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Commentary On The Gospel According To Saint John Volumes 1&2

That the Son is by Nature Life and therefore not originate, but of the Essence of God the Father.

4  That which was made, in it was Life.

YET doth the Blessed Evangelist make to us his discourse concerning God the Word, and he seemeth to me profitably to go through all that pertains to Him by Nature, that he may both put to shame the outrages of the heretics, and may fortify those who would fain excel in right faith, with reasonings thereunto tending, not providing from words of worldly wisdom unpersuasion, but in demonstration of the Spirit marvelling at the beauty of the truth.

What he would then teach through the words before us, is this. He shewed us just now that the Son is by Nature Maker and Creator, saying that all things were made by Him and that without Him not so much as one thing was called into being. But since on the creation He bestows not only to be called into being, but also holds it together when made through Himself, immingling in some way Himself with those who have not by their own nature eternity of being, and becoming life to those that are, that having become they may abide, and that each may be preserved according to its own limit of nature;—needs does he say, That which was made, in it was life. Not only, says he, were all things made by Him, but also whatever was made, in it was the Life, that is, the Only-Begotten Word of God, the Beginning and Subsistence of all things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly and infernal. For Himself being the by-Nature Life, bestows manifoldly on things that are, being and life and motion, not in any way of partition and change passing into each one of things that are by nature distinct: but their nature, viewed by itself, is variously fashioned by the ineffable Power and Wisdom of the Creator, while One is the Life of all passing into each, in such sort as befits it, and it is able to partake thereof. But since that which is brought from not being into being must needs also decay, and that which has beginning surely hasteth unto its end (for to the Divine and All-superior Nature Alone beseemeth the being preceded by no beginning and being free from ending): the Creator wisely deviseth for the weakness that is in things made, and contriveth for them by His skill an eternity. For the perpetual succession unto each of its like, and the natural progression of things connatural or kin unto one another looking ever towards onward course, make the creation ever-visible and ever-co-enduring with God its Maker. And this (contrivance) is that every one of things that are, soweth seed in itself after its kind and after its likeness, according to the unspeakable sentence of its Creator. In all then was the Life; for this is our subject.

But, excellent sir, may one with reason say to the heretic warring against the truth, what will you say to this too, when you hear him who bears within him the Spirit say, that in all things that were made was the Life, that is, the Word That is in the beginning? Will you dare to say now too, that the Son is not of the Essence of God the Father, that He may be deemed of as originate and created? How then will one not cry out against thine unlearning, O thou, and that with justice? For if in things that were made was the Word, as Life by Nature, immingling Himself by participation with things that are, He is then Other than those wherein He is believed to be. But He being by Nature Other than what the creation is, how will He not be the God over all? But if you remain shameless, and cease not to imagine that originate is the Son Who is in things made, as Life:—first of all He will be conceived of as being somewhat in Himself, then besides, He will Himself be partaker of Himself, and Life, if being in things made, He be conceived to be Himself too one of them. But the fighter against God sees surely himself too, how great the absurdity of thinking thus. Therefore if the Word Who quickens them is by participation in things originate, He will not be Himself too among the participators, but other than they. And if so, not originate, but in them as by Nature Life.

This again we shall see by the subjoined considerations.

Thoughts or arguments.

If the Son be not of the Essence of God the Father, but from without He have subordinated Him according to them, He is originate and made. How then does He quicken all things, Who is among things made? Or what distinction shall we find any longer in the Divine Nature? or how does the most wise Paul say, as something admirable of Him That is by Nature God, Who quickeneth all things? For if the Son being originate, quickeneth all things, the creation quickeneth itself, in no wise needing thereto God its Maker. There is then nothing in God more than in the creation; for it inworketh not less than God can do. But this is absurd. Not originate then is the Son, but God and therefore by Nature Life also.

Another. The Psalmist marvelleth exceedingly and that with reason at the Divine Nature, and in particular attributeth to It a most fair dignity saying, For with Thee is the Fountain of life. But if the Father have set the Son below Him, and have Him not of His own Nature, and He even being so, quickens things originate and is by Nature Life as quickening, why vainly strives the Psalmist saying that the fountain of life is with God Alone? For the nature of things originate also is recipient of this, if the Son, albeit not of the Divine Essence according to the uncounsel of some, quickens. But this is absurd. Therefore Life by Nature is the Son, as God of God, and Life of Life.

Another. If the Son being by Nature Life be originate and created, as not having His Being of the Essence of God the Father, according to their fantasy, the nature of things originate will be recipient of being and being called life, and all things will be life in potential, even if they have not yet the exercise of the thing itself. For that which has the natural power of being ought, will surely be so I ween, even if it be not so as yet; for it has the power inherent in its nature. When then the being life is common to the creature, the special and alone prerogative of none, why vainly does the Son vaunt of Himself, I am the Life? for He should, I suppose, have rather said, I am along with you the life. This would I suppose have been truer, if being indeed originate He is Life too. But since He puts about Himself Alone as His special good the being Life, it is at length clear that He classes Himself, not with things originate, but with the Divine Essence of the Father, whereto the being Life also pertains.

Another. That which is participate of life is not in its own right life, for it is clearly in it as other than itself. If then the Son is by participation in things originate as Life, He will be other than the things that are participate of Him and lack life. Therefore not originate is He, nor seeking to be quickened by another. He is therefore God as quickening; but if so, He will be confessedly of the Essence of the Father, if we worship One God, and serve none other than Him Who is.

Another. Accurately testing the nature of things that are, we see God and the creation and nought else besides. For whatever falleth short of being God by Nature, that is surely originate; and whatever escapeth the catalogue of creation, will surely be within the limits of Deity. Since then we have well established this, let them tell us who thrust forth the Son from the Essence of God the Father, how He can quicken as Life, seeing that the Divine Nature has this as its own property, and yields it to none else. But if being originate He can be Life also, the grace of the excellence will surely overtake all things that are originate, and all will be by nature life. “What need will they have therefore of participation of the Son, or what more will they gain hence? for they too possess the being by nature life. But this is not true, but they partake of necessity as needing life, of the Son. Alone then is the Only-Begotten by Nature Life, and therefore will He not be reckoned among things originate, but will mount up unto the Nature of Him Who begat Him: for Life by Nature is the Father too.

Another. The Son being by Nature Life, is either Other than the creation, I mean by nature, or con-natural with it. If then He be connatural and consubstantial, how will He not lie in saying, I am the Bread of Life Which cometh down from Heaven and giveth life unto the world? for the creation hath from its own the being life, but life is imparticipate of life, that it may shew itself life. But if He is not connatural, He will also escape being originate, withdrawing from the creation together with Himself His own proper good also. For the creation will not be by nature Life, but rather lacking and participate of life.

Another. If the Son being by Nature Life is connatural with things made, by reason of not being of the Essence of God the Father, according to their speech, wherefore does the blessed Psalmist say that the heavens shall perish, and shall wax old like a garment: but to Him did he attribute His own proper prerogative, crying aloud, But Thou art the Same and Thy years shall have no end? For either He will perish and fail along with us, as connatural, and will no longer be conceived of as Life, or our natural connection with Him will draw up us too to be ever the same and to unfailing number of years. But verily He shall be ever the same, and we shall fail: He is therefore not originate as we; but since He is of the Life by Nature He will also quicken as Life the things that lack life.

Another. If nought is participate of itself, but the creation partakes of the Son as Life; He is not the creation, nor yet is the creation Life, which the Son is.

Another. If to quicken is one thing, to be quickened another, as action and passion, and the Son quickens, the creation is quickened: therefore not the same is Son and creation, since neither is the inworker with the inwrought.








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