Page images

concur with the reason. Gregory Nazianzen lays down the same doctrine with an explanation, in the following sentence: “It is plain," he says, “that the things, of which the Father designs in Him the forms, these the Word executes; not as a servant, nor unskilfully, but with full knowledge and a master's power, and, to speak more suitably, as if He were the Father.”

Such is the Scriptural and Catholic sense of the word Son; on the other hand, it is easy to see what was the defect of this image, and the consequent danger in the use of it. First, there was an appearance of materiality, the more suspiciously to be viewed because there were heresies at the time which denied or neglected the spiritual nature of Almighty God. Next, too marked a distinction seemed to be drawn between the Father and Son, tending to give a separate individuality to each, and so to introduce a kind of ditheism; and here too heresy and philosophy had prepared the way for the introduction of the error. The Valentinians and Mani. chees are chargeable with both misconceptions. The Eclectics, with the latter; being Emanatists, they seem to have considered the Son to be both individually distinct from the Father, and of an inferior nature. Against these errors we have the following among other protests. Tertullian

- We declare that two are revealed as God in Scripture, two as Lord; but we explain ourselves, lest offence should be taken. They are not called two, in respect of their both being God, or Lord, but in respect of their being Father and Son; and this moreover, not from any division of substance, but from mutual relation, since we pronounce the Son to be individual with and inseparable from the Father 8.” Origen also, commenting upon the word “ brightness", in the first chapter of the Hebrews, says, “Holy Scripture endeavours to give to men a refined perception of its teaching, by introducing the illustration of breath. It has selected this material image, in order to our understanding even in some degree, how Christ, who is Wisdom, issues, as though Breath, from the perfection of God Himself. . . . . In like manner from the analogy of material objects, He is called a pure and perfect Emanation of the Almighty glory. Both these resemblances most clearly show the fellowship of nature between the Son and Father. For an emanation seems to be of one substance with that body of which it is the emanation or breath”.” And to guard still more strongly against any misconception of the real drift of the illustration, he cautions his readers against “those absurd fictions which give the notion of certain literal extensions in the Divine Nature ; as if they would distribute it into parts, and divide God the Father, if they could; whereas to entertain even the light suspicion of this, is not only an extreme impiety, but an utter folly also, nay not even intelligible at all, that an incorporeal nature should be capable of divisions.”


? Bull, Defens. ii. 13, § 10. [Greg. Orat. xxx. 11. For the subordination of mediatorship, vid. Atlan. Orat. iv. 6.]

3 Bull, Defens. ii. 4, § 3. 7, § 5. Petav. i. 4, § 1.
4 απαύγασμα.
5 åtuis, Wisd. vii. 25.
6 απόρροια, ibid.

7 In like manner Justin, after saying that the Divine Power called the Word is born from the Father, adds, “ but not by separation from Him (kar' årotounu) as if the Father lost part of Himself, as corporeal substances are not the same before and after separation.” [Tryph. 128.] “ The Son of God,” says Clement, “never relinquishes His place of watch, not parted or separated off, not passing from place to place, but always every where, illimitable, all intellect, all the light of the Father, all eye, all-seeing, all-hearing, all-knowing, searching the powers with His power.” [Strom. vii. 2.]


To meet more fully this misconception to which the word Son gave rise, the ancient Fathers availed themselves of the other chief appellation given to our Lord in Scripture. The Logos or Sophia, the Word, Reason, or Wisdom of God, is only by St. John distinctly applied to Christ; but both before his time and by his contemporary Apostles it is used in that ambiguous sense, half literal, half evangelical, which, when it is once known to belong to our Lord, guides us to the right interpretation of the metaphor. For instance, when St. Paul declares that “ the Word of God is alive and active, and keener than a two-edged sword, and so piercing as to separate soul and spirit, joints and nerves, and a judge of our thoughts and designs, and a witness of every creature," it is scarcely possible to decide whether the revealed law of God be spoken of, or the Eternal Son. On the whole it would appear that our Lord is called the Word or Wisdom of God in two respects; first, to denote His essential presence in the Father, in as full a sense as the attribute of wisdom is essential to Him ; secondly, His mediatorship, as the Interpreter or Word between God and His creatures. No appellation, surely, could have been more appositely bestowed, in order to counteract the notions of materiality and of distinct individuality, and of beginning of existence, which the title of the Son was likely to introduce into the Catholic doctrine. Accordingly, after the words lately cited, Origen uses it (or a metaphor like it) for this very purpose. Having mentioned the absurd idea, which had prevailed, of parts or extensions in the Divine Nature, he proceeds: “Rather, as will proceeds out of the mind, and neither tears the mind, nor is itself separated or divided from it, in some such manner must we conceive that the Father has begotten the Son, who is His Image.” Elsewhere he says, “ It were impious and perilous, merely because our intellect is weak, to deprive God, as far as our words go, of His only-begotten co-eternal Word, viz. the 'wisdom in which He rejoiced.' We might as well conceive that He was not for ever in joyo.” Hence it was usual to declare that to deny the eternity of our Lord was all one as saying that Almighty God was once without intelligence': for instance, Athenagoras says, that the Son is “the firstborn of the Father; not as made, for God being Mind Eternal, had from the beginning reason in Himself, being eternally intellectual; but as issuing forth upon the chaotic mass as the Idea and Agent of creation?." The same interpretation of the sacred figure is continued after the Nicene Council ; thus Basil says, “If Christ be the Power of God, and the Wisdom, and these be increate and co-eternal with God, (for He never was without wisdom and power,) then, Christ is increate and coeternal with God.”

8 Bull, Defens. ii. 9, § 19.

9 Bull, Defens. iii. 3, § 1. 1 άλογος.

2 Bull, Defens. iii. 5, 8 2, τον λόγον ... λογικός .... προελθόν ... ιδέα και ενέργεια. .

But here again the metaphor was necessarily imperfect; and, if pursued, open to misconception. Its obvious tendency was to obliterate the notion of the Son's Personality, that is, to introduce Sabellianism. Something resembling this was the error of Paulus of Samosata and Marcellus : who, from the fleeting and momentary character of a word spoken, inferred that the Divine Word was but the temporary manifestation of God's glory in the man Christ. And it was to counteract this tendency, that is, to witness against it, that the Fathers speak of Him as the Word in an hypostasis“, the permanent, real, and living Word.


The above is a sketch of the primitive doctrine concerning our Lord's divine nature, as contained in the two chief appellations which are ascribed to Him in Scripture. The opposite ideas they convey may be further denoted respectively by the symbols “of God," and in God”;” as though He were so derived from the simple Unity of God as in no respect to be divided or extended from it, (to speak metaphorically,) but to inhere within that ineffable individuality. Of these two

3 Petav. vi. 9, § 2.

4 ενυπόστατος Λογός. και εκ θεού and εν θεώ.

« PreviousContinue »