Chapter V. Argument.—If We Regard the Anger, and Indignation, and Hatred of God Described in the Sacred Pages, We Must Remember that They are Not to Be Understood as Bearing the Character of Human Vices.
Moreover, if we read of His wrath, and consider certain descriptions of His indignation, and learn that hatred is asserted of Him, yet we are not to understand these to be asserted of Him in the sense in which they are human vices. For all these things, although they may corrupt man, cannot at all corrupt the divine power. For such passions as these will rightly be said to be in men, and will not rightly be judged to be in God. For man may be corrupted by these things, because he can be corrupted; God may not be corrupted by them, because He cannot be corrupted. These things, forsooth, have their force which they may exercise, but only where a material capable of impression precedes them, not where a substance that cannot be impressed precedes them. For that God is angry, arises from no vice in Him. But He is so for our advantage; for He is merciful even then when He threatens, because by these threats men are recalled to rectitude. For fear is necessary for those who want the motive to a virtuous life, that they who have forsaken reason may at least be moved by terror. And thus all those, either angers of God or hatreds, or whatever they are of this kind, being dis- played for our medicine,—as the case teaches,—have arisen of wisdom, not from vice, nor do they originate from frailty; wherefore also they cannot avail for the corruption of God. For the diversity in us of the materials of which we consist, is accustomed to arouse the discord of anger which corrupts us; but this, whether of nature or of defect, cannot subsist in God, seeing that He is known to be constructed assuredly of no associations of bodily parts. For He is simple and without any corporeal commixture, being wholly of that essence, which, whatever it be,—He alone knows,—constitutes His being, since He is called Spirit. And thus those things which in men are faulty and corrupting, since they arise from the corruptibility of the body, and matter itself, in God cannot exert the force of corruptibility, since, as we have said, they have come, not of vice, but of reason.
Chapter VI. Argument.—And That, Although Scripture Often Changes the Divine Appearance into a Human Form, Yet the Measure of the Divine Majesty is Not Included Within These Lineaments of Our Bodily Nature.
And although the heavenly Scripture often turns the divine appearance into a human form,—as when it says, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous;” or when it says, “The Lord God smelled the smell of a good savour;” or when there are given to Moses the tables “written with the finger of God;” or when the people of the children of Israel are set free from the land of Egypt “with a mighty hand and with a stretched out arm;” or when it says, “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things;” or when the earth is set forth as “God’s footstool;” or when it says, “Incline thine ear, and hear,”—we who say that the law is spiritual do not include within these lineaments of our bodily nature any mode or figure of the divine majesty, but diffuse that character of unbounded magnitude (so to speak) over its plains without any limit. For it is written, “If I shall ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I shall descend into hell, Thou art there also; and if I shall take my wings, and go away across the sea, there Thy hand shall lay hold of me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” For we recognise the plan of the divine Scripture according to the proportion of its arrangement. For the prophet then was still speaking about God in parables according to the period of the faith, not as God was, but as the people were able to receive Him. And thus, that such things as these should be said about God, must be imputed not to God, but rather to the people. Thus the people are permitted to erect a tabernacle, and yet God is not contained within the enclosure of a tabernacle. Thus a temple is reared, and yet God is not at all bounded within the restraints of a temple. It is not therefore God who is limited, but the perception of the people is limited; nor is God straitened, but the understanding of the reason of the people is held to be straitened. Finally, in the Gospel the Lord said, “The hour shall come when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father;” and gave the reasons, saying, “God is a Spirit; and those therefore who worship, must worship in spirit and in truth.” Thus the divine agencies are there5049 exhibited by means of members; it is not the appearance of God nor the bodily lineaments that are described. For when the eyes are spoken of, it is implied that He sees all things; and when the ear, it is set forth that He hears all things; and when the finger, a certain energy of His will is opened up; and when the nostrils, His recognition of prayers is shown forth as of odours; and when the hand, it is proved that He is the author of every creature; and when the arm, it is announced that no nature can withstand the power of His arm; and when the feet it is unfolded that He fills all things, and that there is not any place where God is not. For neither members nor the offices of members are needful to Him to whose sole judgment, even unexpressed, all things serve and are present. For why should He require eyes who is Himself the light? or why should He ask for feet who is everywhere? or why should He wish to go when there is nowhere where He can go beyond Himself? or why should He seek for hands whose will is, even when silent, the architect for the foundation of all things? He needs no ears who knows the wills that are even unexpressed; or for what reason should He need a tongue whose thought is a command? These members assuredly were necessary to men, but not to God, because man’s design would be ineffectual if the body did not fulfil the thought. Moreover, they are not needful to God, whose will the works attend not so much without any effort, as that the works themselves proceed simultaneously with the will. Moreover, He Himself is all eye, because He all sees; and all ear, because He all hears; and all hand, because He all works; and all foot, because He all is everywhere. For He is the same, whatever it is. He is all equal, and all everywhere. For He has not in Him any diversity in Himself, being simple. For those are the things which are reduced to diversity of members, which arise from birth and go to dissolution. But things which are not concrete cannot be conscious of these things. And what is immortal, whatever it is, that very thing is one and simple, and for ever. And thus because it is one it cannot be dissolved; since whatever is that very thing which is placed beyond the claim of dissolution, it is freed from the laws of death.
Chapter VII. Argument.—Moreover, that When God is Called a Spirit, Brightness, and Light, God is Not Sufficiently Expressed by Those Appellations.
But when the Lord says that God is a Spirit, I think that Christ spoke thus of the Father, as wishing that something still more should be understood than merely that God is a Spirit. For although, in His Gospel, He is reasoning for the purpose of giving to men an increase of intelligence, nevertheless He Himself speaks to men concerning God, in such a way as they can as yet hear and receive; although, as we have said, He is now endeavouring to give to His hearers religious additions to their knowledge of God. For we find it to be written that God is called Love, and yet from this the substance of God is not declared to be Love; and that He is called Light, while in this is not the substance of God. But the whole that is thus said of God is as much as can be said, so that reasonably also, when He is called a Spirit, it is not all that He is which is so called; but so that, while men’s mind by understanding makes progress even to the Spirit itself, being already changed in spirit, it may conjecture God to be something even greater through the Spirit. For that which is, according to what it is, can neither be declared by human discourse, nor received by human ears, nor gathered by human perceptions. For if “the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him, neither eye hath seen, nor ear hath heard, nor the heart of man, nor even his mind has perceived;” what and how great is He Himself who promises these things, in understanding which both the mind and nature of man have failed! Finally, if you receive the Spirit as the substance of God, you will make God a creature. For every spirit is a creature. And therefore, then, God will be made. In which manner also, if, according to Moses, you should receive God to be fire, in saying that He is a creature, you will have declared what is ordained, you will not have taught who is its ordainer. But these things are rather used as figures than as being so in fact. For as, in the Old Testament,5052 God is for this reason called Fire, that fear may be struck into the hearts of a sinful people, by suggesting to them a Judge; so in the New Testament He is announced as Spirit, that, as the Renewer and Creator of those who are dead in their sins, He may be attested by this goodness of mercy granted to those that believe.