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NPNF2-08. Basil: Letters and Select Works
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Chapter XVIII.

In what manner in the confession of the three hypostases we preserve the pious dogma of the Monarchia.  Wherein also is the refutation of them that allege that the Spirit is subnumerated.10851085    The term Μοναρχία first acquired importance in patristic literature in Justin’s work De monarchia, against Polytheism.  Of the lost letter of Irenæus to the Roman Presbyter Florinus, who was deposed for heresy, presumably gnostic, the title, according to Eusebius (H.E. v. 20), was περὶ Μοναρχίας, ἢ περὶ τοῦ μὴ εἶναι τὸν θεὸν ποιητὴν κακῶν.  Later it came to be used to express not the Divine unity as opposed to Polytheism or Oriental Dualism, but the Divine unity as opposed to Tritheism.  Vide the words of Dionysius of Rome, as quoted by Athan. De Decretis, § 26, “Next let me turn to those who cut in pieces, divide, and destroy that most sacred doctrine of the church of God, the divine Monarchy, making it, as it were, three powers and divided subsistences and three godheads.”  So St. Basil Cont. Eunom. ii. ᾽Αρχὴ μὲν οὖν πατρὸς οὐδεμία, ἀρχὴ δὲ τοῦ υἱοῦ ὁ πατήρ.  And in Ep. xxxviii. ᾽Αλλά τίς ἐστι δύναμις ἀγεννήτως καὶ ἀνάρχως ὑφεοτῶσα ἥτις ἐςτὶν αἰτία τῆς ἁπάντων τῶν ὄντων αἰτίας, ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ πατρὸς ὁ υἱ& 232·ς δι᾽ οὗ τὰ πάντα.  And in Ep. cxxv. Ενα γὰρ οἴδαμεν ἀγέννητον καὶ μίαν τῶν πάντων ἀρχὴν, τὸν πατέρα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν ᾽Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ.  On the doctrine and its exponents compare § 72 of the De Sp. S.
   On the other hand “Monarchians” was a name connoting heresy when applied to those who pushed the doctrine of the Unity to an extreme, involving denial of a Trinity.  Of these, among the more noteworthy were Paul of Samosata, bp. of Antioch, who was deposed in 269, a representative of thinkers who have been called dynamical monarchians, and Praxeas (supposed by some to be a nickname), who taught at Rome in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, and of whom Tertullian, the originator of the term patripassians, as applied to Monarchians, wrote “Paracletum fugavit et patrem crucifixit.”  This heretical Monarchianism culminated in Sabellius, the “most original, ingenious, and profound of the Monarchians.”  Schaff. Hist. Chr. Church, i. 293.  cf. Gisseler, i. p. 127, Harnack’s Monarchianismus in Herzog’s Real Encyclopædie, Vol. x.  Thomasius Dog. Gesch. i. p. 179, and Fialon Et. Hist. p. 241.

44.  In delivering the formula of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,10861086    Matt. xxviii. 19. our Lord did not connect the gift with number.  He did not say “into First, Second, and Third,”10871087    Mr. C.F.H. Johnston quotes as instances of the application of the word “third” to the Holy Ghost; Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 13) “We honour the Spirit of prophecy in the third rank.”  Tertullian (In Prax. 8) “As the fruit from the tree is third from the root, and the rivulet from the river third from the source, and the flame from the ray third from the sun.”  Eunomius (Lib. Apol. § 25) “observing the teaching of Saints, we have learned from them that the Holy Spirit is third in dignity and order, and so have believed him to be third in nature also.”  On the last St. Basil (Adv. Eunom. ii.) rejoins “Perhaps the word of piety allows Him to come in rank second to the Son…although He is inferior to the Son in rank and dignity (that we may make the utmost possible concession) it does not reasonably follow thence that he is of a different nature.”  On the word “perhaps” a dispute arose at the Council of Florence, the Latins denying its genuineness. nor yet “into one, two, and three, but He gave us the boon of the knowledge of the faith which leads to salvation, by means of holy names.  So that what saves us is our faith.  Number has been devised as a symbol indicative of the quantity of objects.  But these men, who bring ruin on themselves from every possible source, have turned even the capacity for counting against the faith.  Nothing else undergoes any change in consequence of the addition of number, and yet these men in the case of the divine nature pay reverence to number, lest they should exceed the limits of the honour due to the Paraclete.  But, O wisest sirs, let the unapproachable be altogether above and beyond number, as the ancient reverence of the Hebrews wrote the unutterable name of God in peculiar characters, thus endeavouring to set forth its infinite excellence.  Count, if you must; but you must not by counting do damage to the faith.  Either let the ineffable be honoured by silence; or let holy things be counted consistently with true religion.  There is one God and Father, one Only-begotten, and one Holy Ghost.  We proclaim each of the hypostases singly; and, when count we must, we do not let an ignorant arithmetic carry us away to the idea of a plurality of Gods.

45.  For we do not count by way of addition, gradually making increase from unity to multitude, and saying one, two, and three,—nor yet first, second, and third.  For “I,” God, “am the first, and I am the last.”10881088    Is. xliv. 6.  And hitherto we have never, even at the present time, heard of a second God.  Worshipping as we do God of God, we both confess the distinction of the Persons, and at the same time abide by the Monarchy.  We do not fritter away the theology10891089    According to patristic usage θεολογία proper is concerned with all that relates to the Divine and Eternal nature of our Lord.  cf. Bp. Lightfoot.  Ap Fathers, Part II. vol. ii. p. 75. in a divided plurality, because one Form, so to say, united10901090    ἑνιζομένην.  Var. lectiones are ἐνιζομένην, “seated in,” and ἐνεικονιζομένην, “imaged in.” in the invariableness of the Godhead, is beheld in God the Father, and in God the Only begotten.  For the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son; since such as is the latter, such is the former, and such as is the former, such is the latter; and herein is the Unity.  So that according to the distinction of Persons, both are one and one, and according to the community of Nature, one.  How, then, if one and one, are there not two Gods?  Because we speak of a king, and of the king’s image, and not of two kings.  The majesty is not cloven in two, nor the glory divided.  The sovereignty and authority over us is one, and so the doxology ascribed by us is not plural but one;10911091    cf. the embolismus, or intercalated prayer in the Liturgy of St. James, as cited by Mr. C.F.H. Johnston.  “For of thee is the kingdom and the power and the glory, of Father, of Son, and of Holy Ghost, now and ever.” because the honour paid to the image passes on to the prototype.  Now what in the one case the image is by reason of imitation, that in the other case the Son is by nature; and as in works of art the likeness is dependent on the form, so in the case of the divine and uncompounded nature the union consists in the communion of the Godhead.10921092    On the right use of the illustration of εἰκών, cf. Basil Ep. xxxviii., and Bp. Lightfoot’s note on Col. i. 15cf. also John i. 18 and xiv. 9, 10.  One, moreover, is the Holy Spirit, and we speak of Him singly, conjoined as He is to the one Father through the one Son, and through Himself completing the adorable and blessed Trinity.  Of Him the intimate relationship to the Father and the Son is sufficiently declared by the fact of His not being ranked in the plurality of the creation, but being spoken of singly; for he is not one of many, but One.  For as there is one Father and one Son, so is there one Holy Ghost.  He is consequently as far removed from created Nature as reason requires the singular to be removed from compound and plural bodies; and He is in such wise united to the Father and to the Son as unit has affinity with unit.

46.  And it is not from this source alone that our proofs of the natural communion are derived, but from the fact that He is moreover said to be “of God;”10931093    2 Cor. i. 12. not indeed in the sense in which “all things are of God,”10941094    1 Cor. xi. 12.  George of Laodicea applied this passage to the Son, and wrote to the Arians:  “Why complain of Pope Alexander (i.e. of Alexandria) for saying that the Son is from the Father.…For if the apostle wrote All things are from God…He may be said to be from God in that sense in which all things are from God.”  Athan., De Syn. 17. but in the sense of proceeding out of God, not by generation, like the Son, but as Breath of His mouth.  But in no way is the “mouth” a member, nor the Spirit breath that is dissolved; but the word “mouth” is used so far as it can be appropriate to God, and the Spirit is a Substance having life, gifted with supreme power of sanctification.  Thus the close relation is made plain, while the mode of the ineffable existence is safeguarded.  He is moreover styled ‘Spirit of Christ,’ as being by nature closely related to Him.  Wherefore “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”10951095    Rom. viii. 9.  Hence He alone worthily glorifies the Lord, for, it is said, “He shall glorify me,”10961096    John xvi. 14. not as the creature, but as “Spirit of truth,”10971097    John xiv. 17. clearly shewing forth the truth in Himself, and, as Spirit of wisdom, in His own greatness revealing “Christ the Power of God and the wisdom of God.”10981098    1 Cor. i. 24.  And as Paraclete10991099    παράκλητος occurs five times in the N.T., and is rendered in A.V. in John xiv. 16 and 26, xv. 26 and xvi. 7, Comforter; in 1 John ii. 1 Advocate, as applied to the Son.  In the text the Son, the Paraclete, is described as sending the Spirit, the Paraclete; in the second clause of the sentence it can hardly be positively determined whether the words τοῦ ὁθεν προῆλθεν refer to the Father or to the Son.  The former view is adopted by Mr. C.F.H. Johnson, the latter by the editor of Keble’s Studia Sacra, p. 176.  The sequence of the sentence in John xv. 26 might lead one to regard ὁθεν προῆλθεν as equivalent to παρὰ̀ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται.  On the other hand. St. Basil’s avoidance of direct citation of the verb ἐκπορεύεται, his close connexion of τοῦ ἀποστείλαντος with ὅθεν προῆλθεν, and the close of the verse in St. John’s gospel ἐκεῖνος μαρτυρήσει περὶ ἐμοῦ, suggest that the μεγαλωσύνη in St. Basil’s mind may be the μεγαλωσύνη of the Son.  At the same time, while the Western Church was in the main unanimous as to the double procession, this passage from St. Basil is not quoted as an exception to the general current of the teaching of the Greek Fathers, who, as Bp. Pearson expresses it, “stuck more closely to the phrase and language of the Scriptures, saying that the spirit proceedeth from the Father.”  (Pearson On the Creed, Art. viii. where videquotations)  Vide also Thomasius, Christ. Dogm., i. 270, Namentlich auf letzere Bestimmung legten die griechischen Väter groszes Gewicht. Im Gegensatz gegen den macedonischen Irrtum, der den Geist für ein Geschüpf des Sohnes ansah, führte man die Subsistenz desselben ebenso auf den Vater zuruck wie die des Sohnes.  Man lehrte, , also, der heilige Geist geht vom Vater aus, der Vater ist die  ἀρχή wie des Sohnes so auch des Geistes; aber mit der dem herkömmlichen Zuge des Dogma entsprechenden Näherbestimmung:  nicht  ἀμέσως, sondern  ἐμμέσως, interventu filii geht der Geist vom Vater aus, also “durch den Sohn vom Vater.”  So die bedeutendsten Kirchenlehrer, während andere einfach bei der Formel stehen blieben; er gehe vom Vater aus. He expresses in Himself the goodness of the Paraclete who sent Him, and in His own dignity manifests the majesty of Him from whom He proceeded.  There is then on the one hand a natural glory, as light is the glory of the sun; and on the other a glory bestowed judicially and of free will ‘ab extra’ on them that are worthy.  The latter is twofold.  “A son,” it is said, “honoureth his father, and a servant his master.”11001100    Mal. i. 6.  Of these two the one, the servile, is given by the creature; the other, which may be called the intimate, is fulfilled by the Spirit.  For, as our Lord said of Himself, “I have glorified Thee on the earth:  I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do;”11011101    John xvii. 4. so of the Paraclete He says “He shall glorify me:  for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.”11021102    John xvi. 14.  And as the Son is glorified of the Father when He says “I have both glorified it and will glorify it11031103    Four mss. of the De S.S. read ἐδόξασά σε, a variation not appearing in mss. of the Gospel.again,”11041104    John xii. 28. so is the Spirit glorified through His communion with both Father and Son, and through the testimony of the Only-begotten when He says “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men:  but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”11051105    Matt. xii. 31.

47.  And when, by means of the power that enlightens us, we fix our eyes on the beauty of the image of the invisible God, and through the image are led up to the supreme beauty of the spectacle of the archetype, then, I ween, is with us inseparably the Spirit of knowledge, in Himself bestowing on them that love the vision of the truth the power of beholding the Image, not making the exhibition from without, but in Himself leading on to the full knowledge.  “No man knoweth the Father save the Son.”11061106    Matt. xi. 27, “οὐδεὶς οἶδε τὸν πατέρα εἰ μὴ ὁ Υἱ& 231·ς” substituted for “οὐ δὲ τὸν πατέρα τὶς ἐπιγνώσκει εἰ μὴ ὁ Υἱ& 231·ς.”  And so “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.”11071107    1 Cor. xii. 3.  For it is not said through the Spirit, but by the Spirit, and “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth,”11081108    John iv. 24. as it is written “in thy light shall we see light,”11091109    Ps. xxxvi. 9. namely by the illumination of the Spirit, “the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”11101110    John i. 9.  It results that in Himself He shows the glory of the Only begotten, and on true worshippers He in Himself bestows the knowledge of God.  Thus the way of the knowledge of God lies from One Spirit through the One Son to the One Father, and conversely the natural Goodness and the inherent Holiness and the royal Dignity extend from the Father through the Only-begotten to the Spirit.  Thus there is both acknowledgment of the hypostases and the true dogma of the Monarchy is not lost.11111111    cf. note on p. 27 and the distinction between δόγμα and κήουγμα in § 66.  “The great objection which the Eastern Church makes to the Filioque is, that it implies the existence of two ἀρχαὶ in the godhead; and if we believe in δύο ἄναρχοι; we, in effect, believe in two Gods.  The unity of the Godhead can only be maintained by acknowledging the Father to be the sole ᾽Αρχὴ or πηγὴ θεοτήτος, who from all eternity has communicated His own Godhead to His co-eternal and consubstantial Son and Spirit.  This reasoning is generally true.  But, as the doctrine of the Procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son presupposes the eternal generation of the Son from the Father; it does not follow, that that doctrine impugns the Catholic belief in the Μία ᾽Αρχή.”  Bp. Harold Browne, Exp. xxxix Art., Note on Art v.  They on the other hand who support their sub-numeration by talking of first and second and third ought to be informed that into the undefiled theology of Christians they are importing the polytheism of heathen error.  No other result can be achieved by the fell device of sub-numeration than the confession of a first, a second, and a third God.  For us is sufficient the order prescribed by the Lord.  He who confuses this order will be no less guilty of transgressing the law than are the impious heathen.

Enough has been now said to prove, in contravention of their error, that the communion of Nature is in no wise dissolved by the manner of sub-numeration.  Let us, however, make a concession to our contentious and feeble minded adversary, and grant that what is second to anything is spoken of in sub-numeration to it.  Now let us see what follows.  “The first man” it is said “is of the earth earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven.”11121112    1 Cor. xv. 47.  Again “that was not first which is spiritual but that which is natural and afterward that which is spiritual.”11131113    1 Cor. xv. 46.  If then the second is subnumerated to the first, and the subnumerated is inferior in dignity to that to which it was subnumerated, according to you the spiritual is inferior in honour to the natural, and the heavenly man to the earthy.


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