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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VI:
Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New...: Sermon II

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Sermon II.

[LII. Ben.]

Of the words of Matt. 3.13, “Then Jesus cometh from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.” Concerning the Trinity.

1. The lesson of the Gospel hath set before me a subject whereof to speak to you, beloved, as though by the Lord’s command, and by His command in very deed. For my heart hath waited for an order as it were from Him to speak, that I might understand thereby that it is His wish that I should speak on that which He hath also willed should be read to you. Let your zeal and devotion then give ear, and before the Lord our God Himself aid ye my labour. For we behold and see as it were in a divine spectacle exhibited to us, the notice of our God in Trinity, conveyed 1825 to us at the river Jordan. For when Jesus came and was baptized by John, the Lord by His servant (and this He did for an example of humility; for He showeth that in this same humility is righteousness fulfilled, when as John said to Him, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” 1826 He answered, “Suffer it to be so now, that all righteousness may be fulfilled” 1827 ), when He was baptized then, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the form of a Dove: and then a Voice from on high followed, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 1828 Here then we have the Trinity in a certain sort distinguished. The Father in the Voice,—the Son in the Man,—the Holy Spirit in the Dove. It was only needful just to mention this, for most obvious is it to see. For the notice of the Trinity is here conveyed to us plainly and without leaving room for doubt or hesitation. For the Lord Christ Himself coming in the form of a servant to John, is doubtlessly the Son: for it cannot be said that it was the Father, or the Holy Spirit. “Jesus,” it is said, “cometh;” 1829 that is, the Son of God. And who hath any doubt about the Dove? or who saith, “What is the Dove?” when the Gospel itself most plainly testifieth, “The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove.” 1830 And in like manner as to that voice there can be no doubt that it is the Father’s, when He saith, “Thou art My Son.” 1831 Thus then we have the Trinity distinguished.

2. And if we consider the places, I say with confidence (though in fear I say it), that the Trinity is in a manner separable. When Jesus came to the river, He came from one place to another; and the Dove descended from heaven to earth, from one place to another; and the very Voice of the Father sounded neither from the earth, nor from the water, but from heaven; these three are as it were separated in places, in offices, and in works. But one may say to me, “Show the Trinity to be inseparable rather. Remember that thou who art speaking art a Catholic, and to Catholics art thou speaking.” For thus doth our faith teach, that is, the true, the right Catholic faith, gathered not by the opinion of private 1832 judgment, but by the witness of the Scriptures, 1833 not subject to the fluctuations of heretical rashness, but grounded on Apostolic truth: this we know, this we believe. This though we see it not with our eyes, nor as yet with the heart, so long as we are being purified by faith, yet by this faith we most lightly and most strenuously maintain—That the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a Trinity inseparable; One God, not three Gods. But yet so One God, as that the Son is not the Father, and the Father is not the Son, and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. This ineffable Divinity, abiding ever in itself, making all things new, creating, creating anew, sending, recalling, judging, delivering, this Trinity, I say, we know to be at once ineffable and inseparable.

3. What am I then about? See: The Son came separately in the Man; The Holy Spirit descended separately from heaven in the form of a Dove; The Voice of the Father sounded separately out of heaven, “This is My Son.” Where then is this inseparable Trinity? God p. 260 hath made you attentive by my words. Pray for me, and open, as it were, the folds 1834 of your hearts, and may He grant you wherewith your hearts so opened may be filled. Share my travail with me. For you see what I have undertaken; and not only what, but who I am that have undertaken it, and of what I wish to speak, and where and what my position is, even in that “body which is corruptible, and presseth down the soul, and the earthly habitation weigheth down the mind that museth upon many things.” 1835 When therefore I abstract my mind from the multiplicity of things, and gather it up into the One God, the inseparable Trinity, that so I may see something which I may say of it, think ye that in this “body which presseth down the soul,” I shall be able to say (in order that I may speak to you something worthy of the subject), “O Lord, I have lifted up my soul unto Thee.” 1836 May He assist me, may He lift it up with me. For I am too infirm in respect of Him, and He in respect of me is too mighty.

4. Now this is a question which is often proposed by the most earnest brethren, and often has place in the conversation of the lovers of God’s word; for this much knocking is wont to be made unto God, while men say, “Doeth the Father anything which the Son doeth not? or doeth the Son anything which the Father doeth not?” Let us first speak of the Father and the Son. And when He to Whom we say, “Be Thou my helper, leave me not,”  1837 shall have given good success to this essay of ours, then shall we understand how that the Holy Spirit also is in no way separated from the operation of the Father and the Son. As concerning the Father and the Son, then, brethren, give ear. Doeth the Father anything without the Son? We answer, No. Do you doubt it? For what doeth He without Him “by Whom all things were made? All things,” saith the Scripture, “were made by Him.” 1838 And to inculcate it fully 1839 upon the slow, and hard, and disputatious it added, And without Him was not anything made.”

5. What then, brethren? “All things were made by Him.” We understand then by this that the whole creation which was made by the Son, the Father made by His Word—God, by His Power and Wisdom. Shall we then say, “All things” indeed when they were created, “were made by Him,” but now the Father doeth not all things by Him? God forbid! Be such a thought as this far from the hearts of believers; be it driven away from the mind of the devout; from the understanding of the godly! It cannot be that He created by Him, and doth not govern by Him. God forbid that what existeth should be governed without Him, when by Him it was made, that it might have existence! But let us show by the testimony of the same Scripture that not only were all things created and made by Him as we have quoted from the Gospel, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made,” but that the things which were made are also governed and ordered by Him. You acknowledge Christ then to be the Power and Wisdom of God; acknowledge too what is said of Wisdom, “She reacheth from one end to another mightily, and sweetly doth she order all things.” 1840 Let us not then doubt that by Him are all things ruled, by whom all things were made. So then the Father doeth nothing without the Son, nor the Son without the Father.

6. But so a difficulty meets us, which we have undertaken to solve in the Name of the Lord, and by His will. If the Father doeth nothing without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, will it not follow, that we must say that the Father also was born of the Virgin Mary, the Father suffered under Pontius Pilate, the Father rose again and ascended into heaven? God forbid! We do not say this, because we do not believe it. “For I believed, therefore have I spoken: we also believe, and therefore speak.” 1841 What 1842 is in the Creed? That the Son was born of a Virgin, not the Father. What is in the Creed? That the Son suffered under Pontius Pilate and was dead, not the Father. Have we forgotten, that some, misunderstanding this, are called “Patripassians,” who say that the Father Himself was born of a woman, that the Father Himself suffered, that the Father is the same as the Son, that they are two names, not two things? And these hath the Church Catholic separated from the communion of saints, that they might not deceive any, but dispute in separation from her.

7. Let us then recall the difficulty of the question to your minds. One may say to me, “You have said that the Father doeth nothing without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, and testimonies you have adduced out of the Scriptures, that the Father doeth nothing without the Son, for that ‘all things were made by Him;’ and again, that that which was made is not governed without the Son, for that He is the Wisdom of the Father, ‘reaching from one end to another mightily, and sweetly ordering all things.’ And now you tell me, as if contradicting yourself, that the Son was born of a Virgin, and not the Father; the Son suffered, not the Father; the Son rose again, not the Father. See then, here I see the Son doing something p. 261 which the Father doeth not. Do you therefore either confess that the Son doeth something without the Father, or else that the Father also was born and suffered, and died and rose again. Say one or the other of these, choose one of the two.” No: I will choose neither, I will say neither the one nor the other. I will neither say the Son doeth anything without the Father, for I should lie were I to say so; nor that the Father was born, suffered, and died, and rose again, for I should equally lie were I to say this. “How then, saith he, will you disentangle yourself from these straits?”

8. The proposing of the question pleases you. May God grant His aid, that its solution may please you too. See, what I am asking Him, that He would free both me and you. For in one faith do we stand in the Name of Christ; and in one house do we live under one Lord, and in one body are we members under One Head, and by One Spirit are we quickened. 1843 That the Lord then may set both me who speak, and you who hear, free from the straits of this most perplexing question, I say as follows: The Son indeed and not the Father was born of the Virgin Mary; but this very birth of the Son, not of the Father, was the work both of the Father and the Son. The Father indeed suffered not, but the Son, yet the suffering of the Son was the work of the Father and the Son. The Father did not rise again, but the Son, yet the resurrection of the Son was the work of the Father and the Son. We seem then to be already quit of this question, but peradventure it is only by words of my own; let us see whether it is not as well by words divine. It is my place then to prove by testimonies of the sacred books, that the birth, and passion, and resurrection of the Son were in such sort the works of the Father and the Son, that whereas it is the birth, and passion, and resurrection of the Son only, yet these three things which belong to the Son only, were wrought neither by the Father alone, nor by the Son alone, but by the Father and the Son. Let us prove each several point, you hear as judges; the case has been already laid open; now let the witnesses come forth. Let your judgment say to me, as is wont to be said to pleaders in a cause, “Establish what you promise.” I will do so assuredly, with the Lord’s assistance, and will cite the books of heavenly law. Ye have listened to me attentively while proposing the question, listen now with still more attention while I prove my point.

9. I must first teach you concerning the birth of Christ, how it is the work of the Father and the Son, though what the Father and the Son did work pertains only to the Son. I will quote Paul; one competently versed in the divine law. That Paul, I say, will I quote, who prescribes the laws of peace, not of litigation, for lawyers at this day also have a Paul who prescribes the laws of the courts, 1844 not the Christian’s laws. Let the holy Apostle show us then how the birth of the Son was the work of the Father. “But,” saith he, “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law.” 1845 Thus have ye heard him, and because it is plain and express, have understood. See, the Father made the Son to be born of a Virgin. For “when the fulness of time was come, God sent His Son;” the Father sent His Christ. How sent He Him? “made of a woman, made under the Law.” The Father then made Him of a woman under the Law.

10. Doth this peradventure perplex you, that I said of a virgin, and Paul saith of a woman? Let not this perplex you; let us not stop here, for I am not speaking to persons without instruction. The Scripture saith both, both “of a virgin,” and “of a woman.” Where saith it, “of a virgin? Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son.” 1846 And “of a woman,” as you have just heard; here there is no contradiction. For the peculiarity of the Hebrew tongue gives 1847 the name of “women” not to such as have lost their virgin estate, but to females generally. You have a plain passage in Genesis, when Eve herself was first made, “He made her a woman.” 1848 Scripture also in another place saith, that God ordered “the women” to be separated “which had not known man by lying with him.” 1849 This then ought now to be well established, and should not detain us, that so we may be able to explain, by the Lord’s assistance, what will deservedly detain us.

11. We have then proved that the birth of the Son was the work of the Father; now let us prove that it was the work of the Son also. Now what is the birth of the Son of the Virgin Mary? Surely it is His assumption of the form of a servant in the Virgin’s womb. Is the birth of the Son ought else, but the taking of the form of a servant in the womb of the Virgin? Now hear how that this was the work of the Son also. “Who when He was in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking upon Him the form of a servant.” 1850 “When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman,” 1851 who was “made 1852 His Son of the seed of David according to the flesh.” 1853 In this then we see p. 262 that the birth of the Son was the work of the Father; but in that the Son Himself “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant,” we see that the birth of the Son was the work also of the Son Himself. This then has been proved; so let us pass on from this point, and receive ye with attention that which comes next in order.

12. Let us prove that the Passion also of the Son was the work of the Father and the Son. We may see 1854 that the Passion of the Son is the work of the Father, since it is written, “Who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all;” 1855 and that the Passion of the Son was His own work also, “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” 1856 The Father delivered up the Son, and the Son delivered up Himself. This Passion was wrought out for one, but by both. As therefore the birth, so the Passion, of Christ, was not the work of the Son without the Father, nor of the Father without the Son. The Father delivered up the Son, and the Son delivered up Himself. What did Judas in it, but his own sin? Let us then pass on from this point also, and come we to the resurrection.

13. Let us see the Son indeed, and not the Father, rising again, but both the Father and the Son working the resurrection of the Son. The resurrection of the Son is the work of the Father; for it is written, “Wherefore He exalted Him, and gave Him a name which is above every name.” 1857 The Father therefore raised the Son to life again, in exalting, and awakening Him from the dead. And did the Son also raise Himself? Assuredly He did. For He said of the temple, as the figure of His own body, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.” 1858 Lastly, as the laying down of life has reference to the Passion, so the taking it again has reference to the resurrection. Let us see then if the Son laid down His life indeed, and the Father restored His life to Him, and not He to Himself. For that the Father restored it is plain. For so saith the Psalm, “Raise Thou Me up, and I will requite them.” 1859 But why do ye wait for a proof from me that the Son also restored life to Himself? Let Him speak Himself; “I have power to lay down My life.” I have not yet said what I promised. I have said, “to lay it down;” and you are crying out already, for you are flying past me. For well-instructed as ye are in the school of your heavenly teacher, as attentively listening to, and in pious affection rehearsing, 1860 what is read, ye are not ignorant of what comes next. “I have power,” saith He,“to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself, and take it again.” 1861

14. I have made good what I promised; I have established my propositions with, as I think, the strongest proofs and testimonies. Hold fast then what you have heard. I will recapitulate it briefly, and entrust it to be stored up in your minds as a thing, to my thinking, of the greatest usefulness. The Father was not born of the Virgin; yet this birth of the Son from the Virgin was the work both of the Father and the Son. The Father suffered not on the Cross; yet the Passion of the Son was the work both of the Father and the Son. The Father rose not again from the dead; yet the resurrection of the Son was the work both of the Father and the Son. You see then a distinction of Persons, and an inseparableness of operation. Let us not say therefore that the Father doeth any thing without the Son, or the Son any thing without the Father. But perhaps you have a difficulty as to the miracles which Jesus did, lest peradventure He did some which the Father did not! Where then is that saying, “The Father who dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works?” 1862 All that I have now said was plain; it needed to be barely mentioned; there was no necessity for much labour to make it understood, but only that care should be taken, that it might be brought to your remembrance.

15. I wish to say something further, and here ask sincerely both for your more earnest attention, and your devotion to Godward. For none but bodies are held or contained in places suited to the nature 1863 of bodies. The Divinity is beyond all such places: let no one seek for it as though it were in space. It is everywhere invisible and inseparably present; not in one part greater, and another smaller; but whole everywhere, and nowhere divided. Who can see? Who can comprehend this? Let us restrain ourselves: let us remember who we are; and of Whom we speak. Let this and that, or whatever appertains 1864 to the nature of God, be with a pious faith embraced, with a holy respect entertained, and as far as is allowed us, as far as is possible for us, in an unspeakable sort understood. Let words be hushed: let the tongue be silent, let the heart be aroused, let the heart be lifted up thither. For it is not of such a nature as that it can ascend into the heart of man; but the heart of man must itself ascend to it. Let us consider the creatures (“for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made” 1865 ), if haply in the things which God hath made, with which we have some familiarity of intercourse, we may find some resemblance, whereby we may prove that there are some three p. 263 things which may be exhibited 1866 as three separably, yet whose operation is inseparable.

16. Come, brethren, give me your whole attention. But first of all consider what it is that I promise; if haply I can find any resemblance in the creature, for the Creator is too high above us. And peradventure some one of us, whose mind the glare of truth hath, as it were, stricken with sparks of its brightness, can say those words, “I said in my ecstasy.”—What saidst thou in thine ecstasy?—“I am cast away from the sight of Thine eyes.”  1867 For it seems to me as if he who said this had lifted up his soul unto God, and had been carried beyond himself, while they said daily unto him, “Where is thy God?”—had reached by a kind of spiritual contact to that unchangeable Light, and through the weakness 1868 of his sight had been unable to endure it, and so had fallen back again into his own, as it were, sick and languid state, and had compared himself with that Light, and had felt that the eye of his mind could not yet be attempered to the light of God’s wisdom. And because he had done this in ecstasy, hurried away from his bodily senses, and taken 1869 up into God, when he was recalled in a manner from God to man, he said, “I said in my ecstasy.” For I saw in ecstasy I know not what, which I could not long endure, and being restored to my mortal estate, 1870 and the manifold thoughts of mortal things from the body which presseth down the soul, I said, what? “I am cast away from the sight of Thine eyes.” Thou art far above, and I am far below. What then, brethren, shall we say of God? For if thou hast been able to comprehend what thou wouldest say, it is not God; if thou hast been able to comprehend it, thou hast comprehended something else instead of God. If thou hast been able to comprehend Him as thou thinkest, by so thinking thou hast deceived thyself. This then is not God, if thou hast comprehended it; but if it be God, thou hast not comprehended it. How therefore wouldest thou speak of that which thou canst not comprehend?

17. Let us see then, if haply we cannot find something in the creature whereby we may prove that some three things are exhibited 1871 separately whose operation is yet inseparable. But whither shall we go? To the heaven, to dispute of the sun and moon and stars? To the earth, to dispute of shrubs, and trees, and animals which fill the earth? Or of the heaven and the earth itself, which contain all the things that are in heaven and earth? How long, O man, wilt thou roam over the creation? Return unto thyself, see, consider, examine thine own self. Thou art searching among the creatures for some three things which are separately exhibited, whose operation is yet inseparable; if then thou art searching for this among the creatures, search for it first in thine own self. For thou art not other than a creature. It is a resemblance thou art searching for. Wouldest thou search for it among the cattle? For of God it was thou wast speaking, when thou wast in search for this resemblance. Thou wast speaking of the Trinity of Majesty ineffable, and because thou didst fail in contemplating  1872 the Divine Nature, and with becoming humility didst confess thine infirmity, thou didst come down to human nature; there then pursue thine enquiry. Wilt thou make thy search among the cattle, in the sun, or the stars? What of these was made after the image and likeness of God? Thou mayest search in thine own self for something more familiar to thee, and more excellent than all these. For God made man after His own image and likeness. Search then in thine own self, if haply the image of the Trinity bear not some vestige of the Trinity. And what is this image? It is an image very different from its model; yet different as it is, it is an image and a likeness notwithstanding, not indeed in the same way as the Son is the Image, being the Same Which the Father is. For an image is in one sort in a son, and in another in a mirror. There is great difference between them. Thine image in thy son is thine own self, for the son is by nature what thou art. In substance the same as thou, in person other than thou. Man then is not an image as the Only-begotten Son is, but made after a sort of image and likeness. Let him then search for something in himself, if so be he may find it, even for some three things which are exhibited 1873 separately, whose operation is yet inseparable. I will search, and do ye search with me. I will not search in you, but do ye search in yourselves, and I in myself. Let us search in concert, and in concert discuss our common nature and substance.

18. See, O man, and consider whether what I am saying be true. Hast thou a body and flesh? I have, you say. For how am I in this place that I now occupy, and how do I move from place to place? How do I hear the words of one who is speaking, but by the ears of my body? How do I see the mouth of him who is speaking, but by the eyes of my body? It is plain then that thou hast a body, no need is there to trouble one’s self about so plain a matter. Consider then another point, consider what it is that acts through this body. For thou hearest by means of the ear, but it is not the ear that hears. There is something else within which hears by means of the ear. Thou seest by means of the eye—examine this eye. p. 264 What! hast thou acknowledged the house, and paid no regard to him that inhabiteth it? Doth the eye see by itself? Is it not another that sees by means of the eye? I will not say, that the eye of a dead man, from whose body it is plain the inhabitant hath departed, sees not, but any man’s eye who is only thinking of something else, sees not the form of the object that is before him. Look then into thine inner man. For there it is rather that the resemblance must be sought for of some three things which are exhibited separately, whose operation is yet inseparable. What then is in thy mind? Peradventure if I search, I find many things there, but there is something very nigh at hand, which is understood more easily. What then is in thy soul? Call it to mind, reflect upon it. For I do not require that credit should be given me in what I am about to say; if thou find it not in thyself, admit it not. Look inward then; but first let us see what had escaped me, whether man be not the image, not of the Son only, or of the Father only, but of the Father and the Son, and so consequently of course of the Holy Ghost also. The words in Genesis are, “Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness.”  1874 So then the Father doth not act without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. “Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness. Let us make,” not, “I will make,” or “Make thou,” or “Let him make,” but, “Let Us make after,” not “thine image,” or “mine,” but, “after Our image.”

19. I am asking, I am speaking remember of a distant 1875 resemblance. So let no one say, See what he has compared to God! I have advertised you of this already, and by anticipation have both put you on your guard, and have guarded myself. The two are indeed very far removed from each other, as the lowest from the Highest, as the changeable from the Unchangeable, the created from the Creator, the human nature from the Divine. Lo! I apprise you of this at first, that no one may say ought against me, because there is so great a difference in the things whereof I am about to speak. Lest then while I am asking for your ears, ye should any of you be getting ready your teeth, remember I have undertaken merely to show, that there are some three things which are separately exhibited, whose operation is yet inseparable. How like or how unlike these things are to the Almighty Trinity is no concern of mine at present; but in the very creatures of the lowest order, and subject to change, we do find three things which may be separately exhibited, whose operation is yet inseparable. O carnal imagination! obstinate, unbelieving conscience! Why as concerning that ineffable Majesty dost thou doubt as to that thing, which thou canst discover in thine own self? For I ask thee, O man, hast thou memory? If not, how hast thou retained what I have said? But perhaps thou hast forgotten already what I said but a little while ago. Yet these very words, “I said”—these two syllables, thou couldest not retain except by memory. For how shouldest thou know they were two, if as the second sounded, thou hadst forgotten the first? But why do I dwell longer on this? Why am I so urgent? Why do I so press conviction? For thou hast memory; it is plain. I am searching then for something else. Hast thou understanding? “I have,” you will say. For hadst thou not memory, thou couldest not retain what I said; and hadst thou not understanding, thou couldest not comprehend what thou hast retained. Thou hast then this as well as the other. Thou recallest thine understanding unto that which thou dost retain within, and so thou seest it, and by seeing art fashioned into that state as to be said to know. But I am searching for a third thing. Memory thou hast, whereby to retain what is said; and understanding thou hast, whereby to understand what is retained; but as touching these two, I ask again of thee, Hast thou not with thy will retained and understood? Undoubtedly, with my will, you will say. So then thou hast will.

These are the three things which I promised I would bring home to your ears and minds. These three things are in thee, which thou canst number, but canst not separate. These three then, memory, understanding, and will—these three, I say, consider how they are separately exhibited, 1876 yet is their operation inseparable.

20. The Lord will be my present help, and I see that He is present to help me; by your understanding what I say, I see that He is present to help me. For I perceive by these your voices how that you have understood me, and I surely trust that He will still assist us, that you may comprehend the whole. I promised to show you three things which are separately exhibited whose operation is yet inseparable. See then; I did not know what was in thy mind, and thou showedest me by saying, “Memory.” This word, this sound, this expression came forth from thy mind to mine ears. For before that, thou hadst the silent idea of this memory, but thou didst not express it. It was in thee, but it had not yet come to me. But in order that that which was in thee might be passed on to me, thou didst express the very word, that is, “Memory.” I heard it, I heard these three syllables in the word, “Memory.” It is a noun, a word of three syllables, it sounded, and came p. 265 to my ear, and impressed 1877 a certain idea on my mind. The sound has passed away, but the word whereby the idea was conveyed, and the idea itself, remains. But I ask, when thou didst pronounce this word, “Memory,” thou seest certainly that it has reference to the memory only. For the other two things have their own proper names. For one is called “the understanding,” and the other, “the will,” not the “memory,” but that one alone is called “memory.” Nevertheless, whereby didst thou work in order to express this, in order to produce these three syllables? This word which has reference to the memory only, both memory was engaged in producing in thee, that thou mightest retain what thou saidst, and understanding, that thou mightest know what thou retainedst, and will, that thou mightest give expression to what thou knewest. Thanks be to the Lord our God! He hath helped us, both you and me. For I tell you the truth, beloved, that I undertook the examination and explanation of this subject with exceeding fear. For I was afraid lest haply I might gladden the spirit of the more enlarged in mind, and inflict on the slower capacities an afflictive weariness. But now I see both by the attention with which you have heard, and the quickness with which you have understood me, that you have not only caught what I have said, but that you have anticipated my words. Thanks be to the Lord!

21. See then, henceforth I speak in all security of that which you have already understood; I am inculcating no unknown lesson, but am only conveying to you by recapitulation what you have already received. Now, of these three things, one only has been yet named and expressed; “Memory” is the name of one only of those three, yet all the three concurred in producing the name of this single one of the three. The single word “memory” could not be expressed, but by the operation of the will, and the understanding, and the memory. The single word “understanding” could not be expressed, but by the operation of the memory, the will, and the understanding; and the single word “will” could not be expressed, but by the operation of the memory and the understanding and the will. What I promised, then, I think has been explained, that which I have pronounced separately, I conceived inseparably. The three together have produced each one of these, but yet this one which the three have produced has reference not to the three, but to one. The three together have produced the word “memory,” but this word has reference to none but the memory only. The three together have produced the word “understanding,” but it has reference to none but the understanding only. The three together have produced the word “will,” but it has reference to none but the will only. So the Trinity concurred in the formation of the Body of Christ, but it belongs to none but Christ only. The Trinity concurred in the formation of the Dove from heaven; but it belongs to none but the Holy Spirit only. The Trinity formed the Voice from heaven, but this Voice belongs to none but the Father only.

22. Let no one then say to me, no one with unfair cavils try to press upon my infirmity, saying, “Which then of these three, which you have shown to be in our mind or soul, which of them 1878 answers to the Father, that is, so to say, to the likeness of the Father, which of them to that of the Son, and which of them to that of the Holy Ghost?” I cannot say—I cannot explain this. Let us leave somewhat to meditation and to silence. Enter into thine own self; separate thyself from all tumult. Look into thine inner self; see if thou have there some sweet retiring place of conscience, where there may be no noise, no disputation, no strife, or debatings; where there will be not a thought of dissensions, and obstinate contention. Be meek to hear the word, that so thou mayest understand. Perhaps thou mayest soon have to say, “Thou wilt make me hear of joy and gladness, and my bones shall rejoice;” 1879 the bones, that is, which are humbled, not those that are lifted up.

23. It is enough, then, that I have shown that there are some three things which are exhibited separately, whose operation is yet inseparable. If thou hast discovered this in thine own self; if thou hast discovered it in man; if thou hast discovered it in a being 1880 that walketh on the earth, and beareth about a frail “body, which weigheth down the soul;” believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be exhibited separately, by certain visible symbols, by certain forms borrowed from the creatures, and still their operation be inseparable. This is enough. I do not say that “memory” is the Father,—the “understanding” the Son,—and “will” the Spirit; I do not say this; let men understand it how they will. I do not venture to say this. Let us reserve the greater truths for those who are capable of them: but, infirm as I am myself, I convey to the infirm only what is according to our powers. I do not say that these things are in any sort to be equalled with the Holy Trinity, to be squared after an analogy; that is, a kind of exact rule of comparison. This I do not say. But what do I say? See. I have discovered in thee three things, which are exhibited separately, whose operation is inseparable; and of these three, every single name is produced by the p. 266 three together; yet does not this name belong to the three, but to some one of the three. Believe then in the Trinity, what thou canst not see, if in thyself thou hast heard, and seen, and retained it. For what is in thine own self thou canst know: but what is in Him who made thee, whatever it be, how canst thou know? And if thou shalt be ever able, thou art not able yet. And even when thou shalt be able, wilt thou be able so to know God, as He knoweth Himself? Let then this suffice you, beloved: I have said all I could; I have made good my promise as ye required. As to the rest which must be added, that your understanding may make advancement, this seek from the Lord.





Matt. iii. 14.


Matt. iii. 15.


Matt. iii. 17.


Matt. iii. 13.


Matt. iii. 16.


Matt. 3:17, Mark 1:11.






Aperientes sinum.


Wisdom 9.15.


Ps. lxxxvi. 4.


Ps. 27.9, Sept. (xxvii. English version).


John i. 3.




Wisdom 8.1.


Ps. cxvi. 10.


Fide, i.e. Symb. fidei (Ben.).






Gal. 4:4, 5.


Isa. vii. 14.


Vide Serm. i. (li.) 18.


Gen. ii. 22.


Num. 31:18, Judg. 21:11.


Phil. 2:6, 7.


Gal. iv. 4.


i.e.the term made belongs to His birth in the flesh, Who was begotten in eternity.


Rom. i. 3.


Faciat Pater passionem Filii.


Rom. viii. 32.


Gal. ii. 20.


Phil. ii. 9.


John ii. 19.


Ps. xli. 10.




John x. 18.


John xiv. 10.




Quidquid est quod Deus est.


Rom. i. 20.




Ps. 31.22, Sept.


See Aug Conf. B. ix. ch. 23–26.








Defecisti in divinis.




Gen. i. 26.


Dissimilem rem.








Ps. 51.8, Sept. (li. 8, English version).



Next: Sermon III

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