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Chapter XXVII.—Other Objections Considered. God’s Condescension in the Incarnation. Nothing Derogatory to the Divine Being in This Economy. The Divine Majesty Worthily Sustained by the Almighty Father, Never Visible to Man. Perverseness of the Marcionite Cavils.
And now, that I may briefly pass in review30443044 Absolvam. the other points which you have thus far been engaged in collecting, as mean, weak, and unworthy, for demolishing30453045 Ad destructionem. the Creator, I will propound them in a simple and definite statement:30463046 Ratione. that God would have been unable to hold any intercourse with men, if He had not taken on Himself the emotions and affections of man, by means of which He could temper the strength of His majesty, which would no doubt have been incapable of endurance to the moderate capacity of man, by such a humiliation as was indeed degrading30473047 Indigna. to Himself, but necessary for man, and such as on this very account became worthy of God, because nothing is so worthy of God as the salvation of man. If I were arguing with heathens, I should dwell more at length on this point; although with heretics too the discussion does not stand on very different grounds. Inasmuch as ye yourselves have now come to the belief that God moved about30483048 Diversatum. in the form and all other circumstances of man’s nature,30493049 Conditionis. you will of course no longer require to be convinced that God conformed Himself to humanity, but feel yourselves bound by your own faith. For if the God (in whom ye believe,) even from His higher condition, prostrated the supreme dignity of His majesty to such a lowliness as to undergo death, even the death of the cross, why can you not suppose that some humiliations30503050 Pusillitates. are becoming to our God also, only more tolerable than Jewish contumelies, and crosses,30513051 Patibulis. and sepulchres? Are these the humiliations which henceforth are to raise a prejudice against Christ (the subject as He is of human passions30523052 i.e., the sensations of our emotional nature.) being a partaker of that Godhead30533053 Ejus Dei. against which you make the participation in human qualities a reproach? Now we believe that Christ did ever act in the name of God the Father; that He actually30543054 Ipsum. from the beginning held intercourse with (men); actually30553055 Ipsum. communed with30563056 Congressum. patriarchs and prophets; was the Son of the Creator; was His Word; whom God made His Son30573057 On this mode of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, as the Λόγος προφορικός, the reader is referred for much patristic information to Bp. Bull’s Defensio Fid. Nic. (trans. in Anglo-Cath. Library by the translator of this work). by emitting Him from His own self,30583058 Proferendo ex semet ipso. and thenceforth set Him over every dispensation and (administration of) His will,30593059 Voluntati. making Him a little lower than the angels, as is written in David.30603060 Ps. viii. 6. In which lowering of His condition He received from the Father a dispensation in those very respects which you blame as human; from the very beginning learning,30613061 Ediscens, “practising” or “rehearsing.” even then, (that state of a) man which He was destined in the end to become.30623062 This doctrine of theology is more fully expressed by our author in a fine passage in his Treatise against Praxeas, xvi. (Oehler, vol. ii. p. 674), of which the translator gave this version in Bp. Bull’s Def. Nic. Creed, vol. i. p. 18: “The Son hath executed judgment from the beginning, throwing down the haughty tower, and dividing the tongues, punishing the whole world by the violence of waters, raining upon Sodom and Gomorrha fire and brimstone ‘the Lord from the Lord.’ For he it was who at all times came down to hold converse with men, from Adam on to the patriarchs and the prophets, in vision, in dream, in mirror, in dark saying; ever from the beginning laying the foundation of the course (of His dispensations), which He meant to follow out unto the end. Thus was He ever learning (practising or rehearsing); and the God who conversed with men upon earth could be no other than the Word, which was to be made flesh. But He was thus learning (or rehearsing, ediscebat) in order to level for us the way of faith, that we might the more readily believe that the Son of God had come down into the world, if we knew that in times past also something similar had been done.” The original thus opens: “Filius itaque est qui ab initio judicavit.” This the author connects with John iii. 35, Matt. xxviii. 18, John v. 22. The “judgment” is dispensational from the first to the last. Every judicial function of God’s providence from Eden to the judgment day is administered by the Son of God. This office of judge has been largely dealt with in its general view by Tertullian, in this book ii. against Marcion (see chap. xi.–xvii.). It is He who descends, He who interrogates, He who demands, He who swears. With regard, however, to the Father, the very gospel which is common to us will testify that He was never visible, according to the word of Christ: “No man knoweth the Father, save the Son.”30633063 Matt. xi. 27. For even in the Old Testament He had declared, “No man shall see me, and live.”30643064 Ex. xxxiii. 20. He means that the Father is invisible, in whose authority and in whose name was He God who appeared as the Son of God. But with us30653065 Penes nos. Christians, not Marcionites. [Could our author have regarded himself as formally at war with the church, at this time?] Christ is received in the person of Christ, because even in this manner is He our God. Whatever attributes therefore you require as worthy of God, must be found in the Father, who is invisible and unapproachable, and placid, and (so to speak) the God of the philosophers; whereas those qualities which you censure as unworthy must be supposed to be in the Son, who has been seen, and heard, and encountered, the Witness and Servant of the Father, uniting in Himself man and God, God in mighty deeds, in weak ones man, in order that He may give to man as much as He takes from God. What in your esteem is the entire disgrace of my God, is in fact the sacrament of man’s salvation. God held converse with man, that man might learn to act as God. God dealt on equal terms30663066 Ex æquo agebat. with man, that man might be able to deal on equal terms with God. God was found little, that man might become very great. You who disdain such a God, I hardly know whether you ex fidebelieve that God was crucified. How great, then, is your perversity in respect of the two characters of the Creator! You designate Him as Judge, and reprobate as cruelty that severity of the Judge which only acts in accord with the merits of cases. You require God to be very good, and yet despise as meanness that gentleness of His which accorded with His kindness, (and) held lowly converse in proportion to the mediocrity of man’s estate. He pleases you not, whether great or little, neither as your judge nor as your friend! What if the same features should be discovered in your God? That He too is a judge, we have already shown in the proper section:30673067 In the 1st book, 25th and following chapters. that from being a judge He must needs be severe; and from being severe He must also be cruel, if indeed cruel.30683068 Sævum.
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