Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XI. The particular distinction which the Arians endeavoured to prove upon the Apostle's teaching that all things are “of” the Father and “through” the Son, is overthrown, it being shown that in the passage cited the same Omnipotence is ascribed both to Father and to Son, as is proved from various texts, especially from the words of St. Paul himself, in which heretics foolishly find a reference to the Father only, though indeed there is no diminution or inferiority of the Son's sovereignty proved, even by such a reference. Finally, the three phrases, “of Whom,” “through Whom,” “in Whom,” are shown to suppose or imply no difference (of power), and each and all to hold true of the Three Persons.
The particular distinction which the Arians endeavoured to prove upon the Apostles teaching that all things are “of” the Father and “through” the Son, is overthrown, it being shown that in the passage cited the same Omnipotence is ascribed both to Father and to Son, as is proved from various texts, especially from the words of St. Paul himself, in which heretics foolishly find a reference to the Father only, though indeed there is no diminution or inferiority of the Sons sovereignty proved, even by such a reference. Finally, the three phrases, “of Whom,” “through Whom,” “in Whom,” are shown to suppose or imply no difference (of power), and each and all to hold true of the Three Persons.
139. Now we come to that laughable method, attempted by some, of showing a difference of Power to subsist between Father and Son, on the strength of apostolic testimony, it being written: “But for us there is One God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we in Him, and One Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things, and we through Him.” 2462 It is urged that no small difference in degree of Divine Majesty is signified in the affirmation that all things are “of” the Father, and “through” the Son. Whereas nothing is clearer than that here a plain reason is given of the Omnipotence of the Son, inasmuch as whilst all things are “of” the Father, none the less are they all “through” the Son. 2463
140. The Father is not “amongst” all things, for to Him it is confessed that “all things serve Thee.” 2464 Nor is the Son reckoned “amongst” all things, for “all things were made by Him,” 2465 and “all things exist together 2466 in Him, and He is above all the heavens.” 2467 The Son, therefore, exists not “amongst” but above all things, being, indeed, after the flesh, of the people, 2468 of the Jews, but yet at the same time God over all, blessed for ever, 2469 having a Name which is above every name, 2470 it being said of Him, “Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet.” 2471 But in making all things subject to Him, He left nothing that is not subject, even as the Apostle hath said. 2472 But suppose that the Apostles words were intended with reference to the Incarnate Lord; how then can we doubt the incomparable majesty of His Divine Generation?
141. Certain it is, then, that between Father and Son there can be no difference of Power. Nay, so far is such difference from being present, that the same Apostle has said that all things are “of” Him, by Whom are all things, as followeth: “For of Him and through Him and in Him are all things.” 2473
142. Now if, as they suppose, it is the Father alone Who is spoken of, it cannot be that He is at once Omnipotent because all things are of Him, and not Omnipotent because all things are through Him. 2474 On p. 281 their own showing, then, they will declare the Father lacking in Power, and not Omnipotent, or at the least they will be confessing with their own mouth, all against their will though it be, the Omnipotence of the Son as well as of the Father.
143. Howbeit, let them decide whether they will understand this affirmation as made concerning the Father. If they do so decide then all things are “through” Him also. If they decide that it is the Son Who is spoken of, then all things are “of” Him as well as “of” the Father. But if all things are “through” the Father also, then surely there is no argument for diminishing from the honour due to the Son; and if all things are “of” the Son, the Son must be honoured in like manner as the Father is.
144. In case our opponents should suspect that we are taking advantage of some intrusion of a single spurious verse into the text, let us review the whole passage. “O depth of the riches of Gods wisdom and knowledge!” exclaims the Apostle, “how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For Who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath been first to give unto Him, and shall be recompensed? For of Him and through Him and in Him are all things. To Him be glory for ever!” 2475
145. Who, then, think they, is here spoken of—the Father or the Son? If it be the Father—then we answer that the Father is not the Wisdom of God, for the Son is. But what is there that is impossible to Wisdom, of Whom it is written: “Seeing that she is almighty and abiding, she maketh all things new in herself”? 2476 We read of Wisdom, then, not as approaching, but as abiding. 2477 Thus have you the authority of Solomon to teach you of the Omnipotence and Eternity of Wisdom, and of her Goodness as well, for it is written: “But malice overcometh not Wisdom.” 2478
146. But to purpose. “How unsearchable,” saith the Apostle, “are His judgments!” Now if “the Father hath given all judgment to the Son,” 2479 it seems that the Father 2480 points to the Son as Judge.
147. But now, to show us that He is speaking of the Son, not of the Father, St. Paul proceeds: “Who was first in giving to Him?” For “the Father hath given to the Son,” but it was as acknowledging the rights of Him Whom He has begotten, not by way of largess. Therefore, it being undeniable that the Son has received at the hands of the Father, as it is written, “All things have been given unto Me of My Father,” 2481 yet, in saying, “Who was first in giving to Him?” the Apostle has not denied that the Son has received gifts of the Father, by virtue of His Nature, but he has indeed shown that, of Father and Son, Neither can be said to be before the Other, forasmuch as, albeit the Father has given gifts unto the Son, yet He has not so bestowed them as upon one that began to be after Him; because the uncreate and incomprehensible Trinity, Which is of One Eternity and Glory, admits neither difference of time nor degree of precedence.
148. If, however, we hold ourselves more bound to observe those Greek manuscripts which show “τίς προσέδωχεν αὐτῳ;” it is clear that He to Whom nothing can be added is not unequal to Him Who is perfect and complete. Therefore, if this passage from the Apostle, in its entirety, is better understood with reference to the Son, we see that we must also believe concerning the Son, that all things are of Him, even as it is written: “For of Him and through Him and in Him are all things.”
149. Be it so, nevertheless, that they suppose the passage to be intended of the Father, then let us call to mind that even as we read of all things being of Him, so too we read of all things being through Him, that is to say, the authority of the Father and of the Son is extended over the whole created universe. And, though we have already proved the Omnipotence of the Son by the Omnipotence of the Father, 2482 still—forasmuch as they are ever bent upon disparagement—let them consider that they disparage the Father as well as the Son. For if the Son be limited in might, because all things are through Him, do we say further, that the Father likewise is limited, because all things are through Him also?
150. But to bring them to understand that p. 282 these phrases involve no difference, I will once again show that it is the same person, “of” whom anything is, and “through” whom anything is, and that we read of things being related in both these ways to the Father. For we find: “Faithful is God, through Whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son.” 2483 Let our adversaries weigh the meaning of the Apostles words. We are called “through” the Father—they raise no controversy: we are created “through” the Son—and this they have set down as a mark of inferiority. 2484 The Father has called us into fellowship with His Son, and this truth we, as in duty bound, devoutly receive. The Son has created all things, and Arius followers imagine that here they have not the decree of a free Will, but a forced service, slavishly performed!
151. Again, to obtain fuller understanding that, forasmuch as we are called through the Father into fellowship with His Son, there is no difference of Power in the Father and the Son, [note that] the fellowship itself has its beginning of the Son, as it is written: “For from His fulness have we all received,” though, if we follow the Greek text of the Gospel, we ought to render “of His fulness.” 2485
152. See, then, how there is fellowship both through the Father and of the Son, and yet not a different fellowship, but one and the same. “And that our fellowship be with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 2486
153. Observe, further, that Scripture speaks of our having one fellowship not only “of” the Father and the Son, but also “of” the Holy Spirit. “The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” saith the Apostle, “and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2487
154. Now, I ask, wherein does He, through Whom are all things, appear less than He, of Whom are all things? Is it because He is declared to be the Worker? But the Father also works, for He is true who said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” 2488 Therefore, even as the Father worketh, so worketh the Son also; and so He Who worketh is not limitary in power nor abject, for the Father also worketh; which being so, that which is common to the Son with the Father, or even which the Son has by the Father, ought not to be the less esteemed, lest heretics further dishonour the Father in the Person of the Son.
155. Not to be passed over for silencing the disputings of Arian misbelief are those words of the same Saint John, which he set down in another Scripture: “If ye know that He is just, know that he which doeth righteousness is born of Him.” 2489 But who is righteous, save the Lord, Who loveth righteousness? 2490 Or whom—as the foregoing texts warn us—have we to assure us of everlasting life, if we have not the Son? If, therefore, the Son of God hath promised us everlasting life, and He is righteous, surely we are born “of” Him. Else, if our adversaries deny that we are born of the Son by grace, they likewise deny His righteousness.
156. Thou must therefore believe that all things are of the Son of God [even as of God the Father, for even as God is the Father of all, so likewise is the Son the Author and Creator of all. We see, then, the vanity of this their questioning, forasmuch as it holds good of the Son [as of the Father], that “of Him and through Him and in Him are all things.”
157. We have shown how all things are “of” Him, and likewise how all things are also “through” Him. Who then doubts that all things are “in” Him, when another Scripture saith: “For in Him are all things founded, that are in the heavens, and in Him they were created, and He is before all things, and all things consist in Him”? (Col. i. 16). Of Him, then, thou hast grace; Himself thou hast for thy Creator; in Him thou findest the foundation of all things.
1 Cor. viii. 6.280:2463
Cf. Bk. I. iii. 26.280:2464
Ps. cxix. 91.280:2465
S. John i. 3.280:2466
Or “consist;” Lat.—constant; Greek—τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῳ συνέστηκεν.280:2467
Col. i. 17.280:2468
Lat.—familia. Cf. the expression “house of Israel.”—Ps. cxv. 9.280:2469
Rom. 9:5, Rom. 1:3.280:2470
Phil. ii. 9.280:2471
Ps. viii. 6.280:2472
Heb. ii. 8.280:2473
Rom. xi. 36.280:2474
“You think, perhaps,” St. Ambrose might have said to his Arian opponents, “that this text speaks of God the Father only, as it begins with of Him. Very good. But whilst, in dealing with 1 Cor. viii. 6, you acknowledge that the Father is Omnipotent because all things are of Him, you deny that the Son is Omnipotent, on the strength of the statement that all things are through Him. Now here (Rom. xi. 36) we find that all things are said to be through as well as of One and the same Person—the Father. On your own showing, then, you must conclude that the Father is both Omnipotent (all things being of Him) and not Omnipotent (all things being only through Him) at the same time and in the same respect. Which is absurd and impossible. Clearly, then, the inference you want to draw from the difference of the expressions of Him and by Him will not stand, if you make Rom. xi. 36 a declaration regarding the Father only. But if you make it a declaration concerning the Son, or even including the Son in its reference, you upset your own position.”281:2475
Rom. xi. 33-36. St. Ambroses quotation of the passage in extenso shows us how texts ought to be used in argument—namely, not rent from their context, not as unrelated apophthegms.281:2476
Wisd. vii. 27.281:2477
“Approaching”—Lat. accedentem. An “accidentem” potius sit legendum?—ut Sapientia non sit accidens, sed proprium, Substantiæ Divinæ.281:2478
Wisd. vii. 30.281:2479
S. John v. 22.281:2480
Potest hic manus incuriose transcribentis deprehendi, cum “Pauli” pro “Patris” nomen potius legendum esse videatur. Nec tamen prohibemur quin sic verba intelligamus, ut Pater Ipse in hoc Epistolæ Romanæ loco, per calamum Apostoli sit locutus.281:2481
S. Matt. xi. 27.281:2482
See § 140, and comparison of Ps. 119:91, John 1:3, Col. 1:17, Ps. 8:8, Heb. 2:8.282:2483
Or “into fellowship with His Son.” “Fellowship” in the orig. is communio (κοινωνία). 1 Cor. i. 9.282:2484
Or “as an inferior work.”282:2485
S. John i. 16.282:2486
1 John i. 3.282:2487
2 Cor. xiii. 13. “Fellowship” in the Latin of St. Ambrose is (in this citation and that of 1 John i. 3, in § 152) communicatio; Greek κοινωνία.282:2488
S. John v. 17.282:2489
1 John ii. 29.282:2490
Ps. xi. 8.
Next: Chapter XII. The comparison, found in the Gospel of St. John, of the Son to a Vine and the Father to a husbandman, must be understood with reference to the Incarnation. To understand it with reference to the Divine Generation is to doubly insult the Son, making Him inferior to St. Paul, and bringing Him down to the level of the rest of mankind, as well as in like manner the Father also, by making Him not merely to be on one footing with the same Apostle, but even of no account at all. The Son, indeed, in so far as being God, is also the husbandman, and, as regards His Manhood, a grape-cluster. True statement of the Father's pre-eminence.
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