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NPNF1-03. On the Holy Trinity; Doctrinal Treatises; Moral Treatises
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Chapter 6.—How There is a Trinity in the Very Simplicity of God. Whether and How the Trinity that is God is Manifested from the Trinities Which Have Been Shown to Be in Men.

9. When, then, we say, Eternal, wise, blessed, are these three the Trinity that is called God? We reduce, indeed, those twelve to this small number of three; but perhaps we can go further, and reduce these three also to one of them. For if wisdom and might, or life and wisdom, can be one and the same thing in the nature of God, why cannot eternity and wisdom, or blessedness and wisdom, be one and the same thing in the nature of God? And hence, as it made no difference whether we spoke of these twelve or of those three when we reduced the many to the small number; so does it make no difference whether we speak of those three, or of that one, to the singularity of which we have shown that the other two of the three may be reduced. What fashion, then, of argument, what possible force and might of understanding, what liveliness of reason, what sharp-sightedness of thought, will set forth how (to pass over now the others) this one thing, that God is called wisdom, is a trinity? For God does not receive wisdom from any one as we receive it from Him, but He is Himself His own wisdom; because His wisdom is not one thing, and His essence another, seeing that to Him to be wise is to be. Christ, indeed, is called in the Holy Scriptures, “the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”955955    1 Cor. i. 24 But we have discussed in the seventh book how this is to be understood, so that the Son may not seem to make the Father wise; and our explanation came to this, that the Son is wisdom of wisdom, in the same way as He is light of light, God of God. Nor could we find the Holy Spirit to be in any other way than that He Himself also is wisdom, and altogether one wisdom, as one God, one essence. How, then, do we understand this wisdom, which is God, to be a trinity? I do not say, How do we believe this? For among the faithful this ought to admit no question. But supposing there is any way by which we can see with the understanding what we believe, what is that way?

10. For if we recall where it was in these books that a trinity first began to show itself to our understanding, the eighth book is that which occurs to us; since it was there that to the best of our power we tried to raise the aim of the mind to understand that most excellent and unchangeable nature, which our mind is not. And we so contemplated this nature as to think of it as not far from us, and as above us, not in place, but by its own awful and wonderful excellence, and in such wise that it appeared to be with us by its own present light. Yet in this no trinity was yet manifest to us, because in that blaze of light we did not keep the eye of the mind steadfastly bent upon seeking it; only we discerned it in a sense, because there was no bulk wherein we must needs think the magnitude of two or three to be more than that of one. But when we came to treat of love, which in the Holy Scriptures is called God,956956    1 John iv. 16 then a trinity began to dawn upon us a little, i.e. one that loves, and that which is loved, and love. But because that ineffable light beat back our gaze, and it became in some degree plain that the weakness of our mind could not as yet be tempered to it, we turned back in the midst of the course we had begun, and planned according to the (as it were) more familiar consideration of our own mind, according to which man is made after the image of God,957957    Gen. i. 27 in order to relieve our overstrained attention; and thereupon we dwelt from the ninth to the fourteenth book upon the consideration of the creature, which we are, that we might be able to understand and behold the invisible things of God by those things which are made. And now that we have exercised the understanding, as far as was needful, or perhaps more than was needful, in lower things, lo! we wish, but have not strength, to raise ourselves to behold that highest Trinity which is God. For in such manner as we see most undoubted trinities, whether those which are wrought from without by corporeal things, or when these same things are thought of which were perceived from without; or when those things which take their rise in the mind, and do not pertain to the senses of the body, as faith, or as the virtues which comprise the art of living, are discerned by manifest reason, and, held fast by knowledge; or when the mind itself, by which we know whatever we truly say that we know, is known to itself, or thinks of itself; or when that mind beholds anything eternal and unchangeable, which itself is not;—in such way, then, I say, as we see in all these instances most undoubted trinities, because they are wrought in ourselves, or are in ourselves, when we remember, look at, or desire these things;—do we, I say, in such manner also see the Trinity that is God; because there also, by the understanding, we behold both Him as it were speaking, and His Word, i.e. the Father and the Son; and then, proceeding thence, the love common to both, namely, the Holy Spirit? These trinities that pertain to our senses or to our mind, do we rather see than believe them, but rather believe than see that God is a trinity? But if this is so, then doubtless we either do not at all understand and behold the invisible things of God by those things that are made, or if we behold them at all, we do not behold the Trinity in them; and there is therein somewhat to behold, and somewhat also which we ought to believe, even though not beheld. And as the eighth book showed that we behold the unchangeable good which we are not, so the fourteenth reminded us thereof, when we spoke of the wisdom that man has from God. Why, then, do we not recognize the Trinity therein? Does that wisdom which God is said to be, not perceive itself, and not love itself? Who would say this? Or who is there that does not see, that where there is no knowledge, there in no way is there wisdom? Or are we, in truth, to think that the Wisdom which is God knows other things, and does not know itself; or loves other things, and does not love itself? But if this is a foolish and impious thing to say or believe, then behold we have a trinity,—to wit, wisdom, and the knowledge wisdom has of itself, and its love of itself. For so, too, we find a trinity in man also, i.e. mind, and the knowledge wherewith mind knows itself, and the love wherewith it loves itself.


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