Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 5
Chapter 5.—How Difficult It is to Demonstrate the Trinity by Natural Reason.
7. But all that I have said, and whatever else seems to be worthily said of God after the like fashion of human speech, applies to the whole Trinity, which is one God, and to the several Persons in that Trinity. For who would dare to say either of the one God, which is the Trinity itself, or of the Father, or Son, or Holy Spirit, either that He is not living, or is without sense or intelligence; or that, in that nature in which they are affirmed to be mutually equal, any one of them is mortal, or corruptible, or changeable, or corporeal? Or is there any one who would deny that any one in the Trinity is most powerful, most righteous, most beautiful, most good, most blessed? If, then, these things, and all others of the kind, can be predicated both of the Trinity itself, and of each several one in that Trinity, where or how shall the Trinity manifest itself? Let us therefore first reduce these numerous predicates to some limited number. For that which is called life in God, is itself His essence and nature. God, therefore, does not live, unless by the life which He is to Himself. And this life is not such as that which is in a tree, wherein is neither understanding nor sense; nor such as is in a beast, for the life of a beast possesses the fivefold sense, but has no understanding. But the life which is God perceives and understands all things, and perceives by mind, not by body, because “God is a spirit.” 950 And God does not perceive through a body, as animals do, which have bodies, for He does not consist of soul and body. And hence that single nature perceives as it understands, and understands as it perceives, and its sense and understanding are one and the same. Nor yet so, that at any time He should either cease or begin to be; for He is immortal. And it is not said of Him in vain, that “He only hath immortality.” 951 For immortality is true immortality in His case whose nature admits no change. That is also true eternity by which God is unchangeable, without beginning, without end; consequently also incorruptible. It is one and the same thing, therefore, to call God eternal, or immortal, or incorruptible, or unchangeable; and it is likewise one and the same thing to say that He is living, and that He is intelligent, that is, in truth, wise. For He did not receive wisdom whereby to be wise, but He is Himself wisdom. And this is life, and again is power or might, and yet again beauty, whereby He is called powerful and beautiful. For what is more powerful and more beautiful than wisdom, “which reaches from end to end mightily, and sweetly disposes all things”? 952 Or do goodness, again, and righteousness, differ from each other in the nature of God, as they differ in His works, as though they were two diverse qualities of God—goodness one, and righteousness anp. 203 other? Certainly not; but that which is righteousness is also itself goodness; and that which is goodness is also itself blessedness. And God is therefore called incorporeal, that He may be believed and understood to be a spirit, not a body.
8. Further, if we say, Eternal, immortal, incorruptible, unchangeable, living, wise, powerful, beautiful, righteous, good, blessed spirit; only the last of this list as it were seems to signify substance, but the rest to signify qualities of that substance; but it is not so in that ineffable and simple nature. For whatever seems to be predicated therein according to quality, is to be understood according to substance or essence. For far be it from us to predicate spirit of God according to substance, and good according to quality; but both according to substance. 953 And so in like manner of all those we have mentioned, of which we have already spoken at length in the former books. Let us choose, then, one of the first four of those in our enumeration and arrangement, i.e. eternal, immortal, incorruptible, unchangeable; since these four, as I have argued already, have one meaning; in order that our aim may not be distracted by a multiplicity of objects. And let it be rather that which was placed first, viz. eternal. Let us follow the same course with the four that come next, viz. living, wise, powerful, beautiful. And since life of some sort belongs also to the beast, which has not wisdom; while the next two, viz. wisdom and might, are so compared to one another in the case of man, as that Scripture says, “Better is he that is wise than he that is strong;” 954 and beauty, again, is commonly attributed to bodily objects also: out of these four that we have chosen, let Wise be the one we take. Although these four are not to be called unequal in speaking of God; for they are four names, but one thing. But of the third and last four,—although it is the same thing in God to be righteous that it is to be good or to be blessed; and the same thing to be a spirit that it is to be righteous, and good, and blessed; yet, because in men there can be a spirit that is not blessed, and there can be one both righteous and good, but not yet blessed; but that which is blessed is doubtless both just, and good, and a spirit,—let us rather choose that one which cannot exist even in men without the three others, viz. blessed.
John 4.24John iv. 24202:951
1 Tim. 6.161 Tim. vi. 16202:952
Wisdom 8.1Wisd. viii. 1203:953
[In the Infinite Being, qualities are inseparable from essence; in the finite being, they are separable. If man or angel ceases to be good, or wise, or righteous, he does not thereby cease to be man or angel. But if God should lose goodness, wisdom or righteousness, he would no longer be God. This is the meaning of Augustin, when he says that “goodness” as well as “spirit” must be predicated of God, “according to substance”—that is, that qualities in God are essential qualities. They are so one with the essence, that they are inseparable.—W.G.T.S.]203:954
Wisdom 6.1Wisd. vi. 1
Next: Chapter 6
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