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

That the Holy Ghost is in the Son not by participation, not from without, but Essentially and by Nature

32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him. 33 And I knew Him not: but He That sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, the Same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

HAVING said above that he knew Him not, he profitably explains and uncovers the Divine Mystery, both shewing that He Who told him was God the Father, and clearly relating the manner of the revelation. By all does he profit the mind of the hearers; and whereby he says that the Mystery of Christ to men-ward was taught him of God, he shews that his opposers are fighting against the decree from above, and to their own peril arraying themselves against the mighty purpose of the Father. For this was the part of one skillfully persuading them to desist from their vain counsel, and to receive Him Who by the goodwill of the Father came for the salvation of all. He therefore testifieth, both that he saw the Spirit descending from Heaven upon Him, in the form of a Dove, and that It abode upon Him. Then besides, he says that himself was the ear-witness of Him Who sent him to baptize with water, that He upon Whom the Spirit came and abode upon Him is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Most worthy of belief then the witness, supernatural the sign, above all the Father Who revealed.

And these things are thus. But perchance the heretic fond of carping will jump up, and with a big laugh, say; What again, sirs, say ye to this too, or what argument will ye bring forth, wresting that which is written? Lo, he saith that the Spirit descendeth upon the Son; lo, He is anointed by God the Father; That Which He hath not, He receives forsooth, the Psalmist co-witnessing with us and saying, as to Him: Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. How then will the Son any more be Consubstantial with the Perfect Father, not being Himself Perfect, and therefore anointed? To this then I think it right to say to those who overturn the holy doctrines of the Church, and pervert the truth of the Scriptures: Awake, ye drunkards, from your wine, that viewing the clear beauty of the truth, ye may be able with us to cry to the Son: Of a truth Thou art the Son of God. For if thou fully believe that He is by Nature God, how will He not have perfection? For time is it that ye now speak impiously against the Father Himself also: for whence must He needs, as thou sayest, have perfection? how will He not be brought down to the abasement of His Offspring, which according to you is imperfect, in that the Divine Essence in the Son has once received the power of not having Perfection, according to your unlearned and uninstructed reasoning? For we will not divide that Great and Untaint Nature into different Words, so that it should be imperfect perchance in one, and again Perfect in the other. Since the definition of human nature too is one in respect of all men, and equal in all of us, what man will be less, qua man? but neither will he be considered more so than another. And I suppose that one angel will differ in nothing from another angel in respect of their being what they are, angels to wit, from sameness of nature, being all linked with one another unto one nature. How then can the Nature Which is Divine and surpassing all, shew Itself in a state inferior to things originate in Its own special good, and endure a condition which the creature cannot endure? How will It be at all simple and uncompounded, if Perfection and imperfection appear in It? For It will be compounded of both, since Perfection is not of the same kind as imperfection. For if they be of the same kind, and there be no difference between them, every thing which is perfect will without distinction be also imperfect: and if ought again be imperfect, this too will be perfect. And the charge against the Son will be nought, even though according to your surmisings He appear not Perfect: but neither will the Father Himself, though witnessed to in respect of His Perfection, surpass the Son, and there is an end of our dispute. But if much interval severs imperfection from perfection, and the Divine Nature admits both together, It is compound, and not simple.

But perchance some one will say, that contraries are incompatible, and not co-existent in one subject at the same time, as for instance in a body white and black skin together. Well, my friend, and very bravely hast thou backed up my argument. For if the Divine Nature be One, and there be none other than It, how, tell me, will It admit of contraries? How will things unlike to one another come together into one subject? But since the Father is by Nature God, the Son too is by Nature God. He will therefore in nothing differ, in respect of being Perfect, from the Father, since He is begotten of His Divine and most Perfect Essence. For must not He needs be Perfect Who is of a Perfect Parent, since He is both His exact Likeness, and the express Image of His Person, as it is written? But every one will I suppose consent and agree to this. Or let him come forward and say, how the Son is the exact Image of the Perfect Father, not having Perfection in His Own Nature, according to the uncounsel of some. For since He is the Impress and Image, He is Himself too perfect as He, Whose Image He is.

But, says one, John saw the Spirit descending from Heaven upon the Son, and He has Sanctification from without, for He receives it as not having it. Time then is it to call Him openly a creature, barely honoured with a little excellence, perfected and sanctified in equal rank with the rest, and having His supply of good things an acquired one. Then how does the Evangelist not lie, when he says, Of His fulness have all we received? For how will He be full in His Own Nature, Who Himself receiveth from Another? Or how will God be at all conceived of as Father if the Only-Begotten is a creature, and not rather Son? For if this be so, both Himself will be falsely called Father, and the Son will not be Truth, having upon Him a spurious dignity, and a title of bare words. The whole therefore will come to nothing; the Father being neither truly father, nor the Son this by Nature, which He is said to be. But if God be truly Father, He surely has whereof He is Father, the Son, that is, of Himself.

Then how will the Godhead Holy by Nature beget that of Itself which is void of holiness, and bring forth Its own Fruit destitute of Its own inherent Properties? For if He hath sanctification from without, as they babbling say;—they must needs confess, even against their will, that He was not always holy, but became so afterwards, when the Spirit descended upon Him, as John saith. How then was the Son holy even before the Incarnation? for so did the Seraphim glorify Him, repeating the Holy, in order, from the first to the third time. If then He was holy, even before the Incarnation, yea rather being ever with the Father, how needed He a sanctifier, and this in the last times, when He became Man? I marvel how this too escapes them, with all their love of research. For must we not needs conceive, that the Son could at any time reject sanctification, if it be not in Him essentially, but came to Him as it does to us, or any other reasonable creature? But that which falls away from sanctification, will it not be altogether under the bonds of sin, and sink to the worse, no longer retaining power to be apart from vice? Therefore neither will the Son be found to be unchangeable, and the Psalmist will lie crying in the Spirit as to Him, But Thou art the Same.

Besides what has been already said, let this too be considered, for it brings in a kindred idea: All reasoning will demonstrate that the partaken is somewhat other by nature than the partaker. For if this be not true, but that shall in no wise differ from this, and is the same; that which partakes of ought partakes of itself, which is incredible even to think of (for how can any one be imagined to partake of himself?). But if the things mentioned lie altogether in natural diversity one to another, and the necessity of reasoning separates them, let them who give the Spirit by participation to the Only-Begotten, see to what a depth of impiety they sink unawares. For if the Son is partaker of the Spirit, and the Spirit is by Nature holy, He Himself will not be by Nature holy, but is shewn to be hardly so through combination with another, trans-elemented by grace to the better, than that wherein He was at first. But let the fighter against God again see, into how great impiety the question casts him down. For first some change and turning, as we said before, will be found to exist respecting the Son. And being according to you changed, and having advanced unto the better, He will be shewn to be not only not inferior to the Father, but even somehow to have become superior: and how this is, we will say, taking it from the Divine Scripture. The divine Paul says somewhere of Him: Be each among you so minded, according to what was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Since then even before the Incarnation, He was in the form and equality of the Father, but at the time of the Incarnation receiving the Spirit from Heaven was sanctified, according to them, and became by reason of this better alike and greater than Himself, He surpasses at length it is plain even the measure of His Father. And if on receiving the Spirit He mounted up unto dignity above that of the Father, then is the Spirit superior even to the Father Himself, seeing that He bestows on the Son the superiority over Him. Who then will not shudder at the mere hearing of this? For hard is it in truth even to go through such arguments, but no otherwise can the harm of their stubbornness be driven off. Therefore we will say again to them: If when the Word of God became Man, He is then also sanctified by receiving the Spirit: but before the Incarnation was in the Form and Equality of the Father, not yet according to them sanctified, time is it they should boldly say, that God the Father is not holy, if the Word Who is in all things altogether Con-formal and Equal to Him, was not holy in the beginning, but barely in the last times became so. And again, if He is truly the Word of God, Who receiveth the Spirit, and is sanctified in His Own Nature, let our opponents say, whether in doing this, He became greater or less than Himself, or remained the Same. For if He hath nothing more from the Spirit, but remaineth the same as He was, be not offended at learning that It descended on Him. But if He was injured by receiving It, and became less, you will introduce to us the Word as passible, and will accuse the Essence of the Father as wronging rather than sanctifying. But if He became better by receiving the Spirit, but was in the Form and Equality of the Father, even before, according to you, He became bettered, the Father hath not attained unto the height of glory, but will be in that measure of it, in which the Son Who hath advanced to the better was Con-formal and Equal to Him. Convenient is it then, I deem, to say to the ill-instructed heretics, Behold o foolish people and without understanding, which have eyes, and see not; which have ears and hear not; for the god of this world hath indeed blinded the eyes of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them: worthy of pity are they rather than of anger. For they understand not, what they read.

But that the reasoning is true, will be clear from hence, even if we have not, by our previous attempts, made the demonstration perfectly clear. Again shall this that is spoken by the mouth of Paul be brought forward: Be each among you, saith he, so minded, according to what was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the Form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Him the Form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself. Lo, he much marvels at the Son, as being Equal and Con-formal with God the Father, not, by reason of His Love to us, seizing this, but descending to lowliness, through the Form of a servant, emptied by reason of His Manhood. But if, sirs, He on receiving the Spirit were sanctified rather, when He became Man, and were, through the sanctification, rendered superior to Himself, into what kind of lowliness shall we see Him to have descended? How is That made low that was exalted, how did That descend that was sanctified, or how did it not rather ascend, and was exalted for the better? What emptiness hath filling through the Spirit? or how will He at all be thought to have been Incarnate for our sakes, Who underwent so great profit in respect of Himself? How did the Rich become poor for our sakes, who was enriched because of us? How was He rich even before His Advent, Who acccording to them received in it what He had not, to wit the Spirit? Or how will He not rather justly offer to us thank-offering for what by means of us He gained? Be astonished, as it is written, O ye heavens, at this: and be horribly afraid, saith the Lord: for the people of the heretics have in truth committed two evils, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm, and think it not grievous thus to incur such danger in the weightiest matters. For else would they, shedding bitter tears from their eyes, and lifting up a mighty voice on high, have approached, saying, Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to words of wickedness. For words of wickedness in truth are their words, travailing with extremest mischief to the hearers. But we, having expelled their babbling from our heart, will walk in the right way of the faith, bearing in mind that which is written: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Come then, and bringing into captivity our mind as to the subjects before us, let us subject it to the glory of the Only-Begotten, bringing all things wisely to His obedience, that is, to the mode of the Incarnation. For, being Rich, for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich.

Receive then, if you please, our proof through that also which is now before us, opening a forbearing ear to our words. The Divine Scripture testifies that man was made in the Image and Likeness of God Who is over all. And indeed, he who compiled the first book for us (Moses, who above all men was known to God) says, And God created man, in the Image of God created He him. But that through the Spirit he was sealed unto the Divine Image, himself again taught us, saying, And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For the Spirit at once began both to put life into His formation and in a Divine manner to impress His own Image thereon. Thus the most excellent Artificer God, having formed the reasonable living creature upon the earth, gave him the saving commandment. And he was in Paradise, as it is written, still keeping the Gift, and eminent in the Divine Image of Him That made him, through the Holy Ghost That indwelt him. But when perverted by the wiles of the devil, he began to despise his Creator, and by trampling on the law assigned him, to grieve his Benefactor, He recalled the grace given to him, and he that was made unto life then first heard Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And now the Likeness to God was through the inroad of sin defaced, and no longer was the Impress bright, but fainter and darkened because of the transgression. But when the race of man had reached to an innumerable multitude, and sin had dominion over them all, manifoldly despoiling each man’s soul, his nature was stripped of the ancient grace; the Spirit departed altogether, and the reasonable creature fell into extremest folly, ignorant even of its Creator. But the Artificer of all, having endured a long season, at length pities the corrupted world, and being Good hastened to gather together to those above His runaway flock upon earth; and decreed to trans-element human nature anew to the pristine Image through the Spirit. For no otherwise was it possible that the Divine Impress should again shine forth in him, as it did aforetime.

What then He contrives to this end, how He implanted in us the inviolate grace, or how the Spirit again took root in man, in what manner nature was re-formed to its old condition, it is meet to say. The first man, being earthy, and of the earth, and having, placed in his own power, the choice between good and evil, being master of the inclination to each, was caught of bitter guile, and having inclined to disobedience, falls to the earth, the mother from whence he sprang, and over-mastered now at length by corruption and death, transmits the penalty to his whole race. The evil growing and multiplying in us, and our understanding ever descending to the worse, sin reigned, and thus at length the nature of man was shewn bared of the Holy Ghost Which indwelt him. For the Holy Spirit of wisdom will flee deceit, as it is written, nor dwell in the body that is subject unto sin. Since then the first Adam preserved not the grace given him of God, God the Father was minded to send us from Heaven the second Adam. For He sendeth in our likeness His own Son Who is by Nature without variableness or change, and wholly unknowing of sin, that as by the disobedience of the first, we became subject to Divine wrath, so through the obedience of the Second, we might both escape the curse, and its evils might come to nought. But when the Word of God became Man, He received the Spirit from the Father as one of us, (not receiving ought for Himself individually, for He was the Giver of the Spirit); but that He Who knew no sin, might, by receiving It as Man, preserve It to our nature, and might again in root in us the grace which had left us. For this reason, I deem, it was that the holy Baptist profitably added, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven, and It abode upon Him. For It had fled from us by reason of sin, but He Who knew no sin, became as one of us, that the Spirit might be accustomed to abide in us, having no occasion of departure or withdrawal in Him.

Therefore through Himself He receives the Spirit for us, and renews to our nature, the ancient good. For thus is He also said for our sakes to become poor. For being rich, as God and lacking no good thing, He became Man lacking all things, to whom it is somewhere said and that very well, What hast thou that thou didst not receive? As then, being by Nature Life, He died in the Flesh for our sakes, that He might overcome death for us, and raise up our whole nature together with Himself (for all we were in Him, in that He was made Man): so does He also receive the Spirit for our sakes, that He may sanctify our whole nature. For He came not to profit Himself, but to be to all us the Door and Beginning and Way of the Heavenly Goods. For if He had not pleased to receive, as Man, or to suffer too, as one of us, how could any one have shewn that He humbled Himself? or how would the Form of a servant have been fittingly kept, if nothing befitting a servant were written of Him? Let not then the all-wise account of the dispensation be pulled to pieces, whereof the divine Paul himself rightly cries in admiration: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. For wisdom indeed and God-befitting, is the great mystery of the Incarnation seen to be.

Such an apprehension of our Saviour do I suppose that we who choose to be pious, and rejoice in orthodox doctrines, ought to have. For we too will not descend to such lack of reason as to suppose that in the Son by Nature was the Spirit by participation and not rather essentially inherent even as in the Father Himself. For as of the Father, so also of the Son, is the Holy Ghost. So did we also read in the Divine Scriptures. For it says: After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not.

But if it seem good to any one, with over contentious zeal, to object to our words hereon, and to assert again, that the Spirit is in the Son by participation, or that, not being in Him before, He then came to be in Him, when He was baptized, in the period of His Incarnation, let him see, into what and how great absurdities he will fall. For first, the Saviour saith: Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist. And the word is true: but we see him who hath attained to the summit of glory and virtue that belong to us, honouring Christ with incomparable excellencies. For I am not worthy, says he, to stoop down and unloose the latchet of His shoes. How then is it not absurd, yea rather impious, to believe that John was filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb, because it is so written of him: and to suppose that his Master, yea rather the Master and Lord of all, then first received the Spirit, when He was baptized, albeit holy Gabriel says to the holy Virgin: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And let the lover of learning see, with how great a meaning the word travaileth. For of John, it saith, he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost (for the Holy Ghost was in him as a gift, and not essentially), but of the Saviour, he no longer saith shall be filled, (in rightness of conception,) but that holy Thing which shall be born of thee. Nor did he add shall be, for It was always Holy by Nature, as God.

But since I deem that we ought to seek after what is profitable from all quarters; the voice of the archangel having been once brought forward, come, let us exercise ourselves a little in it. The Holy Ghost, says he, shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. Let him then, who from great unlearning, opposeth the right doctrines of the Church, tell us, whether even before the Incarnation the the Word of God the Father was Son, or had the glory in name only, but was a bastard, and falsely called. For if he say that He was not the Son at all, he will deny the Father (for of whom will He be the Father, if He have no Son?): and he will think contrary to all the Divine Scriptures. But if he confess that the Son even before the Incarnation both was and was called Son, how does the Archangel tell us that That which should be born of the holy Virgin shall be called the Son of God, albeit He was this by Nature even long before? As therefore the Son being from eternity with the Father, as having Origin of Being, is at the time of His Incarnation called Son of God, from His appearing in the world with a Body; so, having in Himself Essentially His Own Spirit, He is said to receive It as Man, preserving to the Humanity the order befitting it, and with it appropriating for our sakes the things befitting it. But how can the Word be thought of at all apart from Its Own Spirit? For would it not be absurd to say, that the spirit of man, which is in him, according to the definition of nature, and for the completeness of the living-being, was separated from him? But I suppose that this is most evident to all. How then shall we sever the Spirit from the Son, Which is so inherent and essentially united, and through Him proceeding and being in Him by Nature, that It cannot be thought to be Other than He by reason both of Identity of working, and the very exact likeness of Nature. Hear what the Saviour saith to His own disciples, If ye love Me, keep My Commandments, and I will pray the Father, and He shall give you Another Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot receive. Lo, plainly He calls the Holy Ghost Spirit of Truth. But that He and none other than He is the Truth, hear Him again saying, I am the Truth. The Son by Nature then being and being called Truth, see how great Oneness with Him the Spirit hath. For the disciple John saith somewhere of our Saviour, This is He that came by water and blood and the spirit, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood: and it is the Spirit That beareth witness, because the Spirit is Truth. Therefore also, the Holy Ghost indwelling in our inner man, Christ Himself is said to dwell therein, and so it is. And indeed the blessed Paul most clearly teaching this, says, But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. Apply, sir, a quick ear to what is said. Having named the Spirit of Christ That dwelleth in us, he straightway added, If Christ be in you, introducing the exact likeness of the Son with the Spirit, Which is His Own and proceeding from Him by Nature. Therefore He is called the Spirit of adoption also, and in Him we cry Abba, Father. And as the blessed John somewhere says, Hereby know we that He dwelleth in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.

I think then that these things will suffice, to enable the children of the Church to repel the mischief of the heretics. But if any one be soused in the unmixed strong drink of their unlearning, and suppose that the Son then first received the Spirit, when He became Man: let him shew that the Word of God was not holy before the Incarnation, and we will hold our peace.

But one may well wonder that the holy Evangelist every where preserves with much observance what befits the Divine Nature. For since he said above, that no man hath seen God at any time, and now says that the blessed Baptist saw the Spirit descend from Heaven upon the Son, he adds of necessity, I saw the Spirit, but in the form of a Dove, not Himself by Nature, as He is, but shadowed in the gentlest animal; that in this again He might be shewn to preserve His Natural Affinity and Likeness to the Son, Who saith, Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. Therefore the Spirit will not fall away from being God by Nature: for the never having been seen at any time has been preserved to Him, save under the form of a dove, by reason of the need of the disciple. For the blessed Baptist says that the descent of the Spirit was given him by way of a sign and token, adding to his testimonies respecting our Saviour, He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the Same is He Which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Therefore I think we may fitly laugh to scorn those senseless heretics who take as matter of fact, that which was set forth by way of sign, even though it took place as part of the œconomy, as hath been already said, for the need’s sake of the human race.

34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Sure is the witness; who, what he hath actually seen, that he also speaketh. For haply he was not ignorant of that which is written, That which thine eyes have seen, tell. I saw then, says he, the sign, and understood That Which was signified by it. I bear record that this is the Son of God, Who was proclaimed by the Law that is through Moses, and heralded by the voice of the holy Prophets. The blessed Evangelist seems to me again to say with some great confidence, This is the Son of God, that is, the One, the Only by Nature, the Heir of the Own Nature of the Father, to Whom we too, sons by adoption, are conformed and through Whom we are called by grace to the dignity of sonship. For as from God the Father every family in Heaven and earth is named, from His being properly, and first, and truly Father, so is all sonship too from the Son, by reason of His being properly and Alone truly Son, not bastard nor falsely-called, but of the Essence of God the Father, not by off-cutting or emanation or division or severance (for the Divine Nature is altogether Impassible): but as One of One, ever Co-existing and Co-eternal and Innate in Him Who begat Him, being in Him, and coming forth from Him, Indivisible and without Dimensions; since the Divinity is neither after the manner of a body, nor bounded by space, nor of nature such as to make progressive footsteps. But like as from fire proceedeth the heat that is in it, appearing to be separate from it in idea, and to be other than it, though it is of it and in it by nature, and proceedeth from it without suffering any harm in the way of offcutting, division, or emanation (for it is preserved whole in the whole fire): so shall we conceive of the Divine Offspring too, thinking thereon in a manner most worthy of God, and believing that the Son subsists of Himself, yet not excluding Him from the One Ineffable Godhead, nor saying that He is Other in substance than the Father. For then would He no longer be rightly conceived of as Son, but something other than He, and a new god would arise, other than He That Only Is. For how shall not that which is not consubstantial with God by Nature, wholly fall away from being Very God? But since the blessed Baptist is both trustworthy, and of the greatest repute, and testifieth that This is the Son of God: we will confess the Son to be altogether Very God, and of the Essence of the Father. For this and nothing else, does the name of Sonship signify to us.

35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples, 36 and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world.

Already had the blessed Baptist pointed Him out before; but lo, repeating again the same words, he points Jesus out to his disciples, and calls Him the Lamb of God, and says that He taketh away the sin of the world, all but bringing his hearers to remembrance of Him Who saith in the Prophets: I, even I, am He That blotteth out thy transgressions, and will not remember thy sins. But not in vain does the Baptist repeat the same account of the Saviour. For it belongs to skill in teaching, to infix in the souls of the disciples the not yet received word, not shrinking at repetition, but rather enduring it for the profit of the pupils. For therefore does the blessed Paul too say, To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.

37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

Seest thou the fruit, handmaid of teaching, yielded there from? Seest thou how great gain accrued from repetition? Let him then who is entrusted with teaching learn from this, to shew himself superior to all indolence, and to esteem silence more hurtful to himself than to his hearers, and not to bury the Lord’s talent in listless sloth, as in the earth, but rather to give His money to the exchangers. For the Saviour will receive His own with usury, and will quicken as seed the word cast in. You have here a most excellent proof of what has been said. For the Baptist, not shrinking from pointing out the Lord to his disciples, and from saying a second time, Behold the Lamb of God, is seen to have so greatly profited them, as to at length even persuade them to follow Him and already to desire discipleship under Him.

38 Then Jesus turned and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?

Fitly does the Lord turn to them that follow Him, that thou mayest learn in act that which is sung, I sought the Lord, and He heard me. For while we do not yet seek the Lord by good habits and rightness in believing, we are in some sort behind Him: but when, thirsting after His Divine law, we track the holy and choice way of righteousness, then at length will He look upon us, crying aloud what is written, Turn ye unto Me, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts. But He saith unto them, What seek ye? not as though ignorant (whence could it be so?), for He knoweth all things, as God; but making the question a beginning and root of His discourse.

They said unto Him, Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?

Like people well instructed do they that are asked reply. For already do they call Him, Master, thereby clearly signifying their readiness to learn. Then they beg to know His home, as about therein to tell Him at a fit season of their need. For probably they did not think it right to make talk on needful subjects the companion of a journey. Be what is said again to us for a useful pattern.

39 He saith unto them, Come and see.

He doth not point out the house, though asked, to do it, but rather bids them come forthwith to it: teaching first, as by example, that it is not well to cast delays in the way of search after what is good (for delay in things profitable is altogether hurtful): and this too besides, that to those who are still ignorant of the holy house of our Saviour Christ, that is, the Church, it will not suffice to salvation that they should learn where it is, but that they should enter into it by faith, and see the things mystically wrought therein.

They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

Assiduously did the disciples apply themselves to the attainment of the knowledge of the Divine Mysteries. For I do not think that a fickle mind beseems those who desire to learn, but rather one most painstaking, and superior to feeble mindedness in good toils, so as during their whole life time to excel in perfect zeal. For this I think the words, they abode with Him that day, darkly signify. But when he says, it was about the tenth hour, we adapting our own discourse to each man’s profit, say that in this very thing, the compiler of Divinity through this so subtle handling again teacheth us, that not in the beginning of the present world was the mighty mystery of our Saviour made known, but when time now draws towards its close. For in the last days, as it is written, we shall be all taught of God. Take again I pray as an image of what has been said about the tenth hour, the disciples cleaving to the Saviour, of whom the holy Evangelist says that having once become His guests they abode with Him: that they who through faith have entered into the holy house, and have run to Christ, may learn that it needs to abide with Him, and not to desire to be again estranged, either turning aside into sin, or again returning to unbelief.

40 One of the two which heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

They who even now received the talent, straightway make traffic of their talent, and bring it to the Lord. For such are in truth obedient and docile souls, not needing many words for profit, nor bearing the fruit of their instruction, after revolutions of years or months, but attaining the goal of wisdom along with the commencement of their instruction. For give, it says, instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. Andrew then saves his brother (this was Peter), having declared the whole mystery in a brief summary. For we have found, he says, Jesus, as Treasure hid in a field, or as One Pearl of great price, according to the parables in the Gospels.

And when Jesus beheld him, He said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona, thou shalt he called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.

He after a Divine sort looketh upon him, Who seeth the hearts and reins; and seeth to how great piety the disciple will attain, of how great virtue he will be possessed, and at what consummation he will leave off. For He Who knoweth all things before they be is not ignorant of ought. And herein does He specially instruct him that is called, that being Very God, He hath knowledge untaught. For not having needed a single word, nor even sought to learn who or whence the man came to Him; He says of what father he was born, and what was his own name, and permits him to be no more called Simon, already exercising lordship and power over him, as being His: but changes it to Peter from Petra: for upon him was He about to found His Church.

43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee; and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me.

Likeminded with those preceding was Philip, and very ready to follow Christ. For Christ knew that he would be good. Therefore also He says Follow Me, making the word a token of the grace that was upon him, and wherein he bid him follow, testifying to him that most excellent was his conversation. For He would not have chosen him, if he had not been altogether good.

45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him, of Whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth the Son of Joseph.

Exceeding swift was the disciple unto the bearing fruit, that hereby he might shew himself akin in disposition to them that had preceded. For he findeth Nathanael, not simply meeting him coming along, but making diligent search for him. For he knew that he was most painstaking and fond of learning. Then he says that he had found the Christ Who was heralded through all the Divine Scripture, addressing himself not as to one ignorant, but as to one exceedingly well instructed in the learning both of all-wise Moses and of the prophets. For a not true supposition was prevailing among the Jews as regards our Saviour Jesus Christ, that He should be of the city or village of Nazareth, albeit the Divine Scripture says that He is a Bethlehemite, as far as pertains to this. And thou, Bethlehem, it says, in the land of Judah, house of Ephrata, art little to be among the thousands of Judah, for out of thee shall He come forth unto Me That is to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. For He was brought up in Nazareth, as the Evangelist himself too somewhere testified, saying, And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; but He was not thence, but whence we said before, yea rather, as the voice of the prophet affirmed. Philip therefore following the supposition of the Jews says, Jesus of Nazareth.

46 Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?

Nathanael readily agrees that something great and most fair is that which is expected to appear out of Nazareth. It is, I suppose, perfectly clear, that not only did he take Nazareth as a pledge of that which he sought, but bringing together knowledge from the law and Prophets, as one fond of learning he gained swift understanding.

Come and see.

Sight will suffice for faith, says he, and having only conversed with Him you will confess more readily, and will unhesitatingly say that He is indeed the Expected One. But we must believe that there was a Divine and Ineffable grace, flowing forth with the words of the Saviour, and alluring the souls of the hearers. For so it is written, that all wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His Mouth. For as His word is mighty in power, so too is it efficacious to persuade.

47 Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.

Not having yet used proof by means of signs, Christ endeavoured in another way to persuade both His own disciples, and the wiser of those that came to Him, that He was by Nature Son and God, but for the salvation of all was come in human Form. What then was the mode that led to faith? God-befitting knowledge. For knowledge of all things befitteth God Alone. He receiveth therefore Nathanael, not hurrying him by flatteries to this state, but by those things whereof he was conscious, giving him a pledge, that he knoweth the hearts, as God.

48 Whence knowest thou me?

Nathanael begins to wonder, and is called to a now firm faith: but desires yet to learn, whence He has the knowledge concerning him. For very accurate are learning-seeking and pious souls. But perhaps he supposed that somewhat of him had been shewn to the Lord by Philip.

Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the figtree, I saw thee.

The Saviour undid his surmise, saying that even before his meeting and conversing with Philip, He had seen him under the fig-tree, though not present in Body. Very profitably are both the fig-tree and the place named, pledging to him the truth of his having been seen. For he that has already accurate knowledge of what was with him, will readily be admitted.

49 Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel.

He knows that God Alone is Searcher of hearts, and giveth to none other of men to understand the mind, considering as is likely that verse in the Psalms, God trieth the hearts and reins. For as accruing to none else, the Psalmist hath attributed this too as peculiar to the Divine Nature only. When then he knew that the Lord saw his thoughts revolving in his mind in yet voiceless whispers, straightway he calls Him Master, readily entering already into discipleship under Him, and confesses Him Son of God and King of Israel, in Whom are inexistent the Properties of Divinity, and as one well instructed he affirms Him to be wholly and by Nature God.

50 Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.

Thou shalt be firmer unto faith, saith He, when thou seest greater things than these. For he that believed one sign, how shall he not by means of many be altogether bettered, especially since they shall be more wonderful than those now wondered at?

51 Verily, verily I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see Heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

Common now to all is the word which seals the faith of Nathanael. But in saying that angels shall be seen speeding up and down upon the Son of Man, that is, ministering and serving His commands, for the salvation of such as shall believe, He says that then especially shall He be revealed as being by Nature Son of God. For it is not one another that the rational powers serve but surely God. And this does not take away subjection among the angels (for this will not be reasonably called bondage). But we have heard of the Holy Evangelists, that angels came to our Saviour Christ, and ministered unto Him.

CHAP. 2 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage. 3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine.

Seasonably comes He at length to the beginning of miracles, even if He seems to have been called to it without set purpose. For a marriage feast being held (it is clear that it was altogether holily), the mother of the Saviour is present, and Himself also being bidden comes together with His own disciples, to work miracles rather than to feast with them, and yet more to sanctify the very beginning of the birth of man: I mean so far as appertains to the flesh. For it was fitting that He, Who was renewing the very nature of man, and refashioning it all for the better, should not only impart His blessing to those already called into being, but also prepare before grace for those soon to be born, and make holy their entrance into being.

Receive also yet a third reason. It had been said to the woman by God, In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. How then was it not needful that we should thrust off this curse too, or how else could we escape a condemned marriage? This too the Saviour, being loving to man, removes. For He, the Delight and Joy of all, honoured marriage with His Presence, that He might expel the old shame of child-bearing. For if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; and old things are passed away, as Paul saith, they are become new. He cometh therefore with His disciples to the marriage. For it was needful that the lovers of miracles should be present with the Wonderworker, to collect what was wrought as a kind of food to their faith. But when wine failed the feasters, His mother called the Lord being good according to His wonted Love for man, saying, They have no wine. For since it was in His Power to do whatsoever He would, she urges Him to the miracle.

4 Jesus saith unto her Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.

Most excellently did the Saviour fashion for us this discourse also. For it behoved Him not to come hastily to action, nor to appear a Worker of miracles as though of His Own accord, but, being called, hardly to come thereto, and to grant the grace to the necessity rather than to the lookers on. But the issue of things longed for seems somehow to be even more grateful, when granted not off-hand to those who ask for it, but through a little delay put forth to most lovely hope. Besides, Christ hereby shews that the deepest honour is due to parents, admitting out of reverence to His Mother what He willed not as yet to do.

5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do.

The woman having great influence to the performing of the miracle, prevailed, persuading the Lord, on account of what was fitting, as her Son. She begins the work by preparing the servants of the assembly to obey the things that should be enjoined.

7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was (but the servants which drew the water knew); the governor of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

The ministers accomplish what is commanded, and by unspeakable might was the water changed into wine. For what is hard to Him Who can do all things? He that calleth into being things which are not, how will He weary, trans-ordering into what He will things already made? They marvel at the thing, as strange; for such are Christ’s works to look upon. But the governor of the feast charges the bridegroom with expending what was better on the latter end of the feast, not unfitly, as appears to me, according to the narration of the story.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Can a of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory, and His disciples believed on Him.

Many most excellent things were accomplished at once through the one first miracle. For honourable marriage was sanctified, the curse on women put away (for no more in sorrow shall they bring forth children, now Christ has blessed the very beginning of our birth), and the glory of our Saviour shone forth as the sun’s rays, and more than this, the disciples are confirmed in faith by the miracle.

The historical account then will stop here, but I think we ought to consider the other view of what has been said, and to say what is therein signified. The Word of God came down then from Heaven, as He Himself saith, in order that having as a Bridegroom, made human nature His own, He might persuade it to bring forth the spiritual offspring of Wisdom. And hence reasonably is the human nature called the bride, the Saviour the Bridegroom; since holy Scripture carries up language from human things to a meaning that is above us. The marriage is consummated on the third day, that is, in the last times of the present world: for the number three gives us beginning, middle, end. For thus is the whole of time measured. And in harmony with this do we see that which is said by one of the prophets, He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us, in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His Sight. Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord; His going forth is prepared as the morning. For He smote us for the transgression of Adam, saying, Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. That which was smitten by corruption and death He bound up on the third day: that is, not in the first, or in the middle, but in the last ages, when for us made Man, He rendered all our nature whole, raising it from the dead in Himself. Wherefore He is also called the Firstfruits of them that slept. Therefore in saying it was the third day, whereon the marriage was being consummated, he signifies the last time. He mentions the place too; for he says it was in Cana of Galilee. Let him that loves learning again note well: for not in Jerusalem is the gathering, but without Judæa is the feast celebrated, as it were in the country of the Gentiles. For it is Galilee of the gentiles, as the prophet saith. It is I suppose altogether plain, that the synagogue of the Jews rejected the Bridegroom from Heaven, and that the church of the Gentiles received Him, and that very gladly. The Saviour comes to the marriage not of His own accord; for He was being bidden by many voices of the Saints. But wine failed the feasters; for the law perfected nothing, the Mosaic writing sufficed not for perfect enjoyment, but neither did the measure of implanted sobriety reach forth so as to be able to save us. It was therefore true to say of us too, They have no wine. But the Bounteous God doth not overlook our nature worn out with want of good things. He set forth wine better than the first, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. And the law hath no perfection in good things, but the Divine instructions of Gospel teaching bring in fullest blessing. The ruler of the feast marvels at the wine: for every one, I suppose, of those ordained to the Divine Priesthood, and entrusted with the house of our Saviour Christ, is astonished at His doctrine which is above the Law. But Christ commandeth it to be given to him first, because, according to the voice of Paul, The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. And let the hearer again consider what I say.

14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting.

The Jews are again hereby too convicted of despising the laws given them, and making of no account the Mosaic writings, looking only to their own love of gain. For whereas the law commanded that they who were about to enter into the Divine temple should purify themselves in many ways; those who had the power of forbidding it hindered not the bankers or money-changers, and others besides, whose employment was gain, usury and increase, in their lusts (for the whole aim of merchants is comprised in these things): they hindered them not from defiling the holy court, from entering into it as it were with unwashen feet, yea rather they themselves altogether used to enjoin it, that God might say truly of them, Many pastors have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion under foot, they have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness, they have made it desolate. For of a truth the Lord’s vineyard was destroyed, being taught to trample on the Divine worship itself, and through the sordid love of gain of those set over it left bare to all ignorance.

15 And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple.

Reasonably is the Saviour indignant at the folly of the Jews. For it befitted to make the Divine Temple not an house of merchandise, but an house of prayer: for so it is written. But He shows His emotion not by mere words, but with stripes and a scourge thrusts He them forth of the sacred precincts, justly devising for them the punishment befitting slaves; for they would not receive the Son Who through faith maketh free. See I pray well represented as in a picture that which was said through Paul, If any man dishonour the Temple of God, him shall God dishonour.

16 Take these things hence; make not My Father’s House an house of merchandise.

He commands as Lord, He leads by the hand to what is fitting, as teacher; and along with the punishment He sets before them the declaration of their offences, through shame thereof not suffering him that is censured to be angry. But it must be noted that He again calls God His own Father specially, as being Himself and that Alone by Nature of Him, and truly Begotten. For if it be not so, but the Word be really Son with us, as one of us, to wit by adoption, and the mere Will of the Father: why does He alone seize to Himself the boast common to and set before all, saying, Make not My Father’s House, and not rather, our Father’s House. For this I suppose would have been more meet to say, if He had known that Himself too was one of those who are not sons by Nature. But since the Word knows that He is not in the number of those who are sons by grace, but of the Essence of God the Father, He puts Himself apart from the rest, calling God His Father. For it befits those who are called to sonship and have the honour from without, when they pray to cry, Our Father Which art in Heaven: but the Only Begotten being Alone One of One, with reason calls God His Own Father.

But if we must, applying ourselves to this passage, harmonize it more spiritually with that above, the lection must be considered differently.

And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep, &c.

See again the whole scheme of the Dispensation to usward drawn out by two things. For with the Cananites, I mean those of Galilee, Christ both feasts and tarries, and them that bade Him, and hereby honoured Him, He made partakers of His Table; He both aids them by miracles and fills up that which was lacking to their joy (and what good thing does He not freely give?): teaching as in a type that He will both receive the inhabitants of Galilee, that is the Gentiles, called as it were to them through the faith that is in them, and will bring them into the Heavenly Bridal-chamber, that is unto the church of the first-born, and will make them sit down with the saints (for the holy disciples sat down with the feasters): and will make them partake of the Divine and spiritual feast, as Himself saith, Many shall come from the east and west and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven, nought lacking unto their joy. For everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. But the disobedient Jews He shall cast forth of the holy places, and set them without the holy inclosure of the saints; yea, even when they bring sacrifices He will not receive them: but rather will subject them to chastisement and the scourge, holden with the cords of their own sins. For hear Him saying, Take these things hence; that thou mayest understand again those things which long ago by the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah He saith, I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks and of he goats, neither come ye to appear before Me, for who hath required this at your hand? tread not My courts any more. If ye bring an offering of fine flour, vain is the oblation, incense is an abomination unto Me; your new moons and sabbaths and great day I cannot endure, your fasting and rest and feasts My soul hateth: ye are become satiety unto Me, I will no longer endure your sins. This He most excellently signifies in type, devising for them the scourge of cords. For scourges are a token of punishment.

17 And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine House hath eaten Me up.

The disciples in a short time get perfection of knowledge, and comparing what is written with the events, already shew great progress for the better.

18 What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?

The multitude of the Jews are startled at the unwonted authority, and they who are over the temple are extremely vexed, deprived of their not easily counted gains. And they cannot convict Him of not having spoken most rightly in commanding them not to exhibit the Divine Temple as a house of merchandise. But they devise delays to the flight of the merchants, excusing themselves that they ought not to submit to Him off-hand, nor without investigation to receive as Son of God Him Who was witnessed to by no sign.

19 Destroy this temple.

To them who of good purpose ask for good things, God very readily granteth them: but to them who come to Him, tempting Him, not only does He deny their ambition in respect of what they ask, but also charges them with wickedness. Thus the Pharisees demanding a sign in other parts of the Gospels the Saviour convicted saying, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. What therefore He said to those, this to these too with slight change: for these (as did those) ask, tempting Him. Nor to those who were in such a state of mind would even this sign have been given, but that it was altogether needful for the salvation of us all.

But we must know that they made this the excuse of their accusation against Him, saying falsely before Pontius Pilate, what they had not heard. For, say they, This Man saith, I am able to destroy the Temple of God. Wherefore of them too did Christ speak in the prophets, False witnesses did rise up: they laid to My charge things that I knew not: and again, For false witnesses are risen up against Me, and such as breathe out cruelty. But He does not urge them to bloodshed saying, Destroy this Temple, but since He knew that they would straightway do it, He indicates expressively what is about to happen.

20 Forty and six years was this Temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?

They mock at the sign, not understanding the depth of the Mystery, but seize on the disease of their own ignorance, as a reasonable excuse for not obeying Him, and considering the difficulty of the thing, they gave heed rather as to one speaking at random, than to one who was promising ought possible to be fulfilled, that that may be shewn to be true that was written of them, Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not, and ever bow Thou down their backs: in order that in a manner ever stooping downwards and inclining to the things alone of the earth, they may receive no sight of the lofty doctrines of piety towards Christ, not as though God Who is loving to man grudged them those things, but rather with even justice was punishing them that committed intolerable transgressions.

For see how foolishly they insult Him, not sparing their own souls. For our Lord Jesus Christ calls God His Father, saying, Make not My Father’s House an House of merchandise. Therefore when they ought now to deem of Him as Son and God, as shining forth from God the Father, they believe Him to be yet bare man and one of us. Therefore they object the time that has been spent in the building of the Temple, saying, Forty and six years was this Temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days? O drunken with all folly, rightly, I deem, one might say to you, if a wise soul had been implanted in you, if ye believe that your Temple is the House of God, how ought ye not to have held Him to be God by Nature, Who dares fearlessly tell you, Make not My Father’s House an House of merchandise? How then, tell me, should He have need of a long time for the building of one house? or how should He be powerless for anything whatever, who in days only seven in number, fashioned this whole universe with ineffable Power, and has His Power in only willing? For these things the people skilled in the sacred writings ought to have considered.

21 But He spake of the Temple of His Body. 22 When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them: and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

Acceptable to the wise man is the word of wisdom, and the knowledge of discipline abideth more easily with men of understanding, and as in wax not too hard, the impression of seals is well made, so in the more tender hearts of men the Divine Word is readily infixed: wherefore the hard of heart is also called wicked. The disciples then, being of a good disposition, become wise, and ruminate the words of divine Scripture, nourishing themselves to more accurate knowledge, and thence coming firmly to belief. Since the Body of Christ is called a temple also, how is not the Only-Begotten Word Which indwelleth therein, God by Nature, since he that is not God cannot be said to dwell in a Temple? Or let one come forward and say, what saint’s body was ever called a temple; but I do not suppose any one can shew this. I say then, what we shall find to be true, if we accurately search the Divine Scripture, that to none of the Saints was such honour attached. And indeed the blessed Baptist, albeit he attained unto the height of all virtue, and suffered none to exceed him in piety, was through the madness of Herod beheaded, and yet is no such thing attributed to him. On the contrary, the Evangelist devised a grosser word for his remains, saying this too, as appears to me by an oeconomy, in order that the dignity may be reserved to Christ Alone. For he writes thus; And the blood-shedder to wit, Herod, sent and beheaded John in the prison, and his disciples came and took up his carcase. If the body of John be called a carcase, whose temple will it be? In another sense indeed, we are called temples of God, by reason of the Holy Ghost indwelling in us. For we are called the temples of God, and not of ourselves.

But haply some one will say: How then, tell me, doth the Saviour Himself call His own Body a carcase, For wheresoever He saith the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. To this we say, that Christ saith this not of His Own Body, but in manner and guise of a parable He signifieth that concourse of the Saints to Him, that shall be at that time when He appeareth again to us, with the holy angels, in the glory of His Father. For like as, saith He, flocks of carnivorous birds rush down with a sharp whizzing to fallen carcases, so shall ye too be gathered together to Me. Which indeed Paul too doth make known? to us, saying, For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible; And again in another place, and we shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. That therefore which is taken by way of similitude for an image will no wise damage the force of the truth.

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover in the feast day, many believed in His Name, when they saw the miracles which He did.

Christ ceaseth not from saving and helping. For some He leads to Himself by wise words, the rest startling by God-befitting Power too, He taketh in His net to the faith, by the things which they see Him work persuaded to confess, that the Artificer of these so great wonders is of a truth God.

24 But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them.

Not firmly established is the judgment of new believers, nor is the mind firmly built upon fresh miracles. And how should they whose course of instruction was yet so to say green, be already rooted in piety? Therefore Christ doth not yet commit Himself to the novices, shewing that a great thing and most worthy of love is affinity with God, and that it doth not just lie before those who desire to have it, but is achieved by zeal for good, and diligence and time.

Let the stewards of the Mysteries of the Saviour hence learn, not suddenly to admit a man within the sacred veils, nor to permit to approach the Divine Tables, neophites untimely baptized and not in right time believing on Christ the Lord of all. For that He may be an Ensample to us in this also, and may teach us whom fittingly to initiate, He receives indeed the believers, but is seen not yet to have confidence in them, in that He does not commit Himself to them: that hence it may be manifest, that it befits novices to spend no small time under instruction; for scarce even so will they become faithful men.

25 Because He knew all, and needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man.

Divine is this excellence too along with the rest which are in Christ, and in no one of created beings is it. For to Him Alone Who is truly God doth the Psalmist ascribe it, saying, He fashioneth their hearts alike, He considereth all their works. But if while God Alone understandeth what is in us, Christ understandeth them: how shall He not be God by Nature, Who knoweth the secrets, and knoweth the deep and secret things, as it is written? For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Though no man knoweth, God will not be ignorant, for neither is He reckoned in the number of all, of whom “No man” may rightly be predicated, but as being external to all, and all things under His Feet, He will know. And Paul too will testify, saying, For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart: neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the Eyes of Him. For as having planted the ear, He hears all things, and as having formed the eye, He observeth. And indeed He is introduced saying in Job, Who is this that hideth counsel from Me, holding words in his heart, and thinketh to conceal them from Me? In order then that we might acknowledge that the Son is by Nature God, needs does the Evangelist say that He needed not that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

CHAP. 3 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 the same came to Jesus by night and said unto Him,

More ready is Nicodemus to believe, but overcome by no good fear, and not despising the opinion of men, he refuses boldness, and is divided in opinion into two, and halts in purpose, feeble upon both his knee joints, as it is written, forced by the convictions of his conscience to the duty of believing by reason of the exceedingness of the miracles, but esteeming the loss of rulership over his own nation a thing not to be borne, for he was a ruler of the Jews. Deeming that he can both preserve his repute with them, and be a disciple secretly, he cometh to Jesus, making the darkness of the night an aider of his scheme, and by his secret coming convicted of double mindedness.

Rabbi, we know that Thou art a Teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him

In these words he supposes that he can attain complete piety, and imagines that it will be sufficient for his salvation, to marvel merely at those things which call for wonder: nought else but this does he seek. Calling him a Teacher from God, and a co-worker with Him, he does not yet know that He is by Nature God, nor understand the plan of the dispensation with Flesh, but still approaches as to a mere man, and hath but slight conception of Him.

Verily verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, 4 he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto Him,

Faith consisteth not, O Nicodemus, in what thou thinkest. Speech sufficeth not unto thee for righteousness, neither wilt thou achieve piety by mere words. For not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father Which is in Heaven. But the will of the Father is, that man be made partaker of the Holy Ghost, that the citizen of earth reborn unto an unaccustomed and new life, be called a citizen of Heaven. When He calls the new birth of the Spirit from above, He sheweth clearly that the Spirit is of the Essence of God the Father, as indeed Himself too saith of Himself, I am from above. And the most wise Evangelist again saith of Him, He that cometh from above is above all.

But that the Spirit is of the Essence of God the Father we shall speak more largely in its proper place.

How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered,

Nicodemus is convicted hereby of being still carnal, and therefore no way receiving the things of the Spirit of God. For he thinketh that this so dread and illustrious Mystery is foolishness. And hearing of the birth spiritual and from above, he imagineth the carnal womb returning to birth-pang of things already born, and, not attaining beyond the law of our nature, measureth1 things Divine: and finding the height of its doctrines unattainable by his own conceptions, he falleth down, and is carried off. For as things that are dashed by mighty blows upon the hard stones again rebound, so too I deem the unskilled mind falling upon conceptions of greater calibre than it, being relaxed returns, and ever glad to remain in the measure that suits it, despises an understanding better and loftier than itself. In which case the ruler of the Jews now being, receives not the spiritual birth.

Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.

Since the man did not understand as he ought, what the need of being born from above meant, He instructs him with plainer teaching, and sets before him the more open knowledge of the Mystery. For our Lord Jesus Christ was calling the new birth through the Spirit from above, shewing that the Spirit is of the Essence That is above all essences, through Whom we become partakers of the Divine Nature, as enjoying Him Who proceeds from It Essentially, and through Him and in Him re-formed to the Archetype-Beauty, and thus re-born unto newness of life, and re-moulded to the Divine Sonship. But Nicodemus not so understanding the word from above, imagined it was meant that the future birth should take place after the manner of bodies: therefore also falling into imaginations which shut him up in impossibility, he was caught alike senseless and hard of learning. Of necessity therefore does the Saviour answer yet more mildly1, as to one more infirm of habit, and removing the veil that seemed to be thrown over His Words, He now says openly, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. For since man is compound, and not simple in his nature, being combined of two, to wit, the sensible body and intellectual soul, he will require two-fold healing for his new birth akin to both the fore-named. For by the Spirit is the spirit of man sanctified, by the sanctified water again, his body. For as the water poured into the kettle, being associated with the vigour of fire, receives in itself the impress of its efficacy, so through the inworking of the Spirit the sensible water is trans-elemented to a Divine and ineffable efficacy, and sanctifieth those on whom it comes.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

By another argument again He persuades him to mount up to a higher understanding, and on hearing of spiritual birth, not to think of the properties of bodies. For as it is altogether necessary, saith He, that the offspring of flesh should be flesh, so also is it that those of the Spirit should be spirit. For in things the mode of whose being is different, in these must surely the mode of generation also be not the same. But it is to be known that we call the spirit of a man the offspring of the Spirit, not as being of It by Nature (for that were impossible), but in the first place, and that in order of time, because that through Him that which was not was called into being, and in the second place and œconomically, because of its being re-formed unto God through Him, He stamping His Own Impress upon us, and trans-fashioning our understanding to His own Quality, so to speak. For so I deem, you will understand aright that too which is said to some by Paul, My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, and again, For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

It is the excellence of a teacher, to be able manifoldly to manage the mind of the hearers, and to go through many considerations, heaping up proofs where the argument appears hard. He takes then the figure of the mystery from examples, and says, This spirit belonging to the world and of the air, blows throughout the whole earth, and running where it listeth, is shewn to be present by sound only, and escapeth the eye of all, yet, communicating itself to bodies by the subtlest breaths, it infuseth some perception of its natural efficacy. So do thou, saith He, conceive of the new birth also through the Spirit, led on by little examples to what is greater, and by the reasoning brought forward as it were in an image, conceiving of what is above the senses.

9 Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him,

Long discourse nothing profits him who understandeth not a whit. Wise then is the saying in the book of Proverbs, Well is he that speaketh in the ears of them that will hear. And this the Saviour shewed by trial to be true, giving Himself an ensample to us in this too. For the teacher will be wholly free from the charge of not being able to persuade, saying what himself thinks good, though he profit nothing by reason of the dulness of the hearers. Besides we learn by this, that hardness in part is happened to Israel. For hearing they hear and understand not.

Art thou a master of Israel and knowest not these things?

By one Christ convicts all, that adorned with the name of teachers, and clothed with the mere repute of being learned in the law, they bear a mind full of ignorance, and unable to understand one of those things, which they ought not only to know, but also to be able to teach others. But if he that instructeth be in this condition, in what is he that is instructed, seeing that the disciple exceedeth not the measure of his master, according to the word of the Saviour? For the disciple, saith He, is not above his master. But since they were thus uninstructed, true is Christ in likening them to whited sepulchres. Most excellently doth Paul too say to the ruler of the Jews, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall.

11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know and testify that we have seen.

He finds the man careless of learning and exceedingly uninstructed and, by reason of his great grossness of mind, utterly unable to be led unto the comprehension of Divine doctrines, albeit many words had been expended with manifold examples. Whence letting alone, as was fitting, accurate explanation, He at length advises him to accept in simple faith, what he cannot understand. He testifies that Himself knows clearly what He saith, by the illustriousness of His Person shewing that yet to gainsay is most dangerous. For it was not likely that Nicodemus would forget, who had affirmed that he knew it of our Saviour Christ, that He was a Teacher comes from God. But to resist one who is from God and God, how would it not be fraught with peril? for the thing is clearly a fighting with God. But hence we ought to know, who have authority to teach, that for those just come to the faith, faith in simple arguments is better than any deep reasoning, and more elaborate explanation. And Paul also used to feed with milk some, not yet able to bear stronger meats. And the most wise Solomon again somewhere says to us, Thou shalt wisely know the souls of thy flock, meaning that we should not set before those who come to us the word of doctrine indiscriminately, but fitly adapted to the measure of each.

And ye receive not our witness.

As having in Himself the Father and the Spirit Naturally, the Saviour set forth the person of the Witnesses in the plural number, that, as in the law of Moses, by the mouth of two or three witnesses, what is said may be established. For He shews that the Jews in no wise will to be saved, but with unbridled and heedless impetus are they being borne unto the deep pit of perdition. For if they can neither from their great unlearning understand what is proclaimed to them, nor yet receive it in faith, what other means of salvation may be devised for them? Well then and very justly did the Saviour say that Jerusalem would be without excuse, as snatching upon herself self-called destruction. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, saith He, that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you.

12 If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, the Son of man Which is in heaven.

A doctrine, saith He, not exceeding the understanding befitting man, ye from your extreme folly received not, and how shall I explain to you things more Divine? For they who in their own matters are most foolish, how shall they be wise in matters above them? And they who are powerless as to the less, how shall they not find the greater intolerable? And if, says He, ye believe not Me being Alone in speaking, but seek many witnesses for every thing, whom shall I bring to you as a witness of the heavenly Mysteries? For no man hath ascended up to heaven but He That came down from heaven the Son of man. For since the Word of God came down from heaven, He says that the son of man came down, refusing after the Incarnation to be divided into two persons, and not suffering certain to say that the Temple taken by reason of need of the Virgin is one Son, the Word again which appeared from God the Father another: save only as regards the distinction which belongs to each by nature. For as He is the Word of God, so Man too of a woman, but One Christ of both, Undivided in regard of Sonship and God-befitting Glory. For how does He clothe as its own the Temple of the Virgin, with what befitteth the bare Word Alone: and again appropriated to Himself what befitteth the Flesh only? For now He saith that the Son of man hath come down from heaven: but at the time of His Passion, He feareth, and is sore afraid, and very heavy, and is recorded as Himself suffering the Sufferings which befitted His Human Nature only.

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Having explained sufficiently, and set before him the reason, why His Word of teaching does not run forth into the boundless and supernatural, but descends again to those things that were typically done by Moses of old, knowing that he could by leadings by means of figures scarce arrive at knowledge of the truth, rather than by the exactitude of spiritual inspirations, He saith He must surely be lifted up, as the serpent was by Moses, shewing that search of history is most necessary, and all but saying to this man of no understanding, Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me. For serpents were springing upon them of Israel in the wilderness, and they, falling like ears of corn, and not a little distressed at this danger unexpectedly visiting them, with most piteous cry called for salvation from above and from God. But He, since He was Good and full of compassion, as God, commands Moses to set up a brazen serpent; and commands them therein to have a forethought of the salvation by faith. For the remedy to one bitten, was to look at the serpent put before him, and faith along with the sight wrought deliverance at the last extremity to the beholders. So much for the history. But it represents in act as it were in a type, the whole Mystery of the Incarnation. For the serpent signifies bitter and manslaying sin, which was devouring the whole race upon the earth, manifoldly biting the soul of man, and infusing the varied poison of wickedness. And no otherwise could we escape it thus conquering us, save by the succour alone which is from heaven. The Word of God then was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that He might condemn sin in the flesh, as it is written, and to those who gaze on Him with more steadfast faith, or by search into the Divine doctrines, might become the Giver of unending salvation. But the serpent being fixed upon a lofty base, signifies that Christ was altogether clear and manifest, so as to be unknown to none, or His being lifted up from the earth, as Himself says, by His Passion on the Cross.

16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

He desireth to shew openly herein, that He is God by Nature, since one must needs deem that He Who came forth from God the Father, is surely God also, not having the honour from without, as we have, but being in truth what He is believed to be. With exceeding skill does He say this, having joined therewith the love of God the Father to us, well and opportunely coming to discourse thereon. For He shames the unbelieving Nicodemus, yea rather, He shews that he is ungodly also. For the not coming readily to believe, when God teaches anything, what else is it, than laying upon the Truth a charge of falsehood? Besides this, in saying that He was given for the life of the world, He persuades him to consider seriously, of how great punishment they will be in danger, who from their mad folly, have made of no account so wondrous grace of God the Father. For God, says He, so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son.

Let the Christ-opposing heretic again hear, and let him come forward and say, what is the greatness of the Love of God the Father, or how we should reasonably marvel at it. But he will say that the marvel of the love is seen, in His giving His Son for us, and that the Only Begotten. In order then that the great love of God the Father may remain and be preserved, let Him be held to be Son not a creature, I mean Son of the Essence of the Father, that is to say, Consubstantial with Him Who begat Him, and God verily and in truth. But if, according to thy speech, o thou, He possesseth not the being of the Essence of God the Father, He will also lose the being by Nature Son and God, and the wide-spread marvel of the Love of God will at length come to nought: for He gave a creature for creatures, and not truly His Son. Vainly too will the blessed Paul trouble us, saying, He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God? For confessedly he that despised trampleth under foot, but not the Very Son, but a fellow servant of Moses, if indeed creature be always akin to creature, in respect at least of having been made, even if it surpass the glory of another, in the excellences of being greater or better. But the word of Paul is true; and a severer penalty shall he pay who hath trodden under foot the Son, not as though he were transgressing against a creature, or one of the fellow servants of Moses. Great then and above nature is the Love of the Father, Who for the life of the world gave His Own Son and Who is of Himself.

17 For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Having plainly called Himself the Son of God the Father, He thought not good to leave the word without witness, but brings forward proof from the quality, so to say, of the things themselves, making the hearers more steadfast unto faith. For I was not sent, saith He, like the law-expounder Moses, condemning the world by the law, nor introducing the commandment unto conviction of sin, nor do I perform a servile ministry, but I introduce loving-kindness befitting the Master: I free the embondaged, as Son and Heir of the Father, I transform the law that condemneth into grace that justifieth, I release from sin him that is holden with the cords of his transgressions, I am come to save the world, not to condemn it. For it was right, it was right, saith He, that Moses, as a servant, should be a minister of the law that condemns, but that I as Son and God should free the whole world from the curse of the law and, by exceedingness of lovingkindness, should heal the infirmity of the world. If then the grace that justifieth is better than the commandment that condemneth, how is it not meet to conceive that He surpasseth the measure of the servant Who introduceth so God-befitting authority, and releaseth man from the bonds of sin?

This then is one aim of the passage under consideration, and no mean one. A second besides this, revolving through the same circuit, and introducing a consideration akin to those above, will be given from love of learning. The Saviour saw that Nicodemus was cleaving to the law of Moses, and was fast held to the more ancient commandment, and was somehow startled at the new Birth through the Spirit, shrinking from the new and Gospel polity, supposing it seems that this would be more burdensome than the things already enjoined. Being therefore not ignorant, as God, of the fear which from his ignorance had sprung upon him, by using one short argument, He frees him from all trouble on this score, and shews that the commandment of Moses, by reason of its condemning the world, is harder to be borne, and introduces Himself as a mild Judge, saying, For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on the Son is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the Only Begotten Son of God.

Having proved by facts, that He is both Son of God the Father, and introduceth into the world grace which is more excellent than the ministration of Moses (for how is not the being justified by grace better than the being condemned by the law?), He devised, as God, another way to bring unto the faith, from all quarters driving together to salvation them that were lost. He puts forth then to the believer as his reward the not being called to judgement, to the unbeliever punishment, bringing into one and the same way by both, calling to come readily unto the faith, some by desire for the grace, others by fear of suffering. He shews that heinous and great is the crime of unbelief, since He is Son and Only Begotten. For by how much is that worthy of belief which is insulted, so much the more will that which despises be condemned for his dire transgression. He says that he that believeth not is condemned already, in that he hath already determined against himself the due sentence of punishment, by knowingly rejecting Him Who gives not to be condemned.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light.

He lets not the condemnation of the unbelievers remain without consideration, but recounts its causes, and shews clearly that, according to the words of the Proverbs, Not unjustly is the net spread for the birds. For they, saith He, who when it was in their power to be illuminated preferred to remain in darkness, how will not they fairly be determiners of punishment against themselves, and self-invited to suffering which it was in their power to escape, if they had been right provers of things, choosing rather to be enlightened than not, and studying to make the baser things second to the better? But He preserved the mind of man free from the bonds of necessity, and tending by its own impulses to both sides, that it might justly receive praise for good things, and punishment for the contrary. As indeed He sheweth in another place, saying, If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

Profitably doth He go over what has been said, and convicts indolence unto things helpful of proceeding from love of evil, and of having its root in unwillingness to learn those things whereby one may become wise and good. For the doer of evil, says He, flees from and refuses the being in the Divine Light: not hiding from shame on account of evil (for so he would have been saved) but desiring to remain in ignorance of what is becoming, lest transgressing he should be smitten, falling upon the now keener convictions of his own conscience, and by means of at length clearly knowing what is good, should pay a more woeful account to the Judge, if he should not do what was pleasing to God. But he that doeth truth (that is, the lover and doer of the works of the Truth) cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God. For he doth not reject the illumination in the Spirit, by It specially led to be able to understand in all calm collectedness, whether he hath transgressed the Divine commandment, and whether he hath wrought all things according to the Law of God.

It is then a plain proof of an unbridled tendency to evil, and unrestrained pleasure in what is worse, not to wish to learn that whereby one may avail to attain unto what is better: again of desire for the best, to thirst for illumination, and to make His Law a rule so to say and index unto a conversation pleasing to God. And the Divine Psalmist knowing that this was so, sings, The Law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

22 After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judæa. 23 And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there; and they came, and were baptized. 24 For John was not yet cast into prison.

After the conversation with Nicodemus had now reached its conclusion, the Divine Evangelist again prepares something else most profitable. For enlightened by the Divine Spirit to the exposition of things most needful, he knew that it would exceedingly profit his readers to know clearly, how great the excellence, and by how great measures, the baptism of Christ surpasses that of John. For it was indeed not far from his expectation, that certain would arise who of their folly should dare to say, either that there was no difference whatever between them, but that they ought to be crowned with equal honours; or, having stumbled into folly even wilder than this, say, that the vote of superiority ought to be taken away from Christ’s baptism, and the superiority shamelessly lavished on the baptism by water. For what daring is not attainable by the ill-instructed, or through what blasphemy do they not rush, who rising up against the holy doctrines of the Church, pervert all equity, as it is written? The most wise Evangelist then, that he might destroy beforehand the plea for their vain-babbling, introduces the holy Baptist laying before his disciples the solution of the question. Christ therefore baptizes through His own disciples: likewise John too, and not altogether by the hands of others, nor yet did he baptize in those same fountains, where Christ was manifested doing this, but near to Salim, as it is written, and in one of the neighbouring fountains. And through the very distinction (in a way) of the fountains of waters does he shew the difference of the baptism, and signify as in a figure that his baptism is not the same as that of our Saviour Christ: yet was it near and round about, bringing in a kind of preparation and introduction to the more perfect one. As then the law of Moses too is said to have a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things (for the Mosaic letter is a kind of preparatory exercise and pre-instruction for the worship in the Spirit, travailing with the truth hidden within), so shalt thou conceive too of the baptism unto repentance.

25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and a Jew about purifying. 26 And they came unto John, and said unto him,

The Jews being powerless to commend the purifications of the law, and not able to advocate the cleansing through the ashes of an heifer, plan something against John’s disciples, whereby they thought to cause them no slight vexation, albeit easily worsted in their own matters. For since they who attended the blessed Baptist, appeared to be more excellent and of more understanding than the Pharisees, admiring the baptism of their own teacher, and opposing the purifications after the law; they are vexed at these things, who are diligent in reviling only and most ready unto all wickedness: and even overturning their own case, they praise Christ’s Baptism, not rightly disposed, nor pouring forth true praise on it, but exasperated to the mere distressing of them; and lending out a statement against their opinion, until their purpose should attain its accomplishment. They cannot then adduce any reasonable proof, nor do they even support Christ out of the holy Scriptures (for whence were such understanding to the uninstructed?): but they merely allege in confirmation of their own arguments, that very few in number are those who come to John, but that they flock together to Christ. For haply they in their exceeding folly thought that they should carry off the vote of victory, and might speak out in behalf of the legal purifications, as having already conquered, by giving the palm over John’s to the Baptism bestowed by Christ on those who come to Him. And they vex those with whom their dispute was: but they get off with difficulty and leave the disciples of John, much more beaten by their ill-considered dispute. For they crown with compulsory praises, and against their will, the Lord.

Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to Whom thou barest witness, behold, the Same baptizeth, and all men come to Him. 27 John answered and said,

The disciples bitten by the words of the Pharisees, and looking to the very nature of the thing, were not able to convict them as liars, but were reasonably at a loss, and being ignorant of the great dignity of our Saviour, are exceedingly startled at John’s shortcoming, and mingling words of love with reverence and admiration, they desire to learn, why He That was borne witness to by his voice, prevents him in honour, outstrips him in grace, and in baptizing takes in His net, not a portion of the whole Jewish multitude, but even all of them. And they made the inquiry as it seems not without the Will of God: for hence the Baptist invites them to an accurate and long explanation respecting the Saviour, and introduces the clearest distinction between the baptisms.

A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

He says that there is nothing good in man, but must needs be wholly the gift of God. For it befits the creation to hear, What hast thou that thou didst not receive? I think then that we ought to be content with the measures allotted to us, and to rejoice in the honours apportioned to us from heaven, but by no means to stretch out beyond, nor in desire ever of what is greater unthankfully to despise the decree from above, and fight against the judgment of the Lord, in shame that one should appear to receive what is less than the more perfect: but with whatsoever God shall please to honour us, to value that highly. Let not my disciple therefore, saith he, be ashamed, if I do not overleap the measure given me, if I do not contemplate the greater, and am contracted to the glory befitting a man.

28 Ye yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.

He brings his disciples to the recollection of the words which they have already often heard, partly reproving them rightly, as steeped in forgetfulness of things profitable, and slumbering in respect to this so most dread doctrine, partly persuading them to remember the Divine Scripture, as having been nourished in zeal for the knowledge of these things; Whom it preaches as the Christ to come, whom again as the Baptist the forerunner. For thus would they, having received knowledge of each, be in no wise angry, seeing them in the state befitting each. I shall need then, saith he, no other witnesses to this, I have my own disciples as ear-witnesses, I confessed my state of servitude, when I fore-announced, I was sent, I am not the Christ. Let Him overcome, prevail, shine forth yet more as Lord and God.

29 He That hath the bride is the Bridegroom: but the friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice; this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

The discourse again took its rise from likeness to our affairs, but leads us to the knowledge of subtle thoughts. For types of things spiritual are those which endure the touch of the hand, and the grossness of corporeal examples introduceth oftentimes a most accurate proof of things spiritual. Christ then, says he, is the Bridegroom and ruler of the assembly, I the bidder to the supper and conducter of the bride, having as my chiefest joy and illustrious dignity, to be only enrolled among His friends, and to hear the Voice of Him That feasteth. I have therefore even now that that I long for, and my dearest wish is fulfilled. For not only did I preach that Christ would come, but Him already present have I seen, and His very Voice do I lay up in my ears. But ye, most wise disciples, seeing the human nature that is betrothed to Christ, going to Him, and beholding the nature which was cut off and a run-away from its love to Him attaining to spiritual union through holy Baptism, grieve not, saith he, that it befits not me, but rather runs very gladly to the spiritual Bridegroom (for this were in truth just and more fitting). For He That hath the bride is the Bridegroom; that is, seek not in me the crown of the Bridegroom, not for me does the Psalmist rejoice, saying, Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father’s house, for the King hath desired thy beauty: nor seeking my chamber doth the bride say, Tell me, O Thou Whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon: she has the Bridegroom from Heaven. But I will rejoice, having surpassed the honour becoming a bondman, in the title and reality of friendship.

I deem then that the meaning of the passage, has been full well interpreted: and having already sufficiently explained the spiritual marriage, I think it tedious to write any more about it.

30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

He convicts his disciples of being yet troubled about trifles, and of taking unseasonable offence at what they by no means ought, and of not yet knowing accurately, Who and whence Emmanuel is. For not thus far, saith he, shall His Deeds be marvelled at, nor because more are baptized by Him, shall He for this alone surpass my honour, but He shall attain to so great a measure of honour, as befitteth God. For He must needs come to increase of glory, and, through daily additions of miracles, ever mount up to the greater, and shine forth with greater splendour to the world: but I must decrease, abiding in that measure wherein I appear, not sinking from what was once given me, but in such a degree inferior to Him That advanceth ever to an increase of glory, as He hasteth and passeth on.

And this the blessed Baptist interpreteth to us. But our discourse will advance profitably through examples, making the force of what has been said clearer. Let then a stake two cubits long be fixed in the ground: let there lie near a plant too, just peeping above the ground, putting forth green shoots into the air, and ever thrust up to a greater height by the resistless vigour from the roots; if then one could put voice into the stake, and it should then say of itself and its neighbour the plant, This must increase, but I decrease; one would not reasonably suppose that it indicated any harm to itself, nor that its existing measure would be clipped, but it would be affirming its decrease in that sort only, in which it is found less than that which is ever advancing towards increase. Again you may take an example akin to this one, and suppose the brightest of the stars to cry out saying of the sun, It must increase, but I decrease. For while in the gloom of night the depth of the atmosphere is darkened, one may well admire the morning star flashing forth its golden light, and conspicuous in its full glory: but when the sun now gives notice of its rising, and bedews the world with a moderate light, the star is surpassed by the greater, and gives place to him advancing little by little. And it too might well speak the words of John, being in that same state, which he says he is enduring.

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