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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 33

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 33.—Of the Two Different and Dissimilar Communities of Angels, Which are Not Inappropriately Signified by the Names Light and Darkness.

That certain angels sinned, and were thrust down to the lowest parts of this world, where they are, as it were, incarcerated till their final damnation in the day of judgment, the Apostle Peter very plainly declares, when he says that “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved into judgment.” 515   Who, then, can doubt that God, either in foreknowledge or in act, separated between these and the rest?  And who will dispute that the rest are justly called “light?”  For even we who are yet living by faith, hoping only and not yet enjoying equality with them, are already called “light” by the apostle:  “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” 516   But as for these apostate angels, all who understand or believe them to be worse than unbelieving men are well aware that they are called “darkness.”  Wherefore, though light and darkness are to be taken in their literal signification in these passages of Genesis in which it is said, “God said, Let there be light, and there was light,” and “God divided the light from the darkness,” yet, for our part, we understand these two societies of angels,—the one enjoying God, the other swelling with pride; the one to whom it is said, “Praise ye Him, all His angels,” 517 the other whose prince says, “All these things will I give Thee if Thou wilt fall down and worship me;” 518 the one blazing with the holy love of God, the other reeking with the unclean lust of self-advancement.  And since, as it is written, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble,” 519 we may say, the one dwelling in the heaven of heavens, the other cast thence, and raging through the lower regions of the air; the one tranquil in the brightness of piety, the other tempest-tossed with beclouding desires; the one, at God’s pleasure, tenderly succoring, justly avenging,—the other, set on by its own pride, boiling with the lust of subduing and hurting; the one the minister of God’s goodness to the utmost of their good pleasure, the other held in by God’s power from doing the harm it would; the former laughing at the latter when it does good unwillingly by its persecutions, the latter envying the former when it gathers in its pilgrims.  These two angelic communities, then, dissimilar and contrary to one another, the one both by nature good and by will upright, the other also good by nature but by will depraved, as they are exhibited in other and more explicit passages of holy writ, so I think they are spoken of in this book of Genesis under the names of light and darkness; and even if the author perhaps had a different meaning, yet our discussion of the obscure language has not been wasted time; for, though we have been unable to discover his meaning, yet we have adhered to the rule of faith, which is sufficiently ascertained by the faithful from other passages of equal authority.  For, though it is the material works of God which are here spoken of, they have certainly a resemblance to the spiritual, so that Paul can say, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day:  we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” 520   If, on the other hand, the author of Genesis saw in the words what we see, then our discussion reaches this more satisfactory conclusion, that the man of God, so eminently and divinely wise, or rather, that the Spirit of God who by him recorded God’s works which were finished on the sixth day, may be supposed not to have omitted all mention of the angels whether he included them in the words “in the beginning,” because He made them first, or, which seems most likely, because He made them in the only-begotten Word.  And, under these names heaven and earth, the whole creation is signified, either as divided into spiritual and material, which seems the more likely, or into the two great parts of the world in which all created things are contained, so that, first of all, the creation is presented in sum, and p. 225 then its parts are enumerated according to the mystic number of the days.


Footnotes

224:515

2 Pet. 2.4.

224:516

Eph. 5.8.

224:517

Ps. 148.2.

224:518

Matt. 4.9.

224:519

Jas. 4.6.

224:520

1 Thess. 5.5.


Next: Chapter 34

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