Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter III. That the Father and the Son must not be divided is proved by the words of the Apostle, seeing that it is befitting to the Son that He should be blessed, only Potentate, and immortal, by nature, that is, and not by grace, as even the angels themselves are immortal, and that He should dwell in the unapproachable light. How it is that the Father and the Son are alike and equally said to be “alone.”
That the Father and the Son must not be divided 2124 is proved by the words of the Apostle, seeing that it is befitting to the Son that He should be blessed, only Potentate, and immortal, by nature, that is, and not by grace, as even the angels themselves are immortal, and that He should dwell in the unapproachable light. How it is that the Father and the Son are alike and equally said to be “alone.”
15. When, therefore, you read the Name “God,” separate neither Father nor Son, for the Godhead of the Father and the Son is one and the same, and therefore separate them not, when you read the words “blessed and only Potentate,” 2125 for the words are spoken of God, even as you may read: “I charge thee before God, Who quickeneth all things.” 2126 Christ also indeed doth quicken, and therefore the Name of God is meetly given both to the Father and to the Son, inasmuch as the effect of their activity is in agreement. Let us go on to the words following: “I charge thee,” he says, “before God, Who quickeneth all things, and Jesus Christ.” 2127
16. The Word is in God, even as it is written: “In God will I praise His Word.” 2128 In God is His Eternal Power, even Jesus; in [speaking of] God, therefore, the Apostle hath witnessed to the unity of the Godhead, whilst by the Name of Christ he hath witnessed to the sacrament of the Incarnation.
17. Furthermore, to show that he hath spoken of the Incarnation of Christ, he added: “Who bore witness under Pontius Pilate with the good confession,” [I charge thee] “keep undefiled the commandment, until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, p. 245 Which in His own good time the blessed and only Potentate shall manifest, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who alone hath immortality, and dwelleth in light unapproachable, Whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” 2129 Those words, then, are written with regard to God, of which Name the dignity and truth are common to [both the Father and] the Son.
18. Why, then, should there be no thought of the Son in this place, seeing that all these things hold good of the Son also? If they do not so, then deny His Godhead, and so mayest thou deny what is proper to be said of God. His Blessedness cannot be denied, Who bestows blessings, for “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven.” 2130 He cannot but be called “Blessed,” Who hath given us wholesome teaching, even as it is written: “Which is according to the Gospel of the beauty of the Blessed God.” 2131 His Power cannot be denied, of Whom the Father saith: “I have laid help upon One that is mighty.” 2132 And who dare refuse to acknowledge Him to be immortal, when He Himself hath made others also immortal, as it is written of the Wisdom of God: “By her shall I possess immortality.” 2133
19. But the immortality of His Nature is one thing, that of ours is another. Things perishable are not to be compared to things divine. The Godhead is the one only Substance that death cannot touch, and therefore it is that the Apostle, though knowing both the [human] soul and angels to be immortal, declared that God only had immortality. In truth, even the soul may die: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” 2134 and an angel is not absolutely immortal, his immortality depending on the will of the Creator. 2135
20. Do not hastily reject this, because Gabriel dies not, nor Raphaël, nor Uriel. 2136 Even in their nature there is a capacity of sin, though not one of improvement by discipline, 2137 for every reasonable creature is exposed to influences from without itself, and liable to judgment. It is on the influences which work upon us that the award of judgment, and corruption, or advance to perfection, do depend, and therefore Ecclesiastes saith: “For God shall bring all His work to judgment.” 2138 Every creature, then, has within it the possibility of corruption and death, even though it do not [at present] die or commit sin; nor, if in anything it deliver not itself over to sin, hath it this boon of its immortal nature, but of discipline or of grace. Immortality, then, that is of a gift is one thing: immortality without the possibility of change is another. 2139
21. Do we deny the immortality of Christs Godhead, 2140 because He tasted death for all in the flesh? Then is Gabriel better than Christ, for Gabriel never died, but Christ gave up the ghost. But the servant is not above his lord, 2141 and we must discern the weakness of flesh from the eternity of Godhead. Christs Death had its source in the flesh, immortality is of the nature of Christs sovereignty. But if the Godhead brought it to pass that the flesh saw not corruption, the flesh being surely by nature liable to corruption, how could the Godhead itself have died?
22. And how is it that the Son dwelleth not in light unapproachable, if He is in the bosom of the Father, if the Father is Light, and the Son also is Light, because God is Light? 2142 Or, if we suppose some other light, beside the Light of the Godhead, to be the unapproachable Light, is, then, this Light better than the Father, so that He is not in that Light, Who, as it is written, is both with the Father and in the Father? 2143 Let men, therefore, not exclude the thought of the Son, when they read only of “God”—and let p. 246 them not exclude that of the Father, when they read of “the Son” only. 2144
23. On earth, the Son is not without 2145 the Father, and thou thinkest that the Father is without the Son in heaven? The Son is in the flesh—(when I say “He is in the flesh” or “He is on earth,” I speak as though we lived in the days whose story is in the Gospel, for now we no longer know Christ “after the flesh” 2146 )—He is in the flesh, and He is not alone, as it is written: “And I am not alone, because the Father is with Me,” 2147 and think you that the Father dwells alone in the Light?
24. Lest you should regard this argument as mere speculation take this sentence of authority. “No man,” saith the Scripture, 2148 “hath seen God at any time, save the Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father; He hath revealed Him.” 2149 How can the Father be in solitude, if the Son be in the bosom of the Father? How doth the Son reveal Him, Whom He seeth not? The Father, then, exists not alone.
25. Observe now what the “solitude” of the Father and of the Son is. The Father is alone, because there is no other Father; the Son is alone, because there is no other Son; God is alone, because the Godhead of the Trinity is One.
That is, in respect of substance or nature, though the Persons must be distinguished.244:2125
1 Tim. vi. 15.244:2126
1 Tim. vi. 13.244:2127
That is to say, God and Christ Jesus are united in the work of quickening.244:2128
Ps. lvi. 10.245:2129
1 Tim. vi. 13-16.245:2130
Ps. xxxii. 1.245:2131
1 Tim. i. 11.245:2132
Ps. lxxxix 19.245:2133
Wisd. viii. 13.245:2134
Ezek. xviii. 20.245:2135
“That is to say, immortality is not of the essential nature of an angel as it is of the essential Nature of God. For Gods existence is such that He necessarily exists, He cannot but exist; His existence is not derived from another, but is from the power of His essential Nature, or rather is that very Nature. Not so with the angel, whose existence is a gift of God, and so the angels existence is no part of the idea of an angel, but is a property which is, so to speak, added on from without and accessory to the conception of such a being. Hence, in so far as an angels existence issues not of the mere force of his essential properties, but only of the Creators Will, we may say that by virtue of the said Will, not by force of his own nature, he continues in existence, and so far is immortal, although in another sense immortality may be called a natural property of an angel, inasmuch as there is no created power whereby he may be destroyed, and nothing in him that renders him liable to be destroyed by God—nay rather, everything about him demands that, once he is created, he should be for ever preserved in being.”—H.245:2136
Hurter observes that St. Ambrose understands mortality in a wide sense, as including the capacity of any and every sort of change. Immortality, then, in accordance with this definition, would connote perfect absence of change. Hurter cites St. Bernard, § 81 in Cant.: “Omnis mutatio quædam mortis imitatio…Si tot mortes quot mutationes, ubi immortalitas?” and Plutarch, in Eusebius, Præpar. Ev. XI. 12. Plutarchs view perhaps owed something to study of the reliques of Herachtus. Many fathers expounded 1 Tim. vi. 16 on this definition of immortality as=immutability. This definition would exclude angels, who are naturally fallible (as the rebellion of Lucifer and the third part of the host of heaven proved)—or if they are now no longer fallible, they owe it not to their own natural constitution but to grace. In so far then as angels are mutable, whether for better or worse, they are not immortal.245:2137
Angels being by nature mutable, either for better or for worse, that is, capable of good or evil, and so of death, are de facto sinless, and hence need not, are not meet to be placed under, penal discipline. Or the meaning may be that the angelic nature was not created to be gradually taught in the way of holiness as human nature was.245:2138
Eccl. xii. 14. Hurter observes that God would not judge rational creatures, were they not capable of advance or retrogression, of becoming better or falling into degradation, and had, as a matter of fact, advanced or fallen back.245:2139
The Arians regarded the Son as immortal de gratia; the Orthodox esteem Him immortal de jure, with true, absolute immortality.245:2140
i.e. Is Christ God in the true sense of the Name, or not?245:2141
S. Matt. x. 24.245:2142
1 John i. 5.245:2143
S. John 1:1, John 17:5, 21.246:2144
S. John xvi. 32.246:2145
l.c. S. John x. 30.246:2146
2 Cor. v. 16.246:2147
S. John viii. 16.246:2148
S. John i. 18.246:2149
Greek ἐξηγήσατο, “explained,” “expounded.” The Incarnation has taught us something about God and about man that we never knew before and never could have known by ourselves.
Next: Chapter IV. We are told that Christ was only “made” so far as regards the flesh. For the redemption of mankind He needed no means of aid, even as He needed none in order to His Resurrection, whereas others, in order to raise the dead, had need of recourse to prayer. Even when Christ prayed, the prayer was offered by Him in His capacity as human; whilst He must be accounted divine from the fact that He commanded (that such and such things should be done). On this point the devil's testimony is truer than the Arians' arguments. The discussion concludes with an explanation of the reason why the title of “mighty” is given to the Son of Man.
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