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Chapter XVIII.—Concerning the Centurion’s Faith. The Raising of the Widow’s Son. John Baptist, and His Message to Christ; And the Woman Who Was a Sinner. Proofs Extracted from All of the Relation of Christ to the Creator.
Likewise, when extolling the centurion’s faith, how incredible a thing it is, that He should confess that He had “found so great a faith not even in Israel,”41374137 Luke vii. 1–10. to whom Israel’s faith was in no way interesting!41384138 Comp. Epiphanius, Hæres. xlii., Refut. 7, for the same argument: Εἰ οὐδὲ ἐν τῷ ᾽Ισραὴλ τοιαύτην πίστιν εὖρεν, κ.τ.λ. “If He found not so great faith, even in Israel, as He discovered in this Gentile centurion, He does not therefore condemn the faith of Israel. For if He were alien from Israel’s God, and did not pertain to Him, even as His father, He would certainly not have inferentially praised Israel’s faith” (Oehler). But not from the fact (here stated by Christ)41394139 Nec exinde. This points to Christ’s words, “I have not found such faith in Israel.”—Oehler. could it have been of any interest to Him to approve and compare what was hitherto crude, nay, I might say, hitherto naught. Why, however, might He not have used the example of faith in another41404140 Alienæ fidei. god? Because, if He had done so, He would have said that no such faith had ever had existence in Israel; but as the case stands,41414141 Ceterum. He intimates that He ought to have found so great a faith in Israel, inasmuch as He had indeed come for the purpose of finding it, being in truth the God and Christ of Israel, and had now stigmatized41424142 Suggillasset. it, only as one who would enforce and uphold it. If, indeed, He had been its antagonist,41434143 Æmulus. He would have preferred finding it to be such faith,41444144 Eam talem, that is, the faith of Israel. having come to weaken and destroy it rather than to approve of it. He raised also the widow’s son from death.41454145 Luke vii. 11–17. This was not a strange miracle.41464146 Documentum. The Creator’s prophets had wrought such; then why not His Son much rather? Now, so evidently had the Lord Christ introduced no other god for the working of so momentous a miracle as this, that all who were present gave glory to the Creator, saying: “A great prophet is risen up among us, and God hath visited His people.”41474147 Luke vii. 16. What God? He, of course, whose people they were, and from whom had come their prophets. But if they glorified the Creator, and Christ (on hearing them, and knowing their meaning) refrained from correcting them even in their very act of invoking41484148 Et quidem adhuc orantes. the Creator in that vast manifestation of His glory in this raising of the dead, undoubtedly He either announced no other God but Him, whom He thus permitted to be honoured in His own beneficent acts and miracles, or else how happens it that He quietly permitted these persons to remain so long in their error, especially as He came for the very purpose to cure them of their error? But John is offended41494149 Comp. Epiphanius, Hæres. xlii., Schol. 8, cum Refut.; Tertullian, De Præscript Hæret. 8; and De Bapt. 10. when he hears of the miracles of Christ, as of an alien god.41504150 Ut ulterius. This is the absurd allegation of Marcion. So Epiphanius (Le Prieur). Well, I on my side41514151 Ego. will first explain the reason of his offence, that I may the more easily explode the scandal41524152 Scandalum. Playing on the word “scandalum” in its application to the Baptist and to Marcion. of our heretic. Now, that the very Lord Himself of all might, the Word and Spirit of the Father,41534153 “It is most certain that the Son of God, the second Person of the Godhead, is in the writings of the fathers throughout called by the title of Spirit, Spirit of God, etc.; with which usage agree the Holy Scriptures. See Mark ii. 8; Rom. i. 3, 4; 1 Tim. iii. 16; Heb. ix. 14; 1 Pet. iii. 18–20; also John vi. 63, compared with 56.”—Bp. Bull, Def. Nic. Creed (translated by the translator of this work), vol. i. p. 48 and note X. [The whole passage should be consulted.] was operating and preaching on earth, it was necessary that the portion of the Holy Spirit which, in the form of the prophetic gift,41544154 Ex forma prophetici moduli. had been through John preparing the ways of the Lord, should now depart from John,41554155 Tertullian stands alone in the notion that St. John’s inquiry was owing to any withdrawal of the Spirit, so soon before his martyrdom, or any diminution of his faith. The contrary is expressed by Origen, Homil. xxvii., on Luke vii.; Chrysostom on Matt. xi.; Augustine, Sermon. 66, de Verbo; Hilary on Matthew; Jerome on Matthew, and Epist. 121, ad Algas.; Ambrose on Luke, book v. § 93. They say mostly that the inquiry was for the sake of his disciples. (Oxford Library of the Fathers, vol. x. p. 267, note e). [Elucidation V.] and return back again of course to the Lord, as to its all-embracing original.41564156 Ut in massalem suam summam. Therefore John, being now an ordinary person, and only one of the many,41574157 Unus jam de turba. was offended indeed as a man, but not because he expected or thought of another Christ as teaching or doing nothing new, for he was not even expecting such a one.41584158 Eundem. Nobody will entertain doubts about any one whom (since he knows him not to exist) he has no expectation or thought of. Now John was quite sure that there was no other God but the Creator, even as a Jew, especially as a prophet.41594159 Etiam prophetes. Whatever doubt he felt was evidently rather41604160 Facilius. entertained about Him41614161 Jesus. whom he knew indeed to exist but knew not whether He were the very Christ. With this fear, therefore, even John asks the question, “Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?”41624162 Luke vii. 20.—simply inquiring whether He was come as He whom he was looking for. “Art thou He that should come?” i.e. Art thou the coming One? “or look we for another?” i.e. Is He whom we are expecting some other than Thou, if Thou art not He whom we expect to come? For he was supposing,41634163 Sperabat. as all men then thought, from the similarity of the miraculous evidences,41644164 Documentorum. that a prophet might possibly have been meanwhile sent, from whom the Lord Himself, whose coming was then expected, was different, and to whom He was superior.41654165 Major. And there lay John’s difficulty.41664166 Scandalum. He was in doubt whether He was actually come whom all men were looking for; whom, moreover, they ought to have recognised by His predicted works, even as the Lord sent word to John, that it was by means of these very works that He was to be recognised.41674167 Luke vii. 21, 22. Now, inasmuch as these predictions evidently related to the Creator’s Christ—as we have proved in the examination of each of them—it was perverse enough, if he gave himself out to be not the Christ of the Creator, and rested the proof of his statement on those very evidences whereby he was urging his claims to be received as the Creator’s Christ. Far greater still is his perverseness when, not being the Christ of John,41684168 That is, not the Creator’s Christ—whose prophet John was—therefore a different Christ from Him whom John announced. This is said, of course, on the Marcionite hypothesis (Oehler). he yet bestows on John his testimony, affirming him to be a prophet, nay more, his messenger,41694169 Angelum. applying to him the Scripture, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.”41704170 Luke vii. 26, 27, and Mal. iii. 1–3. He graciously41714171 Eleganter. adduced the prophecy in the superior sense of the alternative mentioned by the perplexed John, in order that, by affirming that His own precursor was already come in the person of John, He might quench the doubt41724172 Scrupulum. which lurked in his question: “Art thou He that should come, or look we for another?” Now that the forerunner had fulfilled his mission, and the way of the Lord was prepared, He ought now to be acknowledged as that (Christ) for whom the forerunner had made ready the way. That forerunner was indeed “greater than all of women born;”41734173 Luke vii. 28. but for all that, He who was least in the kingdom of God41744174 That is, Christ, according to Epiphanius. See next note. was not subject to him;41754175 Comp. the Refutation of Epiphanius (Hæres. xlii. Refut. 8): “Whether with reference to John or to the Saviour, He pronounces a blessing on such as should not be offended in Himself or in John. Nor should they devise for themselves whatsoever things they heard not from him. He also has a greater object in view, on account of which the Saviour said this; even that no one should think that John (who was pronounced to be greater than any born of women) was greater than the Saviour Himself, because even He was born of a woman. He guards against this mistake, and says, ‘Blessed is he who shall not be offended in me.’ He then adds, ‘He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.’ Now, in respect of His birth in the flesh, the Saviour was less than he by the space of six months. But in the kingdom He was greater, being even his God. For the Only-begotten came not to say aught in secret, or to utter a falsehood in His preaching, as He says Himself, ‘In secret have I said nothing, but in public,’ etc. (Κἄν τε πρὸς ᾽Ιωάννην ἔχοι…ἀλλὰ μετὰ παῤῥησίας).”— Oehler. as if the kingdom in which the least person was greater than John belonged to one God, while John, who was greater than all of women born, belonged himself to another God. For whether He speaks of any “least person” by reason of his humble position, or of Himself, as being thought to be less than John—since all were running into the wilderness after John rather than after Christ (“What went ye out into the wilderness to see?”41764176 Luke vii. 25.)—the Creator has equal right41774177 Tantundem competit creatori. to claim as His own both John, greater than any born of women, and Christ, or every “least person in the kingdom of heaven,” who was destined to be greater than John in that kingdom, although equally pertaining to the Creator, and who would be so much greater than the prophet,41784178 Major tanto propheta. because he would not have been offended at Christ, an infirmity which then lessened the greatness of John. We have already spoken of the forgiveness41794179 De remissa. of sins. The behaviour of “the woman which was a sinner,” when she covered the Lord’s feet with her kisses, bathed them with her tears, wiped them with the hairs of her head, anointed them with ointment,41804180 Luke vii. 36–50. produced an evidence that what she handled was not an empty phantom,41814181 Comp. Epiphanius, Hæres. xlii., Refut. 10, 11. but a really solid body, and that her repentance as a sinner deserved forgiveness according to the mind of the Creator, who is accustomed to prefer mercy to sacrifice.41824182 Hos. vi. 6. But even if the stimulus of her repentance proceeded from her faith, she heard her justification by faith through her repentance pronounced in the words, “Thy faith hath saved thee,” by Him who had declared by Habakkuk, “The just shall live by his faith.”41834183 Hab. ii. 4.
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