Chapter XVIII.—Concerning the Centurions Faith. The Raising of the Widows Son. John Baptist, and His Message to Christ; And the Woman Who Was a Sinner. Proofs Extracted from All of the Relation of Christ to the Creator.
Likewise, when extolling the centurions faith, how incredible a thing it is, that He should confess that He had “found so great a faith not even in Israel,” 4137 to whom Israels faith was in no way interesting! 4138 But not from the fact (here stated by Christ) 4139 could it have been of any interest to Him to approve and compare what was hitherto crude, nay, I might say, hitherto naught. Why, however, might He not have used the example of faith in another 4140 god? Because, p. 375 if He had done so, He would have said that no such faith had ever had existence in Israel; but as the case stands, 4141 He intimates that He ought to have found so great a faith in Israel, inasmuch as He had indeed come for the purpose of finding it, being in truth the God and Christ of Israel, and had now stigmatized 4142 it, only as one who would enforce and uphold it. If, indeed, He had been its antagonist, 4143 He would have preferred finding it to be such faith, 4144 having come to weaken and destroy it rather than to approve of it. He raised also the widows son from death. 4145 This was not a strange miracle. 4146 The Creators prophets had wrought such; then why not His Son much rather? Now, so evidently had the Lord Christ introduced no other god for the working of so momentous a miracle as this, that all who were present gave glory to the Creator, saying: “A great prophet is risen up among us, and God hath visited His people.” 4147 What God? He, of course, whose people they were, and from whom had come their prophets. But if they glorified the Creator, and Christ (on hearing them, and knowing their meaning) refrained from correcting them even in their very act of invoking 4148 the Creator in that vast manifestation of His glory in this raising of the dead, undoubtedly He either announced no other God but Him, whom He thus permitted to be honoured in His own beneficent acts and miracles, or else how happens it that He quietly permitted these persons to remain so long in their error, especially as He came for the very purpose to cure them of their error? But John is offended 4149 when he hears of the miracles of Christ, as of an alien god. 4150 Well, I on my side 4151 will first explain the reason of his offence, that I may the more easily explode the scandal 4152 of our heretic. Now, that the very Lord Himself of all might, the Word and Spirit of the Father, 4153 was operating and preaching on earth, it was necessary that the portion of the Holy Spirit which, in the form of the prophetic gift, 4154 had been through John preparing the ways of the Lord, should now depart from John, 4155 and return back again of course to the Lord, as to its all-embracing original. 4156 Therefore John, being now an ordinary person, and only one of the many, 4157 was offended indeed as a man, but not because he expected or thought of another Christ as teaching or doing nothing new, for he was not even expecting such a one. 4158 Nobody will entertain doubts about any one whom (since he knows him not to exist) he has no expectation or thought of. Now John was quite sure that there was no other God but the Creator, even as a Jew, especially as a prophet. 4159 Whatever doubt he felt was evidently rather 4160 entertained about Him 4161 whom he knew indeed to exist but knew not whether He were the very Christ. With this fear, therefore, even John asks the question, “Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?” 4162 —simply inquiring whether He was come as He whom he was looking for. “Art thou He that should come?” i.e. Art thou the coming One? “or look we for another?” i.e. Is He whom we are expecting some other than Thou, if Thou art not He whom we expect to come? For he was supposing, 4163 as all men then thought, from the similarity of the miraculous evidences, 4164 that a prophet might possibly have been meanwhile sent, from whom the Lord Himself, whose coming was then expected, was different, and to whom He was superior. 4165 And there lay Johns difficulty. 4166 He was in doubt whether He was actually come whom all men were looking for; whom, moreover, they ought to have recognised by His predicted works, even as the Lord sent word to John, that it was by means of these very works that He was to be recognised. 4167 Now, inasmuch as these predictions evidently related to the Creators Christ—as we have proved in the examination of each of them—it was perverse enough, if he gave himself p. 376 out to be not the Christ of the Creator, and rested the proof of his statement on those very evidences whereby he was urging his claims to be received as the Creators Christ. Far greater still is his perverseness when, not being the Christ of John, 4168 he yet bestows on John his testimony, affirming him to be a prophet, nay more, his messenger, 4169 applying to him the Scripture, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” 4170 He graciously 4171 adduced the prophecy in the superior sense of the alternative mentioned by the perplexed John, in order that, by affirming that His own precursor was already come in the person of John, He might quench the doubt 4172 which lurked in his question: “Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?” Now that the forerunner had fulfilled his mission, and the way of the Lord was prepared, He ought now to be acknowledged as that (Christ) for whom the forerunner had made ready the way. That forerunner was indeed “greater than all of women born;” 4173 but for all that, He who was least in the kingdom of God 4174 was not subject to him; 4175 as if the kingdom in which the least person was greater than John belonged to one God, while John, who was greater than all of women born, belonged himself to another God. For whether He speaks of any “least person” by reason of his humble position, or of Himself, as being thought to be less than John—since all were running into the wilderness after John rather than after Christ (“What went ye out into the wilderness to see?” 4176 )—the Creator has equal right 4177 to claim as His own both John, greater than any born of women, and Christ, or every “least person in the kingdom of heaven,” who was destined to be greater than John in that kingdom, although equally pertaining to the Creator, and who would be so much greater than the prophet, 4178 because he would not have been offended at Christ, an infirmity which then lessened the greatness of John. We have already spoken of the forgiveness 4179 of sins. The behaviour of “the woman which was a sinner,” when she covered the Lords feet with her kisses, bathed them with her tears, wiped them with the hairs of her head, anointed them with ointment, 4180 produced an evidence that what she handled was not an empty phantom, 4181 but a really solid body, and that her repentance as a sinner deserved forgiveness according to the mind of the Creator, who is accustomed to prefer mercy to sacrifice. 4182 But even if the stimulus of her repentance proceeded from her faith, she heard her justification by faith through her repentance pronounced in the words, “Thy faith hath saved thee,” by Him who had declared by Habakkuk, “The just shall live by his faith.” 4183
Comp. Epiphanius, Hæres. xlii., Refut. 7, for the same argument: Εἰ οὐδὲ ἐν τῷ ᾽Ισραὴλ τοιαύτην πίστιν εὖρεν, κ.τ.λ. “If He found not so great faith, even in Israel, as He discovered in this Gentile centurion, He does not therefore condemn the faith of Israel. For if He were alien from Israels God, and did not pertain to Him, even as His father, He would certainly not have inferentially praised Israels faith” (Oehler).374:4139 374:4140 375:4141 375:4142 375:4143 375:4144 375:4145 375:4146 375:4147 375:4148 375:4149 375:4150 375:4151 375:4152 375:4153
“It is most certain that the Son of God, the second Person of the Godhead, is in the writings of the fathers throughout called by the title of Spirit, Spirit of God, etc.; with which usage agree the Holy Scriptures. See Mark 2:8, Rom. 1:3, 4, 1 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 9:14, 1 Pet. 3:18; also John 6:63, John 56:0.”—Bp. Bull, Def. Nic. Creed (translated by the translator of this work), vol. i. p. 48 and note X. [The whole passage should be consulted.]375:4154 375:4155
Tertullian stands alone in the notion that St. Johns inquiry was owing to any withdrawal of the Spirit, so soon before his martyrdom, or any diminution of his faith. The contrary is expressed by Origen, Homil. xxvii., on Luke vii.; Chrysostom on Matt. xi.; Augustine, Sermon. 66, de Verbo; Hilary on Matthew; Jerome on Matthew, and Epist. 121, ad Algas.; Ambrose on Luke, book v. § 93. They say mostly that the inquiry was for the sake of his disciples. (Oxford Library of the Fathers, vol. x. p. 267, note e). [Elucidation V.]375:4156 375:4157 375:4158 375:4159 375:4160 375:4161 375:4162 375:4163 375:4164 375:4165 375:4166 375:4167 376:4168 376:4169 376:4170 376:4171 376:4172 376:4173 376:4174 376:4175
Comp. the Refutation of Epiphanius (Hæres. xlii. Refut. 8): “Whether with reference to John or to the Saviour, He pronounces a blessing on such as should not be offended in Himself or in John. Nor should they devise for themselves whatsoever things they heard not from him. He also has a greater object in view, on account of which the Saviour said this; even that no one should think that John (who was pronounced to be greater than any born of women) was greater than the Saviour Himself, because even He was born of a woman. He guards against this mistake, and says, Blessed is he who shall not be offended in me. He then adds, He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Now, in respect of His birth in the flesh, the Saviour was less than he by the space of six months. But in the kingdom He was greater, being even his God. For the Only-begotten came not to say aught in secret, or to utter a falsehood in His preaching, as He says Himself, In secret have I said nothing, but in public, etc. (Κἄν τε πρὸς ᾽Ιωάννην ἔχοι…ἀλλὰ μετὰ παῤῥησίας).”— Oehler.376:4176 376:4177 376:4178 376:4179 376:4180 376:4181 376:4182 376:4183
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