Novatian (Cont.)A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity.


Novatian’s treatise concerning the Trinity is divided into thirty-one chapters. He first of all, from chapter first to the eighth, considers those words of the Rule of Truth or Faith,1 which bid us believe on God the Father and Lord Almighty, the absolutely perfect Creator of all things. Wherein among the other divine attributes he moreover ascribes to Him, partly from reason and partly from the Holy Scriptures, immensity, eternity, unity, goodness, immutability, immortality, spirituality; and adds that neither passions nor members can be attributed to God, and that these things are only asserted of God in Scripture anthropopathically.2


Chap. I.

Argument. — Novatian, with the View of Treating of the Trinity, Sets Forth from the Rule of Faith That We Should First of All Believe in God the Father and Lord Omnipotent, the Absolute Founder of All Things. The Works of Creation Are Beautifully Described. Man’s Free-Will Is Asserted; God’s Mercy in Inflicting Penalty on Man Is Shown; the Condition After Death of the Souls of the Righteous and Unrighteous Is Determined.

The Rule of truth requires that we should first of all things believe on God the Father and Lord Omnipotent; that is, the absolutely perfect Founder of all things, who has suspended the heavens in lofty sublimity, has established the earth with its lower mass, has diffused the seas with their fluent moisture, and has distributed all these things, both adorned and supplied with their appropriate and fitting instruments. For in the solid vault of heaven He has both awakened the light-bringing Sunrisings; He has filled up the white globe of the moon in its monthly3 waxings as a solace for the night; He, moreover, kindles the starry rays with the varied splendours of glistening light; and He has willed all these things in their legitimate tracks to circle the entire compass of the world, so as to cause days, months, years, signs, and seasons, and benefits of other kinds for the human race. On the earth, moreover, He has lifted up the loftiest mountains to a peak, He has thrown down valleys into the depths, He has smoothly levelled the plains, He has ordained the animal herds usefully for the various services of men. He has also established the oak trees of the woods for the future benefit of human uses. He has developed the harvests into food. He has unlocked the mouths of the springs, and has poured them into the flowing rivers. And after these things, lest He should not also provide for the very delights of the eyes, He has clothed all things with the various colours of the flowers for the pleasure of the beholders. Even in the sea itself, moreover, although it was in itself marvellous both for its extent and its utility, He has made manifold creatures, sometimes of moderate, sometimes of vast bodily size, testifying by the variety of His appointment to the intelligence of the Artificer. And, not content with these things, lest perchance the roaring and rushing waters should seize upon a foreign element at the expense of its human possessor, He has enclosed its limits with shores;4 so that when the raving billow and the foaming water should come from its deep bosom, it should return again unto itself, and not transgress its concealed bounds, but keep its prescribed laws, so that man might the rather be careful to observe the divine laws, even as the elements themselves observed them. And after these things He also placed man at the head of the world, arid man, too, made in the image of God, to whom He imparted mind, and reason, and foresight, that he might imitate God; and although the first elements of his body were earthly, yet the substance was inspired by a heavenly and divine breathing. And when He had given him all things for his service, He willed that he alone should be free. And lest, again, an unbounded freedom should fall into peril, He laid down a command, in which man was taught that there was no evil in the fruit of the tree; but he was forewarned that evil would arise if perchance he should exercise his free will, in the contempt of the law that was given. For, on the one hand, it had behoved him to be free, lest the image of God should, unfittingly be in bondage; and on the other, the law was to be added, so that an unbridled liberty might not break forth even to a contempt of the Giver. So that he might receive as a consequence both worthy rewards and a deserved punishment, having in his own power that which he might choose to do, by the tendency of his mind in either direction: whence, therefore, by envy, mortality comes back upon him; seeing that, although he might escape it by obedience, he rushes into it by hurrying to be God under the influence of perverse counsel. Still, nevertheless, God indulgently tempered his punishment by cursing, not so much himself, as his labours upon earth. And, moreover, what is required does not come without man’s knowledge; but He shows forth man’s hope of future discovery5 and salvation in Christ. And that he is prevented from touching of the wood of the tree of life, is not caused by the malignant poison of envy, but lest, living for ever without Christ’s previous pardon of his sins, he should always bear about with him for his punishment an immortality of guilt. Nevertheless also, in higher regions; that is, above even the firmament itself, regions which are not now discernible by our eyes, He previously ordained angels, he arranged spiritual powers, He put in command thrones and powers, and founded many other infinite spaces of heavens, and unbounded works of His mysteries; so that this world, immense as it is, might almost appear rather as the Latest, than the only work of corporeal things. And truly,6 what lies beneath the earth is not itself void of distributed and arranged powers. For there is a place whither the souls of the just and the unjust are taken, conscious of the anticipated dooms of fixture judgment; so that we might behold the overflowing greatness of God’s works in all directions, not shut up within the bosom of this world, however capacious as we have said, but might also be able to conceive of them beneath both the abysses and the depths I of the world itself. And thus considering the greatness of the works, we should worthily admire the Artificer of such a structure.


Chap. II.

Argument. — God Is Above All, Things, Himself Containing All Things, Immense, Eternal, Transcending the Mind of Man; Inexplicable in Discourse, Loftier than All Sublimity.

And over all these things He Himself, containing all things, having nothing vacant beyond Himself, has left room for no superior God, such as some people conceive. Since, indeed, He Himself has included all things in the bosom of perfect greatness and power, He is always intent upon His own work, and pervading all things, and moving all things, and quickening all things, and beholding all things, and so linking together discordant materials into the concord of all elements, that out of these unlike principles one world is so established by a conspiring union, that it can by no force be dissolved, save when He alone who made it commands it to be dissolved, for the purpose of bestowing other and greater things upon us. For we read that He contains all things, and therefore that there could have been nothing beyond Himself. Because, since He has not any beginning, so consequently He is not conscious of an ending; unless perchance — and far from us be the thought — He at some time began to be, and is not above all things, but as He began to be after something else, He would be beneath that which was before Himself, and would so be found to be of less power, in that He is designated as subsequent even in time itself. For this reason, therefore, He is always unbounded, because nothing is greater than He; always eternal, because nothing is more ancient than He. For that which is without beginning can be preceded by none, in that He has no time. He is on that account immortal, that He does not come to an end by any ending of His completeness. And since everything that is without beginning is without law, He excludes the mode of time by feeling Himself debtor to none. Concerning Him, therefore, and concerning those things which are of Himself, and are in Him, neither can the mind of man worthily conceive what they are, how great they are, and what they are like; nor does the eloquence of human discourse set forth a power that approaches the level of His majesty. For to conceive and to speak of His majesty, as well all eloquence is with reason mute, as all mind poor. For He is greater than mind itself; nor can it be conceived how great He is, seeing that, if He could be conceived, He would be smaller than the human mind wherein He could be conceived. He is greater, moreover, than all discourse, nor can He be declared; for if He could be declared, He would be less than human discourse, whereby being declared, He can both be encompassed and contained. For whatever could be thought concerning Him must be less than Himself; and whatever could be declared must be less than He, when compared in respect of Himself. Moreover, we can in some degree be conscious of Him in silence, but we cannot in discourse unfold Him as He is. For should you call Him Light, you would be speaking of His creature rather than of Himself — you would not declare Him; or should you call Him Strength, you would rather be speaking of and bringing out His power than speaking of Himself; or should you call Him Majesty, you would rather be describing His honour than Himself. And why should I make a long business of going through His attributes one by one? I will at once unfold the whole. Whatever in any respect you might declare of Him, you would rather be unfolding some condition and power of His than Himself. For what can you fittingly either say or think concerning Him who is greater than all discourses and thoughts? Except that in one manner — and how can we do this? how can we by possibility conceive how we may grasp these very things? — we shall mentally grasp what God is, if we shall consider that He is that which cannot be understood either in quality or quantity, nor, indeed, can come even into the thought itself. For if the keenness of our eyes grows dull on looking at the sun, so that the gaze, overcome by the brightness of the rays that meet it, cannot look upon the orb itself, the keenness of our mental perception suffers the same thing in all our thinking about God, and in proportion as we give our endeavours more directly to consider God, so much the more the mind itself is blinded by the light of its own thought. For — to repeat once more — what can you worthily say of Him, who is loftier than all sublimity, and higher than all height, and deeper than all depth, and clearer than all light, and brighter than all brightness, more brilliant than all splendour, stronger than all strength, more powerful7 than all power, and more mighty than all might, and greater than all majesty, and more potent than all potency, and richer than all riches, more wise than all wisdom, and more benignant than all kindness, better than all goodness, juster than all justice, more merciful than all clemency? For all kinds of virtues must? needs be less than Himself, who is both. God and Parent of all virtues, so that it may truly be said that God is that, which is such that nothing can be compared to Him. For He is above all that can be said. For He is a certain Mind generating and filling all things, which, without any beginning or end of time, controls, by the highest and most perfect reason, the naturally linked causes of things, so as to result in benefit to all.


Chap. III.

Argument. — That God Is the Founder of All Things, Their Lord and Parent, Is Proved from the Holy Scriptures.

Him, then, we acknowledge and know to be God, the Creator of all things — Lord on account of His power, Parent on account of His discipline — Him, I say, who “spake, and all things were made;” (Psa_148:5) He commanded, and all things went forth: of whom it is written, “Thou hast made all things in wisdom;” (Psa_104:24) of whom Moses said, “God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath;” (Deu_4:39) who, according to Isaiah, “hath meted out the heaven with a span, the earth with the hollow of His hand;” (Isa_40:12) “who looketh on the earth, and maketh it tremble; who boundeth the circle of the earth, and those that dwell in it like locusts; who hath weighed the mountains in a balance, and the groves in scales,” (Isa_40:22, Isa_40:12) that is, by the sure test of divine arrangement; easily fall into ruins if it were not balanced with equal weights, He has poised this burden of the earthly mass with equity. Who says by the prophet, “I am God, and there is none beside me” (Isa_45:22) Who says by the same prophet “Because I will not give my majesty to another,” (Isa_42:8) that He may exclude all heathens and heretics with their figments; proving that that is not God who is made by the hand of the workman, nor that which is feigned by the intellect of a heretic. For he is not God for whose existence the workman must be asked. And He has added hereto by the prophet, “The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me, and where is the place of my rest?” (Isa_66:1)8 that He may show that He whom the world does not contain is much less contained in a temple; and He says these things not for boastfulness of Himself, but for our knowledge. For He does not desire from us the glory of His magnitude; but He wishes to confer upon us, even as a father, a religious wisdom. And He, wishing moreover to attract to gentleness our minds, brutish, and swelling, and stubborn with cloddish ferocity, says, “And upon whom shall my Spirit rest, save upon him that is lowly, and quiet, and that trembleth at my words?” (Isa_66:2) — so that in some degree one may recognise how great God is, in learning to fear Him by the Spirit given to him: Who, similarly wishing still more to come into our knowledge, and, by way of stirring up our minds to His worship, said, “I am the Lord, who made the light and created the darkness;” (Isa_45:7)9 that we might deem not that some Nature, — what I know not, — was the artificer of those vicissitudes whereby nights and days are controlled, but might rather, as is more true, recognise God as their Creator. And since by the gaze of our eyes we cannot see Him, we rightly learn of Him from the greatness, and the power, and the majesty of His works. “For the invisible things of Him,” says the Apostle Paul,” from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by those things which are made, even His eternal power and godhead;” (Rom_1:20)10 so that the human mind, learning hidden things from those that are manifest, from the greatness of the works which it should behold, might with the eyes of the mind consider the greatness of the Architect. Of whom the same apostle, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory.” (1Ti_1:17) For He has gone beyond the contemplation of the eyes who has surpassed the greatness of thought. “For,” it is said,” of Him, and through Him, and in Him are all things.” (Rom_11:33) For all things are by His command, because they are of Him; and are ordered by His word as being through Him; and all things return to His judgment; as in Him expecting liberty when corruption shall be done away, they appear to be recalled to Him.


Chap. IV.

Argument. — Moreover, He Is Good, Always the Same, Immutable, One and Only, Infinite; and His Own Name Can Never Be Declared, and He Is Incorruptible and Immortal.

Him alone the Lord rightly declares good, of whose goodness the whole world is witness; which world He would not have ordained if He had not been good. For if “everything was very good,” (Gen_1:31) consequently, and reasonably, both those things which were ordained have proved that He that ordained them is good, and those things which are the work of a good Ordainer cannot be other than good; wherefore every evil is a departure from God. For it cannot happen that He should be the originator or architect of any evil work, who claims to Himself the name of “the Perfect,” both Parent and Judge, especially when He is the avenger and judge of every evil work; because, moreover, evil does not occur to man from any other cause than by his departure from the good God. Moreover, this very thing is specified in man, not because it was necessary, but because he himself so willed it. Whence it manifestly appeared also what was evil; and lest there should seem to be envy in God, it was evident whence evil had arisen. He, then, is always like to Himself; nor does He ever turn or change Himself into any forms, lest by change He should appear to be mortal. For the change implied in turning from one thing to another is comprehended as a portion of a certain death. Thus there is never in Him any accession or increase of any part or honour, lest anything should appear to have ever been wanting to His perfection, nor is any loss sustained in Him, lest a degree of mortality should appear to have been suffered by Him. But what He is, He always is; and who He is, He is always Himself; and what character He has, He always has.11 For increasing argues beginning, as well as losses prove death and perishing. And therefore He says, “I am God, I change not;” (Mal_3:6) in that, what is not born cannot suffer change, holding His condition always. For whatever it be in Him which constitutes Divinity, must necessarily exist always, maintaining itself by its own powers, so that He should always be God. And thus He says, “I am that I am.” (Exo_3:14)12 For what He is has this name, because it always maintains the same quality of Himself. For change takes away the force of that name “That I Am;” for whatever, at any time, is changed, is shown to be mortal in that very particular which is changed. For it ceases to be that which it had been, and consequently begins to be what it was not; and therefore, reasonably, there remains always in God His position, in that without any loss arising from change, He is always like and equal to Himself. And what is not born cannot be changed: for only those things undergo change which are made, or which are begotten; in that those things which bad not been at one time, learn to be by coming into being, and therefore to suffer change by being born. Moreover, those things which neither have nativity nor maker, have excluded from themselves the capacity of change, not having a beginning wherein is cause of change. And thus He is declared to be one, having no equal. For whatever can be God, must as God be of necessity the Highest. But whatever is the Highest, must certainly be the Highest in such sense as to be without any equal. And thus that must needs be alone and one on which nothing can be conferred, having no peer; because there cannot be two infinites, as the very nature of things dictates. And that is infinite which neither has any sort of beginning nor end. For whatever has occupied the whole excludes the beginning of another. Because if He does not contain all which is, whatever it is — seeing that what is found in that whereby it is contained is found to be less than that whereby it is contained — He will cease to be God; being reduced into the power of another, in whose greatness He, being smaller, shall have been included. And therefore what contained Him would then rather claim to be God. Whence it results that God’s own name also cannot be declared, because He cannot be conceived. For that is contained in a name which is, in any way, comprehended from the condition of His nature. For the name is the signification of that thing which could be comprehended from a name. But when that which is treated of is such that it cannot be worthily gathered into one form by the very understanding itself, how shall it be set forth fittingly in the one word of an appellation, seeing that as it is beyond the intellect, it must also of necessity be above the significancy of the appellation? As with reason when He applies and prefers from certain reasons and occasions His name of God, we know that it is not so much the legitimate propriety of the appellation that is set forth, as a certain significancy determined for it, to which, while men betake themselves, they seem to be able thereby to obtain God’s mercy. He is therefore also both immortal and incorruptible, neither conscious of any kind of loss nor ending. For because He is incorruptible, He is therefore immortal; and because He is immortal, He is certainly also incorruptible, — each being involved by turns in the other, with itself and in itself, by a mutual connection, and prolonged by a vicarious concatenation to the condition of eternity; immortality arising from incorruption, as well as incorruption coming from immortality.


Chap. V.

Argument. — If We Regard the Anger, and Indignation, and Hatred of God Described in the Sacred Pages, We Must Remember That They Are Not to Be Understood as Bearing the Character of Human Vices.

Moreover, if we read of His wrath, and consider certain descriptions of His indignation, and learn that hatred is asserted of Him, yet we are not to understand these to be asserted of Him in the sense in which they are human vices. For all these things, although they may corrupt man, cannot at all corrupt the divine power. For such passions as these will rightly be said to be in men, and will not rightly be judged to be in God. For man may be corrupted by these things, because he can be corrupted; God may not be corrupted by them, because He cannot be corrupted. These things, forsooth, have their force which they may exercise, but only where a material capable of impression precedes them, not where a substance that cannot be impressed precedes them. For that God is angry, arises from no vice in Him. But He is so for our advantage; for He is merciful even then when He threatens, because by these threats men are recalled to rectitude. For fear is necessary for those who want the motive to a virtuous life, that they who have forsaken reason may at least be moved by terror. And thus all those, either angers of God or hatreds, or whatever they are of this kind, being displayed for our medicine, — as the case teaches, — have arisen of wisdom, not from vice, nor do they originate from frailty; wherefore also they cannot avail for the corruption of God. For the diversity in us of the materials of which we consist, is accustomed to arouse the discord of anger which corrupts us; but this, whether of nature or of defect, cannot subsist in God, seeing that He is known to be constructed assuredly of no associations of bodily parts. For He is simple and without any corporeal commixture, being wholly of that essence, which, whatever it be, — He alone knows, — constitutes His being, since He is called Spirit. And thus those things which in men are faulty and corrupting, since they arise from the corruptibility of the body, and matter itself, in God cannot exert the force of corruptibility, since, as we have said, they have come, not of vice, but of reason.


Chap. VI.

Argument. — And That, Although Scripture Often Changes the Divine Appearance into a Human Form, yet the Measure of the Divine Majesty Is Not Included Within These Lineaments of Our Bodily Nature.

And although the heavenly Scripture often turns the divine appearance into a human form, — as when it says, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous;” (Psa_34:15)13 or when it says, “The Lord God smelled the smell of a good savour;” (Gen_8:21) or when there are given to Moses the tables “written with the finger of God;” (Exo_31:18) or when the people of the children of Israel are set free from the land of Egypt “with a mighty hand and with a stretched out arm;” (Psa_136:12) or when it says, “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things;” (Isa_1:20) or when the earth is set forth as “God’s footstool;” (Isa_66:1)14 or when it says, “Incline thine ear, and hear,” (Psa_17:6) — we who say that the law is spiritual do not include within these lineaments of our bodily nature any mode or figure of the divine majesty, but diffuse that character of unbounded magnitude (so to speak) over its plains without any limit. For it is written, “If I shall ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I shall descend into hell, Thou art there also; and if I shall take my wings, and go away across the sea, there Thy hand shall lay hold of me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.” (Psa_139:8, Psa_139:9, Psa_139:10) For we recognise the plan of the divine Scripture according to the proportion of its arrangement. For the prophet then was still speaking about God in parables according to the period of the faith, not as God was, but as the people were able to receive Him. And thus, that such things as these should be said about God, must be imputed not to God, but rather to the people. Thus the people are permitted to erect a tabernacle, and yet God is not contained within the enclosure of a tabernacle. Thus a temple is reared, and yet God is not at all bounded within the restraints of a temple. It is not therefore God who is limited, but the perception of the people is limited; nor is God straitened, but the understanding of the reason of the people is held to be straitened. Finally, in the Gospel the Lord said, “The hour shall come when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father;” (Joh_4:21) and gave the reasons, saying, “God is a Spirit; and those therefore who worship, must worship in spirit and in truth.” (Joh_4:24) Thus the divine agencies are there15 exhibited by means of members; it is not the appearance of God nor the bodily lineaments that are described. For when the eyes are spoken of, it is implied that He sees all things; and when the ear, it is set forth that He hears all things; and when the finger, a certain energy of His will is opened up; and when the nostrils, His recognition of prayers is shown forth as of odours; and when the hand, it is proved that He is the author of every creature; and when the arm, it is announced that no nature can withstand the power of His arm; and when the feet it is unfolded that He fills all things, and that there is not any place where God is not. For neither members nor the offices of members are needful to Him to whose sole judgment, even unexpressed, all things serve and are present. For why should He require eyes who is Himself the light? or why should He ask for feet who is everywhere? or why should He wish to go when there is nowhere where He can go beyond Himself? or why should He seek for hands whose will is, even when silent, the architect for the foundation of all things? He needs no ears who knows the wills that are even unexpressed; or for what reason should He need a tongue whose thought is a command? These members assuredly were necessary to men, but not to God, because man’s design would be ineffectual if the body did not fulfil the thought. Moreover, they are not needful to God, whose will the works attend not so much without any effort, as that the works themselves proceed simultaneously with the will. Moreover, He Himself is all eye, because He all sees; and all ear, because He all hears; and all hand, because He all works; and all foot, because He all is everywhere. For He is the same, whatever it is. He is all equal, and all everywhere. For He has not in Him any diversity in Himself, being simple. For those are the things which are reduced to diversity of members, which arise from birth and go to dissolution. But things which are not concrete cannot be conscious of these things.16 And what is immortal, whatever it is, that very thing is one and simple, and for ever. And thus because it is one it cannot be dissolved; since whatever is that very thing which is placed beyond the claim of dissolution, it is freed from the laws of death.


Chap. VII.

Argument. — Moreover, That when God Is Called a Spirit, Brightness, and Light, God Is Not Sufficiently Expressed by Those Appellations.

But when the Lord says that God is a Spirit, I think that Christ spoke thus of the Father, as wishing that something still more should be understood than merely that God is a Spirit. For although, in His Gospel, He is reasoning for the purpose of giving to men an increase of intelligence, nevertheless He Himself speaks to men concerning God, in such a way as they can as yet hear and receive; although, as we have said, He is now endeavouring to give to His hearers religious additions to their knowledge of God. For we find it to be written that God is called Love, and yet from this the substance of God is not declared to be Love; and that He is called Light, while in this is not the substance of God. But the whole that is thus said of God is as much as can be said, so that reasonably also, when He is called a Spirit, it is not all that He is which is so called; but so that, while men’s mind by understanding makes progress even to the Spirit itself, being already changed in spirit, it may conjecture God to be something even greater through the Spirit. For that which is, according to what it is, can neither be declared by human discourse, nor received by human ears, nor gathered by human perceptions. For if “the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him, neither eye hath seen, nor ear hath heard, nor the heart of man, nor even his mind has perceived;” (1Co_2:9) what and how great is He Himself who promises these things, in understanding which both the mind and nature of man have failed! Finally, if you receive the Spirit as the substance of God, you will make God a creature. For every spirit is a creature. And therefore, then, God will be made. In which manner also, if, according to Moses, you should receive God to be fire, in saying that He is a creature, you will have declared what is ordained, you will not have taught who is its ordainer. But these things are rather used as figures than as being so in fact. For as, in the Old Testament,17 God is for this reason called Fire, that fear may be struck into the hearts of a sinful people, by suggesting to them a Judge; so in the New Testament He is announced as Spirit, that, as the Renewer and Creator of those who are dead in their sins, He may be attested by this goodness of mercy granted to those that believe.


Chap. VIII.

Argument. — It Is This God, Therefore, That the Church Has Known and Adores; and to Him the Testimony of Things as Well Visible as Invisible Is Given Both at All Times and in All Forms, by the Nature Which His Providence Rules and Governs.

This God, then, setting aside the fables and figments of heretics, the Church knows and worships, to whom the universal and entire nature of things as well visible as invisible gives witness; whom angels adore, stars wonder at, seas bless, lands revere, and all things under the earth look up to; whom the whole mind of man is conscious of, even if it does not express itself; at whose command all things are set in motion, springs gush forth, rivers flow, waves arise, all creatures bring forth their young, winds arc compelled to blow, showers descend, seas arc stirred up, all things everywhere diffuse their fruitfulness. Who ordained, peculiar to the protoplasts of eternal life, a certain beautiful paradise in the east; He planted the tree of life, and similarly placed near it another tree of the knowledge of good and evil, gave a command, and decreed a judgment against sin; He preserved the most righteous Noe from the perils of the deluge, for the merit of His innocence and faith; He translated Enoch: He elected Abraham into the society of his friendship; He protected Isaac: He increased Jacob; He gave Moses for a leader unto the people; He delivered the groaning children of Israel from the yoke of slavery; He wrote the law; He brought the offspring of our fathers into the land of promise; He instructed the prophets by His Spirit, and by all of them He promised His Son Christ; and at the time at which He had covenanted that He would give Him, He sent Him, and through Him He desired to come into our knowledge, and shed forth upon us the liberal stores of His mercy, by conferring His abundant Spirit on the poor and abject. And, because He of His own free-will is both liberal and kind, lest the whole of this globe, being turned away from the streams of His grace, should wither, He willed the apostles, as founders of our family, to be sent by His Son into the whole world, that the condition of the human race might be conscious of its Founder; and, if it should choose to follow Him, might have One whom even in its supplications it might now call Father instead of God.18 And His providence has had or has its course among men, not only individually, but also among cities themselves, and states whose destructions have been announced by the words of prophets; yea, even through the whole world itself; whose end, whose miseries, and wastings, and sufferings on account of unbelief He has allotted. And lest moreover any one should think that such an indefatigable providence of God does not reach to even the very least things, “One of two sparrows,” says the Lord, “shall not fall without the will of the Father; but even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Mat_10:29, Mat_10:30) And His care and providence did not permit even the clothes of the Israelites to be worn out, nor even the vilest shoes on their feet to be wasted; nor, moreover, finally, the very garments of the captive young men to be burnt. And this is not without reason; for if He embraces all things, and contains all things, — and all things, and the whole, consist of individuals, — His care will consequently extend even to every individual thing, since His providence reaches to the whole, whatever it is. Hence it is that He also sitteth above the Cherubim; that is, He presides over the variety of His works, the living creatures which hold the control over the rest being subjected to His throne: [Eze_1:10 and Rev_4:7] a crystal covering being thrown over all things; that is, the heaven covering all things, which at the command of God had been consolidated into a firmament19 from the fluent material of the waters, that the strong hardness that divides the midst of the waters that covered the earth before, might sustain as if on its back the weight of the superincumbent water, its strength being established by the frost. And, moreover, wheels lie below — that is to say, the seasons — whereby all the members of the world are always being rolled onwards; such feet being added by which those things do not stand still for ever, but pass onward. And, moreover, throughout all their limbs they are studded with eyes; for the works of God must be contemplated with an ever watchful inspection: in the heart of which things, a fire of embers is in the midst, either because this world of ours is hastening to the fiery day of judgment; or because all the works of God are fiery, and are not darksome, but flourish.20 Or, moreover, lest, because those things had arisen from earthly beginnings, they should naturally be inactive, from the rigidity of their origin, the hot nature of an interior spirit was added to all things; and that this nature concreted with the cold bodies might minister21 for the purpose of life equal measures for all.22 This, therefore, according to David, is God’s chariot. “For the chariot of God,” says he, “is multiplied ten thousand times;” (Psa_68:18) that is, it is innumerable, infinite, immense. For, under the yoke of the natural law given to all things, some things are restrained, as if withheld by reins; others, as if stimulated, are urged on with relaxed reins. For the world23 which is that chariot of God with all things, both the angels themselves and the stars guide; and their movements, although various, yet bound by certain laws, we watch them guiding by the bounds of a time prescribed to themselves; so that rightly we also are now disposed to exclaim with the apostle, as he admires both the Architect and His works: “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how inscrutable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” And the rest. (Rom_11:33)24


Chap. IX.

Argument. — Further, That the Same Rule of Truth Teaches Us to Believe, After the Father, also in the Son of God, Jesus Christ Our Lord God, Being the Same That Was Promised in the Old Testament, and Manifested in the New.

The same rule of truth teaches us to believe, after the Father, also on the Son of God, Christ Jesus, the Lord our God, but the Son of God — of that God who is both one and alone, to wit the Founder of all things, as already has been expressed above. For this Jesus Christ, I will once more say, the Son of this God, we read of as having been promised in the Old Testament, and we observe to be manifested in the New, fulfilling the shadows and figures of all the sacraments, with the presence of the truth embodied. For as well the ancient prophecies as the Gospels testify Him to be the son of Abraham and the son of David. Genesis itself anticipates Him, when it says: “To thee will I give it, and to thy seed.” (Gen_27:8) He is spoken of when it shows how a man wrestled with Jacob; He too, when it says: “There shall not fail a prince from Judah, nor a leader from between his thighs, until He shall come to whom it has been promised; and He shall be the expectation of the nations.” (Gen_49:10) He is spoken of by Moses when he says: “Provide another whom thou mayest send.” (Exo_4:13) He is again spoken of by the same, when he testifies, saying: “A Prophet will God raise up to you from your brethren; listen to Him as if to me.” (Deu_18:15) It is He, too, that he speaks of when he says: “Ye shall see your life hanging in doubt night and day, and ye shall not believe Him.” (Deu_28:66) Him, too, Isaiah alludes to: “There shall go forth a rod from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall grow up from his root.” (Isa_11:1) The same also when he says: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.” (Isa_7:13) Him he refers to when he enumerates the healings that were to proceed from Him, saying: “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear: then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be eloquent.” (Isa_35:3-6) Him also, when he sets forth the virtue of patience, saying: “His voice shall not be heard in the streets; a bruised reed shall He not destroy, and the smoking flax shall He not quench.” (Isa_42:2, Isa_42:3) Him, too, when he described His Gospel: “And I will ordain for you an everlasting covenant, even the sure mercies of David.” (Isa_55:3) Him, too, when he foretells that the nations should believe on Him: “Behold, I have given Him for a Chief and a Commander to the nations. Nations that knew not Thee shall call upon Thee, and peoples that knew Thee not shall flee unto Thee.” (Isa_55:4, Isa_55:5) It is the same that he refers to when, concerning His passion, he exclaims, saying: “As a sheep He is led to the slaughter; and as a lamb before his shearer is dumb, so He opened not His mouth in His humility.” (Isa_53:7) Him, moreover, when he described the blows and stripes of His scourgings: “By His bruises we were healed.” (Isa_53:5) Or His humiliation: “And we saw Him, and He had neither form nor comeliness, a man in suffering, and who knoweth how to bear infirmity.” (Isa_53:2) Or that the people would not believe on Him: “All day long I have spread out my hands unto a people that believeth not.” (Isa_65:2) Or that He would rise again from the dead: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, and one who shall rise to reign over the nations; on Him shall the nations hope, and His rest shall be honour.” (Isa_11:10) Or when he speaks of the time of the resurrection: “We shall find Him, as it were, prepared in the morning.” (Hos_6:3) Or that He should sit at the right hand of the Father: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I shall place Thine enemies as the stool of Thy feet.” (Psa_110:1, Psa_110:2) Or when He is set forth as possessor of all things: “Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the boundaries of the earth for Thy possession.” (Psa_2:8) Or when He is shown as Judge of all: “O God, give the King Thy judgment, and Thy righteousness to the King’s Son.” (Psa_72:1) And I shall not in this place pursue the subject further: the things which are announced of Christ are known to all heretics, but are even better known to those who hold the truth.


Chap. X.

Argument. — That Jesus Christ Is the Son of God and Truly Man, as Opposed to the Fancies of Heretics, Who Deny That He Took upon Him True Flesh.

But of this I remind you, that Christ was not to be expected in the Gospel in any other wise than as He was promised before by the Creator, in the Scriptures of the Old Testament; especially as the things that were predicted of Him were fulfilled, and those things that were fulfilled had been predicted. As with reason I might truly and constantly say to that fanciful — I know not what — of those heretics who reject the authority of the Old Testament, as to a Christ feigned and coloured up from old wives’ fables: “Who art thou? Whence art thou? By whom art thou sent? Wherefore hast thou now chosen to come? Why such as thou art? Or how hast thou been able to come? Or wherefore hast thou not gone to thine own, except that thou hast proved that thou hast none of thine own, by coming to those of another? What hast thou to do with the Creator’s world? What hast thou to do with the Creator’s man? What hast thou to do with the image of a body from which thou takest away the hope of resurrection? Why comest thou to another man’s servant, and desirest thou to solicit another man’s son? Why dost thou strive to take me away from the Lord? Why dost thou compel me to blaspheme, and to be impious to my Father? Or what shall I gain from thee in the resurrection, if I do not receive myself when I lose my body? If thou wishest to save, thou shouldest have made a man to whom to give salvation. If thou desirest to snatch from sin, thou shouldest have granted to me previously that I should not fall into sin. But what approbation of law dost thou carry about with thee? What testimony of the prophetic word hast thou? Or what substantial good can I promise myself from thee, when I see that thou hast come in a phantasm and not in a bodily substance? What, then, hast thou to do with the form of a body, if thou hatest a body? Nay, thou wilt be refitted as to the hatred of bearing about the substance of a body, since thou hast been willing even to take up its form. For thou oughtest to have hated the imitation of a body, if thou hatedst the reality; because, if thou art something else, thou oughtest to have come as something else, lest thou shouldest be called the Son of the Creator if thou hadst even the likeness of flesh and body. Assuredly, if thou hatedst being born because thou hatedst ‘the Creator’s marriage-union,’ thou oughtest to refuse even the likeness of a man who is born by the ‘marriage of the Creator.’”

Neither, therefore, do we acknowledge that that is a Christ of the heretics who was — as it is said — in appearance and not in reality; for of those things which he did, he could have done nothing real, if he himself was a phantasm, and not reality. Nor him who wore nothing of our body in himself, seeing “he received nothing from Mary ;” neither did he come to us, since he appeared “as a vision, not in our substance.” Nor do we acknowledge that to be Christ who chose an ethereal or starry flesh, as some heretics have pretended. Nor can we perceive any salvation of ours in him, if in him we do not even recognise the substance of our body; nor, in short, any other who may have worn any other kind of fabulous body of heretical device. For all such fables as these are confuted as well by the nativity as by the death itself of our Lord. For John says: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us;” (Joh_1:14) [Of fables and figments, see cap. viii. p. 617.] so that, reasonably, our body should be in Him, because indeed the Word took on Him our flesh. And for this reason blood flowed forth from His hands and feet, and from His very side, so that He might be proved to be a sharer in our body by dying according to the laws of our dissolution. And that He was raised again in the same bodily substance in which He died, is proved by the wounds of that very body, and thus He showed the laws of our resurrection in His flesh, in that He restored the same body in His resurrection which He had from us. For a law of resurrection is established, in that Christ is raised up in the substance of the body as an example for the rest; because, when it is written that “flesh and blood do not inherit the kingdom of God,” (1Co_15:50) [Vol. 3. p. 521, this series] it is not the substance of the flesh that is condemned, which was built up by the divine hands that it should not perish, but only the guilt of the flesh is rightly rebuked, which by the voluntary daring of man rebelled against the claims of divine law. Because in baptism and in the dissolution of death the flesh is raised up and returns to salvation, by being recalled to the condition of innocency when the mortality of guilt is put away.


Chap. XI.

 — And Indeed That Christ Was Not Only Man, but God Also; That Even as He Was the Son of Man, so also He Was the Son of God.

But lest, from the fact of asserting that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator, was manifested in the substance of the true body, we should seem either to have given assent to other heretics, who in this place maintain that He is man only and alone, and therefore desire to prove that He was a man bare and solitary; and lest we should seem to have afforded them any ground for objecting, we do not so express doctrine concerning the substance of His body, as to say that He is only and alone man, but so as to maintain, by the association of the divinity of the Word in that very materiality, that He was also God according to the Scriptures. For there is a great risk of saying that the Saviour of the human race was only man; that the Lord of all, and the Chief of the world, to whom all things were delivered, and all things were granted by His Father, by whom all things were ordained, all things were created, all things were arranged, the King of all ages and times, the Prince of all the angels, before whom there is none but the Father, was only man, and denying to Him divine authority in these things. For this contempt of the heretics will recoil also upon God the Father, if God the Father could not beget God the Son. But, moreover, no blindness of the heretics shall prescribe to the truth. Nor, because they maintain one thing in Christ and, do not maintain another, they see one side of Christ and do not see another, shall there be taken away from us that which they do not see for the sake of that which they do. For they regard the weaknesses in Him as if they were a man’s weaknesses, but they do not count the powers as if they were a God’s powers. They keep in mind the infirmities of the flesh, they exclude the powers of the divinity; when if this argument from the infirmities of Christ is of avail to the result of proving Him to be man from His infirmities, the argument of divinity in Him gathered from His powers avails to the result also of asserting Him to be God from His works. For if His sufferings show in Him human frailty, why may not His works assert in Him divine power? For if this should not avail to assert Him to be God from His powers, neither can His sufferings avail to show Him to be man also from them. For whatever principle be adopted on one or the other side, will be found to be maintained.25 For there will be a risk that He should not be shown to be man from His sufferings, if He could not also be approved as God by His powers. We must not then lean to one side and evade the other side, because any one who should exclude one portion of the truth will never hold the perfect truth. For Scripture as much announces Christ as also God, as it announces God Himself as man. It has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God. Because it does not set forth Him to be the Son of God only, but also the Son of man; nor does it only say, the Son of man, but it has also been accustomed to speak of Him as the Son of God. So that being of both, He is both, lest if He should be one only, He could not be the other. For as nature itself has prescribed that he must be believed to be a man who is of man, so the same nature prescribes also that He must be believed to be God who is of God; but if he should not also be God when be is of God, no more should he be man although he should be of man. And thus both doctrines would be endangered in one and the other way, by one being convicted to have lost belief in the other. Let them, therefore, who read that Jesus Christ the Son of man is man, read also that this same Jesus is called also God and the Son of God. For in the manner that as man He is of Abraham, so also as God He is before Abraham himself. And in the same manner as He is as man the “Son of David,” (Mat_22:42 et seq.) so as God He is proclaimed David’s Lord. And in the same manner as He was made as man “under the law,” (Gal_4:4) so as God He is declared to be “Lord of the Sabbath.” (Luk_6:5) And in the same manner as He suffers, as man, the condemnation, so as God He is found to have all judgment of the quick and dead. And in the same manner as He is born as man subsequent to the world, so as God He is manifested to have been before the world. And in the same way as He was begotten as man of the seed of David, so also the world is said to have been ordained by Him as God. And in the same way as He was as man after many, so as God He was before all. And in the same manner as He was as man inferior to others, so as God He was greater than all. And in the same manner as He ascended as man into heaven, so as God He had first descended thence. And in the same manner as He goes as man to the Father, so as the Son in obedience to the Father He shall descend thence. So if imperfections in Him prove human frailty, majesties in Him affirm divine power. For the risk is, in reading of both, to believe not both, but one of the two. Wherefore as both are read of in Christ, let both be believed; that so finally the faith may be true, being also complete. For if of two principles one gives way in the faith, and the other, and that indeed which is of least importance, be taken up for belief, the rule of truth is thrown into confusion; and that boldness will not confer salvation, but instead of salvation will effect a great risk of death from the overthrow of the faith.


Chap. XII.

Argument. — That Christ Is God, Is Proved by the Authority of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Why, then, should we hesitate to say what Scripture does not shrink from declaring? Why shall the truth of faith hesitate in that wherein the authority of Scripture has never hesitated? For, behold, Hosea the prophet says in the person of the Father: “I will not now save them by bow, nor by horses, nor by horsemen; but I will save them by the Lord their God.” (Hos_1:7) If God says that He saves by God, still God does not save except by Christ. Why, then, should man hesitate to call Christ God, when he observes that He is declared to be God by the Father according to the Scriptures? Yea, if God the Father does not save except by God, no one can be saved by God the Father unless he shall have confessed Christ to be God, in whom and by whom the Father promises that He will give him salvation: so that, reasonably, whoever acknowledges Him to be God, may find salvation in Christ God; whoever does not acknowledge Him to be God, would lose salvation which he could not find elsewhere than in Christ God. For in the same way as Isaiah says, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and ye shall call His name Emmanuel, which is, interpreted, God with us;” (Isa_7:14) so Christ Himself says, “Lo, I am with you, even to the consummation of the world.” (Mat_28:20) Therefore He is “God with us;” yea, and much rather, He is in us. Christ is with us, therefore it is He whose name is God with us, because He also is with us; or is He not with us? How then does He say that He is with us? He, then, is with us. But because He is with us He was called Emmanuel, that is, God with us. God, therefore, because He is with us, was called God with us, The same prophet says: “Be ye strengthened, ye relaxed hands, and ye feeble knees; be consoled, ye that are cowardly in heart; be strong; fear not. Lo, our God shall return judgment; He Himself shall come, and shall save you: then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be eloquent.” (Isa_35:3, etc.) Since the prophet says that at God’s advent these should be the signs which come to pass; let men acknowledge either that Christ is the Son of God, at whose advent and by whom these wonders of healings were performed; or, overcome by the truth of Christ’s divinity, let them rush into the other heresy, and refusing to confess Christ to be the Son of God, and God, let them declare Him to be the Father. For, being bound by the words of the prophets, they can no longer deny Christ to be God. What, then, do they reply when those signs are said to be about to take place on the advent of God, which were manifested on the advent of Christ? In what way do they receive Christ as God? For now they cannot deny Him to be God. As God the Father, or as God the Son? If as the Son, why do they deny that the Son of God is God? If as the Father, why do they not follow those who appear to maintain blasphemies of that kind? unless because in this contest against them concerning the truth, this is in the meantime sufficient for us, that, being convinced in any kind of way, they should confess Christ to be God, seeing they have even wished to deny that He is God. He says by Habakkuk the prophet: “God shall come from the south, and the Holy One from the dark and dense mountain.” (Hab_3:3)26 Whom do they wish to represent as coming from the south? If they say that it is the Almighty God the Father, then God the Father comes from a place, from which place, moreover, He is thus excluded, and He is bounded within the straitnesses of some abode; and thus by such as these, as we have said, the sacrilegious heresy of Sabellius is embodied. Since Christ is believed to be not the Son, but the Father; since by them He is asserted to be in strictness a bare man, in a new manner, by those, again, Christ is proved to be God the Father Almighty. But if in Bethlehem, the region of which local division looks towards the southern portion of heaven, Christ is born, who by the Scriptures is also said to be God, this God is rightly described as coming from the south, because He was foreseen as about to come from Bethlehem. Let them, then, choose of the two alternatives, the one that they prefer, that He who came from the south is the Son, or the Father; for God is said to be about to come from the south. If the Son, why do they shrink from calling Him Christ and God? For the Scripture says that God shall come. If the Father, why do they shrink from being associated with the boldness of Sabellius, who says that Christ is the Father? unless because, whether they call Him Father or Son, from his heresy, however unwillingly, they must needs withdraw if they are accustomed to say that Christ is merely man; when compelled by the facts themselves, they are on the eve of exalting Him as God, whether in wishing to call Him Father or in wishing to call Him Son.





1 Which we call the Creed.

2 From the ninth chapter to the twenty-eighth he enters upon the diffuse explanation also of these words of our creed which commend to us faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Lord our God, the Christ promised us in the Old Testament, and proves by the authority of the old and new covenant that He is very man and very God. In chapter eighteenth he refutes the error of the Sabellians, and by the authority of the sacred writings he establishes the distinction of the Father and of the Son, and replies to the objections of the above-named heresiarchs and others. In the twenty-ninth chapter he treats of faith in the Holy Spirit, saying that finally the authority of the faith admonishes us, after the Father and the Son, to believe also on the Holy Spirit, whose operations he recounts and proves from the Scriptures. He then labours to associate the unity of God with the matters previously contended for, and at length sets forth the sum of the doctrines above explained. [Anthropopathy, see cap. v. p. 615.]

3 “Mensurnis,” or otherwise “menstruis.”

4 [Jer_5:22. Compare this sublime page with paganism.]

5 “Inventionis.” “Redemptionis” is a reasonable emendation.

6 Or probably, “Neither indeed is,” etc. [vol. 3. p. 428.]

7 Viritior. [See Robert Hall on French Atheism.]

8 [No possible or pocket god.]

9 [A lesson to our age.]

10 [“So that they are without excuse.”]

11 In other words, God is always the same in essence, in personality and in attributes.

12 [The ineffable name of the Self-Existent.]

13 [Anthropopathy, p. 611.]

14 [Capp v. and vi. are specimens of vigorous thought.]

15 sc. in the Old Testament.

16 That is to say, “of birth and dissolution.” [He is the Now.]

17 [Exo_3:2. Not consuming. Heb_12:29, “consuming.”]

18 [Madame de Staël has beautifully remarked on the benefit conferred upon humanity by Him who authorized us to say, “Our Father.” “Scientific” atheism gives nothing instead.]

19 [The science of the third century had overruled the Pythagorean system, and philosophers bound the Church and the human mind in the chains of false science for ages. The revival of true science was due to Copernicus, a Christian priest, and to Galileo, and other Christians. Let this be noted.]

20 “Vigent,” or otherwise “lucent.”

21 “Ministraret” seems to be preferable to “monstraret.”

22 [Our author’s genius actually suggests a theory, in this chapter, concerning the zoa, or “living creatures,” which anticipates all that is truly demonstrated by the “evolutionists,” and which harmonizes the variety of animated natures. Rev_5:13, Rev_5:14.]

23 [The universe is here intended, as in Milton, “this pendent world.” Parad. Lost, book ii. 1052.]

24 “Note also the rest of the text” is our author’s additional comment.

25 Scil. in its alternative.

26 [See English margin, and Robinson, i. p. 552.]