Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises.: He then discusses the “willing” of the Father concerning the generation of the Son, and shows that the object of that good will is from eternity, which is the Son, existing in the Father, and being closely related to the process of willing, as the ray to the flame, or the act of seeing to the eye.
§2. He then discusses the “willing” of the Father concerning the generation of the Son, and shows that the object of that good will is from eternity, which is the Son, existing in the Father, and being closely related to the process of willing, as the ray to the flame, or the act of seeing to the eye.
After these distinctions on our part no one can well be longer in doubt how the Only-begotten at once is believed to be “of the Father,” and is eternally, even if the one phrase does not at first sight seem to agree with the other,—that which declares Him to be “of the Father” with that which asserts His eternity. But if we are to confirm our statement by further arguments, it may be possible to apprehend the doctrine on this point by the aid of things cognizable by our senses. And let no one deride our statement, if it cannot find among existing things a likeness of the object of our enquiry such as may be in all respects sufficient for the presentation of the matter in hand by way of analogy and resemblance. For we should like to persuade those who say that the Father first willed and so proceeded to become a Father, and on this ground assert posteriority in existence as regards the Word, by whatever illustrations may make it possible, to turn to the orthodox view. Neither does this immediate conjunction exclude the “willing” of the Father, in the sense that He had a Son without choice, by some necessity of His Nature, nor does the “willing” separate the Son from the Father, coming in between them as a kind of interval: so that we neither reject from our doctrine the “willing” of the Begetter directed to the Son, as being, so to say, forced out by the conjunction of the Sons oneness with the Father, nor do we by any means break that inseparable connection, when “willing” is regarded as involved in the generation. For to our heavy and inert nature it properly belongs that the wish and the possession of a thing are not often present with us at the same moment; but now we wish for something we have not, and at another time we obtain what we do not wish to obtain. But, in the case of the simple and all-powerful Nature, all things are conceived together and at once, the willing of good as well as the possession of what He wills. For the good and the eternal will is contemplated as operating, indwelling, and co-existing in the eternal Nature, not arising in it from any separate principle, nor capable of being conceived apart from the object of will: for it is not possible that with God either the good will should not be, or the object of will should not accompany the act of will, since no cause can either bring it about that that which befits the Father should not always be, or be any hindrance to the possession of the object of will. Since, then, the Only-begotten God is by nature the good (or rather beyond all good), and since the good does not fail to be the object of the Fathers will, it is hereby clearly shown, both that the conjunction of the Son with the Father is without any intermediary, and also that the will, which is always present in the good Nature, is not forced out nor excluded by reason of this inseparable conjunction. And if any one is listening to my argument in no scoffing spirit, I should like to add to what I have already said something of the following kind.
Just as, if one were to grant (I speak, of course, hypothetically) the power of deliberate choice to belong to flame, it would be clear that the flame will at once upon its existence will that its radiance should shine forth from itself, and when it wills it will not be impotent (since, on the appearance of the flame, its natural power at once fulfils its will in the matter of the radiance), so that undoubtedly, if it be granted that the flame is moved by deliberate choice, we conceive the concurrence of all these things simultaneously—of the kindling of the fire, of its act of will concerning the radiance, and of the radiance itself; so that the movement by way of choice is no hindrance to the dignity of the existence of the radiance,—even so, according to the illustration we have spoken of, you will not, by confessing the good act of will p. CCIII as existing in the Father, separate by that act of will the Son from the Father. For it is not reasonable to suppose that the act of willing that He should be, could be a hindrance to His immediately coming into being; but just as, in the eye, seeing and the will to see are, one an operation of nature, the other an impulse of choice, yet no delay is caused to the act of sight by the movement of choice in that particular direction 865 ,—(for each of these is regarded separately and by itself, not as being at all a hindrance to the existence of the other, but as both being somehow interexistent, the natural operation concurring with the choice, and the choice in turn not failing to be accompanied by the natural motion)—as, I say, perception naturally belongs to the eye, and the willing to see produces no delay in respect to actual sight, but one wills that it should have vision, and immediately what he wills is, so also in the case of that Nature which is unspeakable and above all thought, our apprehension of all comes together simultaneously—of the eternal existence of the Father, and of an act of will concerning the Son, and of the Son Himself, Who is, as John says, “in the beginning,” and is not conceived as coming after the beginning. Now the beginning of all is the Father; but in this beginning the Son also is declared to be, being in His Nature that very thing which the Beginning is. For the Beginning is God, and the Word Who “was in the Beginning” is God. As then the phrase “the beginning” points to eternity, John well conjoins “the Word in the Beginning,” saying that the Word was in It; asserting, I suppose, this fact to the end that the first idea present to the mind of his hearer may not be “the Beginning” alone by itself, but that, before this has been impressed upon him, there should also be presented to his mind, together with the Beginning the Word Who was in It, entering with It into the hearers understanding, and being present to his hearing at the same time with the Beginning.
Oehlers punctuation here seems faulty.
Next: Then, thus passing over what relates to the essence of the Son as having been already discussed, he treats of the sense involved in “generation,” saying that there are diverse generations, those effected by matter and art, and of buildings,--and that by succession of animals,--and those by efflux, as by the sun and its beam. The lamp and its radiance, scents and ointments and the quality diffused by them,--and the word produced by the mind; and cleverly discusses generation from rotten wood; and from the condensation of fire, and countless other causes.
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