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I. Because Irenæus, in the very same chapter, eascribes absolute omniscience to the divine nature of Christ.
2. Because he everywhere else speaks of the Son, as of one perfectly acquainted with the nature and will of the Father.
3. Because the same f Irenæus upbraids the Gnostics for their folly, in ascribing any degree of ignorance to their pretended Sophia, or wisdom. How then could he imagine that the true Sophia, wisdom itself, could be ignorant of any thing?
4. Because the same Irenæus & uses an argument against the Valentinians, who pretended to know all things, which plainly supposes that Christ is omniscient. The argument is this. You are not eternal and uncreated, as the Son of God is; and therefore cannot pretend to be omniscient, as he is.
It might have concerned you to answer these reasons, and to make the good Father, at least, consistent with himself, before you lay claim to his authority for your side of the question. However, I am persuaded, that as Bishop Bull is very right in determining that Irenæus could not mean to ascribe any degree of ignorance to the
óyos, or divine nature of Christ; so you are right so far in the other point, that Irenæus is to be understood of the Aóyos, in what he says. And now the question will be, whether he really ascribes ignorance to him, or only seems to do so, to an unattentive reader.
e Spiritus Salvatoris, qui in eo est, scrutatur omnia, et altitudines Dei. L. ii, c. 28. p. 158.
f See l. ii. c. 18. p. 140. Iren. Quomodo autem non vanum est, quod etiam Sophiam ejus dicunt in ignorantia f uisse ? Hæc enim aliena sunt a Sophia, et contraria u bi enim est improvidentia et ignorantia -utilitatis, ibi Sophia non est.
8 Iren. 1. ii. c. 25. p. 152. ed. Bened. In quantum minor est, ab eo qui factus non est et qui semper idem est, ille qui hodie factus est et initium facturæ accepit: in tantum, secundum scientiam et ad investigandum causas omnium, minorem esse eo qui fecit. Non enim infectus es, O homo, neque semper coexistebas Deo, sicut proprium ejus Verbum : sed propter eminentem bonitatem ejus, nunc initium facturæ accipiens, sensim discis a Verbo dispositiones Dei, qui te fecit. The whole passage is fuller to the point.
Irenæus's words, I conceive, will most naturally bear this following interpretation, or paraphrase. h« If any “one inquires on what account the Father, who commu“ nicates in all things with the Son, (and consequently in “ all knowledge, and particularly in that of the day of “ judgment,) is yet here set forth as the only Person '“ knowing that day and hour, he cannot, so far as I at “ present apprehend, find any fitter or more decent, or “ indeed any other safe answer than this, (considering “ that our Lord is a teacher of truth, and must mean " something by it,) that it was to instruct us, as from 6 himself, that the Father is above all, according to what " he says elsewhere, · for the Father is greater than I.' “ And therefore the Father is declared to have the prio“ rity and preference in respect of knowledge, by our “ Lord himself, for an example to us; that we also, “ while we live and converse here below, may learn to “ refer the perfection of knowledge, and all intricate 6 questions to God.” · The design of Irenæus was to check the vain presumption and arrogance of the Gnostics, pretending to search into the deep things of God. And the argument he had used was this; that our Lord himself was pleased to refer the knowledge of the day of judgment to the Father only, as it were on purpose to teach us, that while we converse
h Si quis exquirat causam, propter quam in omnibus Pater communicans Filio, solus scire et horam et diem a Domino manifestatus est; neque aptabilem magis, neque decentiorem, nec sine periculo alteram quam hanc inveniat, in præsenti, quoniam enim solus verax magister est Dominus,) ut discamus per ipsum super omnia esse Patrem. Etenim Pater, ait, major me est. Et secundum agnitionem itaque præpositus esse Pater annuntiatus est a Domino nostro; ad hoc, ut et nos, in quantum in figura hujus mundi sumus, perfectam scientiam, et tales quæstiones concedamus Deo : et ne forte quærentes, &c. Iren. I. ii. c. 28. p. 158, 159.
He had said before ; Dominus, ipse Filius Dei, ipsum judicii diem et horam concessit scire solum Patrem, manifeste dicens : “De die autem illo et hora nemo scit, ne“ que Filius, nisi Pater solus.” Si igitur scientiam diei illius, Filius non erubuit referre ad Patrem, sed dixit quod verum est; neque nos erubescamus, quæ sunt in quæstionibus majora secundum nos, reservare Deo, p. 158.
here below, it becomes us not to pretend to high things ; but to leave the deep things of God, to God alone. This is his argument, and a very good one it is. But the good Father apprehending that what he had said of our blessed Saviour might be liable to exception, and be misunder.stood, comes afterwards to explain his sense more at large. He is sensible of the danger of ascribing any thing like ignorance to our blessed Lord, on one hand, and as sensible of the danger of contradicting the text, on the other. “Quoniam enim solus verax magister est Do“ minus ;” inasmuch as what Christ has said must be true, in some sense or other. 'Dr. Clarke slipped over these words in his translation of the passage, I suppose by inadvertency; but they may serve to give light to the rest; for the difficulty lay here : how can it be true that the Father communicates in all things, and consequently in the knowledge of the day of judgment, to the Son, and yet our Saviour say true, in ascribing that particular knowledge to the Father only? His answer is, that we are thereby taught to refer every thing to the Father, as the original of all things. To him knowledge ought to be principally, and in the first place, ascribed : our Saviour therefore himself yields to him the preference, as became him, especially here on earth : not as if he knew less, but because what he knew, he knew by communication from the Father; to whom therefore he refers such secrets as it was not proper to reveal, nor fit for men to inquire after.
That this is all that Irenæus meant, may reasonably be thought; not only because otherwise it would be utterly inconsistent with many other parts of his writings, as has been before observed; but also because several expressions in this very passage lead to it. Had he really believed the divine Abyos, or Word, to be literally ignorant, why should he be so apprehensive of the difficulty of those texts? Why so concerned about the fitness and decency of his interpretation; and that it might be sine periculo ? The danger was, in interpreting seemingly against the text, to find a salvo for the Son's omniscience. For this reason, he does not ask, why the Father only knew, (not, cur Pater solus scivit,) but why, or on what account (solus scire manifestatus est) he was represented as alone knowing; or, he only was said to know. He does not say, as the Doctor's translation insinuates, that the Father is more knowing than the Son, but præpositus only; which signifies set before, having the preference, or the like; which may be conceived, though he be equally knowing: and, for the greater caution, it is not said absolutely, præpositus est ; but præpositus esse annuntiatus est: he is declared to have the preference. So that the question, with Irenæus, is not why the Father is superior in knowledge; but why, since Father and Son are equally knowing, our Saviour makes such a declaration as gave the preference to the Father. And the reasons which he assigns are very much to the purpose.
1. To instruct us, that the Father is the fountain and original, even of the Son himself.
2. Because, in his then present state of condescension, it became him to refer all to the Father.
3. Because it may be an useful example of humility and modesty to us, that we, much rather, while we are here below, may not pretend to high things.
Upon the whole, it may appear, that Irenæus's solution of the difficulty is the very same with that which the i Doctor quotes from St. Basil, who had learned it from a child: namely this, " That our Lord meant to ascribe to “ the Father the first (i. e. the primary, original) know“ ledge of things present and future; and to declare to “ the world, that he is in all things the first k cause.” As the Son is God of God, and Light of Light; so it is proper to say, Omniscience of Omniscience, &c. the attributes being derivative in the same sense as the essence is : which is St. Basil's meaning; and, I think, Irenæus's.
i Script. Doctr. p. 147, 148. alias 134, 135.
k Basil. ad Amphiloch. Ep. 391. Conf. Gregor. Nazianz, Orat. xxxvi. p. 584.
This defence may be fairly and justly made for Irenæus, supposing that what he said was meant of the Abyos, or divine nature, as such: to which opinion I incline. Nevertheless, I should not affect to be dogmatical in that point, since learned and judicious men have been of both sides of the question. Petavius 'observes, that the sense is ambiguous; and that there are not certain grounds to determine us either way. If he understood it of the human nature only, then the difficulty is nothing: if of both, I have shown how fair an account may be given of it. Having thus got over Irenæus, I have at once taken from you all your Ante-Nicene writers. You will: observe, that the texts might be understood of the Abyos, or divine nature, as Basil understands them, in the place above cited; and yet that they, who so understood them, might be far from thinking that the Abyos, or Word, was ever ignorant of any thing. m Dr. Clarke, to do him justice, is, in the main, so very fair and reasonable in his account of those two texts, that we have no occasion at all to differ with him. I wish, as you have in most other matters, so you had here also copied after him.
I will not leave this article, without giving you a specimen, of the sense of the Ante-Nicene writers in regard to the Son's omniscience, that you may have a better opinion of those good and great men. We may begin with Ignatius. n" There is nothing hid from the Lord : “ but our very secret things are nigh unto him. Let us
. Irenæus, libro secundo capite 29, ambigue loquitur; ut nescias inscitiam illius Diei Christo, saltem qua est homo, tribuat, an non ac possit ad utramque deflecti sententiam.
m Reply to Mr. Nelson's Friend, p. 171. - Ouốc v Azy9áy cày Kuetox, GAA%, xì và kẹogrà uy irrus của tơ ty. Ignat. Ep. ad Ephes. c. xv. p. 17. Ox. ed. That Kúpson is meant of Christ, is very highly probable from the use of the word in this author, and from the context.