; for Thou knowest from personal experience of suffering the weakness of the flesh. In this respect, therefore, the Lord the Instructor is most good and unimpeachable, sympathizing as He does from the exceeding greatness of His love with the nature of each man. “For there is nothing which the Lord hates.” For assuredly He does not hate anything, and yet wish that which He hates to exist. Nor does He wish anything not to exist, and yet become the cause of existence to that which He wishes not to exist. Nor does He wish anything not to exist which yet exists. If, then, the Word hates anything, He does not wish it to exist. But nothing exists, the cause of whose existence is not supplied by God. Nothing, then, is hated by God, nor yet by the Word. For both are one—that is, God. For He has said, “In the beginning the Word was in God, and the Word was God.” If then He hates none of the things which He has made, it follows that He loves them. Much more than the rest, and with reason, will He love man, the noblest of all objects created by Him, and a God-loving being. Therefore God is loving; consequently the Word is loving.
But he who loves anything wishes to do it good. And that which does good must be every way better than that which does not good. But nothing is better than the Good. The Good, then, does good. And God is admitted to be good. God therefore does good. And the Good, in virtue of its being good, does nothing else than do good. Consequently God does all good. And He does no good to man without caring for him, and He does not care for him without taking care of him. For that which does good purposely, is better than what does not good purposely. But nothing is better than God. And to do good purposely, is nothing else than to take care of man. God therefore cares for man, and takes care of him. And He shows this practically, in instructing him by the Word, who is the true coadjutor of God’s love to man. But the good is not said to be good, on account of its being possessed of virtue; as also righteousness is not said to be good on account of its possessing virtue—for it is itself virtue—but on account of its being in itself and by itself good.
In another way the useful is called good, not on account of its pleasing, but of its doing good. All which, therefore, is righteousness, being a good thing, both as virtue and as desirable for its own sake, and not as giving pleasure; for it does not judge in order to win favour, but dispenses to each according to his merits. And the beneficial follows the useful. Righteousness, therefore, has characteristics corresponding to all the aspects in which goodness is examined, both possessing equal properties equally. And things which are characterized by equal properties are equal and similar to each other. Righteousness is therefore a good thing.
“How then,” say they, “if the Lord loves man, and is good, is He angry and punishes?” We must therefore treat of this point with all possible brevity; for this mode of treatment is advantageous to the right training of the children, occupying the place of a necessary help. For many of the passions are cured by punishment, and by the inculcation of the sterner precepts, as also by instruction in certain principles. For reproof is, as it were, the surgery of the passions of the soul; and the passions are, as it were, an abscess of the truth, which must be cut open by an incision of the lancet of reproof.
Reproach is like the application of medicines, dissolving the callosities of the passions, and purging the impurities of the lewdness of the life; and in addition, reducing the excres- cences of pride, restoring the patient to the healthy and true state of humanity.
Admonition is, as it were, the regimen of the diseased soul, prescribing what it must take, and forbidding what it must not. And all these tend to salvation and eternal health.
Furthermore, the general of an army, by inflicting fines and corporeal punishments with chains and the extremest disgrace on offenders, and sometimes even by punishing in- dividuals with death, aims at good, doing so for the admonition of the officers under him.
Thus also He who is our great General, the Word, the Commander-in-chief of the universe, by admonishing those who throw off the restraints of His law, that He may effect their release from the slavery, error, and captivity of the adversary, brings them peacefully to the sacred concord of citizenship.
As, therefore in addition to persuasive discourse, there is the hortatory and the consol- atory form; so also, in addition to the laudatory, there is the inculpatory and reproachful. And this latter constitutes the art of censure. Now censure is a mark of good-will, not of ill-will. For both he who is a friend and he who is not, reproach; but the enemy does so in scorn, the friend in kindness. It is not, then, from hatred that the Lord chides men; for He Himself suffered for us, whom He might have destroyed for our faults. For the Instructor also, in virtue of His being good, with consummate art glides into censure by rebuke; rousing the sluggishness of the mind by His sharp words as by a scourge. Again in turn He endeavours to exhort the same persons. For those who are not induced by praise are spurred on by censure; and those whom censure calls not forth to salvation being as dead, are by denunciation roused to the truth. “For the stripes and correction of wisdom are in all time.” “For teaching a fool is gluing a potsherd; and sharpening to sense a hopeless blockhead is bringing earth to sensation.” Wherefore He adds plainly, “rousing the sleeper from deep sleep,” which of all things else is likest death.
Further, the Lord shows very clearly of Himself, when, describing figuratively His manifold and in many ways serviceable culture,—He says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.” Then He adds, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit He pruneth, that it may bring forth more fruit.” For the vine that is not pruned grows to wood. So also man. The Word—the knife—clears away the wanton shoots; compelling the impulses of the soul to fructify, not to indulge in lust. Now, reproof addressed to sinners has their salvation for its aim, the word being harmoniously adjusted to each one’s conduct; now with tightened, now with relaxed cords. Accordingly it was very plainly said by Moses, “Be of good courage: God has drawn near to try you, that His fear may be among you, that ye sin not.” And Plato, who had learned from this source, says beautifully: “For all who suffer punishment are in reality treated well, for they are benefited; since the spirit of those who are justly punished is improved.” And if those who are corrected receive good at the hands of justice, and, according to Plato, what is just is acknowledged to be good, fear itself does good, and has been found to be for men’s good. “For the soul that feareth the Lord shall live, for their hope is in Him who saveth them.” And this same Word who inflicts punishment is judge; regarding whom Esaias also says, “The Lord has assigned Him to our sins,” plainly as a corrector and reformer of sins. Wherefore He alone is able to forgive our iniquities, who has been appointed by the Father, Instructor of us all; He alone it is who is able to distinguish between disobedience and obedience. And while He threatens, He manifestly is unwilling to inflict evil to execute His threatenings; but by inspiring men with fear, He cuts off the approach to sin, and shows His love to man, still delaying, and declaring what they shall suffer if they continue sinners, and is not as a serpent, which the moment it fastens on its prey devours it.
God, then, is good. And the Lord speaks many a time and oft before He proceeds to act. “For my arrows,” He says, “will make an end of them; they shall be consumed with hunger, and be eaten by birds; and there shall be incurable tetanic incurvature. I will send the teeth of wild beasts upon them, with the rage of serpents creeping on the earth. Without, the sword shall make them childless; and out of their chambers shall be fear.” For the Divine Being is not angry in the way that some think; but often restrains, and always exhorts humanity, and shows what ought to be done. And this is a good device, to terrify lest we sin. “For the fear of the Lord drives away sins, and he that is without fear cannot be justified,” says the Scripture. And God does not inflict punishment from wrath, but for the ends of justice; since it is not expedient that justice should be neglected on our account. Each one of us, who sins, with his own free-will chooses punishment, and the blame lies with him who chooses. God is without blame. “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteous- ness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous, who taketh vengeance? God forbid.” He says, therefore, threatening, “I will sharpen my sword, and my hand shall lay hold on judgment; and I will render justice to mine enemies, and requite those who hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh from the blood of the wounded.” It is clear, then, that those who are not at enmity with the truth, and do not hate the Word, will not hate their own salvation, but will escape the punishment of enmity. “The crown of wisdom,” then, as the book of Wisdom says, “is the fear of the Lord.” Very clearly, therefore, by the prophet Amos has the Lord unfolded His method of dealing, saying, “I have overthrown you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah; and ye shall be as a brand plucked from the fire: and yet ye have not returned unto me, saith the Lord.”
See how God, through His love of goodness, seeks repentance; and by means of the plan He pursues of threatening silently, shows His own love for man. “I will avert,” He says, “My face from them, and show what shall happen to them.” For where the face of the Lord looks, there is peace and rejoicing; but where it is averted, there is the introduction of evil. The Lord, accordingly, does not wish to look on evil things; for He is good. But on His looking away, evil arises spontaneously through human unbelief. “Behold, therefore,” says Paul, “the goodness and severity of God: on them that fell, severity; but upon thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness,” that is, in faith in Christ.
Now hatred of evil attends the good man, in virtue of His being in nature good. Wherefore I will grant that He punishes the disobedient (for punishment is for the good and advantage of him who is punished, for it is the correction of a refractory subject); but I will not grant that He wishes to take vengeance. Revenge is retribution for evil, imposed for the advantage of him who takes the revenge. He will not desire us to take revenge, who teaches us “to pray for those that despitefully use us.” But that God is good, all willingly admit; and that the same God is just, I require not many more words to prove, after adducing the evangelical utterance of the Lord; He speaks of Him as one, “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world also may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them; that they may be one, as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.” God is one, and beyond the one and above the Monad itself. Wherefore also the particle “Thou,” having a demonstrative emphasis, points out God, who alone truly is, “who was, and is, and is to come,” in which three divisions of time the one name (ὀ ὤν); “who is,” has its place. And that He who alone is God is also alone and truly righteous, our Lord in the Gospel itself shall testify, saying “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: For Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared to them Thy name, and will declare it.” This is He “that visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, to them that hate Him, and shows mercy to those that love Him.” For He who placed some “on the right hand, and others on the left,” conceived as Father, being good, is called that which alone He is—“good;” but as He is the Son in the Father, being his Word, from their mutual relation, the name of power being measured by equality of love, He is called righteous. “He will judge,” He says, “a man according to his works,”—a good balance, even God having made known to us the face of righteousness in the person of Jesus, by whom also, as by even scales, we know God. Of this also the book of Wisdom plainly says, “For mercy and wrath are with Him, for He alone is Lord of both,” Lord of propitiations, and pouring forth wrath according to the abundance of His mercy. “So also is His reproof.” For the aim of mercy and of re- proof is the salvation of those who are reproved.
Now, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus is good, the Word Himself will again avouch: “For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil;” and further, when He says, “Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.” Still further also He plainly says, “None is good, but My Father, who is in heaven.” In addition to these, again He says, “My Father makes His sun to shine on all.” Here it is to be noted that He proclaims His Father to be good, and to be the Creator. And that the Creator is just, is not disputed. And again he says, “My Father sends rain on the just, and on the unjust.” In respect of His sending rain, He is the Creator of the waters, and of the clouds. And in respect of His doing so on all, He holds an even balance justly and rightly. And as being good, He does so on just and unjust alike.
Very clearly, then, we conclude Him to be one and the same God, thus. For the Holy Spirit has sung, “I will look to the heavens, the works of Thy hands;” and, “He who created the heavens dwells in the heavens;” and, “Heaven is Thy throne.” And the Lord says in His prayer, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” And the heavens belong to Him, who created the world. It is indisputable, then, that the Lord is the Son of the Creator. And if, the Creator above all is confessed to be just, and the Lord to be the Son of the Creator; then the Lord is the Son of Him who is just. Wherefore also Paul says, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested;” and again, that you may better conceive of God, “even the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ upon all that believe; for there is no difference.” And, witnessing further to the truth, he adds after a little, “through the forbearance of God, in order to show that He is just, and that Jesus is the justifier of him who is of faith.” And that he knows that what is just is good, appears by his saying, “So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” using both names to denote the same power. But “no one is good,” except His Father. It is this same Father of His, then, who being one is manifested by many powers. And this was the import of the utterance, “No man knew the Father,” who was Himself everything before the coming of the Son. So that it is veritably clear that the God of all is only one good, just Creator, and the Son in the Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen. But it is not inconsistent with the saving Word, to administer rebuke dictated by solicitude. For this is the medicine of the divine love to man, by which the blush of modesty breaks forth, and shame at sin supervenes. For if one must censure, it is necessary also to rebuke; when it is the time to wound the apathetic soul not mortally, but salutarily, securing exemption from everlasting death by a little pain.
Great is the wisdom displayed in His instruction, and manifold the modes of His dealing in order to salvation. For the Instructor testifies to the good, and summons forth to better things those that are called; dissuades those that are hastening to do wrong from the attempt, and exhorts them to turn to a better life. For the one is not without testimony, when the other has been testified to; and the grace which proceeds from the testimony is very great. Besides, the feeling of anger (if it is proper to call His admonition anger) is full of love to man, God condescending to emotion on man’s account; for whose sake also the Word of God became man.