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NPNF-211. Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lerins, John Cassian
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Chapter XXV.

How this that is said of the devil in the gospel is to be understood; viz., that “he is a liar, and his father.”

But as for this which disturbed you about the devil, that “he is a liar and his father,”15721572    S. John viii. 44. as if it seemed that he and his father were pronounced by the Lord to be liars, it is sufficiently ridiculous to imagine this even cursorily. For as we said a little while ago spirit does not beget spirit just as soul cannot procreate soul, though we do not doubt that the compacting of flesh is formed from man’s seed, as the Apostle clearly distinguishes in the case of both substances; viz., flesh and spirit, what should be ascribed to whom as its author, and says: “Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?”15731573    Heb. xii. 9. What could show more clearly than this distinction, that he laid down that men were the fathers of our flesh, but always taught that God alone was the Father of souls. Although even in the actual compacting of this body a ministerial office alone must be attributed to men, but the chief part of its formation to God the Creator of all, as David says: “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me:”15741574    Ps. cxviii. (cxix.) 73. And the blessed Job: “Hast thou not milked me as milk, and curdled me as cheese? Thou hast put me together with bones and sinews;”15751575    Job x. 10, 11. and the Lord to Jeremiah: “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee.”15761576    Jer. i. 5. But Ecclesiastes very clearly and accurately gathers the nature of either substance, and its beginning, by an examination of the rise and commencement, from which each originated, and by a consideration of the end to which each is tending, and decides also of the division of this body and soul, and discourses as follows: “Before the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns unto God who gave it.”15771577    Eccl. xii. 7. But what could be said with greater plainness than that he declares that the matter of the flesh which he styled dust, because it springs from the seed of man, and seems to be sown by his ministration, must, as it was taken from the earth, again return to the earth, while he points out that the spirit which is not begotten by intercourse between the sexes, but belongs to God alone in a special way, returns to its creator? And this also is clearly implied in that breathing by God, through which Adam in the first instance received his life. And so from these passages we clearly infer that no one can be called the Father of spirits but God alone, who makes them out of nothing whenever He pleases, while men can only be termed the fathers of our flesh. So then the devil also in as much as he was created a spirit or an angel and good, had no one as his Father but God his Maker. But when he had become puffed up by pride and had said in his heart: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High,”15781578    Is. xiv. 14. he became a liar, and “abode not in the truth;”15791579    S. John viii. 44. but brought forth a lie from his own storehouse of wickedness and so became not only a liar, but also the father of the actual lie, by which when he promised Divinity to man and said “Ye shall be as gods,”15801580    Gen. iii. 5. he abode not in the truth, but from the beginning became a murderer, both by bringing Adam into a state of mortality, and by slaying Abel by the hand of his brother at his suggestion. But already the approach of dawn is bringing to a close our discussion, which has occupied nearly two whole nights, and our brief and simple words have drawn our bark of this Conference from the deep sea of questions to a safe harbour of silence, in which deep indeed, as the breath of the Divine Spirit drives us further in, so is there ever opened out a wider and boundless space reaching beyond the sight of our eye, and, as Solomon says, “It will become much further from us than it was, and a great depth; who shall find it out?”15811581    Eccl. vii. 25. Wherefore let us pray the Lord that both His fear and His love, which cannot fail, may continue steadfast in us, and make us wise in all things, and ever shield us unharmed, from the darts of the devil. For with these guards it is impossible for anyone to fall into the snares of death. But there is this difference between the perfect and imperfect, that in the case of the former love is steadfast, and so to speak riper and lasts more abidingly and so makes them persevere in holiness more steadfastly and more easily, while in the case of the latter its position is weaker and it more easily grows cold, and so quickly and more frequently allows them to be entangled in the snares of sin. And when we heard this, the words of this Conference so fired us that when we went away from the old man’s cell we longed with a keener ardour of soul than when we first came, for the fulfilment of his teaching.


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