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Tertullian: Part II: The Force of Sundry Passages of Scripture Illustrated in Relation to the Plurality of Persons and Unity of Substance. There is No Polytheism Here, Since the Unity is Insisted on as a Remedy Against Polytheism.
Chapter XIII.—The Force of Sundry Passages of Scripture Illustrated in Relation to the Plurality of Persons and Unity of Substance. There is No Polytheism Here, Since the Unity is Insisted on as a Remedy Against Polytheism.
Well then, you reply, if He was God who spoke, and He was also God who created, at this rate, one God spoke and another created; (and thus) two Gods are declared. If you are so venturesome and harsh, reflect a while; and that you may think the better and more deliberately, listen to the psalm in which Two are described as God: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a sceptre of righteousness. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee or made Thee His Christ.” 7906 Now, since He here speaks to God, and affirms that God is anointed by God, He must have affirmed that Two are God, by reason of the sceptres royal power. Accordingly, Isaiah also says to the Person of Christ: “The Sabæans, men of stature, shall pass over to Thee; and they shall follow after Thee, bound in fetters; and they shall worship Thee, because God is in Thee: for Thou art our God, yet we knew it not; Thou art the God of Israel.” 7907 For here too, by saying, “God is in Thee,” and “Thou art God,” he sets forth Two who were God: (in the former expression in Thee, he means) in Christ, and (in the other he means) the Holy Ghost. That is a still grander statement which you will find expressly made in the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 7908 There was One “who was,” and there was another “with whom” He was. But I find in Scripture the name Lord also applied to them Both: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand.” 7909 And Isaiah says this: “Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” 7910 Now he would p. 608 most certainly have said Thine Arm, if he had not wished us to understand that the Father is Lord, and the Son also is Lord. A much more ancient testimony we have also in Genesis: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” 7911 Now, either deny that this is Scripture; or else (let me ask) what sort of man you are, that you do not think words ought to be taken and understood in the sense in which they are written, especially when they are not expressed in allegories and parables, but in determinate and simple declarations? If, indeed, you follow those who did not at the time endure the Lord when showing Himself to be the Son of God, because they would not believe Him to be the Lord, then (I ask you) call to mind along with them the passage where it is written, “I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are children of the Most High;” 7912 and again, “God standeth in the congregation of gods;” 7913 in order that, if the Scripture has not been afraid to designate as gods human beings, who have become sons of God by faith, you may be sure that the same Scripture has with greater propriety conferred the name of the Lord on the true and one only Son of God. Very well! you say, I shall challenge you to preach from this day forth (and that, too, on the authority of these same Scriptures) two Gods and two Lords, consistently with your views. God forbid, (is my reply). For we, who by the grace of God possess an insight into both the times and the occasions of the Sacred Writings, especially we who are followers of the Paraclete, not of human teachers, do indeed definitively declare that Two Beings are God, the Father and the Son, and, with the addition of the Holy Spirit, even Three, according to the principle of the divine economy, which introduces number, in order that the Father may not, as you perversely infer, be Himself believed to have been born and to have suffered, which it is not lawful to believe, forasmuch as it has not been so handed down. That there are, however, two Gods or two Lords, is a statement which at no time proceeds out of our mouth: not as if it were untrue that the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and each is God; but because in earlier times Two were actually spoken of as God, and two as Lord, that when Christ should come He might be both acknowledged as God and designated as Lord, being the Son of Him who is both God and Lord. Now, if there were found in the Scriptures but one Personality of Him who is God and Lord, Christ would justly enough be inadmissible to the title of God and Lord: for (in the Scriptures) there was declared to be none other than One God and One Lord, and it must have followed that the Father should Himself seem to have come down (to earth), inasmuch as only One God and One Lord was ever read of (in the Scriptures), and His entire Economy would be involved in obscurity, which has been planned and arranged with so clear a foresight in His providential dispensation as matter for our faith. As soon, however, as Christ came, and was recognised by us as the very Being who had from the beginning 7914 caused plurality 7915 (in the Divine Economy), being the second from the Father, and with the Spirit the third, and Himself declaring and manifesting the Father more fully (than He had ever been before), the title of Him who is God and Lord was at once restored to the Unity (of the Divine Nature), even because the Gentiles would have to pass from the multitude of their idols to the One Only God, in order that a difference might be distinctly settled between the worshippers of One God and the votaries of polytheism. For it was only right that Christians should shine in the world as “children of light,” adoring and invoking Him who is the One God and Lord as “the light of the world.” Besides, if, from that perfect knowledge 7916 which assures us that the title of God and Lord is suitable both to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, we were to invoke a plurality of gods and lords, we should quench our torches, and we should become less courageous to endure the martyrs sufferings, from which an easy escape would everywhere lie open to us, as soon as we swore by a plurality of gods and lords, as sundry heretics do, who hold more gods than One. I will therefore not speak of gods at all, nor of lords, but I shall follow the apostle; so that if the Father and the Son, are alike to be invoked, I shall call the Father “God,” and invoke Jesus Christ as “Lord.” 7917 But when Christ alone (is mentioned), I shall be able to call Him “God,” as the same apostle says: “Of whom is Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever.” 7918 For I should give the name of “sun” even to a sunbeam, considered in itself; but if I were mentioning the sun from which the ray emanates, I certainly should at once withdraw the name of sun from the mere beam. For although I make not two suns, still I shall reckon both the sun and p. 609 its ray to be as much two things and two forms 7919 of one undivided substance, as God and His Word, as the Father and the Son.
Ps. 45:6, 7.607:7907
Isa. 45:14, 15 (Sept.).607:7908
John i. 1.607:7909
Ps. cx. 1.607:7910
Isa. liii. 1.608:7911
Gen. xix. 24.608:7912
Ps. lxxxii. 6.608:7913
Rom. i. 7.608:7918
Rom. ix. 5.609:7919
Next: The Natural Invisibility of the Father, and the Visibility of the Son Witnessed in Many Passages of the Old Testament. Arguments of Their Distinctness, Thus Supplied.
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