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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

AS the mode of existence in Christ is twofold, the one resembling the head of the body, indicating his Divinity: the other compared to the feet, by which he, for the sake of our salvation, assumed that nature which is subject to the same infirmities with ourselves; hence our account of the subsequent matter may be rendered complete and perfect, by commencing with the principal and most important points in his history. By this method, at the same time, the antiquity and the divine dignity of the Christian name will be exhibited to those who suppose it a recent and foreign production, that sprang into existence but yesterday, and was never before known.

No language, then, is sufficient to express the origin, the dignity, the substance and nature of Christ. Whence even the divine Spirit in the prophecies says, “Who will declare his generation?” For as no one hath known the Father, but the Son, so no one, on the other hand, can know the Son fully, but the Father alone, by whom he was begotten. For who but the Father hath thoroughly understood that Light which existed before the world was—that intellectual and substantial wisdom, and that living Word which in the beginning was with the Father, before all creation and any production visible or invisible, the first and only offspring of God, the prince and leader of the spiritual and immortal host of heaven, the angel of the mighty council, the agent to execute the Father’s secret will, the maker of all things with the Father, the second cause of the universe next to the Father, the true and only Son of the Father, and the Lord and God and King of all created things, who has received rule and dominion with divinity itself, and power and honour from the Father? All this is evident from those more abstruse passages in reference to his divinity, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “All things were made by him, and without him nothing was made.” This, too, we are taught by the great Moses, that most ancient of all the prophets; when, under the influence of the divine Spirit, he describes the creation and arrangement of all things, he also informs us that the Creator and Maker of the universe yielded to Christ, and to none but to his divine and first begotten Word, the formation of all subordinate things, and communed with him respecting the creation of man. “For,” says he, “God said, Let us make man according to our image and according to our likeness.” This expression is confirmed by another of the prophets, who, discoursing of God in his hymns, declares, “He spake, and they were made; he commanded, and they were created.” Where he introduces the Father and Maker as the Ruler of all, commanding with his sovereign nod; but the divine Word as next to him, the very same that is proclaimed to us, as ministering to his Father’s commands. Him, too, all that are said to have excelled in righteousness and piety, since the creation of man, Moses, that eminent servant of God, and Abraham before him, the children of the latter, and as many righteous prophets as subsequently appeared, contemplated with the pure eyes of the mind, and both recognized and gave him the worship that was his due as the Son of God. The Son himself, however, by no means indifferent to the worship of the Father, is appointed to teach the knowledge of the Father to all. The Lord God, therefore, appeared as a common man to Abraham, whilst sitting at the oak of Mamre. And he immediately falling down, although he plainly saw a man with his eyes, nevertheless worshipped him as God, and entreated him as Lord. He confesses too that he is not ignorant who he is, in the words, “Lord, the judge of all the earth, wilt not thou judge righteously?” For as it were wholly unreasonable to suppose the uncreated and unchangeable substance of the Almighty God to be changed into the form of a man, or to deceive the eyes of beholders with the phantom of any created substance, so also it is unreasonable to suppose that the Scriptures have falsely invented such things as these. “God and the Lord, who is judge of the whole earth, and executeth judgment,” appearing in the shape of man, who else can he be called, if it be not lawful to call him the author of the universe, than his only pre existing Word? Concerning whom also in the Psalms, it is said, “He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their corruptions.” Of Him Moses obviously speaks as the second after the Father, when he says, “The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord.” Him also, again appearing to Jacob in the form of man, the sacred Scriptures call by the name of God, saying to Jacob, “Thy name shall no longer be called Jacob; but Israel shall be thy name, because thou hast prevailed with God.” Whence also Jacob called the name of that place, the vision of God, saying, “I have seen God face to face, and my soul has lived.” To suppose these divine appearances the forms of subordinate angels and servants of God, is inadmissible; since, as often as any of these appeared to men, the Scriptures do not conceal the fact in the name, expressly saying that they were called not God nor Lord, but angels, as would be easy to prove by a thousand references. Joshua also, the successor of Moses, calls him the ruler of celestial angels and archangels, of supernal powers, and the power and wisdom of God, entrusted with the second rank of sovereignty and rule over all, “the captain of the Lord’s host,” although he saw him only in the form and shape of man. For thus it is written: “And it came to pass when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold there stood a man over against him, with his sword drawn in his hand; and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay, but as captain of the Lord’s host am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot: for the place whereon thou standest is holy” (Joshua 5).

Here, then, you will perceive, from the words themselves, that this is no other than the one that also communicated with Moses, since the Scripture in the same words, and in reference to the same one, says, “When the Lord saw that he drew near to see, the Lord called to him from the midst of the bush, saying, Moses, Moses. And he answered, Here am I. But he said, Draw not nearer, loose thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place on which thou standest is holy ground. And he said to him, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

That there is also a certain ante-mundane, living, and self existing substance, ministering to the Father and God of all unto the formation of all created objects, called the Word and the wisdom of God, besides the proofs already advanced, we may also learn from the very words of wisdom, speaking of herself in the clearest manner, through Solomon, and thus initiating us into her mysteries. Prov. 8.:—“I wisdom make my habitation with prudence and knowledge, and have called to understanding. By me kings reign and princes define justice. By me the great are magnified, and rulers subdue the earth.” To which he subjoins the following: “The Lord created me in the beginning of his ways, for his works; before the world he established me, before the formation of the earth, before the waters came from their fountains, before the foundation of the mountains, before all hills, he brought me forth. When he prepared the heavens, I was present with him, and when he established the fountains under the heavens, I was with him, adjusting them. I was his delight; daily I exulted before him at all times, when he rejoiced that he had completed the world.” That the divine Word, therefore, pre-existed and appeared, if not to all, at least to some, has been thus briefly shown.

The reason, however, why this was not also proclaimed before in ancient times, to all men and to all nations, as it is now, will appear from the following considerations. The life of men, in ancient times, was not in a situation to receive the doctrine of Christ, in the all comprehensive fulness of its wisdom and its virtue. For immediately in the beginning, after that happy state, the first man, neglecting the Divine commands, fell into the present mortal and afflicted condition, and exchanged his former divine enjoyment for the present earth, subject to the curse. The descendants of this one, having filled our earth, and proved themselves much worse, excepting one here and another there, commenced a certain brutal and disorderly mode of life. They had neither city nor state, no arts or sciences, even in contemplation. Laws and justice, virtue and, philosophy they knew not, even in name. They wandered lawless through the desert, like savage and fierce animals, destroying the intellectual faculty of man, and exterminating the very seeds of reason and culture of the human mind, by the excesses of determined wickedness, and by a total surrender of themselves to every species of iniquity.

Hence, at one time they corrupted each other by criminal intercourse; at another, they murdered; and at others, fed upon human flesh. Hence, too, their audacity, in venturing to wage war with the Deity himself; and hence those battles of the giants, celebrated by all. Hence too, their attempts to wall up the earth against heaven, and, by the madness of a perverted mind, to prepare an attack upon the supreme God himself. Upon these men, leading a life of such wickedness, the Omniscient God sent down inundations and conflagrations, as upon a forest scattered over the earth. He cut them down with successive famines and pestilence, with constant wars and thunder-bolts, as if to suppress the dreadful and obdurate disease of the soul, with his more severe punishments. Then it was, when the excess of malignity had nearly overwhelmed all the world, like a deep fit of drunkenness overshadowing and beclouding the minds of men—then it was, that the first-begotten Wisdom of God, existing before all creatures, and the self-same pre-existing Word, induced by his exceeding love of man, appeared at times to his servants, in visions of angels; at others, in his own person. As the salutary power of God, he was seen by one and the other of the pious in ancient times, in the shape of man, because it was impossible to appear in any other way. And as, by these pious men, the seeds of godliness had been already scattered among the mass of mankind, and the whole nation that claimed its origin from those ancient Hebrews, continued devoted to the worship of God—to these, therefore, as to a multitude still affected by former corrupt practices, he imparted, through Moses, images and signs of a certain mystical Sabbath and circumcision, and instructions in other spiritual principles, but did not yet grant the privilege of an immediate initiation. But when their law obtained celebrity, and like a fragrant odour was spread abroad among all men; and, by means of this law, the dispositions of men, and philosophers every where, who softened their wild and savage ferocity, so as to enjoy settled peace, friendship, and, even among most of the Gentiles, were improved by legislators’ mutual intercourse; then it was, when men at length, throughout the whole world, and in all nations, had been, as it were, previously prepared and fitted for the reception of the knowledge of the Father, that he himself again appeared the master of virtue, the minister of the Father in all goodness, the divine and celestial Word of God. He appeared in a human body, in substance not differing from our own nature, at the commencement of the Roman empire; and performed and suffered such things as were to follow, according to prophecy, viz. that man and God, the author of miraculous works, would dwell in the world, and would be exhibited to all the nations as the teacher of that piety which the Father will approve. In these prophecies, also, were foretold the extraordinary fact of his birth, his new doctrine, and his wonderful works; as also the manner of his death, his resurrection from the dead, and finally his divine return to the heavens. The prophet Daniel, under the influence of the divine Spirit, foreseeing his kingdom in the end, was inspired thus to write and describe his vision, in adaptation to human capacity, in the following language: “I beheld,” said he, “until the thrones were placed: and the Ancient of Days sat, and his garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head was as pure wool; his throne was a flame of fire, his wheels burning fire; a river of fire rolled before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand thousands stood near him. He appointed judgment, and the books were opened.” “And next, I beheld,” says he, “and lo! one coming with the clouds as the Son of Man, and he advanced as far as the Ancient of Days, and he was brought into his presence. And to him was given the dominion, and the glory, and the kingdom, and all people, tribes, and tongues shall serve him. His power is an everlasting power, which shall not pass away; and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.” These passages can evidently be referred to no one but to our Saviour, that God-word which was in the beginning with God; called the Son of God, by reason of his final appearance in the flesh. But having collected the prophetic declarations concerning our Saviour Jesus Christ, in distinct commentaries on this subject, and having elsewhere digested whatever is revealed concerning him, in a more demonstrable form, what has been said upon the subject here may suffice for the present.

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