NPNF2-09. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus
« Prev Introduction. Next »

Introduction to the De Trinitate.


Since the circumstances in which the De Trinitate was written, and the character and object of the work, are discussed in the general Introduction, it will suffice to give here a brief summary of its contents, adapted, in the main, from the Benedictine edition.

Book I. The treatise begins with St. Hilary’s own spiritual history, the events of which are displayed, no doubt, more logically and symmetrically in the narrative than they had occurred in the writer’s experience. He tells of the efforts of a pure and noble soul, impeded, so far as we hear, neither by unworthy desires nor by indifference, to find an adequate end and aim of life. He rises first to the conception of the old philosophers, and then by successive advances, as he learns more and more of the Divine revelation in Scripture, he attains the object of his search in the apprehension of God as revealed in the Catholic Faith. But this happiness is not the result of a mere intellectual knowledge, but of belief as well. In §§ 1–14 we have this advance from ignorance and fear to knowledge and peace. And here he might have rested, had he not been charged with the sacerdotal (i.e., in the language of that time, the episcopal) office, which laid upon him the duty of caring for the salvation of others. And such care was needed, for (§§ 15, 16) heresies were abroad, and chiefly two; the Sabellian which said that Father and Son were mere names or aspects of one Divine Person, and therefore there had been no true birth of the Son; and the Arian (which, however, Hilary rarely calls by the name of its advocate, preferring to style it the ‘new heresy’) asserting more or less openly that the Son is created and not born, and therefore is different in kind from the Father, and not, in the true sense, God. Hilary declares (§ 17) that his purpose is to refute these heresies and to demonstrate the true faith by the evidence of Scripture. He demands from his hearers a loyal belief in the Scriptures which he will cite; without such faith his arguments will not profit them (§ 18); and in § 19 he warns them of the limits of the argument from analogy, which he must employ, inadequate as it is in respect of the finite illustrations which he must use to express the infinite. Then in § 20 he speaks with a modest pride of his careful marshalling of the arguments which shall lead his readers to the right conclusion, and in §§ 21–36 he gives a summary of the contents of the work. He concludes the first Book (§§ 37, 38) with a prayer which expresses his certainty that what he holds is the truth, and entreats the Father and the Son that he may have the eloquence of language and the cogency of reasoning needed for the worthy presentation of the truth concerning Them.

Book II. He begins with the command to baptize all nations (St. Matt. xxviii. 19) as a summary of the faith; this by itself would suffice were not explanations rendered necessary by heretical misrepresentations of its meaning. For (§§ 3, 4) heresy is the result of Scripture misunderstood; and here we must notice that Scripture is regarded as ground common to both sides. All accept it as literally true, and combine its texts as will best serve their own purposes. Hilary, regarding all heresies as one combined opposition to the truth, makes the two objections that their arguments are mutually destructive, and that they are modern. Then in § 5 he expresses the awe with which he approaches the subject. The language which he must use is utterly inadequate, and yet he is compelled to use it. In §§ 6, 7 he begins with the notion of God as Father; in §§ 8–11 he proceeds to that of God the Son. He states the faith as it must be believed; it is not enough (§§ 12, 13) to accept the truth of Christ’s miracles. The mystery, as it is revealed in St. John i. 1–4, must be the object of faith. In §§ 14–21 he expounds this passage in the face of current objections, and then triumphantly asserts that all the efforts of heresy are vain (§ 22). He advances proof-texts in § 23 against each objector, and then points out in §§ 24, 25 our indebtedness to the infinite Divine condescension thus revealed. For, in all the humiliation to which Christ stooped the Divine Majesty was still inseparably His, and was manifested both in the circumstances of His birth and in His life on earth (§§ 26–28). The book concludes (§§ 29–35) with a statement of the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, as perfect as in the undeveloped state of that doctrine was possible.

Book III. In §§ 1–4, the words, I in the Father and the Father in Me, are taken as typical. Man cannot comprehend, but only apprehend them. So far as they are explicable Hilary explains them. But God’s self revelation is always mysterious. The miracles of Christ are inexplicable (§§ 5–8); this is God’s way, and meant to check presumption. Human wisdom is limited, and when it passes its bounds, and invades the realm of faith, it becomes folly. Next, in §§ 9–17, the passage, St. John xvii. 1 ff., is explained as proving that in the One God there are the Persons of Father and of Son, and as revealing God in the aspect of the Father. Then, in §§ 18–21, the wonderful deeds of Christ are put forth as an evidence of His wonderful birth. We must not ask how He can be coeternal with the Father, for it is in vain that we should ask how He could pass through the closed door. Either question is mere presumption. The revelation which Christ makes (§§ 22, 23) is that of God as His Father; Unum sunt, non Unus. And finally, in §§ 25, 26, he returns to the futility of reasoning. True wisdom is to believe where we cannot comprehend; we must trust to faith, not to proof.

Book IV. This book is in a sense the beginning of the treatise, and is sometimes cited later on as the first. Its three predecessors, he says in § 1, had been written some time before. They had contained a statement of the truth concerning the Divinity of Christ, and a summary refutation of the various heresies. He now commences his main attack upon Arianism. First (§ 2) he repeats what his difficulty is; that human language and thought cannot cope with the Infinite. Then (§ 3) he tells how the Arians explain away the eternal Sonship of Christ. As a defence against this tampering with the truth, the Church has adopted the term Homoousion (§§ 4–7); Hilary explains and defends its use. In § 8 he shews, by a collection of the passages of Scripture which they wrest to their own purposes, that such a definition is necessary, and in §§ 9, 10 that their use of these passages is dishonest. In § 11 he tells us exactly what the Arian teaching is, and sets it forth in one of their own formularies, the Epistola Arii ad Alexandrum (§§ 12, 13). In § 14 this doctrine is denounced; it does not explain, but explains away. The proclamation made through Moses, Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One, upon which the Arians take their stand, reveals only one aspect of the truth (§ 15). It does not exhaust the truth; for God is represented as not one solitary Person in the history of creation (§§ 16–22), in the life of Abraham (§§ 23–31), and in that of Moses (§§ 32–34). And this again is the teaching of the Prophets, as is shewn by passages selected from Isaiah, Hosea, and Jeremiah (§§ 35–42). All the evidence thus collected shews that in the Godhead there is both Father and Son, and that the Son is God.

Book V. Hilary now points out (§ 1) the controversial strength of the Arian position. If he is silent in face of their assertion, they will claim that he agrees with them that the Son is God only in some inferior sense. On the other hand, if he opposes them, he will seem to be contradicting the Mosaic revelation of the Divine unity. In § 2 he recapitulates the argument of Book IV., that the witness of Scripture proves that God is not a solitary Person; that, as he says, there is God and God. But the Arians had a further loophole; their creed asserted (§ 3) one true God. They might argue that Christ is indeed God, but of a nature different from that of the Father. In refutation of this Hilary goes once more through the history of creation (§§ 4–10), proving that the narrative reveals not only the Son’s share in that work, but also His equality and oneness of nature with the Father; in other words, that He is not only God but true God. The same truth is demonstrated from the life of Abraham (§§ 11–16). Moreover, these self-revelations of the Son (as the Angel, on various occasions) are anticipations of the Incarnation. He was first seen in flesh, afterwards born in flesh. The Arians concentrate their attention on the humble conditions of Christ’s human life, and so, from want of a comprehensive view, fail to discern His true Godhead. But Hilary will not anticipate the evidence of the Gospels (§§ 17, 18). He returns to the Old Testament, and proves his point from Jacob’s visions (§§ 19, 20), and by the revelations made to Moses (§§ 21–23). After a summary and an enforcement of the preceding arguments (§§ 24, 25), he proceeds to prove from certain passages of Isaiah that the Prophet recognised the Son as true God (§§ 26–31), and that St. Paul understood him in that sense (§§ 32, 33). Then, in §§ 34, 35, the result which has been attained is dwelt upon. Hilary shews that it is the Arians who fail to recognise the one true God; for Christ is true God, yet not a second God. Finally, in §§ 36–39, Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah are adduced as testifying that Christ is God from God, and God in God.

Book VI. Hilary begins by lamenting the wide extension of Arianism; his love for souls leads him to combat the heresy, whose insidiousness makes it the more dangerous (§§ 1–4). He repeats in §§ 5, 6 the same Arian creed which he had given in Book IV. The heretics here gain the appearance of orthodoxy by condemning errors inconsistent with their own; and this condemnation is designed to cast upon the Catholic faith the suspicion of complicity in such errors. Hence he must postpone his appeal to the New Testament till he has examined them (§§ 7, 8). Accordingly in §§ 9–12 he explains successively the doctrines of Valentinus, Manichæus, Sabellius and Hieracas, and shews that the Church rejects them all, as she does (§ 13) the doctrine which the Arians in their creed have falsely assigned to her. Their object is to deny that the Son is coeternal with the Father and of one substance with Him (§§ 14, 15); but this denial is clean contrary to Scripture, which it is blasphemy to oppose (§§ 16, 17). The Arians would make a creature of Christ (§ 18), to Whom, in §§ 19–21, Hilary turns with an impassioned declaration of certainty that He is very God. He then resumes the argument, and proves that Christ is Son by birth, not by adoption, from the words both of Father and of Son as recorded in the Gospel (§§ 22–25). This is confirmed (§§ 26, 27) by the Gospel account of His acts, which are otherwise inexplicable. The argument is clenched by a discussion of St. John vii. 28, 29, and viii. 42 (§§ 28–31). The true Sonship of Christ is further proved by the faith of the Apostles, whose certainty increased with their knowledge (§§ 31–35), and especially by that of St. Peter (§§ 36–38), of St. John (§§ 39–43), and of St. Paul (§§ 44, 45). To reject such a weight of testimony is to prefer Antichrist to Christ (§ 46). And, moreover, we have the witness of those for whom He wrought miracles, of devils, of the Jews, the Apostles in peril on the sea, of the centurion by the Cross, that Christ is truly the Son of God (§§ 47–52).

Book VII. The Arians are adepts at concealing their meaning; at the use of Scripture terms in unscriptural senses (§ 1). They have already been refuted by the proof that Christ is the true and coeternal Son; and Hilary now advances to the proof of the true Divinity of Christ, which is logically inseparable from His true Sonship (§ 2). But the danger is great lest, in attacking one heresy, he should use language which would sanction others (§ 3). Yet the truth is one, while heresies are manifold. Each of them can be trusted to demolish the others, while none can establish its own case. He illustrates this by the mutually destructive arguments of Sabellius, Arius and Photinus (§§ 5–7). Christ is proved to be God by the name God which is given Him in Scripture: The Word was God (§§ 8, 9). The name is His in the strict sense, and not any derivative meaning (§§ 10, 11). Yet Father and Son are not two, but one God (§ 13). Being the Son of God, He has the nature of God, and therefore is God (§§ 14–17), and yet not one Person with the Father (§ 18). Again, His power, manifested in His works, proves His Godhead (§ 19), as does the fact that all judgment has been given Him by the Father (§ 20). Christ’s own words display the truth (§ 21). The Arians are blind to the plain sense of Scripture, and are more blasphemous than the Jews; Christ’s reply to the latter meets the objections of the former (§§ 22–24). He asserts His unity with the Father (§ 25), and makes His works the proof (§ 26). The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father (§ 27): this is illustrated by the transmission of physical properties from parent to child and from flame to flame (§§ 28–30). In fact, the Catholic is the only rational explanation of the words of Scripture (§§ 31, 32). Again (§§ 33–38), the way to the Father is through the Son, and knowledge of the Son is knowledge of the Father. This would be impossible, were not the Son God in the same sense in which the Father is God. Thus the contrary doctrines of Sabellius and of Arius are confuted; there is neither one Person, nor yet two Gods (§§ 39, 40). Christ calls upon us to believe the truth, and belief is not only possible but reasonable (§ 41).

Book VIII. Piety is necessary in a Bishop, but he needs also knowledge and dialectical skill in the face of such heresies as were rampant in Hilary’s day; for the heretics outdo the orthodox in zeal, and are masters in the art of devising pitfalls for the unwary reasoner (§§ 1–3). He maintains (§ 4) that hitherto he has established his case; and now turns, in § 5, to the Arian interpretation of I and the Father are One, as meaning that They are one in will, not in nature. The fallacy of this is shewn by a comparison of the unity of Christians in Christ (§§ 7–9); a unity which is confessedly one of nature, yet is not more natural than that of Father and Son, of which it is a type (§ 10). And indeed the words, I and the Father are One, are ill-adapted to express a mere harmony of will (§ 11). This gift of unity of nature could not be given, as it is, through the Incarnation and the Eucharist, to Christians, unless the Givers Themselves possessed it; i.e. unless Father and Son were One God (§§ 12–14). As a matter of fact, we have a perfect union, through the mediation of Christ, with the Father; and it is a unity of nature, a permanent abiding; an assurance to us of the indwelling of Father in Son and Son in Father, and of the fact that Christ is not a creature, one in will with the Father, but a Son, one in nature with Him (§§ 15–18). For, again (§§ 19–21), the Mission of the Holy Ghost is jointly from the Father and the Son; He is called sometimes the Spirit of the Father, sometimes the Spirit of the Son, and this is a further proof of the unity in nature of Father and Son. Hilary now enquires (§§ 22–25) into the senses in which Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this title is given to the Father, sometimes to the Son, in both cases to save us from corporeal conceptions of God. But it is also used, in the strict sense, of the Paraclete, as on the day of Pentecost. Now the Divine Spirit dwells in Christians; but this Spirit, whether styled the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Christ, or the Spirit of Truth, proceeding from the Father and sent by the Son, is only one Spirit. Hence the Godhead is One, and the nature of the Persons within that Godhead one also (§§ 26, 27). He next points out (§ 28) that the Arians are inconsistent in worshipping Christ, and yet styling Him a creature; for thus they fall under the curse of the Law, and forfeit the Holy Spirit. Again (§§ 29–34) the powers and graces bestowed by God are described indiscriminately as gifts of one or another Person in the Godhead. The Son, therefore, as a Giver, must be one with the Father, Who is also a Giver, and one with the Spirit. There is One God and One Lord (§ 35); if we deny that the Son is God, we must also deny that the Father is Lord; which is absurd. They are One God, with one Spirit, but not one Person (§ 36). St. Paul expressly says that Christ is God over all; an expression which must, like all the Apostle’s teaching, bear the Catholic sense, and is incompatible with Arianism (§§ 37–39). The supporters of Arianism are thus alien from the faith (§ 40). After a restatement of the truth (§ 41), Hilary proceeds to deduce the Divine nature of the Son from the fact that He has been sealed by the Father (§§ 42–45). This sealing makes Him the Father’s counterpart, Whose Image He thus becomes, though in the form of a servant. If He were thus the Image of God after His Incarnation, how much more before that condescension (§ 46). In § 47 he again denies that this teaching reduces the Father and the Son to one Person; and then (§§ 48–50) works out the sense in which Christ is the Image of God. It means that They are of one nature and of one power, and that the Son is the Firstborn, through Whom all things were created. But creation and also reconciliation is the joint work of Father and Son (§ 51). Christ could not have stated more explicitly than He has done His unity with the Father; the recognition of this truth is the test of the true Church (§ 52). Heresy is blind to the essential difference between the life-giving Christ and the created universe, which owes its life to Him (§ 53). In Him dwells the whole fulness of the Godhead bodily. The Indweller and the Indwelt are Both Persons, yet are One God; and the whole Godhead dwells in Each (§§ 54–56).

Book IX. After a summary (§ 1) of the results already obtained, Hilary returns, in § 2, to certain of the Arian proof-texts, and warns his readers that their life depends on the recognition in Christ of true God and true man, for it is this twofold nature which makes Him the Mediator (§ 3). Universal analogy and our consciousness of the capacity to rise to the life in God convince us of these two natures in Him, Who makes this rise possible (§ 4). But heresy lays hold of words spoken by Christ Incarnate, appropriate to His humility as Man, and assigns them to Him in His previous state; thus they make Him deny His true Godhead. But His utterances before the Incarnation, during His life on earth, and after His return to glory, must be carefully distinguished (§§ 5, 6). Hilary now examines the aims and achievements of Christ Incarnate, and shews that His work for men was a Divine work, accomplished by Him for us only because He was throughout both God and Man, the two natures in Him being inseparable (§§ 7–14). After reaching this conclusion from a general survey of Christ’s life on earth, he examines in the light of it the Arian arguments from isolated words. They assert that Christ refused to be called Good or Master. He refused neither title, and yet declared that both belong to God only (§§ 15–18). And, indeed, He could not have associated Himself more closely than He did with the Father, while yet He kept His Person distinct (§ 19). The Father Himself bears witness to the Son; and the sin and loss of the Jews is this, that, seeing the Father’s works done by Christ, they did not see in Him the Son (§§ 20, 21). The honour and glory of Christ is inseparable from that of God (§§ 22, 23). The Scribe did well to confess the Divine unity, but was still outside the Kingdom because He did not believe in Christ as God (§§ 24–27). Next, the Arian argument from the words, This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent, is refuted by comparison with cognate passages (§§ 28–35). For, indeed, if the Father be the only true God, the Son must also be the only true God (§ 36). That Divine nature which is common to Father and Son is subject to no limitations, and the eternal generation can be illustrated by no analogy of created things (§ 37). Christ took humanity, and, since the Father’s nature did not share in this, the unity was so far impaired. But humanity has been raised in Christ to God; and this could only be because His unity in the Divine nature with the Father was perfect. Otherwise the flesh which Christ took could not have entered into the Divine glory (§ 38). There is but one glory of Father and of Son; the Son sought in the Incarnation not glory for the Word but for the flesh (§§ 39, 40). The glory of Father and Son is one; in that unity the Son bestows, as well as receives, glory (§§ 41, 42), and this glory, common to Both, is evidence that the Divine nature also is common to Both (§ 42). Again, the Arians allege the words, The Son can do nothing of Himself, which Hilary shews, by an examination of the context, to be a support of the Catholic cause (§§ 43–46). The Son does the Father’s work, not under compulsion as an inferior, but because They are One. His will is free, yet in perfect harmony with that of the Father, because of their unity of nature (§§ 47–50). The Arians also appeal to the text, The Father is greater than I. The Father is, in fact, greater, first as being the Unbegotten, and secondly inasmuch as the Son has condescended to the state of man, yet without forfeiting His Godhead (§ 51). But He is not greater in nature than the Son, Who is His Image; or rather, the Begetter is the greater, while the Son, as the Begotten, is not less than He, for, although begotten, He had no beginning of existence (§§ 52–57). Next, the allegation of ignorance, based on St. Mark xiii. 32, and therefore of difference in nature from God Omniscient is refuted (§§ 58–62), both by express statements of Scripture and by a consideration of the Divine character. It is only in figurative senses that God is stated in the Old Testament sometimes to come to know, sometimes to be ignorant of, particular facts (§§ 63, 64). And so it is with Christ; His ignorance is but a wise and merciful concealment of knowledge (§§ 65–67). Yet the Arians, though they admit that Christ, being superior to man, knows all the secrets of humanity, assert that He cannot penetrate the mysteries of God (§ 68). But Christ expressly declares that He can and does, for Each is in the Other and is mirrored in the Other (§ 69). The ignorance can be nothing but concealment. Only the Father knows, i.e. He has told none but the Son; the Son does not know, i.e. He wills not to reveal His knowledge (§§ 70, 71). God is unlimited; unlimited therefore in knowledge. The nature of Father and Son being one, it is impossible that the Son should be ignorant of what the Father knows. As in will, so in knowledge, They are One (§§ 72–74). And the Apostles, by repeating their question after the Resurrection, shew that they were aware that His ignorance meant reserve. And Christ did not, this time, speak of ignorance, though He withheld the knowledge which they asked (§ 75).

Book X. Theological differences are not the result of honest reasoning, but of reasoning distorted, as in the case of the Arians, by preconceived opinions, whose cause is sin and their result hypocrisy (§§ 1–3). Hilary has fallen on the evil times foretold by the Apostle; truth is banished and so is he, yet his sufferings do not affect his joy in the Lord (§ 4). In the preceding books he has stated the exact truth, of which he now gives a summary (§§ 5–8). But the further objection is raised that, while God is impassible, Christ in His Passion suffered fear and pain (§ 9). But He Who taught others not to fear death could not fear it Himself (§ 10). He died of His own free will, knowing that in three days His Body and Spirit would rise again (§§ 11, 12). Nor did He fear bodily tortures, for pain is an affection of the weak human soul, which inhabits our body, and is not felt by the body itself (§§ 13, 14). And, although the Virgin fulfilled entirely the part of a human mother, yet the Begetter was Divine. Christ, when He took the form of a servant, remained still in the form of God, and was born perfect even as the Begetter was perfect, for Mary was not the cause, but only the means, of His human life (§§ 15, 16). St. Paul draws a clear distinction between the First Man, who was earthy, and the Second Man, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and in Whom what is Flesh, in one aspect, is Bread from heaven in another (§§ 17, 18). He is therefore perfect Man as well as perfect God, and did not inherit the flesh or the soul of Adam. His whole human nature is derived from the Holy Ghost, by Whom the Virgin conceived (§§ 19, 20). Again (§ 21) the Arians argue that the Word was in Jesus in the same sense in which the Spirit was in the Prophets, and reproach the Catholics with denying the true humanity of Christ. Hilary replies that just as Christ was the cause of the birth of His own human Body, so He was the Author of His own human Soul: for no soul is transmitted. Thus His human nature is complete; He has taken the form of a servant, but all the while He is in the form of God, i.e. He Who is God and also Man is one Christ, Who was born and died and rose (§ 22). In all this He endured passion but not pain, even as air or water, if pierced by a blow, is unaffected by it. The blow is real, and the Passion was real; but it was not inflicted on our limited humanity but on a human nature which could walk on water and pass through locked doors (§ 23). If it be argued that He wept, hungered, thirsted, Hilary answers that He could wipe away tears and supply needs, and therefore was not subject to them; that though He endured them, as true Man, He was not affected by them. Such sufferings are habitual with men, and He endured them to shew that He had a true Body (§ 24). For such a Body He had, although (since He was not conceived in sin) one free from the defects of our bodies; not sinful flesh, but only the likeness of sinful flesh. For He was the Word made Flesh, and continued to be true God as He had been before (§§ 25, 26). The Lord of glory suffered neither fear nor pain in His Passion, as is shewn by the powers which He exercised on the verge of death (§§ 27, 28). His utterances in the Garden and on the Cross are not evidences of pain or fear, for they may be matched by lofty expressions of calmness and hope (§§ 29–32). Thus no proof of fear or pain or weakness can be drawn from the circumstances of the Passion. Nor was the Cross a shame, for it was His road from humiliation to glory (§ 33), nor the descent to hell a degradation, for all the while He was in heaven. How different the faith of the Thief on the cross to that of the Arian! (§ 34). The argument is summed up in § 35. Next the Agony is considered. Christ does not say that He is sorrowful on account of death, but unto death. It is anxiety on the Apostles’ account, lest their faith should fail; a fear which reached to His death, not beyond, for He knew that after His death His glory would revive their faith. This was the fear in which He was comforted by the Angel; for Himself He was fearless, being conscious of His Godhead (§§ 36–43). He was free from pain and fear, for it is the sinful body which transmits these affections to the soul. Yet even human bodies rise sometimes superior to them, e.g. Daniel and other heroes of faith: how much more Christ (§§ 44–46). In the same way we must understand His bearing our suffering and our sin (§ 47), for, as St. Paul says, His Passion was itself a triumph (§ 48). The complaint that He was forsaken by the Father is similarly explained (§ 49). The purpose of the Arian arguments is to displace the truth of Christ as very God and very man in favour of one or other heretical hypothesis, all of which the Church rejects (§§ 50–52). Our reason must recognise its limitations and be content to believe, without understanding, apparently contradictory truths (§§ 53, 54). Christ weeping over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus is equally inexplicable, yet certain (§§ 55, 56). His laying down and taking again His life is accounted for by the two natures inseparably united in one Person (§§ 57–62). After a short summary (§ 63) he returns to the union of two natures, which is the stumbling-block of worldly wisdom (§ 64), and shews it to be the only reasonable explanation of the facts (§§ 65, 66). As St. Paul says, our belief must be according to the Scriptures; the necessity and the rewards of faith (§§ 67–70). The seeming infirmity of Christ was assumed for our instruction and for our salvation.

Book XI. The Faith is one, even as God is One; but the faiths of heretics are many (§§ 1, 2). Hilary has now demonstrated the truth about Christ, so that it cannot be denied; it is attested also by miracles even in his own day (§ 3). The Arians preach another, a created Christ; and in making Christ a creature they proclaim another God, not a Father but a Creator (§ 4). The Son, as the Image, is of one nature with the Father; if He is inferior He is not the Image (§ 5). But the Arians explain the oneness away by arguments from His condescension to our estate (§ 6), and, even after His Resurrection, plead that He confesses His inequality. They argue thus from 1 Cor. xv. 24–28, a passage to which the rest of this book is devoted (§§ 7, 8). But we must recognise the mysteriousness of the truth, accepting the two sides of it, both clearly revealed though we cannot reconcile them (§ 9). They regard only one aspect; Hilary in reply proves once more that Christ is both born from God, and Himself God (§§ 10–12). But at His Incarnation He began to have as Lord the God Who had been His Father eternally (§ 13), and when He said that He was ascending to His God, He spoke as when He calls us His brethren (§§ 14, 15). Thus there are two senses in which God is the Father of Christ; and He Who is Father to Christ the Son is Lord to Christ the Servant (§§ 16, 17). And it was to Him as Servant that the Psalmist said, Thy God hath anointed Thee, the words would have no meaning if addressed to Him as Son (§§ 18, 19). It is through this lower nature that He is our Brother and God our Father, and He the Mediator (§ 20). But it is argued that His subjection at the last and the delivery of the kingdom to the Father is a proof of inequality. The passage must be taken as a whole (§§ 21, 22). There are some truths which it is difficult for man to grasp, and if we misunderstand them we must not be ashamed to confess our error (§§ 23, 24). In this passage the Arians aid their case by changing the order of the prophecy (§§ 25–27). The end means a final and enduring state, not the coming to an end (§ 28), and though He delivers up the kingdom He does not cease to reign (§ 29). His subjection to the Father and the subjection of all things to Him is next considered; in one sense it is figurative language, in another it proves the unity of Father and Son. The subjection of the Son means His partaking in the glory of the Father (§§ 30–36). The Transfiguration shews the glory of Christ’s Body; a glory which the faithful shall share (§§ 37, 38). The righteous are His kingdom, which He, as Man, shall deliver to the Father, for By man came also the resurrection of the dead (§ 39). And at last God shall be all in all, humanity in Christ not being discarded, but glorified and received into the Godhead (§ 40). Christ, as well as St. Paul, has foretold this (§§ 41, 42). The Arian misrepresentation of this truth is mere folly (§ 43). Any rational explanation must assume that God’s majesty cannot be augmented, even as it cannot be measured (§§ 44, 45), while our reason is limited, and so contrasted with the Divine infinity. God cannot become greater than He was in becoming All in all. Father and Son, after as before, must Each be as He was (§§ 46–48). All was done for us that we might be glorified, being conformed to the likeness of Him Who is the Image of the Father (§ 49).

Book XII. Hilary gives a final explanation of the great Arian text, The Lord created me for a beginning of His ways; the words must not be taken literally. Christ is not created, but Creator (§§ 1–5). If He is a creature, the Father also is a creature, for They are One in nature and in honour (§§ 6, 7). The similar passage, I begat Thee from the womb, is figurative; elsewhere God’s Hands and Eyes are spoken of. The sense is that the Son is God from God (§§ 8–10). Nor was Christ made; He is the Son, not the handiwork, of the Father (§§ 11, 12). And His Sonship is immediate, not derivative like ours, or like that of Israel His firstborn. This latter kind of sonship has a definite beginning of existence, and an origin out of nothing (§§ 13–16). The Arian arguments fail to prove that the Sonship of Christ has either of these characters (§§ 17, 18). Truth is to be attained not by self-confident arguing but by faith (§ 19), yet it is not enough for us to avoid their reasonings; we must overthrow them (§ 20). The Son was born from eternity, being the Son of the eternal Father (§ 21). The objection that sonship involves beginning does not hold in His case (§§ 22, 23). The Son has all that the Father has; He has therefore eternity and an unconditioned existence (§ 24). He is from the Eternal, and therefore eternal Himself; from the Eternal, and therefore not from nothing. Reason cannot grasp, and therefore cannot refute, this. We must not assert that there was a time before He was born, a time when He was not (§§ 25–27). We must not argue, from the analogy of our own birth, that the truth is impossible (§ 28), nor that, because of His eternal existence, the Son was not born (§§ 29–32). Again, the Arians deny the eternal Fatherhood of God; He always existed, they say, but was not always the Father. This contradicts Scripture (§§ 33, 34). They argue that Wisdom is said to be the first of God’s creatures; but creation, in this sense, is a synonym for generation, and Wisdom was antecedent to creation (§§ 35–38). Wisdom is coeternal with God (§ 39), and shared His eternal purpose of creation (§§ 40, 41). Nor may we believe that Christ was begotten simply in order to perform the creative work, as God’s Minister, for Wisdom took part in the design as well as in the execution (§§ 42, 43). And again, Wisdom is spoken of as created, as an indication of Her control over created things (§ 44). The creation to be a beginning of God’s ways is a separate event from the eternal generation. It means that Christ, as the Way of Life, under the Old Covenant took the semblance, under the New Covenant the substance, of the creature man, to lead us into the way. The two senses must not be confused (§§ 45–49). Yet mere inaccuracy of speech, without heretical intent, is not unpardonable (§ 50). After a final assertion (§ 51) of faith in Christ as God from God, the eternal Son, Hilary appeals to the Almighty Father, declaring his creed, his consciousness of human infirmity and of the need of faith (§§ 52, 53). The Son is the Only-begotten of God, the Second because He is the Son (§ 54). The Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. He also is no creature, but of one nature with the God Whose mysteries He knows, and ineffable like Him Whose Spirit He is (§ 55). Finally, Hilary prays that, as he was baptized, so he may remain in the faith of Three Persons in One God.

« Prev Introduction. Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |