§7. Gregory further shows that the Only-Begotten being begotten not only of the Father, but also impassibly of the Virgin by the Holy Ghost, does not divide the substance; seeing that neither is the nature of men divided or severed from the parents by being begotten, as is ingeniously demonstrated from the instances of Adam and Abraham.
And now let us see what he adds to his previous statements. “Not dividing,” he says, “His own essence by begetting, and being at once begetter and begotten, at the same time Father and Son; for He is incorruptible.” Of such a kind as this, perhaps, is that of which the prophet says, touching the ungodly, “They weave a spiders web 310 .” For as in the cobweb there is the appearance of something woven, but no substantiality in the appearance,—for he who touches it touches nothing substantial, as the spiders threads break with the touch of a finger,—just such is the unsubstantial texture of idle phrases. “Not dividing His own essence by begetting and being at once begetter and begotten.” Ought we to give his words the name of argument, or to call them rather a swelling of humours secreted by some dropsical inflation? For what is the sense of “dividing His own essence by begetting, and being at once begetter and begotten?” Who is so distracted, who is so demented, as to make the statement against which Eunomius thinks he is doing battle? For the Church believes that the true Father is truly Father of His own Son, as the Apostle says, not of a Son alien from Him. For thus he declares in one of his Epistles, “Who spared not His own Son 311 ,” distinguishing Him, by the addition of “own,” from those who are counted worthy of the adoption of sons by grace and not by nature. But what says He who disparages this belief of ours? “Not dividing His own essence by begetting, or being at once begetter and begotten, at the same time Father and Son; for He is incorruptible.” Does one who hears in the Gospel that the Word was in the beginning, and was God, and that the Word came forth from the Father, so befoul the undefiled doctrine with these base and fetid ideas, saying “He does not divide His essence by begetting?” Shame on the abomination of these base and filthy notions! How is it that he who speaks thus fails to understand that God when manifested in flesh did not admit for the formation of His own body the conditions of human nature, but was born for us a Child by the Holy Ghost and the power of the Highest; nor was the Virgin subject to those conditions, nor was the Spirit diminished, nor the power of the Highest divided? For the Spirit is entire, the power of the Highest remained undiminished: the Child was born in the fulness of our nature 312 , and did not sully the incorruption of His mother. Then was flesh born of flesh without carnal passion: yet Eunomius will not admit that the brightness of the glory is from the glory itself, since the glory is neither diminished nor divided by begetting the light. Again, the word of man is generated from his mind without division, but God the Word cannot be generated from the Father without the essence of the Father being divided! Is any one so witless as not to perceive the irrational character of his position? “Not dividing,” quoth he, “His own essence by begetting.” Why, whose own essence is divided by begetting? For in the case of men essence means human nature: in the case of brutes, it means, generically, brute nature, but in the case of cattle, sheep, and all brute animals, specifically, it is regarded according to the distinctions of their kinds. Which, then, of these divides its own essence by the process of generation? Does not the nature always remain undiminished in the case of every animal by the succession of its posterity? Further a man in begetting a man from himself does not divide his nature, but it remains in its fulness alike in him who begets and in him who is begotten, not split off and transferred from the one to the other, nor mutilated in the one when it is fully formed in the other, but at once existing in its entirety in the former and discoverable in its entirety in the latter. For both before begetting his child the man was a rational animal, mortal, capable of intelligence and knowledge, and also after begetting a man endowed with such qualities: so that in him are shown all the special properties of his nature; as he does not lose his existence as a man by begetting the man derived from him, but remains after that event what he was before without causing any diminution of the nature derived from him by the fact that the man derived from him comes into being.
Well, man is begotten of man, and the nature of the begetter is not divided. Yet Eunomius does not admit that the Only-begotten God, Who is in the bosom of the Father, is truly of the Father, for fear forsooth, lest he should mutip. CX late the inviolable nature of the Father by the subsistence of the Only-begotten: but after saying “Not dividing His essence by begetting,” he adds, “Or being Himself begetter and begotten, or Himself becoming Father and Son 313 ,” and thinks by such loose disjointed phrases to undermine the true confession of godliness or to furnish some support to his own ungodliness, not being aware that by the very means he uses to construct a reductio ad absurdum he is discovered to be an advocate of the truth. For we too say that He who has all that belongs to His own Father is all that He is, save being Father, and that He who has all that belongs to the Son exhibits in Himself the Son in His completeness, save being Son: so that the reductio ad absurdum, which Eunomius here invents, turns out to be a support of the truth, when the notion is expanded by us so as to display it more clearly, under the guidance of the Gospel. For if “he that hath seen the Son seeth the Father 314 ” then the Father begat another self, not passing out of Himself, and at the same time appearing in His fulness in Him: so that from these considerations that which seemed to have been uttered against godliness is demonstrated to be a support of sound doctrine.
But he says, “Not dividing His own essence by begetting, and being at once begetter and begotten, at the same time Father and Son; for He is incorruptible.” Most cogent conclusion! What do you mean, most sapient sir? Because He is incorruptible, therefore He does not divide His own essence by begetting the Son: nor does He beget Himself or be begotten of Himself, nor become at the same time His own Father and His own Son because He is incorruptible. It follows then, that if any one is of corruptible nature he divides his essence by begetting, and is begotten by himself, and begets himself, and is his own father and his own son, because he is not incorruptible. If this is so, then Abraham, because he was corruptible, did not beget Ishmael and Isaac, but begat himself by the bondwoman and by his lawful wife or, to take the other mountebank tricks of the argument, he divided his essence among the sons who were begotten of him, and first, when Hagar bore him a son, he was divided into two sections, and in one of the halves became Ishmael, while in the other he remained half Abraham; and subsequently the residue of the essence of Abraham being again divided took subsistence in Isaac. Accordingly the fourth part of the essence of Abraham was divided into the twin sons of Isaac, so that there was an eighth in each of his grandchildren! How could one subdivide the eighth part, cutting it small in fractions among the twelve Patriarchs, or among the threescore and fifteen souls with whom Jacob went down into Egypt? And why do I talk thus when I really ought to confute the folly of such notions by beginning with the first man? For if it is a property of the incorruptible only not to divide its essence in begetting, and if Adam was corruptible, to whom the word was spoken, “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return 315 ,” then, according to Eunomius reasoning, he certainly divided his essence, being cut up among those who were begotten of him, and by reason of the vast number of his posterity (the slice of his essence which is to be found in each being necessarily subdivided according to the number of his progeny), the essence of Adam is used up before Abraham began to subsist, being dispersed in these minute and infinitesimal particles among the countless myriads of his descendants, and the minute fragment of Adam that has reached Abraham and his descendants by a process of division, is no longer discoverable in them as a remnant of his essence, inasmuch as his nature has been already used up among the countless myriads of those who were before them by its division into infinitesimal fractions. Mark the folly of him who “understands neither what he says nor whereof he affirms 316 .” For by saying “Since He is incorruptible” He neither divides His essence nor begets Himself nor becomes His own father, he implicitly lays it down that we must suppose all those things from which he affirms that the incorruptible alone are free to be incidental to generation in the case of every one who is subject to corruption. Though there are many other considerations capable of proving the inanity of his argument, I think that what has been said above is sufficient to demonstrate its absurdity. But this has surely been already acknowledged by all who have an eye for logical consistency, that, when he asserted incorruptibility of the Father alone, he places all things which are considered after the Father in the category of corruptible, by virtue of opposition to the incorruptible, so as to make out even the Son not to be free from corruption. If then he places the Son in opposition to the incorruptible, he not only defines Him to be corruptible, but also asserts of Him all those incidents from which he affirms only the incorruptible to be exempt. For it necessarily follows that, if the Father alone neither begets Himself nor is begotten of Himself, everything which is not incorruptible both begets itself p. CXI and is begotten of itself, and becomes its own father and son, shifting from its own proper essence to each of these relations. For if to be incorruptible belongs to the Father alone, and if not to be the things specified is a special property of the incorruptible, then, of course, according to this heretical argument, the Son is not incorruptible, and all these circumstances of course, find place about Him,—to have His essence divided, to beget Himself and to be begotten by Himself, to become Himself His own father and His own son.
Perhaps, however, it is waste of time to linger long over such follies. Let us pass to the next point of his statement. He adds to what he had already said, “Not standing in need, in the act of creation, of matter or parts or natural instruments: for He stands in need of nothing.” This proposition, though Eunomius states it with a certain looseness of phrase, we yet do not reject as inconsistent with godly doctrine. For learning as we do that “He spake the word and they were made: He commanded and they were created 317 ,” we know that the Word is the Creator of matter, by that very act also producing with the matter the qualities of matter, so that for Him the impulse of His almighty will was everything and instead of everything, matter, instrument, place, time, essence, quality, everything that is conceived in creation. For at one and the same time did He will that that which ought to be should be, and His power, that produced all things that are, kept pace with His will, turning His will into act. For thus the mighty Moses in the record of creation instructs us about the Divine power, ascribing the production of each of the objects that were manifested in the creation to the words that bade them be. For “God said,” he tells us, “Let there be light, and there was light 318 :” and so about the rest, without any mention either of matter or of any instrumental agency. Accordingly the language of Eunomius on this point is not to be rejected. For God, when creating all things that have their origin by creation, neither stood in need of any matter on which to operate, nor of instruments to aid Him in His construction: for the power and wisdom of God has no need of any external assistance. But Christ is “the Power of God and the Wisdom of God 319 ,” by Whom all things were made and without Whom is no existent thing, as John testifies 320 . If, then, all things were made by Him, both visible and invisible, and if His will alone suffices to effect the subsistence of existing things (for His will is power), Eunomius utters our doctrine though with a loose mode of expression 321 . For what instrument and what matter could He Who upholds all things by the word of His power 322 need in upholding the constitution of existing things by His almighty word? But if he maintains that what we have believed to be true of the Only-begotten in the case of the creation, is true also in the case of the Son—in the sense that the Father created Him in like manner as the creation was made by the Son,—then we retract our former statement, because such a supposition is a denial of the Godhead of the Only-begotten. For we have learnt from the mighty utterance of Paul that it is the distinguishing feature of idolatry to worship and serve the creature more than the Creator 323 , as well as from David, when He says “There shall no new God be in thee: neither shalt thou worship any alien God 324 .” We use this line and rule to arrive at the discernment of the object of worship, so as to be convinced that that alone is God which is neither “new” nor “alien.” Since then we have been taught to believe that the Only-begotten God is God, we acknowledge, by our belief that He is God, that He is neither “new” or “alien.” If, then, He is God, He is not “new,” and if He is not new, He is assuredly eternal. Accordingly, neither is the Eternal “new,” nor is He Who is of the Father and in the bosom of the Father and Who has the Father in Himself “alien” from true Deity. Thus he who severs the Son from the nature of the Father either absolutely disallows the worship of the Son, that he may not worship an alien God, or bows down before an idol, making a creature and not God the object of his worship, and giving to his idol the name of Christ.
Now that this is the meaning to which he tends in his conception concerning the Only-begotten will become more plain by considering the language he employs touching the Only-begotten Himself, which is as follows. “We believe also in the Son of God, the Only-begotten God, the first-born of all creation, very Son, not ungenerate, verily begotten before the worlds, named Son not without being begotten before He existed, coming into being before all creation, not uncreate.” I think that the mere reading of his exposition of his faith is quite sufficient to render its impiety plain without any investigation on our part. For though he calls Him “first-born,” yet that he may not raise any p. CXII doubt in his readers minds as to His not being created, he immediately adds the words, “not uncreate,” lest if the natural significance of the term “Son” were apprehended by his readers, any pious conception concerning Him might find place in their minds. It is for this reason that after at first confessing Him to be Son of God and Only-begotten God, he proceeds at once, by what he adds, to pervert the minds of his readers from their devout belief to his heretical notions. For he who hears the titles “Son of God” and “Only-begotten God” is of necessity lifted up to the loftier kind of assertions respecting the Son, led onward by the significance of these terms, inasmuch as no difference of nature is introduced by the use of the title “God” and by the significance of the term “Son.” For how could He Who is truly the Son of God and Himself God be conceived as something else differing from the nature of the Father? But that godly conceptions may not by these names be impressed beforehand on the hearts of his readers, he forthwith calls Him “the first-born of all creation, named Son, not without being begotten before He existed, coming into being before all creation, not uncreate.” Let us linger a little while, then, over his argument, that the miscreant may be shown to be holding out his first statements to people merely as a bait to induce them to receive the poison that he sugars over with phrases of a pious tendency, as it were with honey. Who does not know how great is the difference in signification between the term “only-begotten” and “first-born?” For “first-born” implies brethren, and “only-begotten” implies that there are no other brethren. Thus the “first-born” is not “only-begotten,” for certainly “first-born” is the first-born among brethren, while he who is “only-begotten” has no brother: for if he were numbered among brethren he would not be only-begotten. And moreover, whatever the essence of the brothers of the first-born is, the same is the essence of the first-born himself. Nor is this all that is signified by the title, but also that the first-born and those born after him draw their being from the same source, without the first-born contributing at all to the birth of those that come after him: so that hereby 325 is maintained the falsehood of that statement of John, which affirms that “all things were made by Him 326 .” For if He is first-born, He differs from those born after Him only by priority in time, while there must be some one else by Whom the power to be at all is imparted alike to Him and to the rest. But that we may not by our objections give any unfair opponent ground for an insinuation that we do not receive the inspired utterances of Scripture, we will first set before our readers our own view about these titles, and then leave it to their judgment which is the better.
Cf. S. John xiv. 9CX:315 CX:316
Cf. 1 Tim. i. 7CXI:317 CXI:318 CXI:319 CXI:320
Cf. S. John i. 3CXI:321 CXI:322
Cf. Heb. i. 3. The quotation is not verbally exact.CXI:323
Cf. Rom. i. 26CXI:324
Ps. 81:9, 10Ps. lxxxi. 10, LXX. The words πρόσφατος (“new”) and ἀλλότριος (“alien”) are both represented in the A.V. by “strange,” and so in R.V. The Prayer-book version expresses them by “strange” and “any other.” Both words are subsequently employed by Gregory in his argument.CXII:325 CXII:326
S. John i. 3
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