Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: These doctrines of our Faith witnessed to and confirmed by Scripture passages.
§23. These doctrines of our Faith witnessed to and confirmed by Scripture passages.
It is therefore clear that these are metaphors, which contain a deeper meaning than the obvious one: so that there is no reason from them that any suspicion that our Lord was created should be entertained by reverent inquirers, who have been trained according to the grand words of the evangelist, that “all things that have been made were made by Him” and “consist in Him.” “Without Him was not anything made that was made.” The evangelist would not have so defined it if he had believed that our Lord was one among the things made. How could all things be made by Him and in Him consist, unless their Maker possessed a nature different from theirs, and so produced, not Himself, but them? If the creation was by Him, but He was not by Himself, plainly He is something outside the creation. And after the evangelist has by these words so plainly declared that the things that were made were made by the Son, and did not pass into existence by any other channel, Paul 129 follows and, to leave no ground at all for this profane talk which numbers even the Spirit amongst the things that were made, he mentions one after another all the existencies which the evangelists words imply: just as David in fact, after having said that “all things” were put in subjection to man, adds each species which that “all” comprehends, that is, the creatures on land, in water, and in air, so does Paul the Apostle, expounder of the divine doctrines, after saying that all things were made by Him, define by numbering them the meaning of “all.” He speaks of “the things that are seen 130 ” and “the things that are not seen:” by the first he gives a general name to all things cognizable by the senses, as we have seen: by the latter he shadows forth the intelligible world.
Now about the first there is no necessity of going into minute detail. No one is so p. LXIV carnal, so brutelike, as to imagine that the Spirit resides in the sensible world. But after Paul has mentioned “the things that are not seen” he proceeds (in order that none may surmise that the Spirit, because He is of the intelligible and immaterial world, on account of this connexion subsists therein) to another most distinct division into the things that have been made in the way of creation, and the existence that is above creation. He mentions the several classes of these created intelligibles: “ 131 thrones,” “dominions,” “principalities,” “powers,” conveying his doctrine about these unseen influences in broadly comprehensive terms: but by his very silence he separates from his list of things created that which is above them. It is just as if any one was required to name the sectional and inferior officers in some army, and after he had gone through them all, the commanders of tens, the commanders of hundreds, the captains and the colonels 132 , and all the other names given to the authorities over divisions, omitted after all to speak of the supreme command which extended over all the others: not from deliberate neglect, or from forgetfulness, but because when required or intending to name only the several ranks which served under it, it would have been an insult to include this supreme command in the list of the inferior. So do we find it with Paul, who once in Paradise was admitted to mysteries, when he had been caught up there, and had become a spectator of the wonders that are above the heavens, and saw and heard “things which it is not lawful for a man to utter 133 .” This Apostle proposes to tell us of all that has been created by our Lord, and he gives them under certain comprehensive terms: but, having traversed all the angelic and transcendental world, he stops his reckoning there, and refuses to drag down to the level of creation that which is above it. Hence there is a clear testimony in Scripture that the Holy Spirit is higher than the creation. Should any one attempt to refute this, by urging that neither are the Cherubim mentioned by Paul, that they equally with the Spirit are left out, and that therefore this omission must prove either that they also are above the creation, or that the Holy Spirit is not any more than they to be believed above it, let him measure the full intent of each name in the list: and he will find amongst them that which from not being actually mentioned seems, but only seems, omitted. Under “thrones” he includes the Cherubim, giving them this Greek name, as more intelligible than the Hebrew name for them. He knew that “God sits upon the Cherubim:” and so he calls these Powers the thrones of Him who sits thereon. In the same way there are included in the list Isaiahs Seraphim 134 , by whom the mystery of the Trinity was luminously proclaimed, when they uttered that marvellous cry “Holy,” being awestruck with the beauty in each Person of the Trinity. They are named under the title of “powers” both by the mighty Paul, and by the prophet David. The latter says, “Bless ye the Lord all ye His powers, ye ministers of His that do His pleasure 135 :” and Isaiah instead of saying “Bless ye” has written the very words of their blessing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory” and he has revealed by what one of the Seraphim did (to him) that these powers are ministers that do Gods pleasure, effecting the purging of sin according to the will of Him Who sent them: for this is the ministry of these spiritual beings, viz., to be sent forth for the salvation of those who are being saved.
That divine Apostle perceived this. He understood that the same matter is indicated under different names by the two prophets, and he took the best known of the two words, and called those Seraphim “powers:” so that no ground is left to our critics for saying that any single one of these beings is omitted equally with the Holy Ghost from the catalogue of creation. We learn from the existences detailed by Paul that while some existences have been mentioned, others have been passed over: and while he has taken count of the creation in masses as it were, he has (elsewhere) mentioned as units those things which are conceived of singly. For it is a peculiarity of the Holy Trinity that it is to be proclaimed as consisting of individuals: one Father, one Son, one Holy Ghost: whereas those existences aforesaid are counted in masses, “dominions,” “principalities,” “lordships,” “powers,” so as to exclude any suspicion that the Holy Ghost was one of them. Paul is wisely silent upon our mysteries; he understands how, after having heard those unspeakable words in paradise, to refrain from proclaiming those secrets when he is making mention of lower beings.
But these foes of the truth rush in upon the ineffable; they degrade the majesty of the Spirit to the level of the creation; they act as if they had never heard that the Word of God, when confiding to His disciples the secret of knowing God, Himself said that the life of p. LXV 136 the regenerate was to be completed in them and imparted in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and, thereby ranking the Spirit with the Father and Himself, precluded Him from being confused with the creation. From both, therefore, we may get a reverential and proper conception with regard to Him: from Pauls omitting the Spirits existence in the mention of the creation, and from our Lords joining the Spirit with His Father and Himself in mentioning the life-giving power. Thus does our reason, under the guidance of the Scripture, place not only the Only-begotten but the Holy Spirit as well above the creation, and prompt us in accordance with our Saviours command to contemplate Him by faith in the blessed world of life giving and uncreated existence: and so this unit, which we believe in, above creation, and sharing in the supreme and absolutely perfect nature, cannot be regarded as in any way a less, although this teacher of heresy attempt to curtail its infinitude by introducing the idea of degrees, and thus contracting the divine perfection by defining a greater and a less as residing in the Persons.
in the Canon. (Oehlers stopping is here at fault, i.e. he begins a new paragraph with ᾽Εκδέχεται τὸν λόγον τοῦτον ὁ Παῦλος). We need not speculate whether Gregory was aware that the Epistle to the Colossians (quoted below) is an earlier Gospel than S. Johns.LXIII:130
Coloss. i. 16.LXIV:131
Coloss. i. 16.LXIV:132
ταξιάρχας καὶ λοχαγοὺς, ἑκατοντάρχους τε καὶ χιλιάρχους. The difference between the two pairs seems to be the difference between non-commissioned and commissioned officers.LXIV:133
2 Corinth. xii. 4.LXIV:134
Isa. 6:6, 7.LXIV:135
Psalm ciii. 21.LXV:136
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