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The comparison, found in the Gospel of St. John, of the Son to a Vine and the Father to a husbandman, must be understood with reference to the Incarnation. To understand it with reference to the Divine Generation is to doubly insult the Son, making Him inferior to St. Paul, and bringing Him down to the level of the rest of mankind, as well as in like manner the Father also, by making Him not merely to be on one footing with the same Apostle, but even of no account at all. The Son, indeed, in so far as being God, is also the husbandman, and, as regards His Manhood, a grape-cluster. True statement of the Father’s pre-eminence.
158. There is yet another Scripture, which our opponents commonly object against us, in order to prove their division of the Godhead of the Father from the Godhead of the Son, namely, our Lord’s words in the Gospel: “I am the true Vine and My Father is the Husbandman.” The vine and the husbandman, say they, are of different natures, and the vine is in the power of the husbandman.
159. Thus, then, ye would have us believe that the Son, as touching His Godhead, is like to a vine, so that without a vine-dresser He is nothing, and may be neglected or even rooted up. Thus ye juggle up a lie from the letter of the Scripture which sayeth that our Lord called Himself the Vine, intending thereby the mystery of His Incarnation.24912491 Or “intending an emblem” or “token (orig. sacramentum) of His Incarnation.” Howbeit, if ye are bent on it that we dispute upon the letter, I too confess, yea, I proclaim, that the Son called Himself the Vine. For woe be to me, if I deny the pledge24922492 Orig. sacramentum. of the salvation of His people!
160. How then do you purpose to understand the truth that the Son of God called Himself the Vine? If you interpret the saying with respect to the Substance of His Godhead, and if you suppose such a diversity of Godhead between the Father and the Son as there is of nature between a husbandman and a vine, you do double insult both to Father and to Son—to the Son, because if, as you affirm, He is, as touching His Godhead, beneath a husbandman, then must He on the same showing be esteemed lower than the Apostle Paul, forasmuch as Paul indeed called himself a husbandman, as we find it written: “I have planted, Apollos hath watered: but God hath given the increase.”24932493 1 Cor. iii. 6. Will you have Paul, then, to be better than the Son of God?
161. Thus far the one insult. As for the other, it lies herein, that if the Son is the Vine in respect of His eternally-begotten Person, then, He having said: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches,”24942494 S. John xv. 5. that divinely-begotten One appears to be of one substance with us. But “who is like unto Thee among the gods, O Lord?”24952495 Exod. xv. 11. as it is written; and again, in the Psalms: “For who is there among the clouds that shall be equal to the Lord? Or who among the sons of God shall be like unto God.”24962496 Ps. lxxxix. 6.
162. Moreover, ye disparage not only the Son, but the Father also. For if the term “husbandman” is to comprehend in its designation all the prerogative of the Father’s Sovereignty, then, seeing that Paul too is a husbandman, you set the Apostle, to whom you deny that the Son is equal, on an even footing with the Father.
163. Again, it being written, “But neither he which planteth is anything, nor he that watereth; but God, Who giveth the increase,”24972497 sc.is all. See Alford in loc. 1 Cor. iii. 7. you will rest the fulness of the Father’s Majesty in a name which, as you see, stands for weakness. For if he that planteth is nothing, and he that watereth is nothing, but it is God, Who giveth the increase [Who is all], observe what your blasphemy intends—even to expose the Father to contempt under the title of a husbandman, and to demand another God to provide the increase of the Father’s labour. Wickedly, therefore, do they think to extol the Dignity of God the Father by this use of the term “husbandman,” in which God the Father is brought down to the level of man, as being designated by a common title.
164. Yet what wonder if, as ye heretics would have it, the Father is to be exalted above a Son Whose Godhead differs not a whit from the common condition of mankind? If ye suppose the Son to have been entitled the Vine with respect to His Godhead, then do ye esteem Him not only as liable to corruption and subject to changes of wind and weather, but even as partaking of manhood only, forasmuch as the Vine and its branches are of one nature, so that the Son of God appears, not to have taken upon Him our flesh, through the mystery of Incarnation, but to have altogether sprung into being from the flesh.
165. But I will indeed openly confess that His flesh, though born in a new and mysterious birth, was yet of the same nature with ours, and that this is the pledge of our salvation, not the source of the Divine Generation. He indeed is the Vine, for He bears my sufferings, whensoever manhood, hitherto frail, leans on Him and so matures with plenteous fruit of renewed devotion.
166. Yet if the husbandman’s power allure thee, tell me, prithee, who it was that spake in the prophet, saying: “O Lord, make it known to me, that I may know; then saw I their thoughts. I was led as a harmless lamb to the slaughter and knew it not: they took counsel together against me, saying, Come, let us throw wood into his bread.”24982498 Jer. xi. 18. For if the Son here speaks of the mystery of His coming Incarnation—for it were blasphemy to suppose that the words are spoken concerning the Father—then surely it is the Son Who speaks in an earlier passage: “I have planted thee as a fruitful vine—how art Thou become bitter, and a wild vine?”24992499 Jer. ii. 21.
167. And thus thou seest that the Son also is the husbandman,—the Son, of one Name with the Father, one work, one dignity and Substance. If, then, the Son is both Vine and Husbandman, plainly we infer the meaning of the Vine with regard to the mystery of the Incarnation.
168. But not only has our Lord called Himself a Vine—He has also given Himself, by the voice of the prophet, the title of a Grape-cluster—even when Moses, at the command of the Lord, sent spies to the Valley of the Cluster.25002500 Num. xiii. 24. What is that valley but the humility of the Incarnation and the fruitfulness of the Passion? I indeed think that He is called the Cluster, because that from the Vine brought out of Egypt, that is, the people of the Jews, there grew a fruit for the world’s good. No man, truly, can understand the Cluster as a token of the Divine Generation—or if there be any who so understand it, they leave no conclusion open but that we should believe that Cluster to have sprung from the Vine. And thus in their folly they attribute to the Father that which they refuse to believe of the Son.
169. But if there be now left no room for doubt that the Son of God is called the Vine with respect and intention to His Incarnation,25012501 i.e.the Incarnate Son of God, not the Pre-existent Logos, is the Vine. you see what hidden truth it was to which our Lord had regard in saying, “The Father is greater than I.”25022502 S. John xiv. 28. For after this premised, He proceeded immediately: “I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman,” that you might know that the Father is greater in so far as He dresses and tends our Lord’s flesh, as the husbandman dresses and tends his vines. Further, our Lord’s flesh is that which could increase in stature with age,25032503 S. Luke ii. ad fin. and be wounded through suffering, to the end that the whole human race might rest guarded from the pestilent heat of the pleasures of this world, under the shadow of the Cross whereon Its limbs are spread.
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