Gregory to his brother Peter, Bishop of Sebasteia.
Having with difficulty obtained a little leisure, I have been able to recover from bodily fatigue on my return from Armenia, and to collect the sheets of my reply to Eunomius which was suggested by your wise advice; so that my work is now arranged in a complete treatise, which can be read between covers. However, I have not written against both his pamphlets; even the leisure for that was not granted; for the person who lent me the heretical volume most uncourteously sent for it again, and allowed me no time either to write it out or to study it. In the short space of seventeen days it was impossible to be prepared to answer both his attacks.
Owing to its somehow having become notorious that we had laboured to answer this blasphemous manifesto, many persons possessing some zeal for the Truth have importuned me about it: but I have thought it right to prefer you in your wisdom before them all, to advise me whether to consign this work to the public, or to take some other course. The reason why I hesitate is this. When our saintly Basil fell asleep, and I received the legacy of Eunomius’ controversy, when my heart was hot within me with bereavement, and, besides this deep sorrow for the common loss of the church, Eunomius had not confined himself to the various topics which might pass as a defence of his views, but had spent the chief part of his energy in laboriously-written abuse of our father in God. I was exasperated with this, and there were passages where the flame of my heart-felt indignation burst out against this writer. The public have pardoned us for much else, because we have been apt in showing patience in meeting lawless attacks, and as far as possible have practised that restraint in feeling which the saint has taught us; but I had fears lest from what we have now written against this opponent the reader should get the idea that we were very raw controversialists, who lost our temper directly at insolent abuse. Perhaps, however, this suspicion about us will be disarmed by remembering that this display of anger is not on our own behalf, but because of insults levelled against our father in God; and that it is a case in which mildness would be more unpardonable than anger.
If, then, the first part of my treatise should seem somewhat outside the controversy, the following explanation of it will, I think, be accepted by a reader who can judge fairly. It was not right to leave undefended the reputation of our noble saint, mangled as it was by the opponent’s blasphemies, any more than it was convenient to let this battle in his behalf be spread diffusely along the whole thread of the discussion; besides, if any one reflects, these pages do really form part of the controversy. Our adversary’s treatise has two separate arms, viz. to abuse us and to controvert sound doctrine; and therefore ours too must show a double front. But for the sake of clearness, and in order that the thread of the discussion upon matters of the Faith should not be cut by parentheses, consisting of answers to their personal abuse, we have separated our work into two parts, and devoted ourselves in the first to refute these charges: and then we have grappled as best we might with that which they have advanced against the Faith. Our treatise also contains, in addition to a refutation of their heretical views, a dogmatic exposition of our own teaching; for it would be a most shameful want of spirit, when our foes make no concealment of their blasphemy, not to be bold in our statement of the Truth.
Second prefatory letter
To his most pious brother Gregory. Peter greeting in the Lord.
Having met with the writings of your holiness and having perceived in your tract against this heresy your zeal both for the truth and for our sainted father in God, I judge that this work was not due simply to your own ability, but was that of one who studied that the Truth should speak, even in the publication of his own views. To the Holy Spirit of truth I would refer this plea for the truth; just as to the father of lies, and not to Eunomius, should be referred this animosity against sound faith. Indeed, that murderer from the beginning who speaks in Eunomius has carefully whetted the sword against himself; for if he had not been so bold against the truth, no one would have roused you to undertake the cause of our religion. But to the end that the rottenness and flimsiness of their doctrines may be exposed, He who takes the wise in their own craftiness has allowed them both to be headstrong against the truth, and to have laboured vainly on this vain speech.
But since he that has begun a good work will finish it, faint not in furthering the Spirit’s power, nor leave half-won the victory over the assailants of Christ’s glory; but imitate your true father who, like the zealot Phineas, pierced with one stroke of his Answer both master and pupil. Plunge with your intellectual arm the sword of the Spirit through both these heretical pamphlets, lest, though broken on the head, the serpent affright the simpler sort by still quivering in the tail. When the first arguments have been answered, should the last remain unnoticed, the many will suspect that they still retain some strength against the truth.
The feeling shown in your treatise will be grateful, as salt, to the palate of the soul. As bread cannot be eaten, according to Job, without salt, so the discourse which is not savoured with the inmost sentiments of God’s word will never wake, and never move, desire.
Be strong, then, in the thought that you are a beautiful example to succeeding times of the way in which good-hearted children should act towards their virtuous fathers.
1. Preface.— It is useless to attempt to benefit those who will not accept help.
It seems that the wish to benefit all, and to lavish indiscriminately upon the first comer one’s own gifts, was not a thing altogether commendable, or even free from reproach in the eyes of the many; seeing that the gratuitous waste of many prepared drugs on the incurably-diseased produces no result worth caring about, either in the way of gain to the recipient, or reputation to the would-be benefactor. Rather such an attempt becomes in many cases the occasion of a change for the worse. The hopelessly-diseased and now dying patient receives only a speedier end from the more active medicines; the fierce unreasonable temper is only made worse by the kindness of the lavished pearls, as the Gospel tells us. I think it best, therefore, in accordance with the Divine command, for any one to separate the valuable from the worthless when either have to be given away, and to avoid the pain which a generous giver must receive from one who ‘treads upon his pearl,’ and insults him by his utter want of feeling for its beauty.
This thought suggests itself when I think of one who freely communicated to others the beauties of his own soul, I mean that man of God, that mouth of piety, Basil; one who from the abundance of his spiritual treasures poured his grace of wisdom into evil souls whom he had never tested, and into one among them, Eunomius, who was perfectly insensible to all the efforts made for his good. Pitiable indeed seemed the condition of this poor man, from the extreme weakness of his soul in the matter of the Faith, to all true members of the Church; for who is so wanting in feeling as not to pity, at least, a perishing soul? But Basil alone, from the abiding ardour of his love, was moved to undertake his cure, and therein to attempt impossibilities; he alone took so much to heart the man’s desperate condition, as to compose, as an antidote of deadly poisons, his refutation of this heresy , which aimed at saving its author, and restoring him to the Church.
He, on the contrary, like one beside himself with fury, resists his doctor; he fights and struggles; he regards as a bitter foe one who only put forth his strength to drag him from the abyss of misbelief; and he does not indulge in this foolish anger only before chance hearers now and then; he has raised against himself a literary monument to record this blackness of his bile; and when in long years he got the requisite amount of leisure, he was travailling over his work during all that interval with mightier pangs than those of the largest and the bulkiest beasts; his threats of what was coming were dreadful, while he was still secretly moulding his conception: but when at last and with great difficulty he brought it to the light, it was a poor little abortion, quite prematurely born. However, those who share his ruin nurse it and coddle it; while we, seeking the blessing in the prophet (Blessed shall he be who shall take your children, and shall dash them against the stones ) are only eager, now that it has got into our hands, to take this puling manifesto and dash it on the rock, as if it was one of the children of Babylon; and the rock must be Christ; in other words, the enunciation of the truth. Only may that power come upon us which strengthens weakness, through the prayers of him who made his own strength perfect in bodily weakness.
2. We have been justly provoked to make this Answer, being stung by Eunomius’ accusations of our brother.
If indeed that godlike and saintly soul were still in the flesh looking out upon human affairs, if those lofty tones were still heard with all their peculiar grace and all their resistless utterance, who could arrive at such a pitch of audacity, as to attempt to speak one word upon this subject? That divine trumpet-voice would drown any word that could be uttered. But all of him has now flown back to God; at first indeed in the slight shadowy phantom of his body, he still rested on the earth; but now he has quite shed even that unsubstantial form, and bequeathed it to this world. Meantime the drones are buzzing round the cells of the Word, and are plundering the honey; so let no one accuse me of mere audacity for rising up to speak instead of those silent lips. I have not accepted this laborious task from any consciousness in myself of powers of argument superior to the others who might be named; I, if any, have the means of knowing that there are thousands in the Church who are strong in the gift of philosophic skill. Nevertheless I affirm that, both by the written and the natural law, to me more especially belongs this heritage of the departed, and therefore I myself, in preference to others, appropriate the legacy of the controversy. I may be counted among the least of those who are enlisted in the Church of God, but still I am not too weak to stand out as her champion against one who has broken with that Church. The very smallest member of a vigorous body would, by virtue of the unity of its life with the whole, be found stronger than one that had been cut away and was dying, however large the latter and small the former.
3. We see nothing remarkable in logical force in the treatise of Eunomius, and so embark on our Answer with a just confidence.
Let no one think, that in saying this I exaggerate and make an idle boast of doing something which is beyond my strength. I shall not be led by any boyish ambition to descend to his vulgar level in a contest of mere arguments and phrases. Where victory is a useless and profitless thing, we yield it readily to those who wish to win; besides, we have only to look at this man’s long practice in controversy, to conclude that he is quite a word-practitioner, and, in addition, at the fact that he has spent no small portion of his life on the composition of this treatise, and at the supreme joy of his intimates over these labours, to conclude that he has taken particular trouble with this work. It was not improbable that one who had laboured at it for so many Olympiads would produce something better than the work of extempore scribblers. Even the vulgar profusion of the figures he uses in concocting his work is a further indication of this laborious care in writing. He has got a great mass of newly assorted terms, for which he has put certain other books under contribution, and he piles this immense congeries of words on a very slender nucleus of thought; and so he has elaborated this highly-wrought production, which his pupils in error are lost in the admiration of—no doubt, because their deadness on the vital points deprives them of the power of feeling the distinction between beauty and the reverse:— but which is ridiculous, and of no value at all in the judgment of those, whose hearts’ insight is not dimmed with any soil of unbelief. How in the world can it contribute to the proof (as he hopes) of what he says and the establishment of the truth of his speculations, to adopt these absurd devices in his forms of speech, this new-fangled and peculiar arrangement, this fussy conceit, and this conceited fussiness, which works with no enthusiasm for any previous model? For it would be indeed difficult to discover who among all those who have been celebrated for their eloquence he has had his eye on, in bringing himself to this pitch; for he is like those who produce effects upon the stage, adapting his argument to the tune of his rhythmical phrases, as they their song to their castenets, by means of parallel sentences of equal length, of similar sound and similar ending. Such, among many other faults, are the nerveless quaverings and the meretricious tricks of his Introduction; and one might fancy him bringing them all out, not with an unimpassioned action, but with stamping of the feet and sharp snapping of the fingers declaiming to the time thus beaten, and then remarking that there was no need of other arguments and a second performance after that.
4. Eunomius displays much folly and fine writing, but very little seriousness about vital points.
In these and such like antics I allow him to have the advantage; and to his heart’s content he may revel in his victory there. Most willingly I forego such a competition, which can attract those only who seek renown; if indeed any renown comes from indulging in such methods of argumentation, considering that Paul 1 Corinthians 2:1-8, that genuine minister of the Word, whose only ornament was truth, both disdained himself to lower his style to such prettinesses, and instructs us also, in a noble and appropriate exhortation, to fix our attention on truth alone. What need indeed for one who is fair in the beauty of truth to drag in the paraphernalia of a decorator for the production of a false artificial beauty? Perhaps for those who do not possess truth it may be an advantage to varnish their falsehoods with an attractive style, and to rub into the grain of their argument a curious polish. When their error is taught in far-fetched language and decked out with all the affectations of style, they have a chance of being plausible and accepted by their hearers. But those whose only aim is simple truth, unadulterated by any misguidingfoil, find the light of a natural beauty emitted from their words.
But now that I am about to begin the examination of all that he has advanced, I feel the same difficulty as a farmer does, when the air is calm; I know not how to separate his wheat from his chaff; the waste, in fact, and the chaff in this pile of words is so enormous, that it makes one think that the residue of facts and real thoughts in all that he has said is almost nil. It would be the worse for speed and very irksome, it would even be beside our object, to go into the whole of his remarks in detail; we have not the means for securing so much leisure so as wantonly to devote it to such frivolities; it is the duty, I think, of a prudent workman not to waste his strength on trifles, but on that which will clearly repay his toil.
As to all the things, then, in his Introduction, how he constitutes himself truth’s champion, and fixes the charge of unbelief upon his opponents, and declares that an abiding and indelible hatred for them has sunk into his soul, how he struts in his ‘new discoveries,’ though he does not tell us what they are, but says only that an examination of the debateable points in them was set on foot, a certain ‘legal’ trial which placed on those who were daring to act illegally the necessity of keeping quiet, or to quote his own words in that Lydian style of singing which he has got, the bold law-breakers— in open courts— were forced to be quiet; (he calls this a proscription of the conspiracy against him, whatever may be meant by that term)—all this wearisome business I pass by as quite unimportant. On the other hand, all his special pleading for his heretical conceits may well demand our close attention. Our own interpreter of the principles of divinity followed this course in his Treatise; for though he had plenty of ability to broaden out his argument, he took the line of dealing only with vital points, which he selected from all the blasphemies of that heretical book , and so narrowed the scope of the subject.
If, however, any one desires that our answer should exactly correspond to the array of his arguments, let him tell us the utility of such a process. What gain would it be to my readers if I were to solve the complicated riddle of his title, which he proposes to us at the very commencement, in the manner of the sphinx of the tragic stage; namely this ‘New Apology for the Apology,’ and all the nonsense which he writes about that; and if I were to tell the long tale of what he dreamt? I think that the reader is sufficiently wearied with the petty vanity about this newness in his title already preserved in Eunomius’ own text, and with the want of taste displayed there in the account of his own exploits, all his labours and his trials, while he wandered over every land and every sea, and was ‘heralded’ through the whole world. If all that had to be written down over again—and with additions, too, as the refutations of these falsehoods would naturally have to expand their statement—who would be found of such an iron hardness as not to be sickened at this waste of labour? Suppose I was to write down, taking word by word, an explanation of that mad story of his; suppose I were to explain, for instance, who that Armenian was on the shores of the Euxine, who had annoyed him at first by having the same name as himself, what their lives were like, what their pursuits, how he had a quarrel with that Armenian because of the very likeness of their characters, then in what fashion those two were reconciled, so as to join in a common sympathy with that winning and most glorious Aetius, his master (for so pompous are his praises); and after that, what was the plot devised against himself, by which they brought him to trial on the charge of being surpassingly popular: suppose, I say, I was to explain all that, should I not appear, like those who catch opthalmia themselves from frequent contact with those who are already suffering so, to have caught myself this malady of fussy circumstantiality? I should be following step by step each detail of his twaddling story; finding out who the slaves released to liberty were, what was the conspiracy of the initiated and the calling out of hired slaves, what ‘Montius and Gallus, and Domitian,’ and ‘false witnesses,’ and ‘an enraged Emperor,’ and ‘certain sent into exile’ have to do with the argument. What could be more useless than such tales for the purpose of one who was not wishing merely to write a narrative, but to refute the argument of him who had written against his heresy? What follows in the story is still more profitless; I do not think that the author himself could peruse it again without yawning, though a strong natural affection for his offspring does possess every father. He pretends to unfold there his exploits and his sufferings; the style rears itself into the sublime, and the legend swells into the tones of tragedy.
5. His peculiar caricature of the bishops, Eustathius of Armenia and Basil of Galatia, is not well drawn.
But, not to linger longer on these absurdities in the very act of declining to mention them, and not to soil this book by forcing my subject through all his written reminiscences, like one who urges his horse through a slough and so gets covered with its filth, I think it is best to leap over the mass of his rubbish with as high and as speedy a jump as my thoughts are capable of, seeing that a quick retreat from what is disgusting is a considerable advantage; and let us hasten on to the finale of his story, lest the bitterness of his own words should trickle into my book. Let Eunomius have the monopoly of the bad taste in such words as these, spoken of God’s priests , curmudgeon squires, and beadles, and satellites, rummaging about, and not suffering the fugitive to carry on his concealment, and all the other things which he is not ashamed to write of grey-haired priests. Just as in the schools for secular learning , in order to exercise the boys to be ready in word and wit, they propose themes for declamation, in which the person who is the subject of them is nameless, so does Eunomius make an onset at once upon the facts suggested, and lets loose the tongue of invective, and without saying one word as to any actual villainies, he merely works up against them all the hackneyed phrases of contempt, and every imaginable term of abuse: in which, besides, incongruous ideas are brought together, such as a ‘dilettante soldier,’ ‘an accursed saint,’ ‘pale with fast, and murderous with hate,’ and many such like scurrilities; and just like a reveller in the secular processions shouts his ribaldry, when he would carry his insolence to the highest pitch, without his mask on, so does Eunomius, without an attempt to veil his malignity, shout with brazen throat the language of the waggon. Then he reveals the cause why he is so enraged; ‘these priests took every precaution that many should not’ be perverted to the error of these heretics; accordingly he is angry that they could not stay at their convenience in the places they liked, but that a residence was assigned them by order of the then governor of Phrygia, so that most might be secured from such wicked neighbours; his indignation at this bursts out in these words; ‘the excessive severity of our trials,’ ‘our grievous sufferings,’ ‘our noble endurance of them,’ ‘the exile from our native country into Phrygia.’ Quite so: this Oltiserian might well be proud of what occurred, putting an end as it did to all his family pride, and casting such a slur upon his race that that far-renowned Priscus, his grandfather, from whom he gets those brilliant and most remarkable heirlooms, the mill, and the leather, and the slaves’ stores, and the rest of his inheritance in Chanaan , would never have chosen this lot, which now makes him so angry. It was to be expected that he would revile those who were the agents of this exile. I quite understand his feeling. Truly the authors of these misfortunes, if such there be or ever have been, deserve the censures of these men, in that the renown of their former lives is thereby obscured, and they are deprived of the opportunity of mentioning and making much of their more impressive antecedents; the great distinctions with which each started in life; the professions they inherited from their fathers; the greater or the smaller marks of gentility of which each was conscious, even before they became so widely known and valued that even emperors numbered them among their acquaintance, as he now boasts in his book, and that all the higher governments were roused about them and the world was filled with their doings.
6. A notice of Aetius, Eunomius’ master in heresy, and of Eunomius himself, describing the origin and avocations of each.
Verily this did great damage to our declamation-writer, or rather to his patron and guide in life, Aetius; whose enthusiasm indeed appears to me to have aimed not so much at the propagation of error as to the securing a competence for life. I do not say this as a mere surmise of my own, but I have heard it from the lips of those who knew him well. I have listened to Athanasius, the former bishop of the Galatians, when he was speaking of the life of Aetius; Athanasius was a man who valued truth above all things; and he exhibited also the letter of George of Laodicæa, so that a number might attest the truth of his words. He told us that originally Aetius did not attempt to teach his monstrous doctrines, but only after some interval of time put forth these novelties as a trick to gain his livelihood; that having escaped from serfdom in the vineyard to which he belonged—how, I do not wish to say, lest I should be thought to be entering on his history in a bad spirit,— he became at first a tinker, and had this grimy trade of a mechanic quite at his fingers’ end, sitting under a goat’s-hair tent, with a small hammer, and a diminutive anvil, and so earned a precarious and laborious livelihood. What income, indeed, of any account could be made by one who mends the shaky places in coppers, and solders holes up, and hammers sheets of tin to pieces, and clamps with lead the legs of pots? We were told that a certain incident which befell him in this trade necessitated the next change in his life. He had received from a woman belonging to a regiment a gold ornament, a necklace or a bracelet, which had been broken by a blow, and which he was to mend: but he cheated the poor creature, by appropriating her gold trinket, and giving her instead one of copper, of the same size, and also of the same appearance, owing to a gold-wash which he had imparted to its surface; she was deceived by this for a time, for he was clever enough in the tinker’s, as in other, arts to mislead his customers with the tricks of trade; but at last she detected the rascality, for the wash got rubbed off the copper; and, as some of the soldiers of her family and nation were roused to indignation, she prosecuted the purloiner of her ornament. After this attempt he of course underwent a cheating thief’s punishment; and then left the trade, swearing that it was not his deliberate intention, but that business tempted him to commit this theft. After this he became assistant to a certain doctor from among the quacks, so as not to be quite destitute of a livelihood; and in this capacity he made his attack upon the obscurer households and on the most abject of mankind. Wealth came gradually from his plots against a certain Armenius, who being a foreigner was easily cheated, and, having been induced to make him his physician, had advanced him frequent sums of money; and he began to think that serving under others was beneath him, and wanted to be styled a physician himself. Henceforth, therefore, he attended medical congresses, and consorting with the wrangling controversialists there became one of the ranters, and, just as the scales were turning, always adding his own weight to the argument, he got to be in no small request with those who would buy a brazen voice for their party contests.
But although his bread became thereby well buttered he thought he ought not to remain in such a profession; so he gradually gave up the medical, after the tinkering. Arius, the enemy of God, had already sown those wicked tares which bore the Anomæans as their fruit, and the schools of medicine resounded then with the disputes about that question. Accordingly Aetius studied the controversy, and, having laid a train of syllogisms from what he remembered of Aristotle, he became notorious for even going beyond Arius, the father of the heresy, in the novel character of his speculations; or rather he perceived the consequences of all that Arius had advanced, and so got this character of a shrewd discoverer of truths not obvious; revealing as he did that the Created, even from things non-existent, was unlike the Creator who drew Him out of nothing.
With such propositions he tickled ears that itched for these novelties; and the Ethiopian Theophilus becomes acquainted with them. Aetius had already been connected with this man on some business of Gallus; and now by his help creeps into the palace. After Gallus had perpetrated the tragedy with regard to Domitian the procurator and Montius, all the other participators in it naturally shared his ruin; yet this man escapes, being acquitted from being punished along with them. After this, when the great Athanasius had been driven by Imperial command from the Church of Alexandria, and George the Tarbasthenite was tearing his flock, another change takes place, and Aetius is an Alexandrian, receiving his full share among those who fattened at the Cappadocian’s board; for he had not omitted to practice his flatteries on George. George was in fact from Chanaan himself, and therefore felt kindly towards a countryman: indeed he had been for long so possessed with his perverted opinions as actually to dote upon him, and was prone to become a godsend for Aetius, whenever he liked.
All this did not escape the notice of his sincere admirer, our Eunomius. This latter perceived that his natural father— an excellent man, except that he had such a son— led a very honest and respectable life certainly, but one of laborious penury and full of countless toils. (He was one of those farmers who are always bent over the plough, and spend a world of trouble over their little farm; and in the winter, when he was secured from agricultural work, he used to carve out neatly the letters of the alphabet for boys to form syllables with, winning his bread with the money these sold for.) Seeing all this in his father’s life, he said goodbye to the plough and the mattock and all the paternal instruments, intending never to drudge himself like that; then he sets himself to learn Prunicus’ skill of short-hand writing, and having perfected himself in that he entered at first, I believe, the house of one of his own family, receiving his board for his services in writing; then, while tutoring the boys of his host, he rises to the ambition of becoming an orator. I pass over the next interval, both as to his life in his native country and as to the things and the company in which he was discovered at Constantinople.
Busied as he was after this ‘about the cloke and the purse,’ he saw it was all of little avail, and that nothing which he could amass by such work was adequate to the demands of his ambition. Accordingly he threw up all other practices, and devoted himself solely to the admiration of Aetius; not, perhaps, without some calculation that this absorbing pursuit which he selected might further his own devices for living. In fact, from the moment he asked for a share in a wisdom so profound, he toiled not thenceforward, neither did he spin; for he is certainly clever in what he takes in hand, and knows how to gain the more emotional portion of mankind. Seeing that human nature, as a rule, falls an easy prey to pleasure, and that its natural inclination in the direction of this weakness is very strong, descending from the sterner heights of conduct to the smooth level of comfort, he becomes with a view of making the largest number possible of proselytes to his pernicious opinions very pleasant indeed to those whom he is initiating; he gets rid of the toilsome steep of virtue altogether, because it is not a persuasive to accept his secrets. But should any one have the leisure to inquire what this secret teaching of theirs is, and what those who have been duped to accept this blighting curse utter without any reserve, and what in the mysterious ritual of initiation they are taught by the reverend hierophant, the manner of baptisms , and the ‘helps of nature,’ and all that, let him question those who feel no compunction in letting indecencies pass their lips; we shall keep silent. For not even though we are the accusers should we be guiltless in mentioning such things, and we have been taught to reverence purity in word as well as deed, and not to soil our pages with equivocal stories, even though there be truth in what we say.
But we mention what we then heard (namely that, just as Aristotle’s evil skill supplied Aetius with his impiety, so the simplicity of his dupes secured a fat living for the well-trained pupil as well as for the master) for the purpose of asking some questions. What after all was the great damage done him by Basil on the Euxine, or by Eustathius in Armenia, to both of whom that long digression in his story harks back? How did they mar the aim of his life? Did they not rather feed up his and his companion’s freshly acquired fame? Whence came their wide notoriety, if not through the instrumentality of these men, supposing, that is, that their accuser is speaking the truth? For the fact that men, themselves illustrious, as our writer owns, deigned to fight with those who had as yet found no means of being known naturally gave the actual start to the ambitious thoughts of those who were to be pitted against these reputed heroes; and a veil was thereby thrown over their humble antecedents. They in fact owed their subsequent notoriety to this—a thing detestable indeed to a reflecting mind which would never choose to rest fame upon an evil deed, but the acme of bliss to characters such as these. They tell of one in the province of Asia, among the obscurest and the basest, who longed to make a name in Ephesus; some great and brilliant achievement being quite beyond his powers never even entered his mind; and yet, by hitting upon that which would most deeply injure the Ephesians, he made his mark deeper than the heroes of the grandestactions; for there was among their public buildings one noticeable for its peculiar magnificence and costliness; and he burnt this vast structure to the ground, showing, when men came to inquire after the perpetration of this villany into its mental causes, that he dearly prized notoriety, and had devised that the greatness of the disaster should secure the name of its author being recorded with it. The secret motive of these two men is the same thirst for publicity; the only difference is that the amount of mischief is greater in their case. They are marring, not lifeless architecture, but the living building of the Church, introducing, for fire, the slow canker of their teaching. But I will defer the doctrinal question till the proper time comes.
7. Eunomius himself proves that the confession of faithwhich He made was not impeached.
Let us see for a moment now what kind of truth is dealt with by this man, who in his Introduction complains that it is because of his telling the truth that he is hated by the unbelievers; we may well make the way he handles truth outside doctrine teach us a test to apply to his doctrine itself. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. Now, when he is beginning to write this apology for the apology (that is the new and startling title, as well as subject, of his book) he says that we must look for the cause of this very startling announcement nowhere else but in him who answered that first treatise of his. That book was entitled an Apology; but being given to understand by our master-theologian that an apology can only come from those who have been accused of something, and that if a man writes merely from his own inclination his production is something else than an apology, he does not deny— it would be too manifestly absurd— that an apology requires a preceding accusation; but he declares that his ‘apology’ has cleared him from very serious accusations in the trial which has been instituted against him. How false this is, is manifest from his own words. He complained that many heavy sufferings were inflicted on him by those who had condemned him; we may read that in his book.
But how could he have suffered so, if his ‘apology’ cleared him of these charges? If he successfully adopted an apology to escape from these, that pathetic complaint of his is a hypocritical pretence; if on the other hand he really suffered as he says, then, plainly, he suffered because he did not clear himself by an apology; for every apology, to be such, has to secure this end, namely, to prevent the voting power from being misled by any false statements. Surely he will not now attempt to say that at the time of the trial he produced his apology, but not being able to win over the jury lost the case to the prosecution. For he said nothing at the time of the trial ‘about producing his apology;’ nor was it likely that he would, considering that he distinctly states in his book that he refused to have anything to do with those ill-affected and hostile dicasts. We own, he says, that we were condemned by default: there was a packed panel of evil-disposed persons where a jury ought to have sat. He is very labored here, and has his attention diverted by his argument, I think, or he would have noticed that he has tacked on a fine solecism to his sentence. He affects to be imposingly Attic with his phrase ‘packed panel;’ but the correct in language use these words, as those familiar with the forensic vocabulary know, quite differently to our new Atticist.
A little further on he adds this; If he thinks that, because I would have nothing to do with a jury who were really my prosecutors he can argue away my apology, he must be blind to his own simplicity. When, then, and before whom did our caustic friend make his apology? He had demurred to the jury because they were ‘foes,’ and he did not utter one word about any trial, as he himself insists. See how this strenuous champion of the true, little by little, passes over to the side of the false, and, while honouring truth in phrase, combats it in deed. But it is amusing to see how weak he is even in seconding his own lie. How can one and the same man have ‘cleared himself by an apology in the trial which was instituted against him,’ and then have ‘prudently kept silence because the court was in the hands of the foe?’ Nay, the very language he uses in the preface to his Apology clearly shows that no court at all was opened against him. For he does not address his preface to any definite jury, but to certain unspecifiedpersons who were living then, or who were afterwards to come into the world; and I grant that to such an audience there was need of a very vigorous apology, not indeed in the manner of the one he has actually written, which requires another still to bolster it up, but a broadly intelligible one , able to prove this special point, viz., that he was not in the possession of his usual reason when he wrote this, wherein he rings the assembly-bell for men who never came, perhaps never existed, and speaks an apology before an imaginary court, and begs an imperceptible jury not to let numbers decide between truth and falsehood, nor to assign the victory to mere quantity. Verily it is becoming that he should make an apology of that sort to jurymen who are yet in the loins of their fathers, and to explain to them how he came to think it right to adopt opinions which contradict universal belief, and to put more faith in his own mistaken fancies than in those who throughout the world glorify Christ’s name.
Let him write, please, another apology in addition to this second; for this one is not a correction of mistakes made about him, but rather a proof of the truth of those charges. Every one knows that a proper apology aims at disproving a charge; thus a man who is accused of theft or murder or any other crime either denies the fact altogether, or transfers the blame to another party, or else, if neither of these is possible, he appeals to the charity or to the compassion of those who are to vote upon his sentence. But in his book he neither denies the charge, nor shifts it on some one else, nor has recourse to an appeal for mercy, nor promises amendment for the future; but he establishes the charge against him by an unusually labored demonstration. This charge, as he himself confesses, really amounted to an indictment for profanity, nor did it leave the nature of this undefined, but proclaimed the particular kind; whereas his apology proves this species of profanity to be a positive duty, and instead of removing the charge strengthens it. Now, if the tenets of our Faith had been left in any obscurity, it might have been less hazardous to attempt novelties; but the teaching of our master-theologian is now firmly fixed in the souls of the faithful; and so it is a question whether the man who shouts out contradictions of that about which all equally have made up their minds is defending himself against the charges made, or is not rather drawing down upon him the anger of his hearers, and making his accusers still more bitter. I incline to think the latter. So that if there are, as our writer tells us, both hearers of his apology and accusers of his attempts upon the Faith, let him tell us, how those accusers can possibly compromise the matter now, or what sort of verdict that jury must return, now that his offense has been already proved by his own ‘apology.’
8. Facts show that the terms of abuse which he has employed against Basil are more suitable for himself.
But these remarks are by the way, and come from our not keeping close to our argument. We had to inquire not how he ought to have made his apology, but whether he had ever made one at all. But now let us return to our former position, viz., that he is convicted by his own statements. This hater of falsehood first of all tells us that he was condemned because the jury which was assigned him defied the law, and that he was driven over sea and land and suffered much from the burning sun and the dust. Then in trying to conceal his falsehood he drives out one nail with another nail, as the proverb says, and puts one falsehood right by cancelling it with another. As every one knows as well as he does that he never uttered one word in court, he declares that he begged to be let off coming into a hostile court and was condemned by default. Could there be a plainer case than this of a man contradicting both the truth and himself? When he is pressed about the title of his book, he makes his trial the constraining cause of this ‘apology;’ but when he is pressed with the fact that he spoke not one word to the jury, he denies that there was any trial and says that he declined such a jury. See how valiantly this doughty champion of the truth fights against falsehood! Then he dares to call our mighty Basil ‘a malicious rascal and a liar.’ and besides that, ‘a bold ignorant parvenu ,’ ‘no deep divine,’ and he adds to his list of abusive terms, ‘stark mad,’ scattering an infinity of such words over his pages, as if he imagined that his own bitter invectives could outweigh the common testimony of mankind, who revere that great name as though he were one of the saints of old. He thinks in fact that he, if no one else, can touch with calumny one whom calumny has never touched; but the sun is not so low in the heavens that any one can reach him with stones or any other missiles; they will but recoil upon him who shot them, while the intended target soars far beyond his reach. If any one, again, accuses the sun of want of light, he has not dimmed the brightness of the sunbeams with his scoffs; the sun will still remain the sun, and the fault-finder will only prove the feebleness of his own visual organs; and, if he should endeavour, after the fashion of this ‘apology,’ to persuade all whom he meets and will listen to him not to give in to the common opinions about the sun, nor to attach more weight to the experiences of all than to the surmises of one individual by ‘assigning victory to mere quantity,’ his nonsense will be wasted on those who can use their eyes.
Let some one then persuade Eunomius to bridle his tongue, and not give the rein to such wild talk, nor kick against the pricks in the insolent abuse of an honoured name; but to allow the mere remembrance of Basil to fill his soul with reverence and awe. What can he gain by this unmeasured ribaldry, when the object of it will retain all that character which his life, his words, and the general estimate of the civilized world proclaims him to have possessed? The man who takes in hand to revile reveals his own disposition as not being able, because it is evil, to speak good things, but only to speak from the abundance of the heart, and to bring forth from that evil treasure-house. Now, that his expressions are merely those of abuse quite divorced from actual facts, can be proved from his own writings.
9. In charging Basil with not defending his faithat the time of the ‘Trials,’ he lays himself open to the same charge.
He hints at a certain locality where this trial for heresy took place; but he gives us no certain indication where it was, and the reader is obliged to guess in the dark. Thither, he tells us, a congress of picked representatives from all quarters was summoned; and he is at his best here, placing before our eyes with some vigorous strokes the preparation of the event which he pretends took place. Then, he says, a trial in which he would have had to run for his very life was put into the hands of certain arbitrators, to whom our Teacher and Master who was present gave his charge ; and as all the voting power was thus won over to the enemies’ side, he yielded the position , fled from the place, and hunted everywhere for some hearth and home; and he is great, in this graphic sketch , in arraigning the cowardice of our hero; as any one who likes may see by looking at what he has written. But I cannot stop to give specimens here of the bitter gall of his utterances; I must pass on to that, for the sake of which I mentioned all this.
Where, then, was that unnamed spot in which this examination of his teachings was to take place? What was this occasion when the best then were collected for a trial? Who were these men who hurried over land and sea to share in these labours? What was this ‘expectant world that hung upon the issue of the voting?’ Who was ‘the arranger of the trial?’ However, let us consider that he invented all that to swell out the importance of his story, as boys at school are apt to do in their fictitious conversations of this kind; and let him only tell us who that ‘terrible combatant’ was whom our Master shrunk from encountering. If this also is a fiction, let him be the winner again, and have the advantage of his vain words. We will say nothing: in the useless fight with shadows the real victory is to decline conquering in that. But if he speaks of the events at Constantinople and means the assembly there, and is in this fever of literary indignation at tragedies enacted there, and means himself by that great and redoubtable athlete, then we would display the reasons why, though present on the occasion, we did not plunge into the fight.
Now let this man who upbraids that hero with his cowardice tell us whether he went down into the thick of the fray, whether he uttered one syllable in defence of his own orthodoxy, whether he made any vigorous peroration, whether he victoriously grappled with the foe? He cannot tell us that, or he manifestly contradicts himself, for he owns that by his default he received the adverse verdict. If it was a duty to speak at the actual time of the trial (for that is the law which he lays down for us in his book), then why was he then condemned by default? If on the other hand he did well in observing silence before such dicasts, how arbitrarily he praises himself, but blames us, for silence at such a time! What can be more absurdly unjust than this! When two treatises have been put forth since the time of the trial, he declares that his apology, though written so very long after, was in time, but reviles that which answered his own as quite too late! Surely he ought to have abused Basil’s intended counter-statement before it was actually made; but this is not found among his other complaints. Knowing as he did what Basil was going to write when the time of the trial had passed away, why in the world did he not find fault with it there and then? In fact it is clear from his own confession that he never made that apology in the trial itself. I will repeat again his words:— ‘We confess that we were condemned by default;’ and he adds why; ‘Evil-disposed persons had been passed as jurymen,’ or rather, to use his own phrase, ‘there was a packed panel of them where a jury ought to have sat.’ Whereas, on the other hand, it is clear from another passage in his book that he attests that his apology was made ‘at the proper time.’ It runs thus:— That I was urged to make this apology at the proper time and in the proper manner from no pretended reasons, but compelled to do so on behalf of those who went security for me, is clear from facts and also from this man’s words. He adroitly twists his words round to meet every possible objection; but what will he say to this? ‘It was not right to keep silent during the trial.’ Then why was Eunomius speechless during that same trial? And why is his apology, coming as it did after the trial, in good time? And if in good time, why is Basil’s controversy with him not in good time?
But the remark of that holy father is especially true, that Eunomius in pretending to make an apology really gave his teaching the support he wished to give it; and that genuine emulator of Phineas’ zeal, destroying as he does with the sword of the Word every spiritual fornicator, dealt in the ‘Answer to his blasphemy’ a sword-thrust that was calculated at once to heal a soul and to destroy a heresy. If he resists that stroke, and with a soul deadened by apostacy will not admit the cure, the blame rests with him who chooses the evil, as the Gentile proverb says. So far for Eunomius’ treatment of truth, and of us: and now the law of former times, which allows an equal return on those who are the first to injure, might prompt us to discharge on him a counter-shower of abuse, and, as he is a very easy subject for this, to be very liberal of it, so as to outdo the pain which he has inflicted: for if he was so rich in insolent invective against one who gave no chance for calumny, how many of such epithets might we not expect to find for those who have satirized that saintly life? But we have been taught from the first by that scholar of the Truth to be scholars of the Gospel ourselves, and therefore we will not take an eye for an eye, nor a tooth for a tooth; we know well that all the evil that happens admits of being annihilated by its opposite, and that no bad word and no bad deed would ever develope into such desperate wickedness, if one good one could only be got in to break the continuity of the vicious stream. Therefore the routine of insolence and abusiveness is checked from repeating itself by long-suffering: whereas if insolence is met with insolence and abuse with abuse, you will but feed with itself this monster-vice, and increase it vastly.
10. All his insulting epithets are shown by facts to be false.
I therefore pass over everything else, as mere insolent mockery and scoffing abuse, and hasten to the question of his doctrine. Should any one say that I decline to be abusive only because I cannot pay him back in his own coin, let such an one consider in his own case what proneness there is to evil generally, what a mechanical sliding into sin, dispensing with the need of any practice. The power of becoming bad resides in the will; one act of wishing is often the sufficient occasion for a finished wickedness; and this ease of operation is more especially fatal in the sins of the tongue. Other classes of sins require time and occasion and co-operation to be committed; but the propensity to speak can sin when it likes. The treatise of Eunomius now in our hands is sufficient to prove this; one who attentively considers it will perceive the rapidity of the descent into sins in the matter of phrases: and it is the easiest thing in the world to imitate these, even though one is quite unpractised in habitual defamation. What need would there be to labour in coining our intended insults into names, when one might employ upon this slanderer his own phrases? He has strung together, in fact, in this part of his work, every sort of falsehood and evil-speaking, all moulded from the models which he finds in himself; every extravagance is to be found in writing these. He writes cunning, wrangling, foe to truth, high-flown , charlatan, combating general opinion and tradition, braving facts which give him the lie, careless of the terrors of the law, of the censure of men, unable to distinguish the enthusiasm for truth from mere skill in reasoning; he adds, wanting in reverence, quick to call names, and then blatant, full of conflicting suspicions,combining irreconcileable arguments, combating his own utterances, affirming contradictories; then, though eager to speak all ill of him, not being able to find other novelties of invective in which to indulge his bitterness, often in default of all else he reiterates the same phrases, and comes round again a third and a fourth time and even more to what he has once said; and in this circus of words he drives up and then turns down, over and over again, the same racecourse of insolent abuse; so that at last even anger at this shameless display dies away from very weariness. These low unlovely street boys’ jeers do indeed provoke disgust rather than anger; they are not a whit better than the inarticulate grunting of some old woman who is quite drunk.
Must we then enter minutely into this, and laboriously refute all his invectives by showing that Basil was not this monster of his imagination? If we did this, contentedly proving the absence of anything vile and criminal in him, we should seem to join in insulting one who was a ‘bright particular star’ to his generation. But I remember how with that divine voice of his he quoted the prophet Jeremiah 3:3 with regard to him, comparing him to a shameless woman who casts her own reproaches on the chaste. For whom do these reasonings of his proclaim to be truth’s enemy and in arms against public opinion? Who is it who begs the readers of his book not ‘to look to the numbers of those who profess a belief, or to mere tradition, or to let their judgment be biassed so as to consider as trustworthy what is only suspected to be the stronger side?’ Can one and the same man write like this, and then make those charges, scheming that his readers should follow his own novelties at the very moment that he is abusing others for opposing themselves to the general belief? As for ‘brazening out facts which give him the lie, and men’scensure,’ I leave the reader to judge to whom this applies; whether to one who by a most careful self-restraint made sobriety and quietness and perfect purity the rule of his own life as well as that of his entourage, or to one who advised that nature should not be molested when it is her pleasure to advance through the appetites of the body, not to thwart indulgence, nor to be so particular as that in the training of our life; but that a self-chosen faith should be considered sufficient for a man to attain perfection. If he denies that this is his teaching, I and any right-minded person would rejoice if he were telling the truth in such a denial. But his genuine followers will not allow him to produce such a denial, or their leading principles would be gone, and the platform of those who for this reason embrace his tenets would fall to pieces. As for shameless indifference to human censure, you may look at his youth or his after life, and you would find him in both open to this reproach. The two men’s lives, whether in youth or manhood, tell a widely-different tale.
Let our speech-writer, while he reminds himself of his youthful doings in his native land, and afterwards at Constantinople, hear from those who can tell him what they know of the man whom he slanders. But if any would inquire into their subsequent occupations, let such a person tell us which of the two he considers to deserve so high a reputation; the man who ungrudgingly spent upon the poor his patrimony even before he was a priest, and most of all in the time of the famine, during which he was a ruler of the Church, though still a priest in the rank of presbyters ; and afterwards did not hoard even what remained to him, so that he too might have made the Apostles’ boast, ‘Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought 2 Thessalonians 3:8;’ or, on the other hand, the man who has made the championship of a tenet a source of income, the man who creeps into houses, and does not conceal his loathsome affliction by staying at home, nor considers the natural aversion which those in good health must feel for such, though according to the law of old he is one of those who are banished from the inhabited camp because of the contagion of his unmistakeable disease.
Basil is called ‘hasty’ and ‘insolent,’ and in both characters ‘a liar’ by this man who ‘would in patience and meekness educate those of a contrary opinion to himself;’ for such are the airs he gives himself when he speaks of him, while he omits no hyperbole of bitter language, when he has a sufficient opening to produce it. On what grounds, then, does he charge him with this hastiness and insolence? Because ‘he called me a Galatian, though I am a Cappadocian;’ then it was because he called a man who lived on the boundary in an obscure corner like Corniaspine a Galatian instead of an Oltiserian; supposing, that is, that it is proved that he said this. I have not found it in my copies; but grant it. For this he is to be called ‘hasty,’ ‘insolent,’ all that is bad. But the wise know well that the minute charges of a faultfinder furnish a strong argument for the righteousness of the accused; else, when eager to accuse, he would not have spared great faults and employed his malice on little ones. On these last he is certainly great, heightening the enormity of the offense, and making solemn reflections on falsehood, and seeing equal heinousness in it whether in great or very trivial matters. Like the fathers of his heresy, the scribes and Pharisees, he knows how to strain a gnat carefully and to swallow at one gulp the hump-backed camel laden with a weight of wickedness. But it would not be out of place to say to him, ‘refrain from making such a rule in our system; cease to bid us think it of no account to measure the guilt of a falsehood by the slightness or the importance of the circumstances.’ Paul telling a falsehood and purifying himself after the manner of the Jews to meet the needs of those whom he usefully deceived did not sin the same as Judas for the requirement of his treachery putting on a kind and affable look. By a falsehood Joseph in love to his brethren deceived them; and that too while swearing ‘by the life of Pharaoh Genesis 42:15;’ but his brethren had really lied to him, in their envy plotting his death and then his enslavement. There are many such cases: Sarah lied, because she was ashamed of laughing: the serpent lied, tempting man to disobey and change to a divine existence. Falsehoods differ widely according to their motives. Accordingly we accept that general statement about man which the Holy Spirit uttered by the Prophet , ‘Every man is a liar.’ and this man of God, too, has not kept clear of falsehood, having chanced to give a place the name of a neighbouring district, through oversight or ignorance of its real name. But Eunomius also has told a falsehood, and what is it? Nothing less than a misstatement of Truth itself. He asserts that One who always is once was not; he demonstrates that One who is truly a Son is falsely so called; he defines the Creator to be a creature and a work; the Lord of the world he calls a servant, and ranges the Being who essentially rules with subject beings. Is the difference between falsehoods so very trifling, that one can think it matters nothing whether the falsehood is palpable in this way or in that?
11. The sophistry which he employs to prove our acknowledgment that he had been tried, and that the confession of his faithhad not been unimpeached, is feeble.
He objects to sophistries in others; see the sort of care he takes himself that his proofs shall be real ones. Our Master said, in the book which he addressed to him, that at the time when our cause was ruined, Eunomius won Cyzicus as the prize of his blasphemy. What then does this detector of sophistry do? He fastens at once on that word prize, and declares that we on our side confess that he made an apology, that he won thereby, that he gained the prize of victory by these efforts; and he frames his argument into a syllogism consisting as he thinks of unanswerable propositions. But we will quote word for word what he has written. ‘If a prize is the recognition and the crown of victory, and a trial implies a victory, and, as also inseparable from itself, an accusation, then that man who grants (in argument) the prize must necessarily allow that there was a defence.’ What then is our answer to that? We do not deny that he fought this wretched battle of impiety with a most vigorous energy, and that he went a very long distance beyond his fellows in these perspiring efforts against the truth; but we will not allow that he obtained the victory over his opponents; but only that as compared with those who were running the same as himself through heresy into error he was foremost in the number of his lies and so gained the prize of Cyzicus in return for high attainments in evil, beating all who for the same prize combated the Truth; and that for this victory of blasphemy his name was blazoned loud and clear when Cyzicus was selected for him by the umpires of his party as the reward of his extravagance. This is the statement of our opinion, and this we allowed; our contention now that Cyzicus was the prize of a heresy, not the successful result of a defence, shows it. Is this anything like his own mess of childish sophistries, so that he can thereby hope to have grounds for proving the fact of his trial and his defence? His method is like that of a man in a drinking bout, who has made away with more strong liquor than the rest, and having then claimed the pool from his fellow-drunkards should attempt to make this victory a proof of having won some case in the law courts. That man might chop the same sort of logic. ‘If a prize is the recognition and the crown of victory, and a law-trial implies a victory and, as also inseparable from itself, an accusation, then I have won my suit, since I have been crowned for my powers of drinking in this bout.’
One would certainly answer to such a boaster that a trial in court is a very different thing from a wine-contest, and that one who wins with the glass has thereby no advantage over his legal adversaries, though he get a beautiful chaplet of flowers. No more, therefore, has the man who has beaten his equals in the advocacy of profanity anything to show in having won the prize for that, that he has won a verdict too. The testimony on our side that he is first in profanity is no plea for his imaginary ‘apology.’ If he did speak it before the court, and, having so prevailed over his adversaries, was honoured with Cyzicus for that, then he might have some occasion for using our own words against ourselves; but as he is continually protesting in his book that he yielded to the animus of the voters, and accepted in silence the penalty which they inflicted, not even waiting for this hostile decision, why does he impose upon himself and make this word prize into the proof of a successful apology? Our excellent friend fails to understand the force of this word prize; Cyzicus was given up to him as the reward of merit for his extravagant impiety; and as it was his will to receive such a prize, and he views it in the light of a victor’s reward, let him receive as well what that victory implies, viz. the lion’s share in the guilt of profanity. If he insists on our own words against ourselves, he must accept both these consequences, or neither.
12. His charge of cowardice is baseless: for Basil displayed the highest courage before the Emperor and his Lord-Lieutenants.
He treats our words so; and in the rest of his presumptuous statements can there be shown to be a particle of truth? In these he calls him ‘cowardly,’ ‘spiritless,’ ‘a shirker of severer labours,’ exhausting the list of such terms, and giving with laboured circumstantiality every symptom of this cowardice: ‘the retired cabin, the door firmly closed, the anxious fear of intruders, the voice, the look, the tell-tale change of countenance,’ everything of that sort, whereby the passion of fear is shown. If he were detected in no other lie but this, it alone would be sufficient to reveal his bent. For who does not know how, during the time when the Emperor Valens was roused against the churches of the Lord, that mighty champion of ours rose by his lofty spirit superior to those overwhelming circumstances and the terrors of the foe, and showed a mind which soared above every means devised to daunt him? Who of the dwellers in the East, and of the furthest regions of our civilized world did not hear of his combat with the throne itself for the truth? Who, looking to his antagonist, was not in dismay? For his was no common antagonist, possessed only of the power of winning in sophistic juggles, where victory is no glory and defeat is harmless; but he had the power of bending the whole Roman government to his will; and, added to this pride of empire, he had prejudices against our faith, cunningly instilled into his mind by Eudoxius of Germanicia , who had won him to his side; and he found in all those who were then at the head of affairs allies in carrying out his designs, some being already inclined to them from mental sympathies, while others, and they were the majority, were ready from fear to indulge the imperial pleasure, and seeing the severity employed against those who held to the Faith were ostentatious in their zeal for him. It was a time of exile, confiscation, banishment, threats of fines, danger of life, arrests, imprisonment, scourging; nothing was too dreadful to put in force against those who would not yield to this sudden caprice of the Emperor; it was worse for the faithful to be caught in God’s house than if they had been detected in the most heinous of crimes.
But a detailed history of that time would be too long; and would require a separate treatment; besides, as the sufferings at that sad season are known to all, nothing would be gained for our present purpose by carefully setting them forth in writing. A second drawback to such an attempt would be found to be that amidst the details of that melancholy history we should be forced to make mention of ourselves; and if we did anything in those struggles for our religion that redounds to our honour in the telling, Wisdom commands us to leave it to others to tell. Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth Proverbs 27:2; and it is this very thing that our omniscient friend has not been conscious of in devoting the larger half of his book to self-glorification.
Omitting, then, all that kind of detail, I will be careful only in setting forth the achievement of our Master. The adversary whom he had to combat was no less a person than the Emperor himself; that adversary’s second was the man who stood next him in the government; his assistants to work out his will were the court. Let us take into consideration also the point of time, in order to test and to illustrate the fortitude of our own noble champion. When was it? The Emperor was proceeding from Constantinople to the East elated by his recent successes against the barbarians, and not in a spirit to brook any obstruction to his will; and his lord-lieutenant directed his route, postponing all administration of the necessary affairs of state as long as a home remained to one adherent of the Faith, and until every one, no matter where, was ejected, and others, chosen by himself to outrage our godly hierarchy, were introduced instead. The Powers then of the Propontis were moving in such a fury, like some dark cloud, upon the churches; Bithynia was completely devastated; Galatia was very quickly carried away by their stream; all in the intervening districts had succeeded with them; and now our fold lay the next to be attacked. What did our mighty Basil show like then, ‘that spiritless coward,’ as Eunomius calls him, ‘shrinking from danger, and trusting to a retired cabin to save him?’ Did he quail at this evil onset? Did he allow the sufferings of previous victims to suggest to him that he should secure his own safety? Did he listen to any who advised a slight yielding to this rush of evils , so as not to throw himself openly in the path of men who were now veterans in slaughter? Rather we find that all excess of language, all height of thought and word, falls short of the truth about him. None could describe his contempt of danger, so as to bring before the reader’s eyes this new combat, which one might justly say was waged not between man and man, but between a Christian’s firmness and courage on the one side, and a bloodstained power on the other.
The lord-lieutenant kept appealing to the commands of the Emperor, and rendering a power, which from its enormous strength was terrible enough, more terrible still by the unsparing cruelty of its vengeance. After the tragedies which he had enacted in Bithynia, and after Galatia with characteristic fickleness had yielded without a struggle, he thought that our country would fall a ready prey to his designs. Cruel deeds were preluded by words proposing, with mingled threats and promises, royal favours and ecclesiastical power to obedience, but to resistance all that a cruel spirit which has got the power to work its will can devise. Such was the enemy.
So far was our champion from being daunted by what he saw and heard, that he acted rather like a physician or prudent councillor called in to correct something that was wrong, bidding them repent of their rashness and cease to commit murders among the servants of the Lord; ‘their plans,’ he said, ‘could not succeed with men who cared only for the empire of Christ, and for the Powers that never die; with all their wish to maltreat him, they could discover nothing, whether word or act, that could pain the Christian; confiscation could not touch him whose only possession was his Faith; exile had no terrors for one who walked in every land with the same feelings, and looked on every city as strange because of the shortness of his sojourn in it, yet as home, because all human creatures are in equal bondage with himself; the endurance of blows, or tortures, or death, if it might be for the Truth, was an object of fear not even to women, but to every Christian it was the supremest bliss to suffer the worst for this their hope, and they were only grieved that nature allowed them but one death, and that they could devise no means of dying many times in this battle for the Truth. ‘
When he thus confronted their threats, and looked beyond that imposing power, as if it were all nothing, then their exasperation, just like those rapid changes on the stage when one mask after another is put on, turned with all its threats into flattery; and the very man whose spirit up to then had been so determined and formidable adopted the most gentle and submissive of language; ‘Do not, I beg you, think it a small thing for our mighty emperor to have communion with your people, but be willing to be called his master too: nor thwart his wish; he wishes for this peace, if only one little word in the written Creed is erased, that of Homoousios.’ Our master answers that it is of the greatest importance that the emperor should be a member of the Church; that is, that he should save his soul, not as an emperor, but as a mere man; but a diminution of or addition to the Faith was so far from his (Basil’s) thoughts, that he would not change even the order of the written words. That was what this ‘spiritless coward, who trembles at the creaking of a door,’ said to this great ruler, and he confirmed his words by what he did; for he stemmed in his own person this imperial torrent of ruin that was rushing on the churches, and turned it aside; he in himself was a match for this attack, like a grand immoveable rock in the sea, breaking the huge and surging billow of that terrible onset.
Nor did his wrestling stop there; the emperor himself succeeds to the attack, exasperated because he did not get effected in the first attempt all that he wished. Just, accordingly, as the Assyrian effected the destruction of the temple of the Israelites at Jerusalem by means of the cook Nabuzardan, so did this monarch of ours entrust his business to one Demosthenes, comptroller of his kitchen, and chief of his cooks , as to one more pushing than the rest, thinking thereby to succeed entirely in his design. With this man stirring the pot, and with one of the blasphemers from Illyricum, letters in hand, assembling the authorities with this end in view, and with Modestus kindling passion to a greater heat than in the previous excitement, every one joined the movement of the Emperor’s anger, making his fury their own, and yielding to the temper of authority; and on the other hand all felt their hopes sink at the prospect of what might happen. That same lord-lieutenant re-enters on the scene; intimidations worse than the former are begun; their threats are thrown out; their anger rises to a still higher pitch; there is the tragic pomp of trial over again, the criers, the apparitors, the lictors, the curtained bar, things which naturallydaunt even a mind which is thoroughly prepared; and again we see God’s champion amidst this combat surpassing even his former glory. If you want proofs, look at the facts. What spot, where there are churches, did not that disaster reach? What nation remained unreached by these heretical commands? Who of the illustrious in any Church was not driven from the scene of his labours? What people escaped their despiteful treatment? It reached all Syria, and Mesopotamia up to the frontier, Phœnicia, Palestine, Arabia, Egypt, the Libyan tribes to the boundaries of the civilized world; and all nearer home, Pontus, Cilicia, Lycia, Lydia, Pisidia, Pamphylia, Caria, the Hellespont, the islands up to the Propontis itself; the coasts of Thrace, as far as Thrace extends, and the bordering nations as far as the Danube. Which of these countries retained its former look, unless any were already possessed with the evil? The people of Cappadocia alone felt not these afflictions of the Church, because our mighty champion saved them in their trial.
Such was the achievement of this ‘coward’ master of ours; such was the success of one who ‘shirks all sterner toil.’ Surely it is not that of one who ‘wins renown among poor old women, and practises to deceive the sex which naturally falls into every snare,’ and ‘thinks it a great thing to be admired by the criminal and abandoned;’ it is that of one who has proved by deeds his soul’s fortitude, and the unflinching and noble manliness of his spirit. His success has resulted in the salvation of the whole country, the peace of our Church, the pattern given to the virtuous of every excellence, the overthrow of the foe, the upholding of the Faith, the confirmation of the weaker brethren, the encouragement of the zealous, everything that is believed to belong to the victorious side; and in the commemoration of no other events but these do hearing and seeing unite in accomplished facts; for here it is one and the same thing to relate in words his noble deeds and to show in facts the attestation of our words, and to confirm each by the other— the record from what is before our eyes, and the facts from what is being said.
13. Résumé of his dogmatic teaching. Objections to it in detail.
But somehow our discourse has swerved considerably from the mark; it has had to turn round and face each of this slanderer’s insults. To Eunomius indeed it is no small advantage that the discussion should linger upon such points, and that the indictment of his offenses against man should delay our approach to his graver sins. But it is profitless to abuse for hastiness of speech one who is on his trial for murder; (because the proof of the latter is sufficient to get the verdict of death passed, even though hastiness of speech is not proved along with it); just so it seems best to subject to proof his blasphemy only, and to leave his insults alone. When his heinousness on the most important points has been detected, his other delinquencies are proved potentially without going minutely into them. Well then; at the head of all his argumentations stands this blasphemy against the definitions of the Faith— both in his former work and in that which we are now criticizing— and his strenuous effort to destroy and cancel and completely upset all devout conceptions as to the Only-Begotten Son of God and the Holy Spirit. To show, then, how false and inconsistent are his arguments against these doctrines of the truth, I will first quote word for word his whole statement, and then I will begin again and examine each portion separately. The whole account of our doctrines is summed up thus; there is the Supreme and Absolute Being, and another Being existing by reason of the First, but after It though before all others; and a third Being not ranking with either of these, but inferior to the one, as to its cause, to the other, as to the energy which produced it: there must of course be included in this account the energies that follow each Being, and the names germane to these energies. Again, as each Being is absolutely single, and is in fact and thought one, and its energies are bounded by its works, and its works commensurate with its energies, necessarily, of course, the energies which follow these Beings are relatively greater and less, some being of a higher, some of a lower order; in a word, their difference amounts to that existing between their works: it would in fact not be lawful to say that the same energy produced the angels or stars, and the heavens or man: but a pious mind would conclude that in proportion as some works are superior to and more honourable than others, so does one energy transcend another, because sameness of energy produces sameness of work, and difference of work indicates difference of energy. These things being so, and maintaining an unbroken connection in their relation to each other, it seems fitting for those who make their investigation according to the order germane to the subject, and who do not insist on mixing and confusing all together, in case of a discussion being raised about Being, to prove what is in course of demonstration, and to settle the points in debate, by the primary energies and those attached to the Beings, and again to explain by the Beings when the energies are in question, yet still to consider the passage from the first to the second the more suitable and in all respects the more efficacious of the two.
Such is his blasphemy systematized! May the Very God, Son of the Very God, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, direct our discussion to the truth! We will repeat his statements one by one. He asserts that the whole account of his doctrines is summed up in the Supreme and Absolute Being, and in another Being existing by reason of the First, but after It though before all others, and in a third Being not ranking with either of these but inferior to the one as to its cause, to the other as to the energy. The first point, then, of the unfair dealings in this statement to be noticed is that in professing to expound the mystery of the Faith, he corrects as it were the expressions in the Gospel, and will not make use of the words by which our Lord in perfecting our faith conveyed that mystery to us: he suppresses the names of ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost,’ and speaks of a ‘Supreme and Absolute Being’ instead of the Father, of ‘another existing through it, but after it’ instead of the Son, and of ‘a third ranking with neither of these two’ instead of the Holy Ghost. And yet if those had been the more appropriate names, the Truth Himself would not have been at a loss to discover them, nor those men either, on whom successively devolved the preaching of the mystery, whether they were from the first eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, or, as successors to these, filled the whole world with the Evangelical doctrines, and again at various periods after this defined in a common assembly the ambiguities raised about the doctrine; whose traditions are constantly preserved in writing in the churches. If those had been the appropriate terms, they would not have mentioned, as they did, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, granting indeed it were pious or safe to remodel at all, with a view to this innovation, the terms of the faith; or else they were all ignorant men and uninstructed in the mysteries, and unacquainted with what he calls the appropriate names— those men who had really neither the knowledge nor the desire to give the preference to their own conceptions over what had been handed down to us by the voice of God.
14. He did wrong, when mentioning the Doctrines of Salvation, in adopting terms of his own choosing instead of the traditional terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The reason for this invention of new words I take to be manifest to every one— namely: that every one, when the words father and son are spoken, at once recognizes the proper and natural relationship to one another which they imply. This relationship is conveyed at once by the appellations themselves. To prevent it being understood of the Father, and the Only-begotten Son, he robs us of this idea of relationship which enters the ear along with the words, and abandoning the inspired terms, expounds the Faith by means of others devised to injure the truth.
One thing, however, that he says is true: that his own teaching, not the Catholic teaching, is summed up so. Indeed any one who reflects can easily see the impiety of his statement. It will not be out of place now to discuss in detail what his intention is in ascribing to the being of the Father alone the highest degree of that which is supreme and proper, while not admitting that the being of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is supreme and proper. For my part I think that it is a prelude to his complete denial of the ‘being’ of the Only-begotten and of the Holy Ghost, and that this system of his is secretly intended to effect the setting aside of all real belief in their personality, while in appearance and in mere words confessing it. A moment’s reflection upon his statement will enable any one to perceive that this is so. It does not look like one who thinks that the Only-begotten and the Holy Ghost really exist in a distinct personality to be very particular about the names with which he thinks the greatness of Almighty God should be expressed. To grant the fact , and then go into minute distinctions about the appropriate phrases would be indeed consummate folly: and so in ascribing a being that is in the highest degree supreme and proper only to the Father, he makes us surmise by this silence respecting the other two that (to him) they do not properly exist. How can that to which a proper being is denied be said to really exist? When we deny proper being to it, we must perforce affirm of it all the opposite terms. That which cannot be properly said is improperly said, so that the demonstration of its not being properly said is a proof of its not really subsisting: and it is at this that Eunomius seems to aim in introducing these new names into his teaching. For no one can say that he has strayed from ignorance into some silly fancy of separating, locally, the supreme from that which is below, and assigning to the Father as it were the peak of some hill, while he seats the Son lower down in the hollows. No one is so childish as to conceive of differences in space, when the intellectual and spiritual is under discussion. Local position is a property of the material: but the intellectual and immaterial is confessedly removed from the idea of locality. What, then, is the reason why he says that the Father alone has supreme being? For one can hardly think it is from ignorance that he wanders off into these conceptions, being one who, in the many displays he makes, claims to be wise, even making himself overwise, as the Holy Scripture forbids us to do Ecclesiastes 7:16 .
15. He does wrong in making the being of the Father alone proper and supreme, implying by his omission of the Son and the Spirit that theirs is improperly spoken of, and is inferior.
But at all events he will allow that this supremacy of being betokens no excess of power, or of goodness, or of anything of that kind. Every one knows that, not to mention those whose knowledge is supposed to be very profound; viz., that the personality of the Only-begotten and of the Holy Ghost has nothing lacking in the way of perfect goodness, perfect power, and of every quality like that. Good, as long as it is incapable of its opposite, has no bounds to its goodness: its opposite alone can circumscribe it, as we may see by particular examples. Strength is stopped only when weakness seizes it; life is limited by death alone; darkness is the ending of light: in a word, every good is checked by its opposite, and by that alone. If then he supposes that the nature of the Only-begotten and of the Spirit can change for the worse, then he plainly diminishes the conception of their goodness, making them capable of being associated with their opposites. But if the Divine and unalterable nature is incapable of degeneracy, as even our foes allow, we must regard it as absolutely unlimited in its goodness: and the unlimited is the same as the infinite. But to suppose excess and defect in the infinite and unlimited is to the last degree unreasonable: for how can the idea of infinitude remain, if we posited increase and loss in it? We get the idea of excess only by a comparison of limits: where there is no limit, we cannot think of any excess. Perhaps, however, this was not what he was driving at, but he assigns this superiority only by the prerogative of priority in time, and, with this idea only, declares the Father’s being to be alone the supreme one. Then he must tell us on what grounds he has measured out more length of life to the Father, while no distinctions of time whatever have been previously conceived of in the personality of the Son.
And yet supposing for a moment, for the sake of argument, that this was so, what superiority does the being which is prior in time have over that which follows, on the score of pure being, that he can say that the one is supreme and proper, and the other is not? For while the lifetime of the elder as compared with the younger is longer, yet his being has neither increase nor decrease on that account. This will be clear by an illustration. What disadvantage, on the score of being, as compared with Abraham, had David who lived fourteen generations after? Was any change, so far as humanity goes, effected in the latter? Was he less a human being, because he was later in time? Who would be so foolish as to assert this? The definition of their being is the same for both: the lapse of time does not change it. No one would assert that the one was more a man for being first in time, and the other less because he sojourned in life later; as if humanity had been exhausted on the first, or as if time had spent its chief power upon the deceased. For it is not in the power of time to define for each one the measures of nature, but nature abides self-contained, preserving herself through succeeding generations: and time has a course of its own, whether surrounding, or flowing by, this nature, which remains firm and motionless within her own limits. Therefore, not even supposing, as our argument did for a moment, that an advantage were allowed on the score of time, can they properly ascribe to the Father alone the highest supremacy of being: but as there is really no difference whatever in the prerogative of time, how could any one possibly entertain such an idea about these existencies which are pre-temporal? Every measure of distance that we could discover is beneath the divine nature: so no ground is left for those who attempt to divide this pre-temporal and incomprehensible being by distinctions of superior and inferior.
We have no hesitation either in asserting that what is dogmatically taught by them is an advocacy of the Jewish doctrine, setting forth, as they do, that the being of the Father alone has subsistence, and insisting that this only has proper existence, and reckoning that of the Son and the Spirit among non-existencies, seeing that what does not properly exist can be said nominally only, and by an abuse of terms, to exist at all. The name of man, for instance, is not given to a portrait representing one, but to so and so who is absolutely such, the original of the picture, and not the picture itself; whereas the picture is in word only a man, and does not possess absolutely the quality ascribed to it, because it is not in its nature that which it is called. In the case before us, too, if being is properly ascribed to the Father, but ceases when we come to the Son and the Spirit, it is nothing short of a plain denial of the message of salvation. Let them leave the church and fall back upon the synagogues of the Jews, proving, as they do, the Son’s non-existence in denying to Him proper being. What does not properly exist is the same thing as the non-existent.
Again, he means in all this to be very clever, and has a poor opinion of those who essay to write without logical force. Then let him tell us, contemptible though we are, by what sort of skill he has detected a greater and a less in pure being. What is his method for establishing that one being is more of a being than another being—taking being in its plainest meaning, for he must not bring forward those various qualities and properties, which are comprehended in the conception of the being, and gather round it, but are not the subject itself? Shade, colour, weight, force or reputation, distinctive manner, disposition, any quality thought of in connection with body or mind, are not to be considered here: we have to inquire only whether the actual subject of all these, which is termed absolutely the being, differs in degree of being from another. We have yet to learn that of two known existencies, which still exist, the one is more, the other less, an existence. Both are equally such, as long as they are in the category of existence, and when all notions of more or less value, more or less force, have been excluded.
If, then, he denies that we can regard the Only-begotten as completely existing,— for to this depth his statement seems to lead—in withholding from Him a proper existence, let him deny it even in a less degree. If, however, he does grant that the Son subsists in some substantial way— we will not quarrel now about the particular way— why does he take away again that which he has conceded Him to be, and prove Him to exist not properly, which is tantamount, as we have said, to not at all? For as humanity is not possible to that which does not possess the complete connotation of the term ‘man,’ and the whole conception of it is cancelled in the case of one who lacks any of the properties, so in every thing whose complete and proper existence is denied, the partial affirmation of its existence is no proof of its subsisting at all; the demonstration, in fact, of its incomplete being is a demonstration of its effacement in all points. So that if he is well-advised, he will come over to the orthodox belief, and remove from his teaching the idea of less and of incompleteness in the nature of the Son and the Spirit: but if he is determined to blaspheme, and wishes for some inscrutable reason thus to requite his Maker and God and Benefactor, let him at all events part with his conceit of possessing some amount of showy learning, unphilosophically piling, as he does, being over being, one above the other, one proper, one not such, for no discoverable reason. We have never heard that any of the infidel philosophers have committed this folly, any more than we have met with it in the inspired writings, or in the common apprehension of mankind.
I think that from what has been said it will be clear what is the aim of these newly-devised names. He drops them as the base of operations or foundation-stone of all this work of mischief to the Faith: once he can get the idea into currency that the one Being alone is supreme and proper in the highest degree, he can then assail the other two, as belonging to the inferior and not regarded as properly Being. He shows this especially in what follows, where he is discussing the belief in the Son and the Holy Spirit, and does not proceed with these names, so as to avoid bringing before us the proper characteristic of their nature by means of those appellations: they are passed over unnoticed by this man who is always telling us that minds of the hearers are to be directed by the use of appropriate names and phrases. Yet what name could be more appropriate than that which has been given by the Very Truth? He sets his views against the Gospel, and names not the Son, but ‘a Being existing through the First, but after It though before all others.’ That this is said to destroy the right faith in the Only-begotten will be made plainer still by his subsequent arguments. Still there is only a moderate amount of mischief in these words: one intending no impiety at all towards Christ might sometimes use them: we will therefore omit at present all discussion about our Lord, and reserve our reply to the more open blasphemies against Him. But on the subject of the Holy Spirit the blasphemy is plain and unconcealed: he says that He is not to be ranked with the Father or the Son, but is subject to both. I will therefore examine as closely as possible this statement.
16. Examination of the meaning of ‘subjection:’ in that he says that the nature of the Holy Spiritis subject to that of the Father and the Son. It is shown that the Holy Spiritis of an equal, not inferior, rank to the Father and the Son.
Let us first, then, ascertain the meaning of this word ‘subjection’ in Scripture. To whom is it applied? The Creator, honouring man in his having been made in His own image, ‘has placed’ the brute creation ‘in subjection under his feet;’ as great David relating this favour (of God) exclaimed in the Psalms : He put all things, he says, under his feet, and he mentions by name the creatures so subjected. There is still another meaning of ‘subjection’ in Scripture. Ascribing to God Himself the cause of his success in war, the Psalmist says , He has put peoples and nations in subjection under our feet, and He that puts peoples in subjection under me. This word is often found thus in Scripture, indicating a victory. As for the future subjection of all men to the Only-begotten, and through Him to the Father, in the passage where the Apostle with a profound wisdom speaks of the Mediator between God and man as subject to the Father, implying by that subjection of the Son who shares humanity the actual subjugation of mankind— we will not discuss it now, for it requires a full and thorough examination. But to take only the plain and unambiguous meaning of the word subjection, how can he declare the being of the Spirit to be subject to that of the Son and the Father? As the Son is subject to the Father, according to the thought of the Apostle? But in this view the Spirit is to be ranked with the Son, not below Him, seeing that both Persons are of this lower rank. This was not his meaning? How then? In the way the brute creation is subject to the rational, as in the Psalm? There is then as great a difference as is implied in the subjection of the brute creation, when compared to man. Perhaps he will reject this explanation as well. Then he will have to come to the only remaining one, that the Spirit, at first in the rebellious ranks, was afterwards forced by a superior Force to bend to a Conqueror.
Let him choose which he likes of these alternatives: whichever it is I do not see how he can avoid the inevitable crime of blasphemy: whether he says the Spirit is subject in the manner of the brute creation, as fish and birds and sheep, to man, or were to fetch Him a captive to a superior power after the manner of a rebel. Or does he mean neither of these ways, but uses the word in a different signification altogether to the scripture meaning? What, then, is that signification? Does he lay down that we must rank Him as inferior and not as equal, because He was given by our Lord to His disciples third in order? By the same reasoning he should make the Father inferior to the Son, since the Scripture often places the name of our Lord first, and the Father Almighty second. I and My Father, our Lord says. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God , and other passages innumerable which the diligent student of Scripture testimonies might collect: for instance, there are differences of gifts, but it is the same Spirit: and there are differences of administration, but it is the same Lord: and there are differences of operations, but it is the same God. According to this, then, let the Almighty Father, who is mentioned third, be made ‘subject’ to the Son and the Spirit. However we have never yet heard of a philosophy such as this, which relegates to the category of the inferior and the dependent that which is mentioned second or third only for some particular reason of sequence: yet that is what our author wants to do, in arguing to show that the order observed in the transmission of the Persons amounts to differences of more and less in dignity and nature. In fact he rules that sequence in point of order is indicative of unlikeness of nature: whence he got this fancy, what necessity compelled him to it, is not clear. Mere numerical rank does not create a different nature: that which we would count in a number remains the same in nature whether we count it or not. Number is a mark only of the mere quantity of things: it does not place second those things only which have an inferior natural value, but it makes the sequence of the numerical objects indicated in accordance with the intention of those who are counting. ‘Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus’ are three persons mentioned according to a particular intention. Does the place of Silvanus, second and after Paul, indicate that he was other than a man? Or is Timothy, because he is third, considered by the writer who so ranks him a different kind of being? Not so. Each is human both before and after this arrangement. Speech, which cannot utter the names of all three at once, mentions each separately according to an order which commends itself, but unites them by the copula, in order that the juncture of the names may show the harmonious action of the three towards one end.
This, however, does not please our new dogmatist. He opposes the arrangement of Scripture. He separates off that equality with the Father and the Son of His proper and natural rank and connection which our Lord Himself pronounces, and numbers Him with ‘subjects’: he declares Him to be a work of both Persons , of the Father, as supplying the cause of His constitution, of the Only-begotten, as of the artificer of His subsistence: and defines this as the ground of His ‘subjection,’ without as yet unfolding the meaning of ‘subjection.’
17. Discussion as to the exact nature of the ‘energies’ which, this man declares, ‘follow’ the being of the Father and of the Son.
Then he says there must of course be included in this account the energies that accompany each Being, and the names appropriate to these energies. Shrouded in such a mist of vagueness, the meaning of this is far from clear: but one might conjecture it is as follows. By the energies of the Beings, he means those powers which have produced the Son and the Holy Spirit, and by which the First Being made the Second, and the Second the Third: and he means that the names of the results produced have been provided in a manner appropriate to those results. We have already exposed the mischief of these names, and will again, when we return to that part of the question, should additional discussion of it be required.
But it is worth a moment’s while now to consider how energies ‘follow’ beings: what these energies are essentially: whether different to the beings which they ‘follow,’ or part of them, and of their inmost nature: and then, if different, how and whence they arise: if the same, how they have got cut off from them, and instead of co-existing ‘follow’ them externally only. This is necessary, for we cannot learn all at once from his words whether some natural necessity compels the ‘energy,’ whatever that may be, to ‘follow’ the being, the way heat and vapour follow fire, and the various exhalations the bodies which produce them. Still I do not think that he would affirm that we should consider the being of God to be something heterogeneous and composite, having the energy inalienably contained in the idea of itself, like an ‘accident’ in some subject-matter: he must mean that the beings, deliberately and voluntarily moved, produce by themselves the desired result. But, if this be so, who would style this free result of intention as one of its external consequences? We have never heard of such an expression used in common parlance in such cases; the energy of the worker of anything is not said to ‘follow’ that worker. We cannot separate one from the other and leave one behind by itself: but, when one mentions the energy, one comprehends in the idea that which is moved with the energy, and when one mentions the worker one implies at once the unmentioned energy.
An illustration will make our meaning clearer. We say a man works in iron, or in wood, or in anything else. This single expression conveys at once the idea of the working and of the artificer, so that if we withdraw the one, the other has no existence. If then they are thus thought of together, i.e. the energy and he who exercises it, how in this case can there be said to follow upon the first being the energy which produces the second being, like a sort of go-between to both, and neither coalescing with the nature of the first, nor combining with the second: separated from the first because it is not its very nature, but only the exercise of its nature, and from that which results afterwards because it does not therein reproduce a mere energy, but an active being.
18. He has no reason for distinguishing a plurality of beings in the Trinity. He offers no demonstration that it is so.
Let us examine the following as well. He calls one Being the work of another, the second of the first, and the third of the second. On what previous demonstration does this statement rest: what proofs does he make use of, what method, to compel belief in the succeeding Being as a result of the preceding? For even if it were possible to draw an analogy for this from created things, such conjecturing about the transcendent from lower existences would not be altogether sound, though the error in arguing from natural phenomena to the incomprehensible might then be pardonable. But as it is, none would venture to affirm that, while the heavens are the work of God, the sun is that of the heavens, and the moon that of the sun, and the stars that of the moon, and other created things that of the stars: seeing that all are the work of One: for there is one God and Father of all, of Whom are all things. If anything is produced by mutual transmission, such as the race of animals, not even here does one produce another, for nature runs on through each generation. How then, when it is impossible to affirm it of the created world, can he declare of the transcendent existencies that the second is a work of the first, and so on? If, however, he is thinking of animal generation, and fancies that such a process is going on also among pure existences, so that the older produces the younger, even so he fails to be consistent: for such productions are of the same type as their progenitors: whereas he assigns to the members of his succession strange and uninherited qualities: and thus displays a superfluity of falsehood, while striving to strike truth with both hands at once, in a clever boxer’s fashion. In order to show the inferior rank and diminution in intrinsic value of the Son and Holy Spirit, he declares that one is produced from another; in order that those who understand about mutual generation might entertain no idea of family relationship here: he contradicts the law of nature by declaring that one is produced from another, and at the same time exhibiting the Son as a bastard when compared with His Father’s nature.
But one might find fault with him, I think, before coming to all this. If, that is, any one else, previously unaccustomed to discussion and unversed in logical expression, delivered his ideas in this chance fashion, some indulgence might be shown him for not using the recognized methods for establishing his views. But considering that Eunomius has such an abundance of this power, that he can advance by his ‘irresistible’ method of proof even into the supra-natural, how can he be ignorant of the starting-point from which this ‘irresistible’ perception of a hidden truth takes its rise in all these logical excursions. Every one knows that all such arguing must start from plain and well-known truths, to compel belief through itself in still doubtful truths: and that none of these last can be grasped without the guidance of what is obvious leading us towards the unknown. If on the other hand that which is adopted to start with for the illustration of this unknown is at variance with universal belief, it will be a long time before the unknown will receive any illustration from it.
The whole controversy, then, between the Church and the Anomœans turns on this: Are we to regard the Son and the Holy Spirit as belonging to created or uncreated existence? Our opponent declares that to be the case which all deny: he boldly lays it down, without looking about for any proof, that each being is the work of the preceding being. What method of education, what school of thought can warrant him in this, it is difficult to see. Some axiom that cannot be denied or assailed must be the beginning of every process of proof; so as for the unknown quantity to be demonstrated from what has been assumed, being legitimately deduced by intervening syllogisms. The reasoner, therefore, who makes what ought to be the object of inquiry itself a premiss of his demonstration is only proving the obscure by the obscure, and illusion by illusion. He is making ‘the blind lead the blind,’ for it is a truly blind and unsupported statement to say that the Creator and Maker of all things is a creature made: and to this they link on a conclusion that is also blind: namely, that the Son is alien in nature, unlike in being to the Father, and quite devoid of His essential character. But of this enough. Where his thought is nakedly blasphemous, there we too can defer its refutation. We must now return to consider his words which come next in order.
19. His acknowledgment that the Divine Being is ‘single’ is only verbal.
Each Being has, in fact and in conception, a nature unmixed, single, and absolutely one as estimated by its dignity; and as the works are bounded by the energies of each operator, and the energies by the works, it is inevitable that the energies which follow each Being are greater in the one case than the other, some being of the first, others of the second rank. The intention that runs through all this, however verbosely expressed, is one and the same; namely, to establish that there is no connection between the Father and the Son, or between the Son and the Holy Ghost, but that these Beings are sundered from each other, and possess natures foreign and unfamiliar to each other, and differ not only in that, but also in magnitude and in subordination of their dignities, so that we must think of one as greater than the other, and presenting every other sort of difference.
It may seem to many useless to linger over what is so obvious, and to attempt a discussion of that which to them is on the face of it false and abominable and groundless: nevertheless, to avoid even the appearance of having to let these statements pass for want of counter-arguments, we will meet them with all our might. He says, each being among them is unmixed, single, and absolutely one, as estimated by its dignity, both in fact and in conception. Then premising this very doubtful statement as an axiom and valuing his own ‘ipse dixit’ as a sufficient substitute for any proof, he thinks he has made a point. There are three Beings: for he implies this when he says, ‘each being among them:’ he would not have used these words, if he meant only one. Now if he speaks thus of the mutual difference between the Beings in order to avoid complicity with the heresy of Sabellius, who applied three titles to one subject, we would acquiesce in his statement: nor would any of the Faithful contradict his view, except so far as he seems to be at fault in his names, and his mere form of expression in speaking of ‘beings’ instead of ‘persons:’ for things that are identical on the score of being will not all agree equally in definition on the score of personality. For instance, Peter, James, and John are the same viewed as beings, each was a man: but in the characteristics of their respective personalities, they were not alike. If, then, he were only proving that it is not right to confound the Persons, and to fit all the three names on to one Subject, his ‘saying’ would be, to use the Apostle’s words, ‘faithful, and worthy of all acceptation 1 Timothy 1:15.’ But this is not his object: he speaks so, not because he divides the Persons only from each other by their recognized characteristics, but because he makes the actual substantial being of each different from that of the others, or rather from itself: and so he speaks of a plurality of beings with distinctive differences which alienate them from each other. I therefore declare that his view is unfounded, and lacks a principle: it starts from data that are not granted, and then it constructs by mere logic a blasphemy upon them. It attempts no demonstration that could attract towards such a conception of the doctrine: it merely contains the statement of an unproved impiety, as if it were telling us a dream. While the Church teaches that we must not divide our faith among a plurality of beings, but must recognize no difference of being in three Subjects or Persons, whereas our opponents posit a variety and unlikeness among them as Beings, this writer confidently assumes as already proved what never has been, and never can be, proved by argument: maybe he has not even yet found hearers for his talk: or he might have been informed by one of them who was listening intelligently that every statement which is made at random, and without proof, is ‘an old woman’s tale,’ and powerless to prove the question, in itself, unaided by any plea whatever fetched from the Scriptures, or from human reasonings. So much for this.
But let us still scrutinize his words. He declares each of these Beings, whom he has shadowed forth in his exposition, to be single and absolutely one. We believe that the most boorish and simple-minded would not deny that the Divine Nature, blessed and transcendent as it is, was ‘single.’ That which is viewless, formless, and sizeless, cannot be conceived of as multiform and composite. But it will be clear, upon the very slightest reflection, that this view of the supreme Being as ‘simple,’ however finely they may talk of it, is quite inconsistent with the system which they have elaborated. For who does not know that, to be exact, simplicity in the case of the Holy Trinity admits of no degrees. In this case there is no mixture or conflux of qualities to think of; we comprehend a potency without parts and composition; how then, and on what grounds, could any one perceive there any differences of less and more. For he who marks differences there must perforce think of an incidence of certain qualities in the subject. He must in fact have perceived differences in largeness and smallness therein, to have introduced this conception of quantity into the question: or he must posit abundance or diminution in the matter of goodness, strength, wisdom, or of anything else that can with reverence be associated with God: and neither way will he escape the idea of composition. Nothing which possesses wisdom or power or any other good, not as an external gift, but rooted in its nature, can suffer diminution in it; so that if any one says that he detectsBeings greater and smaller in the Divine Nature, he is unconsciously establishing a composite and heterogeneous Deity, and thinking of the Subject as one thing, and the quality, to share in which constitutes as good that which was not so before, as another. If he had been thinking of a Being really single and absolutely one, identical with goodness rather than possessing it, he would not be able to count a greater and a less in it at all. It was said, moreover, above that good can be diminished by the presence of evil alone, and that where the nature is incapable of deteriorating, there is no limit conceived of to the goodness: the unlimited, in fact, is not such owing to any relation whatever, but, considered in itself, escapes limitation. It is, indeed, difficult to see how a reflecting mind can conceive one infinite to be greater or less than another infinite. So that if he acknowledges the supreme Being to be ‘single’ and homogenous, let him grant that it is bound up with this universal attribute of simplicity and infinitude. If, on the other hand, he divides and estranges the ‘Beings’ from each other, conceiving that of the Only-begotten as another than the Father’s, and that of the Spirit as another than the Only-begotten, with a ‘more’ and ‘less’ in each case, let him be exposed now as granting simplicity in appearance only to the Deity, but in reality proving the composite in Him.
But let us resume the examination of his words in order. Each Being has in fact and conception a nature unmixed, single, and absolutely one, as estimated by its dignity. Why as estimated by its dignity? If he contemplates the Beings in their common dignity, this addition is unnecessary and superfluous, and dwells upon that which is obvious: although a word so out of place might be pardoned, if it was any feeling of reverence which prompted him not to reject it. But here the mischief really is not owing to a mistake about a phrase (that might be easily set right): but it is connected with his evil designs. He says that each of the three beings is ‘single, as estimated by its dignity,’ in order that, on the strength of his previous definitions of the first, second, and third Being, the idea of their simplicity also may be marred. Having affirmed that the being of the Father alone is ‘Supreme’ and ‘Proper,’ and having refused both these titles to that of the Son and of the Spirit, in accordance with this, when he comes to speak of them all as ‘simple,’ he thinks it his duty to associate with them the idea of simplicity in proportion only to their essential worth, so that the Supreme alone is to be conceived of as at the height and perfection of simplicity, while the second, in proportion to its declension from supremacy, receives also a diminished measure of simplicity, and in the case of the third Being also, there is as much variation from the perfect simplicity, as the amount of worth is lessened in the extremes: whence it results that the Father’s being is conceived as of pure simplicity, that of the Son as not so flawless in simplicity, but with a mixture of the composite, that of the Holy Spirit as still increasing in the composite, while the amount of simplicity is gradually lessened. Just as imperfect goodness must be owned to share in some measure in the reverse disposition, so imperfect simplicity cannot escape being considered composite.
20. He does wrong in assuming, to account for the existence of the Only-Begotten, an ‘energy’ that produced Christ’s Person.
That such is his intention in using these phrases will be clear from what follows, where he more plainly materializes and degrades our conception of the Son and of the Spirit. As the energies are bounded by the works, and the works commensurate with the energies, it necessarily follows that these energies which accompany these Beings are relatively greater and less, some being of a higher, some of a lower order. Though he has studiously wrapt the mist of his phraseology round the meaning of this, and made it hard for most to find out, yet as following that which we have already examined it will easily be made clear. The energies, he says, are bounded by the works. By ‘works’ he means the Son and the Spirit, by ‘energies’ the efficient powers by which they were produced, which powers, he said a little above, ‘follow’ the Beings. The phrase ‘bounded by’ expresses the balance which exists between the being produced and the producing power, or rather the ‘energy’ of that power, to use his own word implying that the thing produced is not the effect of the whole power of the operator, but only of a particular energy of it, only so much of the whole power being exerted as is calculated to be likely to be equal to effect that result. Then he inverts his statement: and the works are commensurate with the energies of the operators. The meaning of this will be made clearer by an illustration. Let us think of one of the tools of a shoemaker: i.e., a leather-cutter. When it is moved round upon that from which a certain shape has to be cut, the part so excised is limited by the size of the instrument, and a circle of such a radius will be cut as the instrument possesses of length, and, to put the matter the other way, the span of the instrument will measure and cut out a corresponding circle. That is the idea which our theologian has of the divine person of the Only-begotten. He declares that a certain ‘energy’ which ‘follows’ upon the first Being produced, in the fashion of such a tool, a corresponding work, namely our Lord: this is his way of glorifying the Son of God, Who is even now glorified in the glory of the Father, and shall be revealed in the Day of Judgment. He is a ‘work commensurate with the producing energy.’ But what is this energy which ‘follows’ the Almighty and is to be conceived of prior to the Only-begotten, and which circumscribes His being? A certain essential Power, self-subsisting, which works its will by a spontaneous impulse. It is this, then, that is the real Father of our Lord. And why do we go on talking of the Almighty as the Father, if it was not He, but an energy belonging to the things which follow Him externally that produced the Son: and how can the Son be a son any longer, when something else has given Him existence according to Eunomius, and He creeps like a bastard (may our Lord pardon the expression!) into relationship with the Father, and is to be honoured in name only as a Son? How can Eunomius rank our Lord next after the Almighty at all, when he counts Him third only, with that mediating ‘energy’ placed in the second place? The Holy Spirit also according to this sequence will be found not in the third, but in the fifth place, that ‘energy’ which follows the Only-Begotten, and by which the Holy Spirit came into existence necessarily intervening between them.
Thereby, too, the creation of all things by the Son will be found to have no foundation: another personality, prior to Him, has been invented by our neologian, to which the authorship of the world must be referred, because the Son Himself derives His being according to them from that ‘energy.’ If, however, to avoid such profanities, he makes this ‘energy’ which produced the Son into something unsubstantial, he will have to explain to us how non-being can ‘follow’ being, and how what is not a substance can produce a substance: for, if he did that, we shall find an unreality following God, the non-existent author of all existence, the radically unsubstantial circumscribing a substantial nature, the operative force of creation contained, in the last resort, in the unreal. Such is the result of the teaching of this theologian who affirms of the Lord Artificer of heaven and earth and of all the Creation, the Word of God Who was in the beginning, through Whom are all things, that He owes His existence to such a baseless entity or conception as that unnameable ‘energy’ which he has just invented, and that He is circumscribed by it, as by an enclosing prison of unreality. He who ‘gazes into the unseen’ cannot see the conclusion to which his teaching tends. It is this: if this ‘energy’ of God has no real existence, and if the work that this unreality produces is also circumscribed by it, it is quite clear that we can only think of such a nature in the work, as that which is possessed by this fancied producer of the work: in fact, that which is produced from and is contained by an unreality can itself be conceived of as nothing else but a non-entity. Opposites, in the nature of things, cannot be contained by opposites: such as water by fire, life by death, light by darkness, being by non-being. But with all his excessive cleverness he does not see this: or else he consciously shuts his eyes to the truth.
Some necessity compels him to see a diminution in the Son, and to establish a further advance in this direction in the case of the Holy Ghost. It necessarily follows, he says, that these energies which accompany these Beings are relatively greater and less. This compelling necessity in the Divine nature, which assigns a greater and a less, has not been explained to us by Eunomius, nor as yet can we ourselves understand it. Hitherto there has prevailed with those who accept the Gospel in its plain simplicity the belief that there is no necessity above the Godhead to bend the Only-begotten, like a slave, to inferiority. But he quite overlooks this belief, though it was worth some consideration; and he dogmatizes that we must conceive of this inferiority. But this necessity of his does not stop there: it lands him still further in blasphemy: as our examination in detail has already shown. If, that is, the Son was born, not from the Father, but from some unsubstantial ‘energy,’ He must be thought of as not merely inferior to the Father, and this doctrine must end in pure Judaism. This necessity, when followed out, exhibits the product of a non-entity as not merely insignificant, but as something which it is a perilous blasphemy even for an accuser to name. For as that which has its birth from an existence necessarily exists, so that which is evolved from the non-existent necessarily does the very contrary. When anything is not self-existent, how can it generate another?
If, then, this energy which ‘follows’ the Deity, and produces the Son, has no existence of its own, no one can be so blind as not to see the conclusion, and that his aim is to deny our Saviour’s deity: and if the personality of the Son is thus stolen by their doctrine from the Faith, with nothing left of it but the name, it will be a long time before the Holy Ghost, descended as He will be from a lineage of unrealities, will be believed in again. The energy which ‘follows’ the Deity has no existence of its own: then common sense requires the product of this to be unreal: then a second unsubstantial energy follows this product: then it is declared that the Holy Ghost is formed by this energy: so that their blasphemy is plain enough: it consists in nothing less than in denying that after the Ingenerate God there is any real existence: and their doctrine advances into shadowy and unsubstantial fictions, where there is no foundation of any actual subsistence. In such monstrous conclusions does their teaching strand the argument.
21. The blasphemy of these hereticsis worse than the Jewish unbelief.
But let us assume that this is not so: for they allow, forsooth, in theoretic kindness towards humanity, that the Only-begotten and the Holy Spirit have some personal existence: and if, in allowing this, they had granted too the consequent conceptions about them, they would not have been waging battle about the doctrine of the Church, nor cut themselves off from the hope of Christians. But if they have lent an existence to the Son and the Spirit, only to furnish a material on which to erect their blasphemy, perhaps it might have been better for them, though it is a bold thing to say, to abjure the Faith and apostatize to the Jewish religion, rather than to insult the name of Christian by this mock assent. The Jews at all events, though they have persisted hitherto in rejecting the Word, carry their impiety only so far as to deny that Christ has come, but to hope that He will come: we do not hear from them any malignant or destructive conception of the glory of Him Whom they expect. But this school of the new circumcision , or rather of the concision, while they own that He has come, resemble nevertheless those who insulted our Lord’s bodily presence by their wanton unbelief. They wanted to stone our Lord: these men stone Him with their blasphemous titles. They urged His humble and obscure origin, and rejected His divine birth before the ages: these men in the same way deny His grand, sublime, ineffable generation from the Father, and would prove that He owes His existence to a creation, just as the human race, and all that is born, owe theirs. In the eyes of the Jews it was a crime that our Lord should be regarded as Son of the Supreme: these men also are indignant against those who are sincere in making this confession of Him. The Jews thought to honour the Almighty by excluding the Son from equal reverence: these men, by annihilating the glory of the Son, think to bestow more honour on the Father. But it would be difficult to do justice to the number and the nature of the insults which they heap upon the Only-begotten: they invent an ‘energy’ prior to the personality of the Son and say that He is its work and product: a thing which the Jews hitherto have not dared to say. Then they circumscribe His nature, shutting Him off within certain limits of the power which made Him: the amount of this productive energy is a sort of measure within which they enclose Him: they have devised it as a sort of cloak to muffle Him up in. We cannot charge the Jews with doing this.
22. He has no right to assert a greater and less in the Divine being. A systematic statement of the teaching of the Church.
Then they discover in His being a certain shortness in the way of deficiency, though they do not tell us by what method they measure that which is devoid of quantity and size: they are able to find out exactly by how much the size of the Only-begotten falls short of perfection, and therefore has to be classed with the inferior and imperfect: much else they lay down, partly by open assertion, partly by underhand inference: all the time making their confession of the Son and the Spirit a mere exercise-ground for their unbelieving spirit. How, then, can we fail to pity them more even than the condemned Jews, when views never ventured upon by the latter are inferred by the former? He who makes the being of the Son and of the Spirit comparatively less, seems, so far as words go perhaps, to commit but a slight profanity: but if one were to test his view stringently it will be found the height of blasphemy. Let us look into this, then, and let indulgence be shown me, if, for the sake of doctrine, and to place in a clear light the lie which they have demonstrated, I advance into an exposition of our own conception of the truth.
Now the ultimate division of all being is into the Intelligible and the Sensible. The Sensible world is called by the Apostle broadly that which is seen. For as all body has colour, and the sight apprehends this, he calls this world by the rough and ready name of that which is seen, leaving out all the other qualities, which are essentially inherent in its framework. The common term, again, for all the intellectual world, is with the Apostle that which is not seen Colossians 1:16: by withdrawing all idea of comprehension by the senses he leads the mind on to the immaterial and intellectual. Reason again divides this which is not seen into the uncreate and the created, inferentially comprehending it: the uncreate being that which effects the Creation, the created that which owes its origin and its force to the uncreate. In the Sensible world, then, is found everything that we comprehend by our organs of bodily sense, and in which the differences of qualities involve the idea of more and less, such differences consisting in quantity, quality, and the other properties.
But in the Intelligible world—that part of it, I mean, which is created,— the idea of such differences as are perceived in the Sensible cannot find a place: another method, then, is devised for discovering the degrees of greater and less. The fountain, the origin, the supply of every good is regarded as being in the world that is uncreate, and the whole creation inclines to that, and touches and shares the Highest Existence only by virtue of its part in the First Good: therefore it follows from this participation in the highest blessings varying in degree according to the amount of freedom in the will that each possesses, that the greater and less in this creation is disclosed according to the proportion of this tendency in each. Created intelligible nature stands on the borderline between good and the reverse, so as to be capable of either, and to incline at pleasure to the things of its choice, as we learn from Scripture; so that we can say of it that it is more or less in the heights of excellence only in proportion to its removal from the evil and its approach to the good. Whereas uncreate intelligible nature is far removed from such distinctions: it does not possess the good by acquisition, or participate only in the goodness of some good which lies above it: in its own essence it is good, and is conceived as such: it is a source of good, it is simple, uniform, incomposite, even by the confession of our adversaries. But it has distinction within itself in keeping with the majesty of its own nature, but not conceived of with regard to quantity, as Eunomius supposes: (indeed the man who introduces the notion of less of good into any of the things believed to be in the Holy Trinity must admit thereby some admixture of the opposite quality in that which fails of the good: and it is blasphemous to imagine this in the case either of the Only-begotten, or of the Holy Spirit): we regard it as consummately perfect and incomprehensibly excellent yet as containing clear distinctions within itself which reside in the peculiarities of each of the Persons: as possessing invariableness by virtue of its common attribute of uncreatedness, but differentiated by the unique character of each Person. This peculiarity contemplated in each sharply and clearly divides one from the other: the Father, for instance, is uncreate and ungenerate as well: He was never generated any more than He was created. While this uncreatedness is common to Him and the Son, and the Spirit, He is ungenerate as well as the Father. This is peculiar and uncommunicable, being not seen in the other Persons. The Son in His uncreatedness touches the Father and the Spirit, but as the Son and the Only-begotten He has a character which is not that of the Almighty or of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit by the uncreatedness of His nature has contact with the Son and Father, but is distinguished from them by His own tokens. His most peculiar characteristic is that He is neither of those things which we contemplate in the Father and the Son respectively. He is simply, neither as ungenerate , nor as only-begotten: this it is that constitutes His chief peculiarity. Joined to the Father by His uncreatedness, He is disjoined from Him again by not being ‘Father.’ United to the Son by the bond of uncreatedness, and of deriving His existence from the Supreme, He is parted again from Him by the characteristic of not being the Only-begotten of the Father, and of having been manifested by means of the Son Himself. Again, as the creation was effected by the Only-begotten, in order to secure that the Spirit should not be considered to have something in common with this creation because of His having been manifested by means of the Son, He is distinguished from it by His unchangeableness, and independence of all external goodness. The creation does not possess in its nature this unchangeableness, as the Scripture says in the description of the fall of the morning star, the mysteries on which subject are revealed by our Lord to His disciples: I saw Satan falling like lightning from heaven Luke 10:18 . But the very attributes which part Him from the creation constitute His relationship to the Father and the Son. All that is incapable of degenerating has one and the same definition of unchangeable.
Having stated thus much as a preface we are in a position to discuss the rest of our adversaries’ teaching. It necessarily follows, he says in his system of the Son and the Spirit, that the Beings are relatively greater and less. Let us then inquire what is the meaning of this necessity of difference. Does it arise from a comparison formed from measuring them one with another in some material way, or from viewing them on the spiritual ground of more or less of moral excellence, or on that of pure being? But in the case of this last it has been shown by competent thinkers that it is impossible to conceive of any difference whatever, if one abstracts being from attributes and properties, and looks at it according to its bare definition. Again, to conceive of this difference as consisting in the case of the Only-begotten and the Spirit in the intensity or abatement of moral excellence, and in consequence to hint that their nature admits of change in either direction, so as to be equally capable of opposites, and to be placed in a borderland between moral beauty and its opposite— that is gross profanity. A man who thinks this will be proving that their nature is one thing in itself, and becomes something else by virtue of its participation in this beauty or its opposite: as happens with iron for example: if it is approached some time to the fire, it assumes the quality of heat while remaining iron: if it is put in snow or ice, it changes its quality to the mastering influence, and lets the snow’s coldness pass into its pores.
Now just as we cannot name the material of the iron from the quality now to be observed upon it (for we do not give the name of fire or ice to that which is tempered with either of these), so the moment we grant the view of these heretics, that in the case of the Life-giving Power good does not reside in It essentially, but is imparted to it only, it will become impossible to call it properly good: such a conception of it will compel us to regard it as something different, as not eternally exhibiting the good, as not in itself to be classed among genuine goods, but as such that the good is at times not in it, and is at times not likely to be in it. If these existences become good only by sharing in a something superior to themselves, it is plain that before this participation they were not good, and if, being other than good, they were then coloured by the influence of good they must certainly, if again isolated from this, be considered other than good: so that, if this heresy prevails, the Divine Nature cannot be apprehended as transmissive of good, but rather as itself needing goodness: for how can one impart to another that which he does not himself possess? If it is in a state of perfection, no abatement of that can be conceived, and it is absurd to talk of less of perfection. If on the other hand its participation of good is an imperfect one, and this is what they mean by ‘less,’ mark the consequence that anything in that state can never help an inferior, but will be busied in satisfying its own want: so that, according to them, Providence is a fiction, and so is the judgment and the Dispensation of the Only-begotten, and all the other works believed to be done, and still doing by Him: for He will necessarily be employed in taking care of His own good, and must abandon the supervision of the Universe.
If, then, this surmise is to have its way, namely, that our Lord is not perfected in every kind of good, it is very easy to see the conclusion of the blasphemy. This being so, our faith is vain, and our preaching vain; our hopes, which take their substance from our faith, are unsubstantial. Why are they baptized into Christ, if He has no power of goodness of His own? God forgive me for saying it! Why do they believe in the Holy Ghost, if the same account is given of Him? How are they regenerate by baptism from their mortal birth, if the regenerating Power does not possess in its own nature infallibility and independence? How can their ‘vile body’ be changed, while they think that He who is to change it Himself needs change, i.e. another to change Him? For as long as a nature is in defect as regards the good, the superior existence exerts upon this inferior one a ceaseless attraction towards itself: and this craving for more will never stop: it will be stretching out to something not yet grasped: the subject of this deficiency will be always demanding a supply, always altering into the grander nature, and yet will never touch perfection, because it cannot find a goal to grasp, and cease its impulse upward. The First Good is in its nature infinite, and so it follows of necessity that the participation in the enjoyment of it will be infinite also, for more will be always being grasped, and yet something beyond that which has been grasped will always be discovered, and this search will never overtake its Object, because its fund is as inexhaustible as the growth of that which participates in it is ceaseless.
Such, then, are the blasphemies which emerge from their making differences between the Persons as to the good. If on the other hand the degrees of more or less are to be understood in this case in some material sense, the absurdity of this surmise will be obvious at once, without examination in detail. Ideas of quality and distance, weight and figure, and all that goes to complete the notion of a body, will perforce be introduced along with such a surmise into the view of the Divine Nature: and where a compound is assumed, there the dissolution also of that compound must be admitted. A teaching so monstrous, which dares to discover a smaller and a larger in what is sizeless and not concrete lands us in these and suchlike conclusions, a few samples only of which are here indicated: nor indeed would it be easy to unveil all the mischief that lurks beneath it. Still the shocking absurdity that results from their blasphemous premiss will be clear from this brief notice. We now proceed to their next position, after a short defining and confirmation of our own doctrine. For an inspired testimony is a sure test of the truth of any doctrine: and so it seems to me that ours may be well guaranteed by a quotation from the divine words.
In the division of all existing things, then, we find these distinctions. There is, as appealing to our perceptions, the Sensible world: and there is, beyond this, the world which the mind, led on by objects of sense, can view: I mean the Intelligible: and in this we detect again a further distinction into the Created and the Uncreate: to the latter of which we have defined the Holy Trinity to belong, to the former all that can exist or can be thought of after that. But in order that this statement may not be left without a proof, but may be confirmed by Scripture, we will add that our Lord was not created, but came forth from the Father, as the Word with His own lips attests in the Gospel, in a manner of birth or of proceeding ineffable and mysterious: and what truer witness could be found than this constant declaration of our Lord all through the Gospel, that the Very Father was a father, not a creator, of Himself, and that He was not a work of God, but Son of God? Just as when He wished to name His connection with humanity according to the flesh, He called that phase of his being Son of Man, indicating thereby His kinship according to the nature of the flesh with her from whom He was born, so also by the title of Son he expresses His true and real relationship to the Almighty, by that name of Son showing this natural connection: no matter if there are some who, for the contradiction of the truth, do take literally and without any explanation, words used with a hidden meaning in the dark form of parable, and adduce the expression ‘created,’ put into the mouth of Wisdom by the author of the Proverbs , to support their perverted views. They say, in fact, that the Lord created me is a proof that our Lord is a creature, as if the Only-begotten Himself in that word confessed it. But we need not heed such an argument. They do not give reasons why we must refer that text to our Lord at all: neither will they be able to show that the idea of the word in the Hebrew leads to this and no other meaning, seeing that the other translators have rendered it by possessed or constituted: nor, finally, even if this was the idea in the original text, would its real meaning be so plain and on the surface: for these proverbial discourses do not show their aim at once, but rather conceal it, revealing it only by an indirect import, and we may judge of the obscurity of this particular passage from its context where he says, When He set His throne upon the winds , and all the similar expressions. What is God’s throne? Is it material or ideal? What are the winds? Are they these winds so familiar to us, which the natural philosophers tell us are formed from vapours and exhalations: or are they to be understood in another way not familiar to man, when they are called the bases of His throne? What is this throne of the immaterial, incomprehensible, and formless Deity? Who could possibly understand all this in a literal sense?
23. These doctrines of our Faith witnessed to and confirmed by Scripture passages.
It is therefore clear that these are metaphors, which contain a deeper meaning than the obvious one: so that there is no reason from them that any suspicion that our Lord was created should be entertained by reverent inquirers, who have been trained according to the grand words of the evangelist, that all things that have been made were made by Him and consist in Him. Without Him was not anything made that was made. The evangelist would not have so defined it if he had believed that our Lord was one among the things made. How could all things be made by Him and in Him consist, unless their Maker possessed a nature different from theirs, and so produced, not Himself, but them? If the creation was by Him, but He was not by Himself, plainly He is something outside the creation. And after the evangelist has by these words so plainly declared that the things that were made were made by the Son, and did not pass into existence by any other channel, Paul follows and, to leave no ground at all for this profane talk which numbers even the Spirit among the things that were made, he mentions one after another all the existencies which the evangelist’s words imply: just as David in fact, after having said that all things were put in subjection to man, adds each species which that all comprehends, that is, the creatures on land, in water, and in air, so does Paul the Apostle, expounder of the divine doctrines, after saying that all things were made by Him, define by numbering them the meaning of all. He speaks of the things that are seen Colossians 1:16 and the things that are not seen: by the first he gives a general name to all things cognizable by the senses, as we have seen: by the latter he shadows forth the intelligible world.
Now about the first there is no necessity of going into minute detail. No one is so carnal, so brutelike, as to imagine that the Spirit resides in the sensible world. But after Paul has mentioned the things that are not seen he proceeds (in order that none may surmise that the Spirit, because He is of the intelligible and immaterial world, on account of this connection subsists therein) to another most distinct division into the things that have been made in the way of creation, and the existence that is above creation. He mentions the several classes of these created intelligibles: Colossians 1:16 thrones, dominions,principalities, powers, conveying his doctrine about these unseen influences in broadly comprehensive terms: but by his very silence he separates from his list of things created that which is above them. It is just as if any one was required to name the sectional and inferior officers in some army, and after he had gone through them all, the commanders of tens, the commanders of hundreds, the captains and the colonels , and all the other names given to the authorities over divisions, omitted after all to speak of the supreme command which extended over all the others: not from deliberate neglect, or from forgetfulness, but because when required or intending to name only the several ranks which served under it, it would have been an insult to include this supreme command in the list of the inferior. So do we find it with Paul, who once in Paradise was admitted to mysteries, when he had been caught up there, and had become a spectator of the wonders that are above the heavens, and saw and heard things which it is not lawful for a man to utter 2 Corinthians 12:4 . This Apostle proposes to tell us of all that has been created by our Lord, and he gives them under certain comprehensive terms: but, having traversed all the angelic and transcendental world, he stops his reckoning there, and refuses to drag down to the level of creation that which is above it. Hence there is a clear testimony in Scripture that the Holy Spirit is higher than the creation. Should any one attempt to refute this, by urging that neither are the Cherubim mentioned by Paul, that they equally with the Spirit are left out, and that therefore this omission must prove either that they also are above the creation, or that the Holy Spirit is not any more than they to be believed above it, let him measure the full intent of each name in the list: and he will find among them that which from not being actually mentioned seems, but only seems, omitted. Under thrones he includes the Cherubim, giving them this Greek name, as more intelligible than the Hebrew name for them. He knew that God sits upon the Cherubim: and so he calls these Powers the thrones of Him who sits thereon. In the same way there are included in the list Isaiah’s Seraphim Isaiah 6:6-7, by whom the mystery of the Trinity was luminously proclaimed, when they uttered that marvellous cry Holy, being awestruck with the beauty in each Person of the Trinity. They are named under the title of powers both by the mighty Paul, and by the prophet David. The latter says, Bless the Lord all you His powers, you ministers of His that do His pleasure : and Isaiah instead of saying Bless has written the very words of their blessing, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory and he has revealed by what one of the Seraphim did (to him) that these powers are ministers that do God’s pleasure, effecting the ‘purging of sin’ according to the will of Him Who sent them: for this is the ministry of these spiritual beings, viz., to be sent forth for the salvation of those who are being saved.
That divine Apostle perceived this. He understood that the same matter is indicated under different names by the two prophets, and he took the best known of the two words, and called those Seraphimpowers: so that no ground is left to our critics for saying that any single one of these beings is omitted equally with the Holy Ghost from the catalogue of creation. We learn from the existences detailed by Paul that while some existences have been mentioned, others have been passed over: and while he has taken count of the creation in masses as it were, he has (elsewhere) mentioned as units those things which are conceived of singly. For it is a peculiarity of the Holy Trinity that it is to be proclaimed as consisting of individuals: one Father, one Son, one Holy Ghost: whereas those existences aforesaid are counted in masses, dominions, principalities, lordships, powers, so as to exclude any suspicion that the Holy Ghost was one of them. Paul is wisely silent upon our mysteries; he understands how, after having heard those unspeakable words in paradise, to refrain from proclaiming those secrets when he is making mention of lower beings.
But these foes of the truth rush in upon the ineffable; they degrade the majesty of the Spirit to the level of the creation; they act as if they had never heard that the Word of God, when confiding to His disciples the secret of knowing God, Himself said that the life of the regenerate was to be completed in them and imparted in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and, thereby ranking the Spirit with the Father and Himself, precluded Him from being confused with the creation. From both, therefore, we may get a reverential and proper conception with regard to Him: from Paul’s omitting the Spirit’s existence in the mention of the creation, and from our Lord’s joining the Spirit with His Father and Himself in mentioning the life-giving power. Thus does our reason, under the guidance of the Scripture, place not only the Only-begotten but the Holy Spirit as well above the creation, and prompt us in accordance with our Saviour’s command to contemplate Him by faith in the blessed world of life giving and uncreated existence: and so this unit, which we believe in, above creation, and sharing in the supreme and absolutely perfect nature, cannot be regarded as in any way a ‘less,’ although this teacher of heresy attempt to curtail its infinitude by introducing the idea of degrees, and thus contracting the divine perfection by defining a greater and a less as residing in the Persons.
24. His elaborate account of degrees and differences in ‘works’ and ‘energies’ within the Trinity is absurd.
Now let us see what he adds, as the consequence of this. After saying that we must perforce regard the Being as greater and less and that while the ones, by virtue of a pre-eminent magnitude and value, occupy a leading place, the others must be detruded to a lower place, because their nature and their value is secondary, he adds this; their difference amounts to that existing between their works: it would in fact be impious to say that the same energy produced the angels or the stars, and the heavens or man; but one would positively maintain about this, that in proportion as some works are older and more honourable than others, so does one energy transcend another, because sameness of energy produces sameness of work, and difference of work indicates difference of energy.
I suspect that their author himself would find it difficult to tell us what he meant when he wrote those words. Their thought is obscured by the rhetorical mud, which is so thick that one can hardly see beyond any clue to interpret them. Their difference amounts to that existing between their works is a sentence which might be suspected of coming from some Loxias of pagan story, mystifying his hearers. But if we may make a guess at the drift of his observations here by following out those which we have already examined, this would be his meaning, viz., that if we know the amount of difference between one work and another, we shall know the amount of that between the corresponding energies. But what works he here speaks of, it is impossible to discover from his words. If he means the works to be observed in the creation, I do not see how this hangs on to what goes before. For the question was about Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: what occasion was there, then, for one thinking rationally to inquire one after another into the nature of earth, and water, and air, and fire, and the different animals, and to distinguish some works as older and more honourable than others, and to speak of one energy as transcending another? But if he calls the Only-begotten and the Holy Spirit works, what does he mean by the differences of the energies which produce these works: and what are those wonderful energies of this writer which transcend the others? He has neither explained the particular way in which he means them to transcend each other; nor has he discussed the nature of these energies: but he has advanced in neither direction, neither proving so far their real subsistence, nor their being some unsubstantial exertion of a will. Throughout it all his meaning hangs suspended between these two conceptions, and oscillates from one to the other. He adds that it would be impious to say that the same energy produced the angels or the stars, and the heavens or man. Again we ask what necessity there is to draw this conclusion from his previous remarks? I do not see that it is proved any more because the energies vary among themselves as much as the works do, and because the works are not all from the same source but are stated by him to come from different sources. As for the heavens and each angel, star, and man, or anything else understood by the word creation, we know from Scripture that they are all the work of One: whereas in their system of theology the Son and the Spirit are not the work of one and the same, the Son being the work of the energy which ‘follows’ the first Being, and the Spirit the further work of that work. What the connection, then, is between that statement and the heavens, man, angel, star, which he drags in, must be revealed by himself, or some one whom he has initiated into his profound philosophy. The blasphemyintended by his words is plain enough, but the way the profanity is stated is inconsistent with itself. To suppose that within the Holy Trinity there is a difference as wide as that which we can observe between the heavens which envelope the whole creation, and one single man or the star which shines in them, is openly profane: but still the connection of such thoughts and the pertinence of such a comparison is a mystery to me, and I suspect also to its author himself. If indeed his account of the creation were of this sort, viz., that while the heavens were the work of some transcendent energy each star in them was the result of an energy accompanying the heavens, and that then an angel was the result of that star, and a man of that angel, his argument would then have consisted in a comparison of similar processes, and might have somewhat confirmed his doctrine. But since he grants that it was all made by One (unless he wishes to contradict Scripture downright), while he describes the production of the Persons after a different fashion, what connection is there between this newly imported view and what went before?
But let it be granted to him that this comparison does have some connection with proving variation among the Beings (for this is what he desires to establish); still let us see how that which follows hangs on to what he has just said, ‘In proportion as one work is prior to another and more precious than it, so would a pious mind affirm that one energy transcends another.’ If in this he alludes to the sensible world, the statement is a long way from the matter in hand. There is no necessity whatever that requires one whose subject is theological to philosophize about the order in which the different results achieved in the world-making are to come, and to lay down that the energies of the Creator are higher and lower analogously to the magnitude of each thing then made. But if he speaks of the Persons themselves, and means by works that are ‘older and more honourable’ those ‘works’ which he has just fashioned in his own creed, that is, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, it would be perhaps better to pass over in silence such an abominable view, than to create even the appearance of its being an argument by entangling ourselves with it. For can a ‘more honourable’ be discovered where there is not a less honourable? If he can go so far, and with so light a heart, in profanity as to hint that the expression and the idea ‘less precious’ can be predicated of anything whatever which we believe of the Trinity, then it were well to stop our ears, and get as quickly as possible out of hearing of such wickedness, and the contagion of reasoning which will be transfused into the heart, as from a vessel full of uncleanness.
Can any one dare to speak of the divine and supreme Being in such a way that a less degree of honour in comparison is proved by the argument. That all, says the evangelist, may honour the Son, as they honour the Father. John 5:23 This utterance (and such an utterance is a law to us) makes a law of this equality in honour: yet this man annuls both the law and its Giver, and apportions to the One more, to the Other less of honour, by some occult method for measuring its extra abundance which he has discovered. By the custom of mankind the differences of worth are the measure of the amount of honour which each in authority receives; so that inferiors do not approach the lower magistracies in the same guise exactly as they do the sovereign, and the greater or less display of fear or reverence on their part indicates the greater or the less worshipfulness in the objects of it: in fact we may discover, in this disposition of inferiors, who are the specially honourable; when, for instance, we see some one feared beyond his neighbours, or the recipient of more reverence than the rest. But in the case of the divine nature, because every perfection in the way of goodness is connoted with the very name of God, we cannot discover, at all events as we look at it, any ground for degrees of honour. Where there is no greater and smaller in power, or glory, or wisdom, or love, or of any other imaginable good whatever, but the good which the Son has is the Father’s also, and all that is the Father’s is seen in the Son, what possible state of mind can induce us to show the more reverence in the case of the Father? If we think of royal power and worth the Son is King: if of a judge, ‘all judgment is committed to the Son :’ if of the magnificent office of Creation, ‘all things were made by Him :’ if of the Author of our life, we know the True Life came down as far as our nature: if of our being taken out of darkness, we know He is the True Light, who weans us from darkness: if wisdom is precious to any, Christ is God’s power and Wisdom.
Our very souls, then, being disposed so naturally and in proportion to their capacity, and yet so miraculously, to recognize so many and great wonders in Christ, what further excess of honour is left us to pay exclusively to the Father, as inappropriate to the Son? Human reverence of the Deity, looked at in its plainest meaning, is nothing else but an attitude of love towards Him, and a confession of the perfections in Him: and I think that the precept ‘so ought the Son to be honoured as the Father ,’ is enjoined by the Word in place of love. For the Law commands that we pay to God this fitting honour by loving Him with all our heart and strength and here is the equivalent of that love, in that the Word as Lawgiver thus says, that the Son ought to be honoured as the Father.
It was this kind of honour that the great David fully paid, when he confessed to the Lord in a prelude of his psalmody that he loved the Lord, and told all the reasons for his love, calling Him his rock and fortress, and refuge, and deliverer, and God-helper, and hope, and buckler, and horn of salvation, and protector. If the Only-begotten Son is not all these to mankind, let the excess of honour be reduced to this extent as this heresy dictates: but if we have always believed Him to be, and to be entitled to, all this and even more, and to be equal in every operation and conception of the good to the majesty of the Father’s goodness, how can it be pronounced consistent, either not to love such a character, or to slight it while we love it? No one can say that we ought to love Him with all our heart and strength, but to honour Him only with half. If, then, the Son is to be honoured with the whole heart in rendering to Him all our love, by what device can anything superior to His honour be discovered, when such a measure of honour is paid Him in the coin of love as our whole heart is capable of? Vainly, therefore, in the case of Beings essentially honourable, will any one dogmatize about a superior honour, and by comparison suggest an inferior honour.
Again; only in the case of the creation is it true to speak of ‘priority.’ The sequence of works was there displayed in the order of the days; and the heavens may be said to have preceded by so much the making of man, and that interval may be measured by the interval of days. But in the divine nature, which transcends all idea of time and surpasses all reach of thought, to talk of a prior and a later in the honours of time is a privilege only of this new-fangled philosophy. In short he who declares the Father to be ‘prior’ to the subsistence of the Son declares nothing short of this, viz., that the Son is later than the things made by the Son (if at least it is true to say that all the ages, and all duration of time was created after the Son, and by the Son).
25. He who asserts that the Father is ‘prior’ to the Son with any thought of an interval must perforce allow that even the Father is not without beginning.
But more than this: what exposes still further the untenableness of this view is, that, besides positing a beginning in time of the Son’s existence, it does not, when followed out, spare the Father even, but proves that He also had his beginning in time. For any recognizing mark that is presupposed for the generation of the Son must certainly define as well the Father’s beginning.
To make this clear, it will be well to discuss it more carefully. When he pronounces that the life of the Father is prior to that of the Son, he places a certain interval between the two; now, he must mean, either that this interval is infinite, or that it is included within fixed limits. But the principle of an intervening mean will not allow him to call it infinite; he would annul thereby the very conception of Father and Son and the thought of anything connecting them, as long as this infinite were limited on neither side, with no idea of a Father cutting it short above, nor that of a Son checking it below. The very nature of the infinite is, to be extended in either direction, and to have no bounds of any kind.
Therefore if the conception of Father and Son is to remain firm and immoveable, he will find no ground for thinking this interval is infinite: his school must place a definite interval of time between the Only-begotten and the Father. What I say, then, is this: that this view of theirs will bring us to the conclusion that the Father is not from everlasting, but from a definite point in time. I will convey my meaning by familiar illustrations; the known shall make the unknown clear. When we say, on the authority of the text of Moses, that man was made the fifth day after the heavens, we tacitly imply that before those same days the heavens did not exist either; a subsequent event goes to define, by means of the interval which precedes it, the occurrence also of a previous event. If this example does not make our contention plain, we can give others. We say that ‘the Law given by Moses was four hundred and thirty years later than the Promise to Abraham.’ If after traversing, step by step upwards , the anterior time we reach this end of that number of years, we firmly grasp as well the fact that, before that date, God’s Promise was not either. Many such instances could be given, but I decline to be minute and wearisome.
Guided, then, by these examples, let us examine the question before us. Our adversaries conceive of the existences of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as involving elder and younger, respectively. Well then; if, at the bidding of this heresy, we journey up beyond the generation of the Son, and approach that intervening duration which the mere fancy of these dogmatists supposes between the Father and the Son, and then reach that other and supreme point of time by which they close that duration, there we find the life of the Father fixed as it were upon an apex; and thence we must necessarily conclude that before it the Father is not to be believed to have existed always.
If you still feel difficulties about this, let us again take an illustration. It shall be that of two rulers, one shorter than the other. If we fit the bases of the two together we know from the tops the extra length of the one; from the end of the lesser lying alongside of it we measure this excess, supplementing the deficiency of the shorter ruler by a calculation, and so bringing it up to the end of the longer; a cubit for instance, or whatever be the distance of the one end from the other. So, if there is, as our adversaries say, an excess of some kind in the Father’s life as compared with the Son’s, it must needs consist in some definite interval of duration: and they will allow that this interval of excess cannot be in the future, for that Both are imperishable, even the foes of the truth will grant. No; they conceive of this difference as in the past, and instead of equalizing the life of the Father and the Son there, they extend the conception of the Father by an interval of living. But every interval must be bounded by two ends: and so for this interval which they have devised we must grasp the two points by which the ends are denoted. The one portion takes its beginning, in their view, from the Son’s generation; and the other portion must end in some other point, from which the interval starts, and by which it limits itself. What this is, is for them to tell us; unless, indeed, they are ashamed of the consequences of their own assumptions.
It admits not of a doubt, then, that they will not be able to find at all the other portion, corresponding to the first portion of their fancied interval, except they were to suppose some beginning of their Ungenerate, whence the middle, that connects with the generation of the Son, may be conceived of as starting. We affirm, then, that when he makes the Son later than the Father by a certain intervening extension of life, he must grant a fixed beginning to the Father’s existence also, regulated by this same interval of his devising; and thus their much-vaunted Ungeneracy of the Father will be found to be undermined by its own champions’ arguments; and they will have to confess that their Ungenerate God did once not exist, but began from a starting-point: indeed, that which has a beginning of being is not inoriginate. But if we must at all risks confess this absence of beginning in the Father, let not such exactitude be displayed in fixing for the life of the Son a point which, as the term of His existence, must cut Him off from the life on the other side of it; let it suffice on the ground of causation only to conceive of the Father as before the Son; and let not the Father’s life be thought of as a separate and peculiar one before the generation of the Son, lest we should have to admit the idea inevitably associated with this of an interval before the appearance of the Son which measures the life of Him Who begot Him, and then the necessary consequence of this, that a beginning of the Father’s life also must be supposed by virtue of which their fancied interval may be stayed in its upward advance so as to set a limit and a beginning to this previous life of the Father as well: let it suffice for us, when we confess the ‘coming from Him,’ to admit also, bold as it may seem, the ‘living along with Him;’ for we are led by the written oracles to such a belief. For we have been taught by Wisdom to contemplate the brightness of the everlasting light in, and together with, the very everlastingness of that primal light, joining in one idea the brightness and its cause, and admitting no priority. Thus shall we save the theory of our Faith, the Son’s life not failing in the upward view, and the Father’s everlastingness being not trenched upon by supposing any definite beginning for the Son.
26. It will not do to apply this conception, as drawn out above, of the Father and Son to the Creation, as they insist on doing: but we must contemplate the Son apart with the Father, and believethat the Creation had its origin from a definite point.
But perhaps some of the opponents of this will say, ‘The Creation also has an acknowledged beginning; and yet the things in it are not connected in thought with the everlastingness of the Father, and it does not check, by having a beginning of its own, the infinitude of the divine life, which is the monstrous conclusion this discussion has pointed out in the case of the Father and the Son. One therefore of two things must follow. Either the Creation is everlasting; or, it must be boldly admitted, the Son is later in time (than the Father). The conception of an interval in time will lead to monstrous conclusions, even when measured from the Creation up to the Creator.’
One who demurs so, perhaps from not attending closely to the meaning of our belief, fights against it with alien comparisons which have nothing to do with the matter in hand. If he could point to anything above Creation which has its origin marked by any interval of time, and it were acknowledged possible by all to think of any time-interval as existing before Creation, he might have occasion for endeavouring to destroy by such attacks that everlastingness of the Son which we have proved above. But seeing that by all the suffrages of the faithful it is agreed that, of all things that are, part is by creation, and part before creation, and that the divine nature is to be believed uncreate (although within it, as our faith teaches, there is a cause, and there is a subsistence produced, but without separation, from the cause), while the creation is to be viewed in an extension of distances—all order and sequence of time in events can be perceived only in the ages (of this creation), but the nature pre-existent to those ages escapes all distinctions of before and after, because reason cannot see in that divine and blessed life the things which it observes, and that exclusively, in creation. The creation, as we have said, comes into existence according to a sequence of order, and is commensurate with the duration of the ages, so that if one ascends along the line of things created to their beginning, one will bound the search with the foundation of those ages. But the world above creation, being removed from all conception of distance, eludes all sequence of time: it has no commencement of that sort: it has no end in which to cease its advance, according to any discoverable method of order. Having traversed the ages and all that has been produced therein, our thought catches a glimpse of the divine nature, as of some immense ocean, but when the imagination stretches onward to grasp it, it gives no sign in its own case of any beginning; so that one who after inquiring with curiosity into the ‘priority’ of the ages tries to mount to the source of all things will never be able to make a single calculation on which he may stand; that which he seeks will always be moving on before, and no basis will be offered him for the curiosity of thought.
It is clear, even with a moderate insight into the nature of things, that there is nothing by which we can measure the divine and blessed Life. It is not in time, but time flows from it; whereas the creation, starting from a manifest beginning, journeys onward to its proper end through spaces of time; so that it is possible, as Solomon somewhere says, to detect in it a beginning, an end, and a middle; and mark the sequence of its history by divisions of time. But the supreme and blessed life has no time-extension accompanying its course, and therefore no span nor measure. Created things are confined within the fitting measures, as within a boundary, with due regard to the good adjustment of the whole by the pleasure of a wise Creator; and so, though human reason in its weakness cannot reach the whole way to the contents of creation, yet still we do not doubt that the creative power has assigned to all of them their limits and that they do not stretch beyond creation. But this creative power itself, while circumscribing by itself the growth of things, has itself no circumscribing bounds; it buries in itself every effort of thought to mount up to the source of God’s life, and it eludes the busy and ambitious strivings to get to the end of the Infinite. Every discursive effort of thought to go back beyond the ages will ascend only so far as to see that that which it seeks can never be passed through: time and its contents seem the measure and the limit of the movement and the working of human thought, but that which lies beyond remains outside its reach; it is a world where it may not tread, unsullied by any object that can be comprehended by man. No form, no place, no size, no reckoning of time, or anything else knowable, is there: and so it is inevitable that our apprehensive faculty, seeking as it does always some object to grasp, must fall back from any side of this incomprehensible existence, and seek in the ages and in the creation which they hold its kindred and congenial sphere.
All, I say, with any insight, however moderate, into the nature of things, know that the world’s Creator laid time and space as a background to receive what was to be; on this foundation He builds the universe. It is not possible that anything which has come or is now coming into being by way of creation can be independent of space or time. But the existence which is all-sufficient, everlasting, world-enveloping, is not in space, nor in time: it is before these, and above these in an ineffable way; self-contained, knowable by faith alone; immeasurable by ages; without the accompaniment of time; seated and resting in itself, with no associations of past or future, there being nothing beside and beyond itself, whose passing can make something past and something future. Such accidents are confined to the creation, whose life is divided with time’s divisions into memory and hope. But within that transcendent and blessed Power all things are equally present as in an instant: past and future are within its all-encircling grasp and its comprehensive view.
This is the Being in which, to use the words of the Apostle, all things are formed; and we, with our individual share in existence, live and move, and have our being. It is above beginning, and presents no marks of its inmost nature: it is to be known of only in the impossibility of perceiving it. That indeed is its most special characteristic, that its nature is too high for any distinctive attribute. A very different account to the Uncreate must be given of Creation: it is this very thing that takes it out of all comparison and connection with its Maker; this difference, I mean, of essence, and this admitting a special account explanatory of its nature which has nothing in common with that of Him who made it. The Divine nature is a stranger to these special marks in the creation: It leaves beneath itself the sections of time, the ‘before’ and the ‘after,’ and the ideas of space: in fact ‘higher’ cannot properly be said of it at all. Every conception about that uncreate Power is a sublime principle, and involves the idea of what is proper in the highest degree.
We have shown, then, by what we have said that the Only-begotten and the Holy Spirit are not to be looked for in the creation but are to be believed above it; and that while the creation may perhaps by the persevering efforts of ambitious seekers be seized in its own beginning, whatever that may be, the supernatural will not the more for that come within the realm of knowledge, for no mark before the ages indicative of its nature can be found. Well, then, if in this uncreate existence those wondrous realities, with their wondrous names of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are to be in our thoughts, how can we imagine, of that pre-temporal world, that which our busy, restless minds perceive in things here below by comparing one of them with another and giving it precedence by an interval of time? For there, with the Father, unoriginate, ungenerate, always Father, the idea of the Son as coming from Him yet side by side with Him is inseparably joined; and through the Son and yet with Him, before any vague and unsubstantial conception comes in between, the Holy Spirit is found at once in closest union; not subsequent in existence to the Son, as if the Son could be thought of as ever having been without the Spirit; but Himself also owning the same cause of His being, i.e. the God over all, as the Only-begotten Light, and having shone forth in that very Light, being divisible neither by duration nor by an alien nature from the Father or from the Only-begotten. There are no intervals in that pre-temporal world: and difference on the score of being there is none. It is not even possible, comparing the uncreate with the uncreated, to see differences; and the Holy Ghost is uncreate, as we have before shown.
This being the view held by all who accept in its simplicity the undiluted Gospel, what occasion was there for endeavouring to dissolve this fast union of the Son with the Father by means of the creation, as if it were necessary to suppose either that the Son was from everlasting along with the creation, or that He too, equally with it, was later? For the generation of the Son does not fall within time , any more than the creation was before time: so that it can in no kind of way be right to partition the indivisible, and to insert, by declaring that there was a time when the Author of all existence was not, this false idea of time into the creative Source of the Universe.
Our previous contention, therefore, is true, that the everlastingness of the Son is included, along with the idea of His birth, in the Father’s ungeneracy; and that, if any interval were to be imagined dividing the two, that same interval would fix a beginning for the life of the Almighty;— a monstrous supposition. But there is nothing to prevent the creation, being, as it is, in its own nature something other than its Creator and in no point trenching on that pure pre-temporal world, from having, in our belief, a beginning of its own, as we have said. To say that the heavens and the earth and other contents of creation were out of things which are not, or, as the Apostle says, out of things not seen, inflicts no dishonour upon the Maker of this universe; for we know from Scripture that all these things are not from everlasting nor will remain for ever. If on the other hand it could be believed that there is something in the Holy Trinity which does not coexist with the Father, if following out this heresy any thought could be entertained of stripping the Almighty of the glory of the Son and Holy Ghost, it would end in nothing else than in a God manifestly removed from every deed and thought that was good and godlike. But if the Father, existing before the ages, is always in glory, and the pre-temporal Son is His glory, and if in like manner the Spirit of Christ is the Son’s glory, always to be contemplated along with the Father and the Son, what training could have led this man of learning to declare that there is a ‘before’ in what is timeless, and a ‘more honourable’ in what is all essentially honourable, and preferring, by comparisons, the one to the other, to dishonour the latter by this partiality? The term in opposition to the more honourable makes it clearer still whither he is tending.
27. He falsely imagines that the same energies produce the same works, and that variation in the works indicates variation in the energies.
Of the same strain is that which he adds in the next paragraph; the same energies producing sameness of works, and different works indicating difference in the energies as well. Finely and irresistibly does this noble thinker plead for his doctrine. The same energies produce sameness of works. Let us test this by facts. The energy of fire is always one and the same; it consists in heating: but what sort of agreement do its results show? Bronze melts in it; mud hardens; wax vanishes: while all other animals are destroyed by it, the salamander is preserved alive ; tow burns, asbestos is washed by the flames as if by water; so much for his ‘sameness of works from one and the same energy.’ How too about the sun? Is not his power of warming always the same; and yet while he causes one plant to grow, he withers another, varying the results of his operation in accordance with the latent force of each. ‘That on the rock’ withers; ‘that in deep earth’ yields an hundredfold. Investigate Nature’s work, and you will learn, in the case of those bodies which she produces artistically, the amount of accuracy there is in his statement that ‘sameness of energy effects sameness of result.’ One single operation is the cause of conception, but the composition of that which is effected internally therein is so varied that it would be difficult for any one even to count all the various qualities of the body. Again, imbibing the milk is one single operation on the part of the infant, but the results of its being nourished so are too complex to be all detailed. While this food passes from the channel of the mouth into the secretory ducts , the transforming power of Nature forwards it into the several parts proportionately to their wants; for by digestion she divides its sum total into the small change of multitudinous differences, and into supplies congenial to the subject matter with which she deals; so that the same milk goes to feed arteries, veins, brain and its membranes, marrow, bones, nerves , sinews, tendons, flesh, surface, cartilages, fat, hair, nails, perspiration, vapours, phlegm, bile, and besides these, all useless superfluities deriving from the same source. You could not name either an organ, whether of motion or sensation, or anything else making up the body’s bulk, which was not formed (in spite of startling differences) from this one and selfsame operation of feeding. If one were to compare the mechanic arts too it will be seen what is the scientific value of his statement; for there we see in them all the same operation, I mean the movement of the hands; but what have the results in common? What has building a shrine to do with a coat, though manual labour is employed on both? The house-breaker and the well-digger both move their hands: the mining of the earth, the murder of a man are results of the motion of the hands. The soldier slays the foe, and the husbandman wields the fork which breaks the clod, with his hands. How, then, can this doctrinaire lay it down that the ‘same energies produce sameness of work?’ But even if we were to grant that this view of his had any truth in it, the essential union of the Son with the Father, and of the Holy Spirit with the Son, is yet again more fully proved. For if there existed any variation in their energies, so that the Son worked His will in a different manner to the Father, then (on the above supposition) it would be fair to conjecture, from this variation, a variation also in the beings which were the result of these varying energies. But if it is true that the manner of the Father’s working is likewise the manner always of the Son’s, both from our Lord’s own words and from what we should have expected a priori— (for the one is not unbodied while the other is embodied, the one is not from this material, the other from that, the one does not work his will in this time and place, the other in that time and place, nor is there difference of organs in them producing difference of result, but the sole movement of their wish and of their will is sufficient, seconded in the founding of the universe by the power that can create anything)— if, I say, it is true that in all respects the Father from Whom are all things, and the Son by Whom are all things in the actual form of their operation work alike, then how can this man hope to prove the essential difference between the Son and the Holy Ghost by any difference and separation between the working of the Son and the Father? The very opposite, as we have just seen, is proved to be the case ; seeing that there is no manner of difference contemplated between the working of the Father and that of the Son; and so that there is no gulf whatever between the being of the Son and the being of the Spirit, is shown by the identity of the power which gives them their subsistence; and our pamphleteer himself confirms this; for these are his words verbatim: the same energies producing sameness of works. If sameness of works is really produced by likeness of energies, and if (as they say) the Son is the work of the Father and the Spirit the work of the Son, the likeness in manner of the Father’s and the Son’s energies will demonstrate the sameness of these beings who each result from them.
But he adds, variation in the works indicates variation in the energies. How, again, is this dictum of his corroborated by facts? Look, if you please, at plain instances. Is not the ‘energy’ of command, in Him who embodied the world and all things therein by His sole will, a single energy? He spoke and they were made. He commanded and they were created. Was not the thing commanded in every case alike given existence: did not His single will suffice to give subsistence to the nonexistent? How, then, when such vast differences are seen coming from that one energy of command, can this man shut his eyes to realities, and declare that the difference of works indicates difference of energies? If our dogmatist insists on this, that difference of works implies difference of energies, then we should have expected the very contrary to that which is the case; viz., that everything in the world should be of one type. Can it be that he does see here a universal likeness, and detects unlikeness only between the Father and the Son?
Let him, then, observe, if he never did before, the dissimilarity among the elements of the world, and how each thing that goes to make up the framework of the whole hangs on to its natural opposite. Some objects are light and buoyant, others heavy and gravitating; some are always still, others always moving; and among these last some move unchangingly on one plan , as the heaven, for instance, and the planets, whose courses all revolve the opposite way to the universe, others are transfused in all directions and rush at random, as air and sea for instance, and every substance which is naturally penetrating. What need to mention the contrasts seen between heat and cold, moist and dry, high and low position? As for the numerous dissimilarities among animals and plants, on the score of figure and size, and all the variations of their products and their qualities, the human mind would fail to follow them.
28. He falsely imagines that we can have an unalterable series of harmonious natures existing side by side.
But this man of science still declares that varied works have energies as varied to produce them. Either he knows not yet the nature of the Divine energy, as taught by Scripture,— ‘All things were made by the word of His command,’— or else he is blind to the differences of existing things. He utters for our benefit these inconsiderate statements, and lays down the law about divine doctrines, as if he had never yet heard that anything that is merely asserted—where no entirely undeniable and plain statement is made about the matter in hand, and where the asserter says on his own responsibility that which a cautious listener cannot assent to—is no better than a telling of dreams or of stories over wine. Little then as this dictum of his fits facts, nevertheless—like one who is deluded by a dream into thinking that he sees one of the objects of his waking efforts, and who grasps eagerly at this phantom and with eyes deceived by this visionary desire thinks that he holds it—he with this dreamlike outline of doctrines before him imagines that his words possess force, and insists upon their truth, and essays by them to prove all the rest. It is worth while to give the passage. These being so, and maintaining an unbroken connection in their relation to each other, it seems fitting for those who make their investigation according to the order germane to the subject, and who do not insist on mixing and confusing all together, in case of a discussion being raised about Being, to prove what is in course of demonstration, and to settle the points in debate, by the primary energies and those attached to the Beings, and again to explain by the Being when the energies are in question. I think the actual phrases of his impiety are enough to prove how absurd is this teaching. If any one had to give a description of the way some disease mars a human countenance, he would explain it better by actually unbandaging the patient, and there would be then no need of words when the eye had seen how he looked. So some mental eye might discern the hideous mutilation wrought by this heresy: its mere perusal might remove the veil. But since it is necessary, in order to make the latent mischief of this teaching clear to the many, to put the finger of demonstration upon it, I will again repeat each word. This being so. What does this dreamer mean? What is ‘this?’ How has it been stated? The Father’s being is alone proper and in the highest degree supreme; consequently the next being is dependent, and the third more dependent still. In such words he lays down the law. But why? Is it because an energy accompanies the first being, of which the effect and work, the Only-begotten, is circumscribed by the sphere of this producing cause? Or because these Beings are to be thought of as of greater or less extent, the smaller included within and surrounded by the larger, like casks put one inside the other, inasmuch as he detects degrees of size within Beings that are illimitable? Or because differences of products imply differences of producers, as if it were impossible that different effects should be produced by similar energies? Well, there is no one whose mental faculties are so steeped in sleep as to acquiesce directly after hearing such statements in the following assertion, these being so, and maintaining an unbroken connection in their relation to one another. It is equal madness to say such things, and to hear them without any questioning. They are placed in a ‘series’ and ‘an unalterable relation to each other,’ and yet they are parted from each other by an essential unlikeness! Either, as our own doctrine insists, they are united in being, and then they really preserve an unalterable relation to each other; or else they stand apart in essential unlikeness, as he fancies. But what series, what relationship that is unalterable can exist with alien entities? And how can they present that ‘order germane to the matter’ which according to him is to rule the investigation? Now if he had an eye only on the doctrine of the truth, and if the order in which he counts the differences was only that of the attributes which Faith sees in the Holy Trinity,— an order so ‘natural’ and ‘germane’ that the Persons cannot be confounded, being divided as Persons, though united in their being— then he would not have been classed at all among our enemies, for he would mean the very same doctrine that we teach. But, as it is, he is looking in the very contrary direction, and he makes the order which he fancies there quite inconceivable. There is all the difference in the world between the accomplishment of an act of the will, and that of a mechanical law of nature. Heat is inherent in fire, splendour in the sunbeam, fluidity in water, downward tendency in a stone, and so on. But if a man builds a house, or seeks an office, or puts to sea with a cargo, or attempts anything else which requires forethought and preparation to succeed, we cannot say in such a case that there is properly a rank or order inherent in his operations: their order in each case will result as an after consequence of the motive which guided his choice, or the utility of that which he achieves. Well, then; since this heresy parts the Son from any essential relationship with the Father, and adopts the same view of the Spirit as estranged from any union with the Father or the Son, and since also it affirms throughout that the Son is the work of the Father, and the Spirit the work of the Son, and that these works are the results of a purpose, not of nature, what grounds has he for declaring that this work of a will is an ‘order inherent in the matter,’ and what is the drift of this teaching, which makes the Almighty the manufacturer of such a nature as this in the Son and the Holy Spirit, where transcendent beings are made such as to be inferior the one to the other? If such is really his meaning, why did he not clearly state the grounds he has for presuming in the case of the Deity, that smallness of result will be evidence of all the greater power? But who really could ever allow that a cause that is great and powerful is to be looked for in this smallness of results? As if God was unable to establish His own perfection in anything that comes from Him! And how can he attribute to the Deity the highest prerogative of supremacy while he exhibits His power as thus falling short of His will? Eunomius certainly seems to mean that perfection was not even proposed as the aim of God’s work, for fear the honour and glory of One to Whom homage is due for His superiority might be thereby lessened. And yet is there any one so narrow-minded as to reckon the Blessed Deity Himself as not free from the passion of envy? What plausible reason, then, is left why the Supreme Deity should have constituted such an ‘order’ in the case of the Son and the Spirit? But I did not mean that ‘order’ to come from Him, he rejoins. But whence else, if the beings to which this ‘order’ is connatural are not essentially related to each other? But perhaps he calls the inferiority itself of the being of the Son and of the Spirit this ‘connatural order.’ But I would beg of him to tell me the reason of this very thing, viz., why the Son is inferior on the score of being, when both this being and energy are to be discovered in the same characteristics and attributes. If on the other hand there is not to be the same definition of being and energy, and each is to signify something different, why does he introduce a demonstration of the thing in question by means of that which is quite different from it? It would be, in that case, just as if, when it was debated with regard to man’s own being whether he were a risible animal, or one capable of being taught to read, some one was to adduce the building of a house or ship on the part of a mason or a shipwright as a settling of the question, insisting on the skilful syllogism that we know beings by operations, and a house and a ship are operations of man. Do we then learn, most simple sir, by such premisses, that man is risible as well as broad-nailed? Some one might well retort; ‘whether man possesses motion and energy was not the question: it was, what is the energizing principle itself; and that I fail to learn from your way of deciding the question.’ Indeed, if we wanted to know something about the nature of the wind, you would not give a satisfactory answer by pointing to a heap of sand or chaff raised by the wind, or to dust which it scattered: for the account to be given of the wind is quite different: and these illustrations of yours would be foreign to the subject. What ground, then, has he for attempting to explain beings by their energies, and making the definition of an entity out of the resultants of that entity.
Let us observe, too, what sort of work of the Father it is by which the Father’s being, according to him, is to be comprehended. The Son most certainly, he will say, if he says as usual. But this Son of yours, most learned sir, is commensurate in your scheme only with the energy which produced Him, and indicates that alone, while the Object of our search still keeps in the dark, if, as you yourself confess, this energy is only one among the things which ‘follow ‘ the first being. This energy, as you say, extends itself into the work which it produces, but it does not reveal therein even its own nature, but only so much of it as we can get a glimpse of in that work. All the resources of a smith are not set in motion to make a gimlet; the skill of that artisan only operates so far as is adequate to form that tool, though it could fashion a large variety of other tools. Thus the limit of the energy is to be found in the work which it produces. But the question now is not about the amount of the energy, but about the being of that which has put forth the energy. In the same way, if he asserts that he can perceive the nature of the Only-begotten in the Spirit (Whom he styles the work of an energy which ‘follows’ the Son), his assertion has no foundation; for here again the energy, while it extends itself into its work, does not reveal therein the nature either of itself or of the agent who exerts it.
But let us yield in this; grant him that beings are known in their energies. The First being is known through His work; and this Second being is revealed in the work proceeding from Him. But what, my learned friend, is to show this Third being? No such work of this Third is to be found. If you insist that these beings are perceived by their energies, you must confess that the Spirit’s nature is imperceptible; you cannot infer His nature from any energy put forth by Him to carry on the continuity. Show some substantiated work of the Spirit, through which you think you have detected the being of the Spirit, or all your cobweb will collapse at the touch of Reason. If the being is known by the subsequent energy, and substantiated energy of the Spirit there is none, such as you say the Father shows in the Son, and the Son in the Spirit, then the nature of the Spirit must be confessed unknowable and not be apprehended through these; there is no energy conceived of in connection with a substance to show even a side glimpse of it. But if the Spirit eludes apprehension, how by means of that which is itself imperceptible can the more exalted being be perceived? If the Son’s work, that is, the Spirit according to them, is unknowable, the Son Himself can never be known; He will be involved in the obscurity of that which gives evidence of Him: and if the being of the Son in this way is hidden, how can the being who is most properly such and most supreme be brought to light by means of the being which is itself hidden; this obscurity of the Spirit is transmitted by retrogression through the Son to the Father; so that in this view, even by our adversaries’ confession, the unknowableness of the Fathers being is clearly demonstrated. How, then, can this man, be his eye ever so ‘keen to see unsubstantial entities,’ discern the nature of the unseen and incomprehensible by means of itself; and how can he command us to grasp the beings by means of their works, and their works again from them?
29. He vainly thinks that the doubtabout the energies is to be solved by the beings, and reversely.
Now let us see what comes next. ‘The doubt about the energies is to be solved by the beings.’ What way is there of bringing this man out of his vain fancies down to common sense? If he thinks that it is possible thus to solve doubts about the energies by comprehending the beings themselves, how, if these last are not comprehended, can he change this doubt to any certainty? If the being has been comprehended, what need to make the energy of this importance, as if it was going to lead us to the comprehension of the being. But if this is the very thing that makes an examination of the energy necessary, viz., that we may be thereby guided to the understanding of the being that exerts it, how can this as yet unknown nature solve the doubt about the energy? The proof of anything that is doubted must be made by means of well-known truths; but when there is an equal uncertainty about both the objects of our search, how can Eunomius say that they are comprehended by means of each other, both being in themselves beyond our knowledge? When the Father’s being is under discussion, he tells us that the question may be settled by means of the energy which follows Him and of the work which this energy accomplishes; but when the inquiry is about the being of the Only-begotten, whether Eunomius calls Him an energy or a product of the energy (for he does both), then he tells us that the question may be easily solved by looking at the being of His producer!
30. There is no Word of God that commands such investigations: the uselessness of the philosophy which makes them is thereby proved.
I should like also to ask him this. Does he mean that energies are explained by the beings which produced them only in the case of the Divine Nature, or does he recognize the nature of the produced by means of the being of the producer with regard to anything whatever that possesses an effective force? If in the case of the Divine Nature only he holds this view, let him show us how he settles questions about the works of God by means of the nature of the Worker. Take an undoubted work of God—the sky, the earth, the sea, the whole universe. Let it be the being of one of these that, according to our supposition, is being enquired into, and let ‘sky’ be the subject fixed for our speculative reasoning. It is a question what the substance of the sky is; opinions have been broached about it varying widely according to the lights of each natural philosopher. How will the contemplation of the Maker of the sky procure a solution of the question, immaterial, invisible, formless, ungenerate, everlasting, incapable of decay and change and alteration, and all such things, as He is. How will anyone who entertains this conception of the Worker be led on to the knowledge of the nature of the sky? How will he get an idea of a thing which is visible from the Invisible, of the perishable from the imperishable, of that which has a date for its existence from that which never had any generation, of that which has duration but for a time from the everlasting; in fact, of the object of his search from everything which is the very opposite to it. Let this man who has accurately probed the secret of things tell us how it is possible that two unlike things should be known from each other.
31. The observations made by watching Providence are sufficient to give us the knowledge of sameness of Being.
And yet, if he could see the consequences of his own statements, he would be led on by them to acquiesce in the doctrine of the Church. For if the maker’s nature is an indication of the thing made, as he affirms, and if, according to his school, the Son is something made by the Father, anyone who has observed the Father’s nature would have certainly known thereby that of the Son; if, I say, it is true that the worker’s nature is a sign of that which he works. But the Only-begotten, as they say, of the Father’s unlikeness, will be excluded from operating through Providence. Eunomius need not trouble any more about His being generated, nor force out of that another proof of the son’s unlikeness. The difference of purpose will itself be sufficient to bring to light His alien nature. For the First Being is, even by our opponents’ confession, one and single, and necessarily His will must be thought of as following the bent of His nature; but Providence shows that purpose is good, and so the nature from which that purpose comes is shown to be good also. So the Father alone works good; and the Son does not purpose the same things as He, if we adopt the assumptions of our adversary; the difference then, of their nature will be clearly attested by this variation of their purposes. But if, while the Father is provident for the Universe, the Son is equally provident for it (for ‘what He sees the Father doing that also the Son does’), this sameness of their purposes exhibits a communion of nature in those who thus purpose the same things. Why, then, is all mention of Providence omitted by him, as if it would not help us at all to that which we are searching for. Yet many familiar examples make for our view of it. Anyone who has gazed on the brightness of fire and experienced its power of warming, when he approaches another such brightness and another such warmth, will assuredly be led on to think of fire; for his senses through the medium of these similar phænomena will conduct him to the fact of a kindred element producing both; anything that was not fire could not work on all occasions like fire. Just so, when we perceive a similar and equal amount of providential power in the Father and in the Son, we make a guess by means of what thus comes within the range of our knowledge about things which transcend our comprehension; we feel that causes of an alien nature cannot be detected in these equal and similar effects. As the observed phenomena are to each other, so will the subjects of those phenomena be: if the first are opposed to each other, we must reckon the revealed entities to be so too; if the first are alike, so too must those others be. Our Lord said allegorically that their fruit is the sign of the characters of trees, meaning that it does not belie that character, that the bad is not attached to the good tree, nor the good to the bad tree—by their fruits you shall know them;— so when the fruit, Providence, presents no difference, we detect a single nature from which that fruit has sprung, even though the trees be different from which the fruit is put forth. Through that, then, which is cognizable by our apprehension, viz., the scheme or Providence visible in the Son in the same way as in the Father, the common likeness of the Only-begotten and the Father is placed beyond a doubt; and it is the identity of the fruits of Providence by which we know it.
32. His dictum that ‘the manner of the likeness must follow the manner of the generation’ is unintelligible.
But to prevent such a thought being entertained, and pretending to be forced somehow away from it, he says that he withdraws from all these results of Providence, and goes back to the manner of the Son’s generation, because the manner of His likeness must follow the manner of His generation. What an irresistible proof! How forcibly does this verbiage compel assent! What skill and precision there is in the wording of this assertion! Then, if we know the manner of the generation, we shall know by that the manner of the likeness. Well, then; seeing that all, or at all events most, animals born by parturition have the same manner of generation, and, according to their logic, the manner of likeness follows this manner of generation, these animals, following as they do the same model in their production, will resemble entirely those similarly generated; for things that are like the same thing are like one another. If, then, according to the view of this heresy, the manner of the generation makes every thing generated just like itself, and it is a fact that this manner does not vary at all in diversified kinds of animals but remains the same in the greatest part of them, we shall find that this sweeping and unqualified assertion of his establishes, by virtue of this similarity of birth, a mutual resemblance between men, dogs, camels, mice, elephants, leopards, and every other animal which Nature produces in the same manner. Or does he mean, not, that things brought into the world in a similar way are all like each other, but that each one of them is like that being only which is the source of its life. But if so, he ought to have declared that the child is like the parent, not that the manner of the likeness resembles the manner of the generation. But this, which is so probable in itself, and is observed as a fact in Nature, that the begotten resembles the begetter, he will not admit as a truth; it would reduce his whole argumentation to a proof of the contrary of what he intended. If he allowed the offspring to be like the parent, his laboured store of arguments to prove the unlikeness of the Beings would be refuted as evanescent and groundless.
So he says the manner of the likeness follows the manner of the generation. This, when tested by the exact critic of the meaning of any idea , will be found completely unintelligible. It is plainly impossible to say what a manner of generation can mean. Does it mean the figure of the parent, or his impulse, or his disposition; or the time, or the place, or the completing of the embryo by conception; or the generative receptacles; or nothing of that kind, but something else of the things observed in ‘generation.’ It is impossible to find out what he means. The impropriety and vagueness of the word manner causes perplexity as to its signification here; every possible one is equally open to our surmises, and presents as well an equal want of connection with the subject before us. So also with this phrase of his manner of likeness; it is devoid of any vestige of meaning, if we fix our attention on the examples familiarly known to us. For the thing generated is not to be likened there to the kind or the manner of its birth. Birth consists, in the case of animal birth, in a separation of body from body, in which the animal perfectly moulded in the womb is brought forth; but the thing born is a man, or horse, or cow, or whatever it may chance to be in its existence through birth. How, therefore, the manner of the likeness of the offspring follows the manner of its generation must be left to him, or to some pupil of his in midwifery, to explain. Birth is one thing: the thing born is another: they are different ideas altogether. No one with any sense would deny that what he says is perfectly untrue in the case of animal births. But if he calls the actual making and the actual fashioning a manner of the generation, which the manner of the likeness of the thing produced is to follow, even so his statement is removed from all likelihood, as we shall see from some illustrations. Iron is hammered out by the blows of the artificer into some useful instrument. How, then, the outline of its edge, if such there happen to be, can be said to be similar to the hand of the worker, or to the manner of its fashioning, to the hammers, for instance, and the coals and the bellows and the anvil by means of which he has moulded it, no one could explain. And what can be said in one case fits all, where there is any operation producing a result; the thing produced cannot be said to be like the manner of its generation. What has the shape of a garment got to do with the spool, or the rods, or the comb, or with the form of the weaver’s instruments at all? What has an actual seat got to do with the working of the blocks; or any finished production with the build of him who achieved it?— But I think even our opponents would allow that this rule of his is not in force in sensible and material instances.
It remains to see whether it contributes anything further to the proof of his blasphemy. What, then, was he aiming at? The necessity of believing in accordance with their being in the likeness or unlikeness of the Son to the Father; and, as we cannot know about this being from considerations of Providence, the necessity of having recourse to the manner of the generation, whereby we may know, not indeed whether the Begotten is like the Begetter (absolutely), but only a certain manner of likeness between them; and as this manner is a secret to the many, the necessity of going at some length into the being of the Begetter. Then has he forgotten his own definitions about the beings having to be known from their works? But this begotten being, which he calls the work of the supreme being, has as yet no light thrown upon it (according to him); so how can its nature be dealt with? And how can he mount above this lower and therefore more directly comprehensible thing, and so cling to the absolute and supreme being? Again, he always throughout his discourse lays claim to an accurate knowledge of the divine utterances; yet here he pays them scant reverence, ignoring the fact that it is not possible to approach to a knowledge of the Father except through the Son. No man knows the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son shall reveal Him Matthew 11:27 . Yet Eunomius, while on every occasion, where he can insult our devout and God-adoring conceptions of the Son, he asserts in plain words the Son’s inferiority, establishes His superiority unconsciously in this device of his for knowing the Deity; for he assumes that the Father’s being lends itself the more readily to our comprehension, and then attempts to trace and argue out the Son’s nature from that.
33. He declares falsely that ‘the manner of the generation is to be known from the intrinsic worth of the generator’.
He goes back, for instance, to the begetting being, and from thence takes a survey of the begotten; for, says he, the manner of the generation is to be known from the intrinsic worth of the generator. Again, we find this bold unqualified generalization of his causing the thought of the inquirer to be dissipated in every possible direction; it is the nature of such general statements, to extend in their meanings to every instance, and allow nothing to escape their sweeping assertion. If then ‘the manner of the generation is to be known from the intrinsic worth of the generator,’ and there are many differences in the worth of generators according to their many classifications to be found (for one may be born Jew, Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond, free), what will be the result? Why, that we must expect to find as many manners of generation as there are differences in intrinsic worth among the generators; and that their birth will not be fulfilled with all in the same way, but that their nature will vary with the worth of the parent, and that some peculiar manner of birth will be struck out for each, according to these varying estimations. For a certain inalienable worth is to be observed in the individual parent; the distinction, that is, of being better or worse off according as there has fallen to each race, estimation, religion, nationality, power, servitude, wealth, poverty, independence, dependence, or whatever else constitutes the life-long differences of worth. If then the manner of the generation is shown by the intrinsic worth of the parent, and there are many differences in worth, we shall inevitably find, if we follow this opinion-monger, that the manners of generation are various too; in fact, this difference of worth will dictate to Nature the manner of the birth.
But if he should not admit that such worth is natural, because they can be put in thought outside the nature of their subject, we will not oppose him. But at all events he will agree to this; that man’sexistence is separated by an intrinsic character from that of brutes. Yet the manner of birth in these two cases presents no variation in intrinsic character; nature brings man and the brute into the world in just the same way, i.e. by generation. But if he apprehends this native dignity only in the case of the most proper and supreme existence, let us see what he means then. In our view, the ‘native dignity’ of God consists in godhead itself, wisdom, power, goodness, judgment, justice, strength, mercy, truth, creativeness, domination, invisibility, everlastingness, and every other quality named in the inspired writings to magnify his glory; and we affirm that everyone of them is properly and inalienably found in the Son, recognizing difference only in respect of unoriginateness; and even that we do not exclude the Son from, according to all its meanings. But let no carping critic attack this statement as if we were attempting to exhibit the Very Son as ungenerate; for we hold that one who maintains that is no less impious than an Anomœan. But since the meanings of ‘origin’ are various, and suggest many ideas, there are some of them in which the title ‘unoriginate’ is not inapplicable to the Son. When, for instance, this word has the meaning of ‘deriving existence from no cause whatever,’ then we confess that it is peculiar to the Father; but when the question is about ‘origin’ in its other meanings (since any creature or time or order has an origin), then we attribute the being superior to origin to the Son as well, and we believe that that whereby all things were made is beyond the origin of creation, and the idea of time, and the sequence of order. So He, Who on the ground of His subsistence is not without an origin, possessed in every other view an undoubted unoriginateness; and while the Father is unoriginate and Ungenerate, the Son is unoriginate in the way we have said, though not ungenerate.
What, then, is that native dignity of the Father which he is going to look at in order to infer thereby the ‘manner of the generation.’ His not being generated, most certainly, he will reply. If, then, all those names with which we have learned to magnify God’s glory are useless and meaningless to you, Eunomius, the mere going through the list of such expressions is a gratuitous and superfluous task; none of these other words, you say, expresses the intrinsic worth of the God over all. But if there is a peculiar force fitting our conceptions of the Deity in each of these words, the intrinsic dignities of God must plainly be viewed in connection with this list, and the likeness of the two beings will be thereby proved; if, that is, the characters inalienable from the beings are an index of the subjects of those characters. The characters of each being are found to be the same; and so the identity on the score of being of the two subjects of these identical dignities is shown most clearly. For if the variation in a single name is to be held to be the index of an alien being, how much more should the identity of these countless names avail to prove community of nature!
What, then, is the reason why the other names should all be neglected, and generation be indicated by the means of one alone? Why do they pronounce this ‘Ungeneracy’ to be the only intrinsic character in the Father, and thrust all the rest aside? It is in order that they may establish their mischievous mode of unlikeness of Father and Son, by this contrast as regards the begotten. But we shall find that this attempt of theirs, when we come to test it in its proper place, is equally feeble, unfounded, and nugatory as the preceding attempts.
Still, that all his reasonings point this way, is shown by the sequel, in which he praises himself for having fittingly adopted this method for the proof of his blasphemy, and yet for not having all at once divulged his intention, nor shocked the unprepared hearer with his impiety, before the concatenation of his delusive argument was complete, nor displayed this Ungeneracy as God’s being in the early part of his discourse, nor to weary us with talk about the difference of being. The following are his exact words: Or was it right, as Basil commands, to begin with the thing to be proved, and to assert incoherently that the Ungeneracy is the being, and to talk about the difference or the sameness of nature? Upon this he has a long intervening tirade, made up of scoffs and insulting abuse (such being the weapons which this thinker uses to defend his own doctrines), and then he resumes the argument, and turning upon his adversary, fixes upon him, forsooth, the blame of what he is saying, in these words; For your party, before any others, are guilty of this offense; having partitioned out this same being between Begetter and Begotten; and so the scolding you have given is only a halter not to be eluded which you have woven for your own necks; justice, as might have been expected, records in your own words a verdict against yourselves. Either you first conceive of the beings as sundered, and independent of each other ; and then bring down one of them, by generation, to the rank of Son, and contend that One who exists independently nevertheless was made by means of the Other existence; and so lay yourselves open to your own reproaches: for to Him whom you imagine as without generation you ascribe a generation by another:— or else you first allow one single causeless being, and then marking this out by an act of causation into Father and Son, you declare that this non-generated being came into existence by means of itself.
34. The Passage where he attacks the ‘Ομοούσιον, and the contention in answer to it.
I will omit to speak of the words which occur before this passage which has been quoted. They contain merely shameless abuse of our Master and Father in God, and nothing bearing on the matter in hand. But on the passage itself, as he advances by the device of this terrible dilemma a double-edged refutation, we cannot be silent; we must accept the intellectual challenge, and fight for the Faith with all the power we have, and show that the formidable two-edged sword which he has sharpened is feebler than a make-believe in a scene-painting.
He attacks the community of substance with two suppositions; he says that we either name as Father and as Son two independent principles drawn out parallel to each other, and then say that one of these existencies is produced by the other existence: or else we say that one and the same essence is conceived of, participating in both names in turn, both being Father, and becoming Son, and itself produced in generation from itself. I put this in my own words, thereby not misinterpreting his thought, but only correcting the tumid exaggeration of its expression, in such a way as to reveal his meaning by clearer words and afford a comprehensive view of it. Having blamed us for want of polish and for having brought to the controversy an insufficient amount of learning, he decks out his own work in such a glitter of style, and passes the nail , to use his own phrase, so often over his own sentences, and makes his periods so smart with this elaborate prettiness, that he captivates the reader at once with the attractions of language; such among many others is the passage we have just recited by way of preface. We will, by leave, again recite it. And so the scolding you have given is only a halter, not to be eluded, which you have woven for your own necks; justice, as might have been expected, records in your own words a verdict against yourselves.
Observe these flowers of the old Attic; what polished brilliance of diction plays over his composition; what a delicate and subtle charm of style is in bloom there! However, let this be as people think. Our course requires us again to turn to the thought in those words; let us plunge once more into the phrases of this pamphleteer. Either you conceive of the beings as separated and independent of each other, and then bring down one of them, by generation, to the rank of Son, and contend that One who exists independently nevertheless was made by means of the Other existence. That is enough for the present. He says, then, that we preach two causeless Beings. How can this man, who is always accusing us of levelling and confusing, assert this from our believing, as we do, in a single substance of Both. If two natures, alien to each other on the score of their being, were preached by our Faith, just as it is preached by the Anomœan school, then there would be good reason for thinking that this distinction of natures led to the supposition of two causeless beings. But if, as is the case, we acknowledge one nature with the differences of Person, if, while the Father is believed in, the Son also is glorified, how can such a Faith be misrepresented by our opponents as preaching Two First Causes? Then he says, ‘of these two causes, one is lowered’ by us ‘to the rank of Son.’ Let him point out one champion of such a doctrine; whether he can convict any single person of talking like this, or only knows of such a doctrine as taught anywhere at all in the Church, we will hold our peace. For who is so wild in his reasonings, and so bereft of reflection as, after speaking of Father and Son, to imagine in spite of that two ungenerate beings: and then again to suppose that the One of them has come into being by means of the Other? Besides, what logicalnecessity does he show for pushing our teaching towards such suppositions? By what arguments does he show that such an absurdity must result from it? If indeed he adduced one single article of our Faith, and then, whether as a quibble or with a real force of demonstration, made this criticism upon it, there might have been some reason for his doing so with a view to invalidate that article. But when there is not, and never can be such a doctrine in the Church, when neither a teacher of it nor a hearer of it is to be found, and the absurdity cannot be shown, either, to be the strict logical consequence of anything, I cannot understand the meaning of his fighting thus with shadows. It is just as if some phenzy-struck person supposed himself to be grappling with an imaginary combatant, and then, having with great efforts thrown himself down, thought that it was his foe who was lying there; our clever pamphleteer is in the same state; he feigns suppositions which we know nothing about, and he fights with the shadows which are sketched by the workings of his own brain.
For I challenge him to say why a believer in the Son as having come into being from the Father must advance to the opinion that there are two First Causes; and let him tell us who is most guilty of this establishment of two First Causes; one who asserts that the Son is falsely so named, or one who insists that, when we call Him that, the name represents a reality? The first, rejecting a real generation of the Son, and affirming simply that He exists, would be more open to the suspicion of making Him a First Cause, if he exists indeed, but not by generation: whereas the second, making the representative sign of the Person of the Only-begotten to consist in subsisting generatively from the Father, cannot by any possibility be drawn into the error of supposing the Son to be Ungenerate. And yet as long as, according to you thinkers, the non-generation of the Son by the Father is to be held, the Son Himself will be properly called Ungenerate in one of the many meanings of the Ungenerate; seeing that, as some things come into existence by being born and others by being fashioned, nothing prevents our calling one of the latter, which does not subsist by generation, an Ungenerate, looking only to the idea of generation; and this your account, defining, as it does, our Lord to be a creature, does establish about Him. So, my very learned sirs, it is in your view, not ours, when it is thus followed out, that the Only-begotten can be named Ungenerate: and you will find that justice,— whatever you mean by that—records in your own words a verdict against us.
It is easy also to find mud in his words after that to cast upon this execrable teaching. For the other horn of his dilemma partakes in the same mental delusion; he says, or else you first allow one single causeless being, and then marking this out by an act of generation into Father and Son, you declare that this non-generated being came into existence by means of itself. What is this new and marvellous story? How is one begotten by oneself, having oneself for father, and becoming one’s own son? What dizziness and delusion is here? It is like supposing the roof to be turning down below one’s feet, and the floor above one’s head; it is like the mental state of one with his senses stupified with drink, who shouts out persistently that the ground does not stand still beneath, and that the walls are disappearing, and that everything he sees is whirling round and will not keep still. Perhaps our pamphleteer had such a tumult in his soul when he wrote; if so, we must pity him rather than abhor him. For who is so out of hearing of our divine doctrine, who is so far from the mysteries of the Church, as to accept such a view as this to the detriment of the Faith. Rather, it is hardly enough to say, that no one ever dreamed of such an absurdity to its detriment. Why, in the case of human nature, or any other entity falling within the grasp of the senses who, when he hears of a community of substance, dreams either that all things that are compared together on the ground of substance are without a cause or beginning, or that something comes into existence out of itself, at once producing and being produced by itself?
The first man, and the man born from him, received their being in a different way; the latter by copulation, the former from the moulding of Christ Himself; and yet, though they are thus believed to be two, they are inseparable in the definition of their being, and are not considered as two beings, without beginning or cause, running parallel to each other; nor can the existing one be said to be generated by the existing one, or the two be ever thought of as one in the monstrous sense that each is his own father, and his own son; but it is because the one and the other was a man that the two have the same definition of being; each was mortal, reasoning, capable of intuition and of science. If, then, the idea of humanity in Adam and Abel does not vary with the difference of their origin, neither the order nor the manner of their coming into existence making any difference in their nature, which is the same in both, according to the testimony of every one in his senses, and no one, not greatly needing treatment for insanity, would deny it; what necessity is there that against the divine nature we should admit this strange thought? Having heard of Father and Son from the Truth, we are taught in those two subjects the oneness of their nature; their natural relation to each other expressed by those names indicates that nature; and so do Our Lord’s own words. For when He said, I and My Father are one John 10:30, He conveys by that confession of a Father exactly the truth that He Himself is not a first cause, at the same time that He asserts by His union with the Father their common nature; so that these words of His secure our faith from the taint of heretical error on either side: for Sabellius has no ground for his confusion of the individuality of each Person, when the Only-begotten has so distinctly marked Himself off from the Father in those words, I and My Father; and Arius finds no confirmation of his doctrine of the strangeness of either nature to the other, since this oneness of both cannot admit distinction in nature. For that which is signified in these words by the oneness of Father and Son is nothing else but what belongs to them on the score of their actual being; all the other moral excellences which are to be observed in them as over and above their nature may without error be set down as shared in by all created beings. For instance, Our Lord is called merciful and pitiful by the prophet , and He wills us to be and to be called the same; Be therefore merciful Luke 6:36, and Blessed are the merciful Matthew 5:7, and many such passages. If, then, any one by diligence and attention has modelled himself according to the divine will, and become kind and pitiful and compassionate, or meek and lowly of heart, such as many of the saints are testified to have become in the pursuit of such excellences, does it follow that they are therefore one with God, or united to Him by virtue of any one of them? Not so. That which is not in every respect the same, cannot be ‘one’ with him whose nature thus varies from it. Accordingly, a man becomes ‘one’ with another, when in will, as our Lord says, they are ‘perfected into one ,’ this union of wills being added to the connection of nature. So also the Father and Son are one, the community of nature and the community of will running, in them, into one. But if the Son had been joined in wish only to the Father, and divided from Him in His nature, how is it that we find Him testifying to His oneness with the Father, when all the time He was sundered from Him in the point most proper to Him of all?
35. Proof that the Anomœan teaching tends to Manichæism.
We hear our Lord saying. I and My Father are one, and we are taught in that utterance the dependence of our Lord on a cause, and yet the absolute identity of the Son’s and the Father’s nature; we do not let our idea about them be melted down into One Person, but we keep distinct the properties of the Persons, while, on the other hand, not dividing in the Persons the oneness of their substance; and so the supposition of two diverse principles in the category of Cause is avoided, and there is no loophole for the Manichæan heresy to enter. For the created and the uncreate are as diametrically opposed to each other as their names are; and so if the two are to be ranked as First Causes, the mischief of Manichæism will thus under cover be brought into the Church. I say this, because my zeal against our antagonists makes me scrutinize their doctrine very closely. Now I think that none would deny that we were bringing this scrutiny very near the truth, when we said, that if the created be possessed of equal power with the uncreate, there will be some sort of antagonism between these things of diverse nature, and as long as neither of them fails in power, the two will be brought into a certain state of mutual discord for we must perforce allow that will corresponds with, and is intimately joined to nature; and that if two things are unlike in nature, they will be so also in will. But when power is adequate in both, neither will flag in the gratification of its wish; and if the power of each is thus equal to its wish, the primacy will become a doubtful point with the two: and it will end in a drawn battle from the inexhaustibleness of their powers. Thus will the Manichæan heresy creep in, two opposite principles appearing with counter claims in the category of Cause, parted and opposed by reason of difference both in nature and in will. They will find, therefore, that assertion of diminution (in the Divine being) is the beginning of Manichæism; for their teaching organizes a discord within that being, which comes to two leading principles, as our account of it has shown; namely the created and the uncreated.
But perhaps most will blame this as too strong a reductio ad absurdum, and will wish that we had not put it down at all along with our other objections. Be it so; we will not contradict them. It was not our impulse, but our adversaries themselves, that forced us to carry our argument into such minuteness of results. But if it is not right to argue thus, it was more fitting still that our opponents’ teaching, which gave occasion to such a refutation, should never have been heard. There is only one way of suppressing the answer to bad teaching, and that is, to take away the subject-matter to which a reply has to be made. But what would give me most pleasure would be to advise those, who are thus disposed, to divest themselves a little of the spirit of rivalry, and not be such exceedingly zealous combatants on behalf of the private opinions with which they have become possessed, and convinced that the race is for their (spiritual) life, to attend to its interests only, and to yield the victory to Truth. If, then, one were to cease from this ambitious strife, and look straight into the actual question before us, he would very soon discover the flagrant absurdity of this teaching.
For let us assume as granted what the system of our opponents demands, that the having no generation is Being, and in like manner again that generation is admitted into Being. If, then, one were to follow out carefully these statements in all their meaning, even this way the Manichæan heresy will be reconstructed seeing that the Manichees are wont to take as an axiom the oppositions of good and bad, light and darkness, and all such naturally antagonistic things. I think that any who will not be satisfied with a superficial view of the matter will be convinced that I say true. Let us look at it thus. Every subject has certain inherent characteristics, by means of which the specialty of that underlying nature is known. This is so, whether we are investigating the animal kingdom, or any other. The tree and the animal are not known by the same marks; nor do the characteristics of man extend in the animal kingdom to the brutes; nor, again, do the same symptoms indicate life and death; in every case, without exception, as we have said, the distinction of subjects resists any effort to confuse them and run one into another; the marks upon each thing which we observe cannot be communicated so as to destroy that distinction. Let us follow this out in examining our opponents’ position. They say that the state of having no generation is Being; and they likewise make the having generation Being. But just as a man and a stone have not the same marks (in defining the essence of the animate and that of the inanimate you would not give the same account of each), so they must certainly grant that one who is non-generated is to be known by different signs to the generated. Let us then survey those peculiar qualities of the non-generated Deity, which the Holy Scriptures teach us can be mentioned and thought of, without doing Him an irreverence.
What are they? I think no Christian is ignorant that He is good, kind, holy, just and hallowed, unseen and immortal, incapable of decay and change and alteration, powerful, wise, beneficent, Master, Judge, and everything like that. Why lengthen our discussion by lingering on acknowledged facts? If, then, we find these qualities in the ungenerate nature, and the state of having been generated is contrary in its very conception to the state of having not been generated, those who define these two states to be each of them Being, must perforce concede, that the characteristic marks of the generated being, following this opposition existing between the generated and non-generated, must be contrary to the marks observable in the non-generated being; for if they were to declare the marks to be the same, this sameness would destroy the difference between the two beings who are the subject of these observations. Differing things must be regarded as possessing differing marks; like things are to be known by like signs. If, then, these men testify to the same marks in the Only-begotten, they can conceive of no difference whatever in the subject of the marks. But if they persist in their blasphemous position, and maintain in asserting the difference of the generated and the non-generated the variation of the natures, it is readily seen what must result: viz., that, as in following out the opposition of the names, the nature of the things which those names indicate must be considered to be in a state of contrariety to itself, there is every necessity that the qualities observed in each should be drawn out opposite each other; so that those qualities should be applied to the Son which are the reverse of those predicated of the Father, viz., of divinity, holiness, goodness, imperishability, eternity, and of every other quality that represents God to the devout mind; in fact, every negation of these, every conception that ranks opposite to the good, must be considered as belonging to the generated nature.
To ensure clearness, we must dwell upon this point. As the peculiar phænomena of heat and cold— which are themselves by nature opposed to each other (let us take fire and ice as examples of each), each being that which the other is not— are at variance with each other, cooling being the peculiarity of ice, heating of fire; so if in accordance with the antithesis expressed by the names, the nature revealed by those names is parted asunder, it is not to be admitted that the faculties attending these naturalsubcontraries are like each other, any more than cooling can belong to fire, or burning to ice. If, then, goodness is inseparable from the idea of the non-generated nature, and that nature is parted on the ground of being, as they declare, from the generated nature, the properties of the former will be parted as well from those of the latter: so that if the good is found in the first, the quality set against the good is to be perceived in the last. Thus, thanks to our clever systematizers, Manes lives again with his parallel line of evil in array over against the good, and his theory of opposite powers residing in opposite natures.
Indeed, if we are to speak the truth boldly, without any reserve, Manes, who for having been the first, they say, to venture to entertain the Manichæan view, gave his name to that heresy, may fairly be considered the less offensive of the two. I say this, just as if one had to choose between a viper and an asp for the most affection towards man; still, if we consider, there is some difference between brutes. Does not a comparison of doctrines show that those older heretics are less intolerable than these? Manes thought he was pleading on the side of the Origin of Good, when he represented that Evil could derive thence none of its causes; so he linked the chain of things which are on the list of the bad to a separate Principle, in his character of the Almighty’s champion, and in his pious aversion to put the blame of any unjustifiable aberrations upon that Source of Good; not perceiving, with his narrow understanding, that it is impossible even to conceive of God as the fashioner of evil, or on the other hand, of any other First Principle besides Him. There might be a long discussion on this point, but it is beside our present purpose. We mentioned Manes’ statements only in order to show, that he at all events thought it his duty to separate evil from anything to do with God. But the blasphemous error with regard to the Son, which these men systematize, is much more terrible. Like the others, they explain the existence of evil by a contrariety in respect of Being; but when they declare, besides this, that the God of the universe is actually the Maker of this alien production, and say that this generation formed by Him into a substancepossesses a nature foreign to that of its Maker, they exhibit therein more of impiety than the aforesaid sect; for they not only give a personal existence to that which in its nature is opposed to good, but they say that a Good Deity is the Cause of another Deity who in nature diverges from His; and they all but openly exclaim in their teaching, that there is in existence something opposite to the nature of the good, deriving its personality from the good itself. For when we know the Father’s substance to be good, and therefore find that the Son’s substance, owing to its being unlike the Father’s in its nature (which is the tenet of this heresy), is among the contrary predicables, what is thereby proved? Why, not only that the opposite to the good subsists, but that this contrary comes from the good itself. I declare this to be more horrible even than the irrationality of the Manichees.
But if they repudiate this blasphemy from their system, though it is the logical carrying out of their teaching, and if they say that the Only-begotten has inherited the excellences of the Father, not as being really His Son, but— so does it please these misbelievers— as receiving His personality by an act of creation, let us look into this too, and see whether such an idea can be reasonably entertained. If, then, it were granted that it is as they think, viz., that the Lord of all things has not inherited as being a true Son, but that He rules a kindred of created things, being Himself made and created, how will the rest of creation accept this rule and not rise in revolt, being thus thrust down from kinship to subjection and condemned, though not a whit behind Him in natural prerogative (both being created), to serve and bend beneath a kinsman after all. That were like a usurpation, viz. not to assign the command to a superiority of Being, but to divide a creation that retains by right of nature equal privileges into slaves and a ruling power, one part in command, the other in subjection; as if, as the result of an arbitrary distribution , these same privileges had been piled at random on one who after that distribution got preferred to his equals. Even man did not share his honour with the brutes, before he received his dominion over them; his prerogative of reason gave him the title to command; he was set over them, because of a variance of his nature in the direction of superiority. And human governments experience such quickly-repeated revolutions for this very reason, that it is impracticable that those to whom nature has given equal rights should be excluded from power, but her impulse is instinct in all to make themselves equal with the dominant party, when all are of the same blood.
How, too, will it be true that all things were made by Him, if it is true that the Son Himself is one of the things made? Either He must have made Himself, for that text to be true, and so this unreasonableness which they have devised to harm our Faith will recoil with all its force upon themselves; or else, if this is absurdly unnatural, that affirmation that the whole creation was made by Him will be proved to have no ground to stand on. The withdrawal of one makes all a false statement. So that, from this definition of the Son as a created being, one of two vicious and absurd alternatives is inevitable; either that He is not the Author of all created things, seeing that He, who, they insist, is one of those works, must be withdrawn from the all; or else, that He is exhibited as the maker of Himself, seeing that the preaching that ‘without Him was not anything (made) that was made’ is not a lie. So much for their teaching.
36. A passing repetition of the teaching of the Church.
But if a man keeps steadfast to the sound doctrine, and believes that the Son is of the nature which is divine without admixture, he will find everything in harmony with the other truths of his religion, viz., that Our Lord is the maker of all things, that He is King of the universe, set above it not by an arbitrary act of capricious power, but ruling by virtue of a superior nature; and besides this, he will find that the one First Cause , as taught by us, is not divided by any unlikeness of substance into separate first causes, but one Godhead, one Cause, one Power over all things is believed in, that Godhead being discoverable by the harmony existing between these like beings, and leading on the mind through one like to another like, so that the Cause of all things, which is Our Lord, shines in our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit; (for it is impossible, as the Apostle says, that the Lord Jesus can be truly known, except by the Holy Spirit1 Corinthians 12:3 ); and then all the Cause beyond, which is God over all, is found through Our Lord, Who is the Cause of all things; nor, indeed, is it possible to gain an exact knowledge of the Archetypal Good, except as it appears in the (visible) image of that invisible. But then, after passing that summit of theology, I mean the God over all, we turn as it were back again in the racecourse of the mind, and speed through conjoint and kindred ideas from the Father, through the Son, to the Holy Ghost. For once having taken our stand on the comprehension of the Ungenerate Light, we perceive that moment from that vantage ground the Light that streams from Him, like the ray co-existent with the sun, whose cause indeed is in the sun, but whose existence is synchronous with the sun, not being a later addition, but appearing at the first sight of the sun itself: or rather (for there is no necessity to be slaves to this similitude, and so give a handle to the critics to use against our teaching by reason of the inadequacy of our image), it will not be a ray of the sun that we shall perceive, but another sun blazing forth, as an offspring, out of the Ungenerate sun, and simultaneously with our conception of the First, and in every way like him, in beauty, in power, in lustre, in size, in brilliance, in all things at once that we observe in the sun. Then again, we see yet another such Light after the same fashion sundered by no interval of time from that offspring Light, and while shining forth by means of It yet tracing the source of its being to the Primal Light; itself, nevertheless, a Light shining in like manner as the one first conceived of, and itself a source of light and doing all that light does. There is, indeed, no difference between one light and another light, qua light, when the one shows no lack or diminution of illuminating grace, but by its complete perfection forms part of the highest light of all, and is beheld along with the Father and the Son, though counted after them, and by its own power gives access to the light that is perceived in the Father and Son to all who are able to partake of it. So far upon this.
37. Defence of S. Basil’s statement, attacked by Eunomius, that the terms ‘Father’ and ‘The Ungenerate’ can have the same meaning.
The stream of his abuse is very strong; insolence is at the bottom of every principle he lays down; and vilification is put by him in the place of any demonstration of doubtful points so let us briefly discuss the many misrepresentations about the word Ungenerate with which he insults our Teacher himself and his treatise. He has quoted the following words of our Teacher: For my part I should be inclined to say that this title of the Ungenerate, however fitting it may seem to express our ideas, yet, as nowhere found in Scripture and as forming the alphabet of Eunomius’ blasphemy, may very well be suppressed, when we have the word Father meaning the same thing; for One who essentially and alone is Father comes from none else; and that which comes from none else is equivalent to the Ungenerate. Now let us hear what proof he brings of the ‘folly’ of these words: Overhastiness and shameless dishonesty prompt him to put this dose of words anomalously used into his attempts; he turns completely round, because his judgment is wavering and his powers of reasoning are feeble. Notice how well-directed that blow is; how skilfully, with all his mastery of logic, he takes Basil’s words to pieces and puts a conception more consistent with piety in their place! Anomalous in phrase, hasty and dishonest in judgment, wavering and turning round from feebleness of reasoning. Why this? What has exasperated this man, whose own judgment is so firm and reasoning so sound? What is it that he most condemns in Basil’s words? Is it, that he accepts the idea of the Ungenerate, but says that the actual word, as misused by those who pervert it, should be suppressed? Well; is the Faith in jeopardy only as regards words and outward expressions, and need we take no account of the correctness of the thought beneath? Or does not the Word of Truth rather exhort us first to have a heart pure from evil thoughts, and then, for the manifestation of the soul’s emotions, to use any words that can express these secrets of the mind, without any minute care about this or that particular sound? For the speaking in this way or in that is not the cause of the thought within us; but the hidden conception of the heart supplies the motive for such and such words; for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. We make the words interpret the thought; we do not by a reverse process gather the thought from the words. Should both be at hand, a man may certainly be ready in both, in clever thinking and clever expression; but if the one should be wanting, the loss to the illiterate is slight, if the knowledge in his soul is perfect in the direction of moral goodness. This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8 . What is the meaning of that? That the right attitude of the soul towards the truth is more precious than the propriety of phrases in the sight of God, who hears the groanings that cannot be uttered. Phrases can be used in opposite senses; the tongue readily serving, at his will, the intention of the speaker; but the disposition of the soul, as it is, so is it seen by Him Who sees all secrets. Why, then, does he deserve to be called anomalous, and hasty, and dishonest, for bidding us suppress all in the term Ungenerate which can aid in their blasphemy those who transgress the Faith, while minding and welcoming all the meaning in the word which can be reverently held. If indeed he had said that we ought not to think of the Deity as Ungenerate, there might have been some occasion for these and even worse terms of abuse to be used against him. But if he falls in with the general belief of the faithful and admits this, and then pronounces an opinion well worthy of the Master’s mind , viz., Refrain from the use of the word, for into it, and from it, the subverting heresy is fetched, and bids us cherish the idea of an ungenerate Deity by means of other names—therein he does not deserve their abuse. Are we not taught by the Truth Himself to act so, and not to cling even to things exceeding precious, if any of them tend to mischief? When He thus bids us to cut away the right eye or foot or hand, if so be that one of them offends, what else does He imply by this figure, than that He would have anything, however fair-seeming, if it leads a man by an inconsiderate use to evil, remain inoperative and out of use, assuring us that it is better for us to be saved by amputation of the parts which led to sin, than to perish by retaining them?
What, too, does Paul, the follower of Christ, say? He, too, in his deep wisdom teaches the same. He, who declares that everything is good, and nothing to be rejected, if it be received with thanks , on some occasions, because of the ‘conscience of the weak brother,’ puts some things back from the number which he has accepted, and commands us to decline them. If, he says, meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands 1 Corinthians 8:13 . Now this is just what our follower of Paul did. He saw that the deceiving power of those who try to teach the inequality of the Persons was increased by this word Ungenerate, taken in their mischievous, heretical sense, and so he advised that, while we cherish in our souls a devout consciousness of this ungenerate Deity, we should not show any particular love for the actual word, which was the occasion of sin to the reprobate; for that the title of Father, if we follow out all that it implies, will suggest to us this meaning of not having been generated. For when we hear the word Father, we think at once of the Author of all beings; for if He had some further cause transcending Himself, He would not have been called thus of proper right Father; for that title would have had to be transferred higher, to this pre-supposed Cause. But if He Himself is that Cause from which all comes, as the Apostle says, it is plain that nothing can be thought of beyond His existence. But this is to believe in that existence not having been generated. But this man, who claims that even the Truth shall not be considered more persuasive than himself, will not acquiesce in this; he loudly dogmatizes against it; he jeers at the argument.
38. Several ways of controverting his quibbling syllogisms.
Let us, if you please, examine his irrefragable syllogisms, and his subtle transpositions of the terms in his own false premisses, by which he hopes to shake that argument; though, indeed, I fear lest the miserable quibbling in what he says may in a measure raise a prejudice also against the remarks that would correct it. When striplings challenge to a fight, men get more blame for pugnaciousness in closing with such foes, than honour for their show of victory. Nevertheless, what we want to say is this. We think, indeed, that the things said by him, with that well-known elocution now familiar to us, only for the sake of being insolent, are better buried in silence and oblivion; they may suit him; but to us they afford only an exercise for much-enduring patience. Nor would it be proper, I think, to insert his ridiculous expressions in the midst of our own serious controversy, and so to make this zeal for the truth evaporate in coarse, vulgar laughter; for indeed to be within hearing, and to remain unmoved, is an impossibility, when he says with such sublime and magnificient verbosity, Where additional words amount to additional blasphemy, it is by half as much more tranquillizing to be silent than to speak. Let those laugh at these expressions who know which of them are fit to be believed, and which only to be laughed at; while we scrutinize the keenness of those syllogisms with which he tries to tear our system to pieces.
He says, If ‘Father’ is the same in meaning as ‘Ungenerate,’ and words which have the same meaning naturally have in every respect the same force, and Ungenerate signifies by their confession that God comes from nothing, it follows necessarily that Father signifies the fact of God being of none, and not the having generated the Son. Now what is this logical necessity which prevents the having generated a Son being signified by the title Father, if so be that that same title does in itself express to us as well the absence of beginning in the Father? If, indeed, the one idea was totally destructive of the other, it would certainly follow, from the very nature of contradictories , that the affirming of the one would involve the denial of the other. But if there is nothing in the world to prevent the same Existence from being Father and also Ungenerate, when we try to think, under this title of Father, of the quality of not having been generated as one of the ideas implied in it, what necessity prevents the relation to a Son being any longer marked by the word Father? Other names which express mutual relationship are not always confined to those ideas of relationship; for instance, we call the emperor autocrat and masterless, and we call the same the ruler of his subjects; and, while it is quite true that the word emperor signifies also the being masterless, it is not therefore necessary that this word, because signifying autocratic and unruled, must cease to imply the having power over inferiors; the word emperor, in fact, is midway between these two conceptions, and at one time indicates masterlessness, at another the ruling over lower orders. In the case before us, then, if there is some other Father conceivable besides the Father of Our Lord, let these men who boast of their profound wisdom show him to us, and then we will agree with him that the idea of the Ungenerate cannot be represented by the title Father. But if the First Father has no cause transcending His own state, and the subsistence of the Son is invariably implied in the title of Father, why do they try to scare us, as if we were children, with these professional twistings of premisses, endeavouring to persuade or rather to decoy us into the belief that, if the property of not having been generated is acknowledged in the title of Father, we must sever from the Father any relation with the Son.
Despising, then, this silly superficial attempt of theirs, let us manfully own our belief in that which they adduce as a monstrous absurdity, viz., that not only does the ‘Father’ mean the same as Ungenerate and that this last property establishes the Father as being of none, but also that the word ‘Father’ introduces with itself the notion of the Only-begotten, as a relative bound to it. Now the following passage, which is to be found in the treatise of our Teacher, has been removed from the context by this clever and invincible controversialist; for, by suppressing that part which was added by Basil by way of safeguard, he thought he would make his own reply a much easier task. The passage runs thus verbatim. For my part I should be inclined to say that this title of the Ungenerate, however readily it may seem to fall in with our own ideas, yet, as nowhere found in Scripture, and as forming the alphabet of Eunomius’ blasphemy, may very well be suppressed, when we have the word Father meaning the same thing, in addition to its introducing with itself, as a relative bound to it, the notion of the Son. This generous champion of the truth, with innate good feeling , has suppressed this sentence which was added by way of safeguard, I mean, in addition to introducing with itself, as a relative bound to it, the notion of the Son; after this garbling, he comes to close quarters with what remains, and having severed the connection of the living whole , and thus made it, as he thinks, a more yielding and assailable victim of his logic, he misleads his own party with the frigid and feeble paralogism, that that which has a common meaning, in one single point, with something else retains that community of meaning in every possible point; and with this he takes their shallow intelligences by storm. For while we have only affirmed that the word Father in a certain signification yields the same meaning as Ungenerate, this man makes the coincidence of meanings complete in every point, quite at variance therein with the common acceptation of either word; and so he reduces the matter to an absurdity, pretending that this word Father can no longer denote any relation to the Son, if the idea of not having been generated is conveyed by it. It is just as if some one, after having acquired two ideas about a loaf,— one, that it is made of flour, the other, that it is food to the consumer— were to contend with the person who told him this, using against him the same kind of fallacy as Eunomius does, viz., that ‘the being made of flour is one thing, but the being food is another; if, then, it is granted that the loaf is made of flour, this quality in it can no longer strictly be called food.’ Such is the thought in Eunomius’ syllogism; if the not having been generated is implied by the word Father, this word can no longer convey the idea of having generated the Son. But I think it is time that we, in our turn, applied to this argument of his that magnificently rounded period of his own (already quoted). In reply to such words, it would be suitable to say that he would have more claim to be considered in his sober senses, if he had put the limit to such argumentative safeguards at absolute silence. For where additional words amount to additional blasphemy, or, rather, indicate that he has utterly lost his reason, it is not only by half as much more, but by the whole as much more tranquillizing to be silent than to speak.
But perhaps a man would be more easily led into the true view by personal illustrations; so let us leave this looking backwards and forwards and this twisting of false premisses , and discuss the matter in a less learned and more popular way. Your father, Eunomius, was certainly a human being; but the same person was also the author of your being. Did you, then, ever use in his case too this clever quibble which you have employed; so that your own ‘father,’ when once he receives the true definition of his being, can no longer mean, because of being a ‘man,’ any relationship to yourself; ‘for he must be one of two things, either a man, or Eunomius’ father?’— Well, then, you must not use the names of intimate relationship otherwise than in accordance with that intimate meaning. Yet, though you would indict for libel any one who contemptuously scoffed against yourself, by means of such an alteration of meanings, are you not afraid to scoff against God; and are you safe when you laugh at these mysteries of our faith? As ‘your father’ indicates relationship to yourself, and at the same time humanity is not excluded by that term, and as no one in his sober senses instead of styling him who begot you ‘your father’ would render his description by the word ‘man,’ or, reversely, if asked for his genus and answering ‘man,’ would assert that that answer prevented him from being your father; so in the contemplation of the Almighty a reverent mind would not deny that by the title of Father is meant that He is without generation, as well as that in another meaning it represents His relationship to the Son. Nevertheless Eunomius, in open contempt of truth, does assert that the title cannot mean the ‘having begotten a son’ any longer, when once the word has conveyed to us the idea of ‘never having been generated.’
Let us add the following illustration of the absurdity of his assertions. It is one that all must be familiar with, even mere children who are being introduced under a grammar-tutor to the study of words. Who, I say, does not know that some nouns are absolute and out of all relation, others express some relationship. Of these last, again, there are some which incline, according to the speaker’s wish, either way; they have a simple intention in themselves, but can be turned so as to become nouns of relation. I will not linger among examples foreign to our subject. I will explain from the words of our Faith itself.
God is called Father and King and other names innumerable in Scripture. Of these names one part can be pronounced absolutely, i.e. simply as they are, and no more: viz.. imperishable, everlasting,immortal, and so on. Each of these, without our bringing in another thought, contains in itself a complete thought about the Deity. Others express only relative usefulness; thus, Helper, Champion, Rescuer, and other words of that meaning; if you remove thence the idea of one in need of the help, all the force expressed by the word is gone. Some, on the other hand, as we have said, are both absolute, and are also among the words of relation; ‘God,’ for instance, and ‘good,’ and many other such. In these the thought does not continue always within the absolute. The Universal God often becomes the property of him who calls upon Him; as the Saints teach us, when they make that independent Being their own. ‘The Lord God is Holy;’ so far there is no relation; but when one adds the Lord Our God, and so appropriates the meaning in a relation towards oneself, then one causes the word to be no longer thought of absolutely. Again; Abba, Father is the cry of the Spirit; it is an utterance free from any partial reference. But we are bidden to call the Father in heaven, ‘Our Father.’ this is the relative use of the word. A man who makes the Universal Deity his own, does not dim His supreme dignity; and in the same way there is nothing to prevent us, when we point out the Father and Him who comes from Him, the Firstborn before all creation, from signifying by that title of Father at one and the same time the having begotten that Son, and also the not being from any more transcendent Cause. For he who speaks of the First Father means Him who is presupposed before all existence, Whose is the beyond. This is He, Who has nothing previous to Himself to behold, no end in which He shall cease. Whichever way we look, He is equally existing there for ever; He transcends the limit of any end, the idea of any beginning, by the infinitude of His life; whatever be His title, eternity must be implied with it.
But Eunomius, versed as he is in the contemplation of that which eludes thought, rejects this view of unscientific minds; he will not admit a double meaning in the word ‘Father,’ the one, that from Him are all things and in the front of all things the Only-begotten Son, the other, that He Himself has no superior Cause. He may scorn the statement; but we will brave his mocking laugh, and repeat what we have said already, that the ‘Father’ is the same as that Ungenerate One, and both signifies the having begotten the Son, and represents the being from nothing.
But Eunomius, contending with this statement of ours, says (the very contrary now of what he said before), If God is Father because He has begotten the Son, and ‘Father’ has the same meaning as Ungenerate, God is Ungenerate because He has begotten the Son, but before He begot Him He was not Ungenerate. Observe his method of turning round; how he pulls his first quibble to pieces, and turns it into the very opposite, thinking even so to entrap us in a conclusion from which there is no escape. His first syllogism presented the following absurdity, If ‘Father’ means the coming from nothing, then necessarily it will no longer indicate the having begotten the Son. But this last syllogism, by turning (a premiss) into its contrary, threatens our faith with another absurdity. How, then, does he pull to pieces his former conclusion ? If He is ‘Father’ because He has begotten a Son. His first syllogism gave us nothing like that; on the contrary, its logical inference purported to show that if the Father’s not having been generated was meant by the word Father, that word could not mean as well the having begotten a Son. Thus his first syllogism contained no intimation whatever that God was Father because He had begotten a Son. I fail to understand what this argumentative and shrewdly professional reversal means.
But let us look to the thought in it below the words. ‘If God is Ungenerate because He has begotten a Son, He was not Ungenerate before He begot Him.’ The answer to that is plain; it consists in the simple statement of the Truth that ‘the word Father means both the having begotten a Son, and also that the Begetter is not to be thought of as Himself coming from any cause.’ If you look at the effect, the Person of the Son is revealed in the word Father; if you look for a previous Cause, the absence of any beginning in the Begetter is shown by that word. In saying that ‘Before He begot a Son, the Almighty was not Ungenerate,’ this pamphleteer lays himself open to a double charge; i.e. of misrepresentation of us, and of insult to the Faith. He attacks, as if there was no mistake about it, something which our Teacher never said, neither do we now assert, viz., that the Almighty became in process of time a Father, having been something else before. Moreover in ridiculing the absurdity of this fancied doctrine of ours, he proclaims his own wildness as to doctrine. Assuming that the Almighty was once something else, and then by an advance became entitled to be called Father, he would have it that before this He was not Ungenerate either, since Ungeneracy is implied in the idea of Father. The folly of this hardly needs to be pointed out; it will be abundantly clear to anyone who reflects. If the Almighty was something else before He became Father, what will the champions of this theory say, if they were asked in what state they propose to contemplate Him? What name are they going to give Him in that stage of existence; child, infant, babe, or youth? Will they blush at such flagrant absurdity, and say nothing like that, and concede that He was perfect from the first? Then how can He be perfect, while as yet unable to become Father? Or will they not deprive Him of this power, but say only that it was not fitting that there should be Fatherhood simultaneously with His existence. But if it was not good nor fitting that He should be from the very beginning Father of such a Son, how did He go on to acquire that which was not good?
But, as it is, it is good and fitting to God’s majesty that He should become Father of such a Son. So they will make out that at the beginning He had no share in this good thing, and as long as He did not have this Son they must assert (may God forgive me for saying it!) that He had no Wisdom, nor Power, nor Truth, nor any of the other glories which from various points of view the Only-begotten Son is and is called.
But let all this fall on the heads of those who started it. We will return whence we digressed. He says, if God is Father because of having begotten a Son, and if Father means the being Ungenerate, then God was not this last, before He begot. Now if he could speak here as it is customary to speak about human life, where it is inconceivable that any should acquire possession of many accomplishments all at once, instead of winning each of the objects sought after in a certain order and sequence of time— if I say we could reason like that in the case of the Almighty, so that we could say He possessed His Ungeneracy at one time, and after that acquired His power, and then His imperishability, and then His Wisdom, and advancing so became Father, and after that Just and then Everlasting, and so came into all that enters into the philosophical conception of Him, in a certain sequence— then it would not be so manifestly absurd to think that one of His names has precedence of another name, and to talk of His being first Ungenerate, and after that having become Father.
As it is, however, no one is so earth-bound in imagination, so uninitiated in the sublimities of our Faith, as to fail, when once he has apprehended the Cause of the universe, to embrace in one collective and compact whole all the attributes which piety can give to God; and to conceive instead of a primal and a later attribute, and of another in between, supervening in a certain sequence. It is not possible, in fact, to traverse in thought one among those attributes and then reach another, be it a reality or a conception, which is to transcend the first in antiquity. Every name of God, every sublime conception of Him, every utterance or idea that harmonizes with our general ideas with regard to Him, is linked in closest union with its fellow; all such conceptions are massed together in our understanding into one collective and compact whole namely, His Fatherhood, and Ungeneracy, and Power, and Imperishability, and Goodness, and Authority, and everything else. You cannot take one of these and separate it in thought from the rest by any interval of time, as if it preceded or followed something else; no sublime or adorable attribute in Him can be discovered, which is not simultaneously expressed in His everlastingness. Just, then, as we cannot say that God was ever not good, or powerful, or imperishable, or immortal, in the same way it is a blasphemy not to attribute to Him Fatherhood always, and to say that that came later. He Who is truly Father is always Father; if eternity was not included in this confession, and if a foolishly preconceived idea curtailed and checked retrospectively our conception of the Father, true Fatherhood could no longer be properly predicated of Him, because that preconceived idea about the Son would cancel the continuity and eternity of His Fatherhood. How could that which He is now called be thought of something which came into existence subsequent to these other attributes? If being first Ungenerate He then became Father, and received that name, He was not always altogether what He is now called. But that which the God now existing is He always is; He does not become worse or better by any addition, He does not become altered by taking something from another source. He is always identical with Himself. If, then, He was not Father at first, He was not Father afterwards. But if He is confessed to be Father (now), I will recur to the same argument, that, if He is so now, He always was so; and that if He always was, He always will be. The Father therefore is always Father; and seeing that the Son must always be thought of along with the Father (for the title of father cannot be justified unless there is a son to make it true), all that we contemplate in the Father is to be observed also in the Son. All that the Father has is the Son’s; and all that is the Son’s the Father has. The words are, ‘The Father has that which is the Son’s ,’ and so a carping critic will have no authority for finding in the contents of the word all the ungeneracy of the Son, when it is said that the Son has all that the Father has, nor on the other hand the generation of the Father, when all that is the Son’s is to be observed in the Father. For the Son has all the things of the Father; but He is not Father: and again, all the things of the Son are to be observed in the Father, but He is not a Son.
If, then, all that is the Father’s is in the Only-begotten, and He is in the Father, and the Fatherhood is not dissociated from the ‘not having been generated,’ I for my part cannot see what there is to think of in connection with the Father, by Himself, that is parted by any interval so as to precede our apprehension of the Son. Therefore we may boldly encounter the difficulties started in that quibbling syllogism; we may despise it as a mere scare to frighten children, and still assert that God is Holy, and Immortal, and Father, and Ungenerate, and Everlasting, and everything all at once; and that, if it could be supposed possible that you could withhold one of these attributes which devotion assigns to Him, all would be destroyed along with that one. Nothing, therefore, in Him is older or younger; else He would be found to be older or younger than Himself. If God is not all His attributes always, but something in Him is, and something else only becoming, following some order of sequence (we must remember God is not a compound; whatever He is is the whole of Him), and if according to this heresy He is first Ungenerate and afterwards becomes Father, then, seeing that we cannot think of Him in connection with a heaping together of qualities, there is no alternative but that the whole of Him must be both older and younger than the whole of Him, the former by virtue of His Ungeneracy, the latter by virtue of His Fatherhood. But if, as the prophet says of God , He is the same, it is idle to say that before He begot He was not Himself Ungenerate; we cannot find either of these names, the Father and the Ungenerate One, parted from the other; the two ideas rise together, suggested by each other, in the thoughts of the devout reasoner. God is Father from everlasting, and everlasting Father, and every other term that devotion assigns to Him is given in a like sense, the mensuration and the flow of time having no place, as we have said, in the Eternal.
Let us now see the remaining results of his expertness in dealing with words; results, which he himself truly says, are at once ridiculous and lamentable. Truly one must laugh outright at what he says, if a deep lament for the error that steeps his soul were not more fitting. Whereas Father, as we teach, includes, according to one of its meanings, the idea of the Ungenerate, he transfers the full signification of the word Father to that of the Ungenerate, and declares If Father is the same as Ungenerate, it is allowable for us to drop it, and use Ungenerate instead; thus, the Ungenerate of the Son is Ungenerate; for as the Ungenerate is Father of the Son, so reversely the Father is Ungenerate of the Son. After this a feeling of admiration for our friend’s adroitness steals over me, with the conviction that the many-sided subtlety of his theological training is quite beyond the capacity of most. What our Teacher said was embraced in one short sentence, to the effect that it was possible that by the title ‘Father’ the Ungeneracy could be signified; but Eunomius’ words depend for their number not on the variety of the thoughts, but on the way that anything within the circuit of similar names can be turned about. As the cattle that run blindfold round to turn the mill remain with all their travel in the same spot, so does he go round and round the same topic, and never leaves it. Once he said, ridiculing us, that ‘Father’ does not signify the having begotten, but the being from nothing. Again he wove a similar dilemma, If Father signifies Ungeneracy, before He begot He was not ungenerate. Then a third time he resorts to the same trick. It is allowable for us to drop Father, and to use Ungenerate instead; and then directly he repeats the logic so often vomited. For as the Ungenerate is Father of the Son, so reversely the Father is Ungenerate of the Son. How often he returns to his vomit; how often he blurts it out again! Shall we not, then, annoy most people, if we drag about our argument in company with this foolish display of words? It would be perhaps more decent to be silent in a case like this; still, lest any one should think that we decline discussion because we are weak in pleas, we will answer thus to what he has said. ‘You have no authority, Eunomius, for calling the Father the Ungenerate of the Son, even though the title Father doessignify that the Begetter was from no cause Himself. For as, to take the example already cited, when we hear the word ‘Emperor’ we understand two things, both that the one who is pre-eminent in authority is subject to none, and also that he controls his inferiors, so the title Father supplies us with two ideas about the Deity, one relating to His Son, the other to His being dependent on no preconceivable cause. As, then, in the case of ‘Emperor’ we cannot say that because the two things are signified by that term, viz., the ruling over subjects and the not having any to take precedence of him, there is any justification for speaking of the ‘Unruled of subjects,’ instead of the ‘Ruler of the nation,’ or allowing so much, that we may use such a juxtaposition of words, in imitation of king of a nation, as kingless of a nation, in the same way when ‘Father’ indicates a Son, and also represents the idea of the Ungenerate, we may not unduly transfer this latter meaning, so as to attach this idea of the Ungenerate fast to a paternal relationship, and absurdly say ‘the Ungenerate is Ungenerate of the Son.’
He treads on the ground of truth, he thinks, after such utterances; he has exposed the absurdity of his adversaries’ position; how boastfully he cries, And what sane thinker, pray, ever yet wanted the natural thought to be suppressed, and welcomed the paradoxical? No sane thinker, most accomplished sir; and therefore our argument neither, which teaches that while the term Ungenerate does suit our thoughts, and we ought to guard it in our hearts intact, yet the term Father is an adequate substitute for the one which you have perverted, and leads the mind in that direction. Remember the words which you yourself quoted; Basil did not ‘want the natural thought to be suppressed, and welcome the paradoxical,’ as you phrase it; but he advised us to avoid all danger by suppressing the mere word Ungenerate, that is, the expression in so many syllables, as one which had been evilly interpreted, and besides was not to be found in Scripture; as for its meaning he declares that it does most completely suit our thoughts.
Thus far for our statement. But this reviler of all quibblers, who completely arms his own argument with the truth, and arraigns our sins in logic, does not blush in any of his arguing on doctrines to indulge in very pretty quibbles; on a par with those exquisite jokes which are cracked to make people laugh at dessert. Reflect on the weight of reasoning displayed in that complicated syllogism; which I will now again repeat. If ‘Father’ is the same as Ungenerate, it is allowable for us to drop it, and use Ungenerate instead; thus, the Ungenerate is Ungenerate of the Son; for as the Ungenerate is Father of the Son, so, reversely, the Father is Ungenerate of the Son. Well, this is very like another case such as the following. Suppose some one were to state the right and sound view about Adam; namely, that it mattered not whether we called him father of mankind or the first man formed by God (for both mean the same thing), and then some one else, belonging to Eunomius’ school of reasoners, were to pounce upon this statement, and make the same complication out of it, viz.: If first man formed by God and father of mankind are the same things, it is allowable for us to drop the word father and use first formed instead; and say that Adam was the first formed, instead of the father, of Abel; for as the first formed was the father of a son, so, reversely, that father is the first formed of that son. If this had been said in a tavern, what laughter and applause would have broken from the tippling circle over so fine and exquisite a joke! These are the arguments on which our learned theologian leans; when he assails our doctrine, he really needs himself a tutor and a stick to teach him that all the things which are predicated of some one do not necessarily, in their meaning, have respect to one single object; as is plain from the aforesaid instance of Abel and Adam. That one and the same Adam is Abel’s father and also God’s handiwork is a truth; nevertheless it does not follow that, because he is both, he is both with respect to Abel. So the designation of the Almighty as Father has both the special meaning of that word, i.e., the having begotten a son, and also that of there being no preconceivable cause of the Very Father; nevertheless it does not follow that when we mention the Son we must speak of the Ungenerate, instead of the Father, of that Son; nor, on the other hand, if the absence of beginning remains unexpressed in reference to the Son, that we must banish from our thoughts about God that attribute of Ungeneracy. But he discards the usual acceptations, and like an actor in comedy, makes a joke of the whole subject, and by dint of the oddity of his quibbles makes the questions of our faith ridiculous. Again I must repeat his words: If Father is the same as Ungenerate, it is allowable for us to drop it, and use Ungenerate instead; thus, the Ungenerate is Ungenerate of the Son; for as the Ungenerate is Father of the Son, so, reversely, the Father is Ungenerate of the Son. But let us turn the laugh against him, by reversing his quibble; thus: If Father is not the same as Ungenerate, the Son of the Father will not be Son of the Ungenerate; for having relation to the Father only, he will be altogether alien in nature to that which is other than Father, and does not suit that idea; so that, if the Father is something other than the Ungenerate, and the title Father does not comprehend that meaning, the Son, being One, cannot be distributed between these two relationships, and be at the same time Son both of the Father and of the Ungenerate; and, as before it was an acknowledged absurdity to speak of the Deity as Ungenerate of the Son, so in this converse proposition it will be found an absurdity just as great to call the Only-begotten Son of the Ungenerate. So that he must choose one of two things; either the Father is the same as the Ungenerate (which is necessary in order that the Son of the Father may be Son of the Ungenerate as well); and then our doctrine has been ridiculed by him without reason; or, the Father is something different to the Ungenerate, and the Son of the Father is alienated from all relationship to the Ungenerate. But then, if it is thus to hold that the Only-begotten is not the Son of the Ungenerate, logic inevitably points to a generated Father; for that which exists, but does not exist without generation, must have a generated substance. If, then, the Father, being according to these men other than Ungenerate, is therefore generated, where is their much talked of Ungeneracy? Where is that basis and foundation of their heretical castle-building? The Ungenerate, which they thought just now that they grasped, has eluded them, and vanished quite beneath the action of a few barren syllogisms; their would-be demonstration of the Unlikeness, like a mere dream about something, slips away at the touch of criticism, and takes its flight along with this Ungenerate.
Thus it is that whenever a falsehood is welcomed in preference to the truth, it may indeed flourish for a little through the illusion which it creates, but it will soon collapse; its own methods of proof will dissolve it. But we bring this forward only to raise a smile at the very pretty revenge we might take on their Unlikeness. We must now resume the main thread of our discourse.
39. Answer to the question he is always asking, Can He who is be begotten?
Eunomius does not like the meaning of the Ungenerate to be conveyed by the term Father, because he wants to establish that there was a time when the Son was not. It is in fact a constant question among his pupils, How can He who (always) is be begotten? This comes, I take it, of not weaning oneself from the human application of words, when we have to think about God. But let us without bitterness at once expose the actual falseness of this ‘arrière pensée’ of his , stating first our conclusions upon the matter.
These names have a different meaning with us, Eunomius; when we come to the transcendent energies they yield another sense. Wide, indeed, is the interval in all else that divides the human from the divine; experience cannot point here below to anything at all resembling in amount what we may guess at and imagine there. So likewise, as regards the meaning of our terms, though there may be, so far as words go, some likeness between man and the Eternal, yet the gulf between these two worlds is the real measure of the separation of meanings. For instance, our Lord calls God a ‘man’ that was a ‘householder’ in the parable ; but though this title is ever so familiar to us, will the person we think of and the person there meant be of the same description; and will our ‘house’ be the same as that large house, in which, as the Apostle says, there are the vessels of gold, and those of silver 2 Timothy 2:20, and those of the other materials which are recounted? Or will not those rather be beyond our immediate apprehension and to be contemplated in a blessed immortality, while ours are earthern, and to dissolve to earth? So in almost all the other terms there is a similarity of names between things human and things divine, revealing nevertheless underneath this sameness a wide difference of meanings. We find alike in both worlds the mention of bodily limbs and senses; as with us, so with the life of God, which all allow to be above sense, there are set down in order fingers and arm and hand, eye and eyelids, hearing, heart, feet and sandals, horses, cavalry, and chariots; and other metaphors innumerable are taken from human life to illustrate symbolically divine things. As, then, each one of these names has a human sound, but not a human meaning, so also that of Father, while applying equally to life divine and human, hides a distinction between the uttered meanings exactly proportionate to the difference existing between the subjects of this title. We think of man’s generation one way; we surmise of the divine generation in another. A man is born in a stated time; and a particular place must be the receptacle of his life; without it it is not in nature that he should have any concrete substance: whence also it is inevitable that sections of time are found enveloping his life; there is a Before, and With, and After him. It is true to say of any one whatever of those born into this world that there was a time when he was not, that he is now, and again there will be time when he will cease to exist; but into the Eternal world these ideas of time do not enter; to a sober thinker they have nothing akin to that world. He who considers what the divine life really is will get beyond the ‘sometime,’ the ‘before,’ and the ‘after,’ and every mark whatever of this extension in time; he will have lofty views upon a subject so lofty; nor will he deem that the Absolute is bound by those laws which he observes to be in force in human generation.
Passion precedes the concrete existence of man; certain material foundations are laid for the formation of the living creature; beneath it all is Nature, by God’s will, with her wonder-working, putting everything under contribution for the proper proportion of nutrition for that which is to be born, taking from each terrestrial element the amount necessary for the particular case, receiving the co-operation of a measured time, and as much of the food of the parents as is necessary for the formation of the child: in a word Nature, advancing through all these processes by which a human life is built up, brings the non-existent to the birth; and accordingly we say that, non-existent once, it now is born; because, at one time not being, at another it begins to be. But when it comes to the Divine generation the mind rejects this ministration of Nature, and this fullness of time in contributing to the development, and everything else which our argument contemplated as taking place in human generation; and he who enters on divine topics with no carnal conceptions will not fall down again to the level of any of those debasing thoughts, but seeks for one in keeping with the majesty of the thing to be expressed; he will not think of passion in connection with that which is passionless, or count the Creator of all Nature as in need of Nature’s help, or admit extension in time into the Eternal life; he will see that the Divine generation is to be cleared of all such ideas, and will allow to the title ‘Father’ only the meaning that the Only-begotten is not Himself without a source, but derives from That the cause of His being; though, as for the actual beginning of His subsistence, he will not calculate that, because he will not be able to see any sign of the thing in question. ‘Older’ and ‘younger’ and all such notions are found to involve intervals of time; and so, when you mentally abstract time in general, all such indications are got rid of along with it.
Since, then, He who is with the Father, in some inconceivable category, before the ages admits not of a ‘sometime,’ He exists by generation indeed, but nevertheless He never begins to exist. His life is neither in time, nor in place. But when we take away these and all suchlike ideas in contemplating the subsistence of the Son, there is only one thing that we can even think of as before Him— i.e. the Father. But the Only-begotten, as He Himself has told us, is in the Father, and so, from His nature, is not open to the supposition that He ever existed not. If indeed the Father ever was not, the eternity of the Son must be cancelled retrospectively in consequence of this nothingness of the Father: but if the Father is always, how can the Son ever be non-existent, when He cannot be thought of at all by Himself apart from the Father, but is always implied silently in the name Father. This name in fact conveys the two Persons equally; the idea of the Son is inevitably suggested by that word. When was it, then, that the Son was not? In what category shall we detect His non-existence? In place? There is none. In time? Our Lord was before all times; and if so, when was He not? And if He was in the Father, in what place was He not? Tell us that, you who are so practised in seeing things out of sight. What kind of interval have your cogitations given a shape to? What vacancy in the Son, be it of substance or of conception, have you been able to think of, which shows the Father’s life, when drawn out in parallel, as surpassing that of the Only-begotten? Why, even of men we cannot say absolutely that any one was not, and then was born. Levi, many generations before his own birth in the flesh, was tithed by Melchisedech; so the Apostle says, Levi also, who receives tithes, payed tithes (in Abraham), adding the proof, for he was yet in the loins of his father, when Abraham met the priest of the Most High. If, then, a man in a certain sense is not, and is then born, having existed beforehand by virtue of kinship of substance in his progenitor, according to an Apostle’s testimony, how as to the Divine life do they dare to utter the thought that He was not, and then was begotten? For He ‘is in the Father,’ as our Lord has told us; I am in the Father, and the Father in Me John 10:38, each of course being in the other in two different senses; the Son being in the Father as the beauty of the image is to be found in the form from which it has been outlined; and the Father in the Son, as that original beauty is to be found in the image of itself. Now in all hand-made images the interval of time is a point of separation between the model and that to which it lends its form; but there the one cannot be separated from the other, neither the express image from the Person, to use the Apostle’s words Hebrews i, nor the brightness from the glory of God, nor the representation from the goodness; but when once thought has grasped one of these, it has admitted the associated Verity as well. Being, he says (not becoming), the brightness of His glory ; so that clearly we may rid ourselves for ever of the blasphemy which lurks in either of those two conceptions; viz., that the Only-begotten can be thought of as Ungenerate (for he says the brightness of His glory, the brightness coming from the glory, and not, reversely, the glory from the brightness); or that He ever began to be. For the word being is a witness that interprets to us the Son’s continuity and eternity and superiority to all marks of time.
What occasion, then, had our foes for proposing for the damage of our Faith that trifling question, which they think unanswerable and, so, a proving of their own doctrine, and which they are continually asking, namely, ‘whether One who is can be generated.’ We may boldly answer them at once, that He who is in the Ungenerate was generated from Him, and does derive His source from Him. ‘I live by the Father John 4:57:’ but it is impossible to name the ‘when’ of His beginning. When there is no intermediate matter, or idea, or interval of time, to separate the being of the Son from the Father, no symbol can be thought of, either, by which the Only-begotten can be unlinked from the Father’s life, and shown to proceed from some special source of His own. If, then, there is no other principle that guides the Son’s life, if there is nothing that a devout mind can contemplate before (but not divided from) the subsistence of the Son, but the Father only; and if the Father is without beginning or generation, as even our adversaries admit, how can He who can be contemplated only within the Father, who is without beginning, admit Himself of a beginning?
What harm, too, does our Faith suffer from our admitting those expressions of our opponents which they bring forward against us as absurd, when they ask ‘whether He which is can be begotten?’ We do not assert that this can be so in the sense in which Nicodemus put his offensive question John 3:4, wherein he thought it impossible that one who was in existence could come to a second birth: but we assert that, having His existence attached to an Existence which is always and is without beginning, and accompanying every investigator into the antiquities of time, and forestalling the curiosity of thought as it advances into the world beyond, and intimately blended as He is with all our conceptions of the Father, He has no beginning of His existence any more than He is Ungenerate: but He was both begotten and was, evincing on the score of causation generation from the Father, but by virtue of His everlasting life repelling any moment of non-existence.
But this thinker in his exceeding subtlety contravenes this statement; he sunders the being of the Only-begotten from the Father’s nature, on the ground of one being Generated, the other Ungenerate; and although there are such a number of names which with reverence may be applied to the Deity, and all of them suitable to both Persons equally, he pays no attention to anyone of them, because these others indicate that in which Both participate; he fastens on the name Ungenerate, and that alone; and even of this he will not adopt the usual and approved meaning; he revolutionizes the conception of it, and cancels its common associations. Whatever can be the reason of this? For without some very strong one he would not wrest language away from its accepted meaning, and innovate by changing the signification of words. He knows perfectly well that if their meaning was confined to the customary one he would have no power to subvert the sound doctrine; but that if such terms are perverted from their common and current acceptation, he will be able to spoil the doctrine along with the word. For instance (to come to the actual words which he misuses), if, according to the common thinking of our Faith he had allowed that God was to be called Ungenerate only because He was never generated, the whole fabric of his heresy would have collapsed, with the withdrawal of his quibbling about this Ungenerate. If, that is, he was to be persuaded, by following out the analogy of almost all the names of God in use for the Church, to think of the God over all as Ungenerate, just as He is invisible, and passionless, and immaterial; and if he was agreed that in every one of these terms there was signified only that which in no way belongs to God— body, for instance, and passion and colour, and derivation from a cause— then, if his view of the case had been like that, his party’s tenet of the Unlikeness would lose its meaning; for in all else (except the Ungeneracy) that is conceived concerning the God of all even these adversaries allow the likeness existing between the Only-begotten and the Father. But to prevent this, he puts the term Ungenerate in front of all these names indicating God’s transcendent nature; and he makes this one a vantage-ground from which he may sweep down upon our Faith; he transfers the contrariety between the actual expressions ‘Generated’ and ‘Ungenerate’ to the Persons themselves to whom these words apply; and thereby, by this difference between the words he argues by a quibble for a difference between the Beings; not agreeing with us that Generated is to be used only because the Son was generated, and Ungenerate because the Father exists without having been generated; but affirming that he thinks the former has acquired existence by having been generated; though what sort of philosophy leads him to such a view I cannot understand. If one were to attend to the mere meanings of those words by themselves, abstracting in thought those Persons for whom the names are taken to stand, one would discover the groundlessness of these statements of theirs. Consider, then, not that, in consequence of the Father being a conception prior to the Son (as the Faith truly teaches), the order of the names themselves must be arranged so as to correspond with the value and order of that which underlies them; but regard them alone by themselves, to see which of them (the word, I repeat, not the Reality which it represents) is to be placed before the other as a conception of our mind; which of the two conveys the assertion of an idea, which the negation of the same; for instance (to be clear, I think similar pairs of words will give my meaning), Knowledge, Ignorance— Passion, Passionlessness— and suchlike contrasts, which of them possess priority of conception before the others? Those which posit the negation, or those which posit the assertion of the said quality? I take it the latter do so. Knowledge, anger, passion, are conceived of first; and then comes the negation of these ideas. And let no one, in his excess of devotion , blame this argument, as if it would put the Son before the Father. We are not making out that the Son is to be placed in conception before the Father, seeing that the argument is discriminating only the meanings of ‘Generated,’ and ‘Ungenerate.’ So Generation signifies the assertion of some reality or some idea; while Ungeneracysignifies its negation; so that there is every reason that Generation must be thought of first. Why, then, do they insist herein on fixing on the Father the second, in order of conception, of these two names; why do they keep on thinking that a negation can define and can embrace the whole substance of the term in question, and are roused to exasperation against those who point out the groundlessness of their arguments?
40. His unsuccessful attempt to be consistent with his own statements after Basil has confuted him.
For notice how bitter he is against one who did detect the rottenness and weakness of his work of mischief; how he revenges himself all he can, and that is only by abuse and vilification: in these, however, he possesses abundant ability. Those who would give elegance of style to a discourse have a way of filling out the places that want rhythm with certain conjunctive particles , whereby they introduce more euphony and connection into the assembly of their phrases; so does Eunomius garnish his work with abusive epithets in most of his passages, as though he wished to make a display of this overflowing power of invective. Again we are ‘fools,’ again we ‘fail in correct reasoning,’ and ‘meddle in the controversy without the preparation which its importance requires,’ and ‘miss the speaker’s meaning.’ Such, and still more than these, are the phrases used of our Master by this decorous orator. But perhaps after all there is good reason in his anger; and this pamphleteer is justly indignant. For why should Basil have stung him by thus exposing the weakness of this teaching of his? Why should he have uncovered to the sight of the simpler brethren the blasphemy veiled beneath his plausible sophistries? Why should he not have let silence cover the unsoundness of this view? Why gibbet the wretched man, when he ought to have pitied him, and kept the veil over the indecency of his argument? He actually finds out and makes a spectacle of one who has somehow got to be admired among his private pupils for cleverness and shrewdness! Eunomius had said somewhere in his works that the attribute of being ungenerate follows the deity. Our Master remarked upon this phrase of his that a thing which follows must be among the externals, whereas the actual Being is not one of these, but indicates the very existence of anything, so far as it does exist. Then this gentle yet unconquerable opponent is furious, and pours along a copious stream of invective, because our Master, on hearing that phrase, apprehended the sense of it as well. But what did he do wrong, if he firmly insisted only upon the meaning of your own writings. If indeed he had seized illogically on what was said, all that you say would be true, and we should have to ignore what he did; but seeing that you are blushing at his reproof, why do you not erase the word from your pamphlet, instead of abusing the reprover? ‘Yes, but he did not understand the drift of the argument. Well, how do we do wrong, if being human, we guessed at the meaning from your actual words, having no comprehension of that which was buried in your heart? It is for God to see the inscrutable, and to inspect the characters of that which we have no means of comprehending, and to be cognizant of unlikeness in the invisible world. We can only judge by what we hear.
41. The thing that follows is not the same as the thing that it follows.
He first says, the attribute of being ungenerate follows the Deity. By that we understood him to mean that this Ungeneracy is one of the things external to God. Then he says, Or rather this Ungeneracy is His actual being. We fail to understand the ‘sequitur’ of this; we notice in fact something very queer and incongruous about it. If Ungeneracy follows God, and yet also constitutes His being, two beings will be attributed to one and the same subject in this view; so that God will be in the same way as He was before and has always been believed to be , but besides that will have another being accompanying, which they style Ungeneracy, quite distinct from Him Whose ‘following’ it is, as our Master puts it. Well, if he commands us to think so, he must pardon our poverty of ideas, in not being able to follow out such subtle speculations.
But if he disowns this view, and does not admit a double being in the Deity, one represented by the godhead, the other by the ungeneracy, let our friend, who is himself neither ‘rash’ nor ‘malignant,’ prevail upon himself not to be over partial to invective while these combats for the truth are being fought, but to explain to us, who are so wanting in culture, how that which follows is not one thing and that which leads another, but how both coalesce into one; for, in spite of what he says in defence of his statement, the absurdity of it remains; and the addition of that handful of words does not correct, as he asserts, the contradiction in it. I have not yet been able to see that any explanation at all is discoverable in them. But we will give what he has written verbatim. We say, ‘or rather the Ungeneracy is His actual being,’ without meaning to contract into the being that which we have proved to follow it, but applying ‘follow’ to the title, but is to the being. Accordingly when these things are taken together, the whole resulting argument would be, that the title Ungenerate follows, because to be Ungenerate is His actual being. But what expounder of this expounding shall we get? He says without meaning to contract into the being that which we have proved to follow it. Perhaps some of the guessers of riddles might tell us that by ‘contract into’ he means ‘fastening together.’ But who can see anything intelligible or coherent in the rest? The results of ‘following’ belong, he tells us, not to the being, but to the title. But, most learned sir, what is the title? Is it in discord with the being, or does it not rather coincide with it in the thinking? If the title is inappropriate to the being, then how can the being be represented by the title; but if, as he himself phrases it, the being is fittingly defined by the title of Ungenerate, how can there be any parting of them after that? You make the name of the being follow one thing and the being itself another. And what then is the ‘construction of the entire view?’ The title Ungenerate follows God, seeing that He Himself is Ungenerate. He says that there ‘follows’ God, Who is something other than that which is Ungenerate, this very title. Then how can he place the definition of Godhead within the Ungeneracy? Again, he says that this title ‘follows’ God as existing without a previous generation. Who will solve us the mystery of such riddles? ‘Ungenerate’ preceding and then following; first a fittingly attached title of the being, and then following like a stranger! What, too, is the cause or this excessive flutter about this name; he gives to it the whole contents of godhead ; as if there will be nothing wanting in our adoration, if God be so named; and as if the whole system of our faith will be endangered, if He is not? Now, if a brief statement about this should not be deemed superfluous and irrelevant, we will thus explain the matter.
42. Explanation of ‘Ungenerate,’ and a ‘study’ of Eternity.
The eternity of God’s life, to sketch it in mere outline, is on this wise. He is always to be apprehended as in existence; He admits not a time when He was not, and when He will not be. Those who draw a circular figure in plane geometry from a centre to the distance of the line of circumference tell us there is no definite beginning to their figure; and that the line is interrupted by no ascertained end any more than by any visible commencement: they say that, as it forms a single whole in itself with equal radii on all sides, it avoids giving any indication of beginning or ending. When, then, we compare the Infinite being to such a figure, circumscribed though it be, let none find fault with this account; for it is not on the circumference, but on the similarity which the figure bears to the Life which in every direction eludes the grasp, that we fix our attention when we affirm that such is our intuition of the Eternal. From the present instant, as from a centre and a point, we extend thought in all directions, to the immensity of that Life. We find that we are drawn round uninterruptedly and evenly, and that we are always following a circumference where there is nothing to grasp; we find the divine life returning upon itself in an unbroken continuity, where no end and no parts can be recognized. Of God’s eternity we say that which we have heard from prophecy ; viz.. that God is a king of old, and rules for ages, and for ever, and beyond. Therefore we define Him to be earlier than any beginning, and exceeding any end. Entertaining, then, this idea of the Almighty, as one that is adequate, we express it by two titles; i.e., ‘Ungenerate’ and ‘Endless’ represent this infinitude and continuity and ever-lastingness of the Deity. If we adopted only one of them for our idea, and if the remaining one was dropped, our meaning would be marred by this omission; for it is impossible with either one of them singly to express the notion residing in each of the two; but when one speaks of the ‘endless,’ only the absence as regards an end has been indicated, and it does not follow that any hint has been given about a beginning; while, when one speaks of the ‘Unoriginate ,’ the fact of being beyond a beginning has been expressed, but the case as regards an end has been left quite doubtful.
Seeing, then, that these two titles equally help to express the eternity of the divine life, it is high time to inquire why our friends cut in two the complete meaning of this eternity, and declare that the one meaning, which is the negation of beginning, constitutes God’s being (instead of merely forming part of the definition of eternity ), while they consider the other, which is the negation of end, as among the externals of that being. It is difficult to see the reason for thus assigning the negation of beginning to the realm of being, while they banish the negation of end outside that realm. The two are our conceptions of the same thing; and, therefore, either both should be admitted to the definition of being, or, if the one is to be judged inadmissible, the other should be rejected also. If, however, they are determined thus to divide the thought of eternity, and to make the one fall within the realm of that being, and to reckon the other with the non-realities of Deity (for the thoughts which they adopt on this subject are grovelling, and, like birds who have shed their feathers, they are unable to soar into the sublimities of theology), I would advise them to reverse their teaching, and to count the unending as being, overlooking the unoriginate rather, and assigning the palm to that which is future and excites hope, rather than to that which is past and stale. Seeing, I say (and I speak thus owing to their narrowness of spirit, and lower the discussion to the level of a child’s conception), the past period of his life is nothing to him who has lived it, and all his interest is centred on the future and on that which can be looked forward to, that which has no end will have more value than that which has no beginning. So let our thoughts upon the divine nature be worthy and exalted ones; or else, if they are going to judge of it according to human tests, let the future be more valued by them than the past, and let them confine the being of the Deity to that, since time’s lapse sweeps away with it all existence in the past, whereas expected existence gains substance from our hope.
Now I broach these ridiculously childish suggestions as to children sitting in the market-place and playing Luke 7:32; for when one looks into the grovelling earthliness of their heretical teaching it is impossible to help falling into a sort of sportive childishness. It would be right, however, to add this to what we have said, viz., that, as the idea of eternity is completed only by means of both (as we have already argued), by the negation of a beginning and also by that of an end, if they confine God’s being to the one, their definition of this being will be manifestly imperfect and curtailed by half; it is thought of only by the absence of beginning, and does not contain the absence of end within itself as an essential element. But if they do combine both negations, and so complete their definition of the being of God, observe, again, the absurdity that is at once apparent in this view; it will be found, after all their efforts, to be at variance not only with the Only-begotten, but with itself. The case is clear and does not require much dwelling upon. The idea of a beginning and the idea of an end are opposed each to each; the meanings of each differ as widely as the other diametric oppositions , where there is no half-way proposition below. If any one is asked to define ‘beginning,’ he will not give a definition the same as that of end; but will carry his definition of it to the opposite extremity. Therefore also the two contraries of these will be separated from each other by the same distance of opposition; and that which is without beginning, being contrary to that which is to be seen by a beginning, will be a very different thing from that which is endless, or the negation of end. If, then, they import both these attributes into the being of God, I mean the negations of end and of beginning, they will exhibit this Deity of theirs as a combination of two contradictory and discordant things, because the contrary ideas to beginning and end reproduce on their side also the contradiction existing between beginning and end. Contraries of contradictories are themselves contradictory of each other. In fact, it is always a true axiom, that two things which are naturally opposed to two things mutually opposite are themselves opposed to each other; as we may see by example. Water is opposed to fire; therefore also the forces destructive of these are opposed to each other; if moistness is apt to extinguish fire, and dryness is apt to destroy water, the opposition of fire to water is continued in those qualities themselves which are contrary to them; so that dryness is plainly opposed to moistness. Thus, when beginning and end have to be placed (diametrically) opposite each other , the terms contrary to these also contradict each other in their meaning, I mean, the negations of end and of beginning. Well, then, if they determine that one only of these negations is indicative of the being (to repeat my former assertion), they will bear evidence to half only of God’s existence, confining it to the absence of beginning, and refusing to extend it to the absence of end; whereas, if they import both into their definition of it, they will actually exhibit it so as a combination of contradictions in the way that has been said; for these two negations of beginning and of end, by virtue of the contradiction existing between beginning and end, will part it asunder. So their Deity will be found to be a sort of patchwork compound, a conglomerate of contradictions.
But there is not, neither shall there be, in the Church of God a teaching such as that, which can make One who is single and incomposite not only multiform and patchwork, but also the combination of opposites. The simplicity of the True Faith assumes God to be that which He is, viz., incapable of being grasped by any term, or any idea, or any other device of our apprehension, remaining beyond the reach not only of the human but of the angelic and of all supramundane intelligence, unthinkable, unutterable, above all expression in words, having but one name that can represent His proper nature, the single name of being ‘Above every name ‘; which is granted to the Only-begotten also, because all that the Father has is the Son’s. The orthodox theory allows these words, I mean Ungenerate, Endless, to be indicative of God’s eternity, but not of His being; so that Ungenerate means that no source or cause lies beyond Him, and Endless means that His kingdom will be brought to a standstill in no end. You are the same, the prophet says, and Your years shall not fail , showing by art that He subsists out of no cause, and by the words following, that the blessedness of His life is ceaseless and unending.
But, perhaps, some one among even very religious people will pause over these investigations of ours upon God’s eternity, and say that it will be difficult from what we have said for the Faith in the Only-begotten to escape unhurt. Of two unacceptable doctrines, he will say, our account must inevitably be brought into contact with one. Either we shall make out that the Son is Ungenerate, which is absurd; or else we shall deny Him Eternity altogether, a denial which that fraternity of blasphemers make their specialty. For if Eternity is characterized by having no beginning and end, it is inevitable either that we must be impious and deny the Son Eternity, or that we must be led in our secret thoughts about Him into the idea of Ungeneracy. What, then, shall we answer? That if, in conceiving of the Father before the Son on the single score of causation, we inserted any mark of time before the subsistence of the Only-begotten, the belief which we have in the Son’s eternity might with reason be said to be endangered. But, as it is, the Eternal nature, equally in the case of the Father’s and the Son’s life, and, as well, in what we believe about the Holy Ghost, admits not of the thought that it will ever cease to be; for where time is not, the when is annihilated with it. And if the Son, always appearing with the thought of the Father, is always found in the category of existence, what danger is there in owning the Eternity of the Only-begotten, Who has neither beginning of days, nor end of life Hebrews 7:3 . For as He is Light from Light, Life from Life, Good from Good, and Wise, Just, Strong, and all else in the same way, so most certainly is He Eternal from Eternal.
But a lover of controversial wrangling catches up the argument, on the ground that such a sequence would make Him Ungenerate from Ungenerate. Let him, however, cool his combative heart, and insist upon the proper expressions, for in confessing His ‘coming from the Father?’ he has banished all ideas of Ungeneracy as regards the Only-begotten; and there will be then no danger in pronouncing Him Eternal and yet not Ungenerate. On the one hand, because the existence of the Son is not marked by any intervals of time, and the infinitude of His life flows back before the ages and onward beyond them in an all-pervading tide, He is properly addressed with the title of Eternal; again, on the other hand, because the thought of Him as Son in fact and title gives us the thought of the Father as inalienably joined to it, He thereby stands clear of an ungenerate existence being imputed to Him, while He is always with a Father Who always is, as those inspired words of our Master expressed it, bound by way of generation to His Father’s Ungeneracy. Our account of the Holy Ghost will be the same also; the difference is only in the place assigned in order. For as the Son is bound to the Father, and, while deriving existence from Him, is not substantially after Him, so again the Holy Spirit is in touch with the Only-begotten, Who is conceived of as before the Spirit’s subsistence only in the theoretical light of a cause. Extensions in time find no admittance in the Eternal Life; so that, when we have removed the thought of cause, the HolyTrinity in no single way exhibits discord with itself; and to It is glory due.