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2. You have heard, indeed, the Lord saying, “I know that ye are Abraham’s children.” Hear what He says afterwards: “I speak that which I have seen with my Father; and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” He had already said, “I know that ye are Abraham’s children.” What is it, then, that they do? What He told them: “Ye seek to kill me.” This they never saw with Abraham. But the Lord wishes God the Father to be understood when He says, “I speak that which I have seen with my Father.” I have seen the truth: I speak the truth, because I am the Truth. For if the Lord speaks the truth which He has seen with the Father, He has seen Himself—He speaks Himself; because He Himself is the Truth of the Father, which He saw with the Father. For He is the Word—the Word which was with God. The evil, then, which these men do, and which the Lord chides and reprehends, where have they seen it? With their father. When we come to hear in what follows the still clearer statement who is their father, then shall we understand what kind of things they saw with such a father; for as yet He names not their father. A little above He referred to Abraham, but in regard to their fleshly origin, not their similarity of life. He is about to speak of that other father of theirs, who neither begat them nor created them to be men. But still they were his children in as far as they were evil, not in as far as they were men; in what they imitated him, and not as created by him.
3. “They answered and said unto Him, Abraham is our father;” as if, What hast thou to say against Abraham? or, If thou canst, dare to find fault with Abraham. Not that the Lord dared not find fault with Abraham; but Abraham was not one to be found fault with by the Lord, but rather approved. But these men seemed to challenge Him to say some evil of Abraham, and so to have some occasion for doing what they purposed. “Abraham is our father.”
4. Let us hear how the Lord answered them, praising Abraham to their condemnation. “Jesus saith unto them, If ye are Abraham’s children, do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.” See, he was praised, they were condemned. Abraham was no manslayer. I say not, He implies, I am Abraham’s Lord; though did I say it, I would say the truth. For He said in another place, “Before Abraham was, I am” (ver. 58); and then they sought to stone Him. He said not so. But meanwhile, as you see me, as you look upon me, as alone you think of me, I am a man. Wherefore, then, wish you to kill a man who is telling you what he has heard of God, but because you are not the children of Abraham? And yet He said above, “I know that ye are Abraham’s children.” He does not deny their origin, but condemns their deeds. Their flesh was from him, but not their life.
5. But we, dearly beloved, do we come of Abraham’s race, or was Abraham in any sense our father according to the flesh? The flesh of the Jews draws its origin from his flesh, not so the flesh of Christians. We have come of other nations, and yet, by imitating him, we have become the children of Abraham. Listen to the apostle: “To Abraham and to his seed were the promises made. He saith not,” he adds, “And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”777
6. Why, then, does this empty and vain bragging exalt itself? Let them cease boasting that they are the children of Abraham. They have heard what they ought to have heard: “If ye are the children of Abraham,” prove it by your deeds, not by words. “Ye seek to kill me, a man;”—I say not, meanwhile, the Son of God; I say not God; I say not the Word, for the Word dies not. I say merely this that you see; for only what you see can you kill, and whom you see not can you offend. “This,” then, “did not Abraham.” “Ye do the works of your father.” And as yet He says not who is that father of theirs.
7. And now what answer did they give Him? For they began somewhat to realize that the Lord was not speaking of carnal generation, but of their manner of life. And because it is the custom of the Scriptures, which they read, to call it, in a spiritual sense, fornication, when the soul is, as it were, prostituted by subjection to many false gods, they made this reply: “Then said they to Him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” Abraham has now lost his importance. For they were repulsed as they ought to have been by the truth-speaking mouth; because such was Abraham, whose deeds they failed to imitate, and yet gloried in his lineage. And they altered their reply, saying, I believe, with themselves, As often as we name Abraham, he goes on to say to us, Why do ye not imitate him in whose lineage ye glory? Such a man, so holy, just, and guileless, we cannot imitate. Let us call God our Father, and see what he will say to us.
8. Has falsehood indeed found something to say, and should not truth find its fitting reply? Let us hear what they say: let us hear what they hear. “We have one Father,” they say, “even God. Then said Jesus unto them, If God were your Father, ye would [doubtless] love me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but He sent me.” Ye call God Father; recognize me, then, as at least a brother. At the same time He gave a stimulus to the hearts of the intelligent, by touching on that which He has a habit of saying, “I came not of myself: He sent me. I proceeded forth and came from God.” Remember what we are wont to say: From Him He came; and from whom He came, with Him He came. The sending of Christ, therefore, is His incarnation. But as respects the proceeding forth of the Word from God, it is an eternal procession. Time holds not Him by whom time was created. Let no one be saying in his heart, Before the Word was, how did God exist? Never say, Before the Word of God was. God was never without the Word, because the Word is abiding, not transient; God, not a sound; by whom the heaven and earth were made, and which passed not away with those things that were made upon the earth. From Him, then, He proceeded forth as God, the equal, the only Son, the Word of the Father; and came to us, for the Word was made flesh that He might dwell among us. His coming indicates His humanity; His abiding, His divinity. It is His Godhead towards which, His humanity whereby, we make progress. Had He not become that whereby we might advance, we should never attain to Him who abideth ever.
9. “Why,” He says, “do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word.” And so they could not understand, because they could not hear. And whence could they not hear, but just because they refused to be set right by believing? And why so? “Ye are of your father the devil.” How long do ye keep speaking of a father? How often will ye change your fathers,—at one time Abraham, at another God? Hear from the Son of God whose children ye be: “Ye are of your father the devil.”
10. Here, now, we must beware of the heresy of the Manicheans, which affirms that there is a certain principle of evil, and a certain family of darkness with its princes, which had the presumption to fight against God; but that God, not to let His kingdom be subdued by the hostile family, despatched against them, as it were, His own offspring, princes of His own [kingdom of] light; and so subdued that race from which the devil derives his origin. From thence, also, they say our flesh derives its origin, and accordingly think the Lord said, “Ye are of your father the devil,” because they were evil, as it were, by nature, deriving their origin from the opposing family of darkness. So they err, so their eyes are blinded, so they make themselves the family of darkness, by believing a falsehood against Him who created them. For every nature is good; but man’s nature has been corrupted by an evil will. What God made cannot be evil, if man were not [a cause of] evil to himself. But surely the Creator is Creator, and the creature a creature [a thing created]. The creature cannot be put on a level with the Creator. Distinguish between Him who made, and that which He made. The bench cannot be put on a level with the mechanic, nor the pillar with its builder; and yet the mechanic, though he made the bench, did not himself create the wood. But the Lord our God, in His omnipotence and by the Word, made what He made. He had no materials out of which to make all that He made, and yet He made it. For they were made because He willed it, they were made because He said it; but the things made cannot be compared with the Maker. If thou seekest a proper subject of comparison, turn thy mind to the only-begotten Son. How, then, were the Jews the children of the devil? By imitation, not by birth. Listen to the usual language of the Holy Scriptures. The prophet says to those very Jews, “Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.”781
11. But listen now to what the Lord says: “Ye,” said He, “are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” This is how ye are his children, because such are your lusts, not because ye are born of him. What are his lusts? “He was a murderer from the beginning.” This it is that explains, “the lusts of your father ye will do.” “Ye seek to kill me, a man that telleth you the truth.” He, too, had ill-will to man, and slew man. For the devil, in his ill-will to man, assuming the guise of a serpent, spoke to the woman, and from the woman instilled his poison into the man. They died by listening to the devil,782
13. Hear and understand. I shall not send thee far away [for the meaning]; understand it from the words themselves. The Lord called the devil the father of falsehood. What is this? Hear what it is, only revolve the words themselves, and understand. It is not every one who tells a lie that is the father of his lie. For if thou hast got a lie from another, and uttered it, thou indeed hast lied in giving utterance to the lie; but thou art not the father of that lie, because thou hast got it from another. But the devil was a liar of himself. He begat his own falsehood; he heard it from no one. As God the Father begat as His Son the Truth, so the devil, having fallen, begat falsehood as his son. Hearing this, recall now and reflect upon the words of the Lord. Ye catholic minds, consider what ye have heard; attend to what He says. “He”—who? The devil—“was a murderer from the beginning.” We admit it,—he slew Adam. “And he abode not in the truth.” We admit it, for he lapsed from the truth. “Because there is no truth in him.” True: by falling away from the truth he has lost its possession. “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” He is both a liar, and the father of lies. For thou, it may be, art a liar, because thou utterest a lie; but thou art not its father. For if thou hast got what thou sayest from the devil, and hast believed the devil, thou art a liar, but not the father of the lie. But he, because he got not elsewhere the lie wherewith in serpent-form he slew man as if by poison, is the father of lies just as God is Father of truth. Withdraw, then, from the father of lies: make haste to the Father of truth; embrace the truth, that you may enter into liberty.
14. Those Jews, then, spake what they saw with their father. And what was that but falsehood? But the Lord saw with His Father what He should speak; and what was that, but Himself? What, but the Word of the Father? What, but the truth of the Father, eternal itself, and co-eternal with the Father? He, then, “was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him; when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar,”—and not only a liar, but also “the father of it;” that is, of the very lie that he speaks he is the father, for he himself begat his lie. “And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convicteth me of sin,” as I convict both you and your father? “If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me,” but just because ye are the children of the devil?
15. “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” Here, again, it is not of their nature as men, but of their depravity, that you are to think. In this way they are of God, and yet not of God. By nature they are of God, in depravity they are not of God. Give heed, I pray you. In the gospel you have the remedy against the poisonous and impious errors of the heretics. For of these words also the Manicheans are accustomed to say, See, here there are two natures,785