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WORKS OF ARMINIUS - THE DIVINITY OF THE SON OF GOD
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I. THE DIVINITY OF THE SON OF GOD.
Concerning the divinity of the Son of God, I have taught, and still teach, that the Father has never been without his Word and his Spirit, but that the Word and the Spirit are not to be considered in the Father under the notion of properties, as wisdom, goodness, justice, or power, but under that of really existing persons, to whom it belongs to be, to live, to understand, to will, to be capable, and to do or act, all of which, when united, are indications and proofs of a person, but that they are so in the Father as to be also from the Father, in a certain order of origin, not through collaterality, to be referred to the Father, and that they are from the Father neither by creation nor by decision but by a most wonderful and inexplicable internal emanation, which, with respect to the Son, the ancient church called generation, but with respect to the Holy Spirit, was denominated spiration or breathing, a term required by the very [etymon of the] word spirit. But about this breathing, I do not interpose my judgment -- whether it is from the Father and the Son, as the Latin fathers express themselves, or from the Father through the Son, as the Greek fathers prefer to define it, because this matter, I confess, far surpasses my capacity. If, on any subject, we ought to think and speak with sobriety, in my opinion, it must be on this.
Since these are my sentiments on the divinity of the Son of God, no reason could exist why, on this point, I should endure the shafts of calumny. Yet this slander was first fabricated and spread through the whole of Germany by one in whom such conduct was exceedingly indecorous; because he was my pupil, and ought to have refrained from that course, having been taught by his own painful experience that he either possessed an unhappy memory, or was of doubtful credit; for he had previously been convicted of a similar calumny, and had openly confessed his fault before me, and requested my forgiveness. But, as I learned from a certain manuscript which was transmitted to Leyden out of Germany, and which the same youth had delivered to the Heidelberg divines, he took the groundwork of his calumny from those things which I had publicly taught concerning the economy of our salvation, as administered by the Father through the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the explanation of this economy, I had said "that we must have a diligent regard to this order, which the Scriptures in every part most religiously observe; and that we must distinctly consider what things are attributed as peculiar to the Father in this matter, what to the Son, and what to the Holy Spirit."
After this, some other persons seized upon a different occasion for the same calumny, from my having said that the Son of God was not correctly called Autoqeon "very God," in the same sense in which that word signifies "God from himself."
This audacious inclination for calumniating was promoted by the circumstance of my having explained in a different manner, certain passages of the Old and New Testament, which have been usually adduced to establish the Consubstantiality or the coessentiality of the trinity. But I can with ease in a moment shew, from the books of the Old and New Testament themselves, from the whole of antiquity, and from the sentiments of the ancient church, both Greek and Latin, as well as from the testimony of our own divines, that nothing can be deduced from those alleged misinterpreted passages, which is with the least semblance of probability, adverse to the sound and orthodox faith. In his able defense of Calvin, against the treatise of Hunnius, entitled "Calvin Judaizing," the learned Paraeus has taught that this last occasion was seized upon in vain; and he has liberated me from the necessity of this service.
To spend any time in confuting the first slander, which was circulated by the young student, would not repay my trouble. Those who know that the Father in the Son hath reconciled the world unto himself, and administers the word of reconciliation through the Spirit, know, likewise, that, in the dispensation of salvation, an order must be considered among the persons of the Trinity, and their attributes must not be confounded, unless they be desirous of falling into the heresy of the Patripassionists.
Respecting the second occasion, which concerns the word Autoqeon "very God," an answer somewhat more laboured must be undertaken, because there are not a few persons who are of a contrary opinion, and yet our church does not consider such persons as holding wrong sentiments concerning the trinity. This is the manner in which they propound their doctrine. "Because the essence of the Father and of the Son is one, and because it has its origin from no one, therefore, in this respect, the Son is correctly denominated Autoqeon that is, God from himself."
But I reply, "The essence of the Son is from no one, or is from himself," is not the same as "the Son is from himself, or from no one." For, to speak in a proper and formal manner, the Son is not an essence, but having his essence by a certain mode Uparxewv of being or existence.
They rejoin -- "The Son may be considered in two respects, "as he is the Son, and as he is God. As he is the Son, he is from the Father, and has his essence from the Father. But as he is God, he has his essence from himself or from no one." But the latter of these expressions is the most correct; for to have his essence from himself implies a contradiction.
I reply, I admit this distinction; but it is extended much further than is allowable. For as he is God, he has the divine essence. As he is the Son, he has it from the Father. That is, by the word "God," is signified, generally, that which has the divine essence without any certain mode of subsistence. But, by the word "the Son," is signified a certain mode of having the divine essence, which is through communication from the Father, that is, through generation.
Let these double ternaries be taken into consideration, which are opposed to each other, in one series,
And it will be evident, that among themselves they mutually correspond with each other, thus: "to have Deity," and "to be God" -- "to have Deity from the Father," and "to be the Son" -- "to have Deity from no one," and "to be the Father" -- are consentaneous, though under the word "Father," as an affirmative, that is not signified which has its essence from no one; for this is signified by the word "ingenitus, inwardly born, which is attributed to the Father, though not with strictness, but only to signify that the Father has not his essence by the mode of generation. But the word "FATHER" by its own force and meaning is conclusive on this point: For where order is established, it is necessary that a beginning be made from some first person or thing, otherwise there will be confusion proceeding onwards ad infinitum. But, with respect to origin, he who is the first in this order has his origin from no one; he who is the second, has his origin from the first; he who is the third has his origin from the first and the second, or from the first through the second. Were not this the real state of the matter; there would be a Collaterality, which would make as many Gods as there were collateral persons laid down; since the Unity of the Deity in the trinity is defended against the Anti-trinitarians solely by the relation of origin and of order according to origin.
But that it may evidently appear what were the sentiments of antiquity about this matter, I will here adduce from the ancient fathers, both of the Greek and Latin church, some passages which are applicable to this subject.
BASIL THE GREAT
- because the Son has his source from the Father. According to this, the Father is the greater, as the cause and the source. Wherefore our Lord also has said, "My Father is greater than I," that is, because He is the Father. But what other signification can the word "FATHER" have, than the cause and the beginning of Him who is begotten from Him?
When I have said "one essence," I do not understand two [persons] distinguished from one, but the Son subsisting from the source of the Father, not the Father and Son from one superior essence. For we do not call them "brothers," but we confess them to be "the FATHER and the SON." But essence is identity, because the Son is from the Father, not made by command, but begotten from nature; not divided from the Father, but while he remains perfect, reflecting perfectly back again the light. But that you may not be able to charge these our assertions against us as a crime, and lest you should say, "He preaches two gods; he announces a multitude of deities;" there are not two gods, neither are there two fathers. He who produces two original sources, preaches two gods.
The way of the knowledge of God is, by one Spirit, through one Son, to one Father. And, on the contrary, natural goodness, natural sanctification, and royal dignity are transmitted from the Father, through the only begotten Son, to the Spirit. Thus we confess the persons [in the Godhead] and at the same time the pious doctrine of the unity is not undermined. (On the Holy Spirit, cap. 18.)
How is it possible for the same thing to be greater than itself and yet equal to itself? Is it not, therefore, plain, that the word "greater," which is attributed to the Father in reference to the Son, must be referred to CAUSE; but the word "equal," which is attributed to the Son, as to his equality with the Father, must be referred to Nature?
Though Christ has redeemed us, yet "all things are of God," because from him is all the paternity. It is, therefore, of necessity that the person of the Father have the precedence. (On 2 Corinthians v, 18.)
Consult also his remarks On 1 Corinthians 15.
- Therefore this was said concerning the Father: "He doeth the works;" because from Him also is the origin of the works, from whom the cooperating persons [in the Deity] have their existence: For both the Son is born of Him, and the Holy Spirit principally proceeds from Him, from whom the Son is born, and with whom the same Spirit is common with the Son. (Idem, tom. 10, fol. 11, col. 1.)
Indeed God the Father is not God from another God; but God the Son is God from God the Father. But the Son is as much from the Father, as the Father is from no one. (Against Maximinus, Lib. 3, cap. 23, col. 2.)
The confession of the true faith is, God is so born of God, as light is from light, which, without detriment to itself, offers its own nature from itself, that it may bestow that which it has, and that it may have what it bestows, &c. (Lib. 6, fol 87.)
It is apparent from these passages, according to the sentiments of the ancient church, that the Son, even as he is God, is from the Father, because he has received his Deity, according to which he is called "God," by being born of the Father; though the name of God does not indicate this mode of being or existence. From these quotations, it is also evident that, because the Father is the source of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, he is called the source of the whole Deity; not indeed because God has any beginning or source, but because the Deity is communicated by the Father to the Son and the Holy Spirit. So far, therefore, is this from being a correct expression: "The Son of God as he is God, is from no one; and, with respect to his essence, is from himself or from no one." For he who has received his essence by being born of the Father, is from the Father with respect to his essence.
I consider, therefore, that those who desire to think and to speak with orthodox antiquity, ought to abstain from these methods of expression; because, by adopting them, they seem to become the patrons of the opposing heresies of the Tritheists, and the Sabellians. Peruse the preface to the Dialogues of St. Athanasius On the Trinity, by Theodoure Beza; who excuses Calvin by saying, that he did not so solicitously observe the difference between the two phrases - - "He is the Son per se, through himself," and "He is the Son a se, from himself."
If any one be desirous of knowing from me anything further on this point, I will not refuse to hold a placid conference with him either in writing or by conversation. I now proceed to the other topics, in the discussion of which I will consult brevity.