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“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ, when exhorting His disciples to great actions, places before them Himself, and the Father, and the Prophets, as examples; as when He says, “For thus they did unto the Prophets which were before you” (Matt. v. 12; Luke vi. 23.); and again, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John xv. 20.); and, “Learn of me, for I am meek” (Matt. xi. 29.); and again, “Be ye merciful, as your Father which is in heaven is merciful.” (Luke vi. 36.) This too the blessed Paul did; in exhorting them to humility, he brought forward Christ. And he does so not here only, but also when he discourses of love towards the poor, he speaks in this wise. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.” (2 Cor. viii. 9.) Nothing rouses a great and philosophic soul to the performance of good works, so much as learning that in this it is likened to God. What encouragement is equal to this? None. This Paul well knowing, when he would exhort them to humility, first beseeches and supplicates them, then to awe594
And if it seem good to you, we will first arrange the heresies themselves in order. Would you have them in the order of their impiety, or of their dates? In the order of time, for it is difficult to judge of the order of their impiety. First then let Sabellius595
Arius confesses indeed the Son, but only in word; he says that He is a creature, and much inferior to the Father. And others say that He has not a soul. Seest thou the chariots standing? See then their fall, how he overthrows them all together, and with a single stroke. How? “Have the same mind in you,” he says, “which was in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God.” And Paul600
Behold Sabellius too. It is written, “He counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God.” Now equality is not predicated, where there is but one person, for that which is equal hath somewhat to which it is equal. Seest thou not the substance of two Persons, and not empty names without things? Hearest thou not the eternal pre-existence of the Only-begotten?
He who is not of that nature is not God. For He is everywhere called great in Scripture; “Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised.” (Ps. xlviii. 1.) This is said of the Son also, for it always calls Him Lord. “Thou art great, and doest wondrous things. Thou art God alone.” (Ps. lxxxvi. 10.) And again, “Great is our Lord, and great is His power, and of His greatness there is no end.” (Ps. cxlv. 3.)
But the Son, he says, is little. But it is thou that sayest this, for the Scripture says the contrary: as of the Father, so it speaks of the Son; for listen to Paul, saying, “Looking for the blessed hope, and appearing of the glory of our great God.” (Tit. ii. 13.) But can he have said “appearing” of the Father? Nay, that he may the more convince you, he has added with reference to the appearing “of the great God.” Is it then not said of the Father? By no means. For the sequel suffers it not which says, “The appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”603
Listen to the Prophet too, calling him “The Messenger604
If he who has it not in his power to snatch at another’s goods, continues in the possession of his own; should we praise him, think you, for his justice? I trow not, and why? The praise of free choice is taken away by the necessity. If he, who has it not in his power to usurp and be a king, remains a private citizen, should we praise him for his quietness? I trow not. The same rule applies here. For praise, O ye most senseless ones, is not given for abstaining from these things, but for the performance of good deeds; for the former is free indeed from blame, but partakes not yet of praise, while eulogy of the other is meet. Observe accordingly that Christ gives praise on this principle, when He says, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink.” (Matt. xxv. 34, 35.) He did not say, Because ye have not been covetous, because ye have not robbed; these are slight things; but because “ye saw Me an hungered, and fed Me.” Who ever praised either his friends or his enemies in this sort? No one ever praised even Paul. Why say Paul? no one ever praised even a common man, as thou dost praise Christ, because he did not take that rule which was not his due. To admire for such things as this, is to give evidence of much evil. And why? because with evil men this is a matter of praise, as of one that stealeth, if he steal no more; but it is otherwise among good men. (Eph. iv. 28.) Because a man has not seized on a rule and an honor which was not his due, is he praiseworthy? What folly is this?
Attend, I entreat you, for the reasoning is long. Again, who would ever exhort to humility from such grounds as this? Examples ought to be much greater than the subject, to which we are exhorting, for no one will be moved by what is foreign to the subject. For instance, when Christ would lead us to do good to our enemies, He brought a great example, even that of His Father, “For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matt. v. 45.) When He would lead to endurance of wrong He brought an example, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” (Matt. xi. 29.) And again, “If I your Lord and Master do these things, how much more should ye”? (John xiii. 14.) Seest thou how these examples are not distant,606
Again, consider what he says after the example, “In lowliness of mind, each counting other better than themselves.” (Philip. ii. 3.) He says, “counting,” for as ye are one in substance, and in the honor which cometh of God, it follows that the matter is one of estimation. Now in the case of those who are greater and lesser, he would not have said “counting,” but honor them that are better than yourselves, as he says in another place, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them.” (Heb. xiii. 17.) In that instance subjection is the result of the nature of the case, in this of our own judgment. “In lowliness of mind,” he says, “each counting other better than themselves,” as Christ also did.
Thus are their explanations overthrown. It remains that I speak of our own after I have first spoken of theirs summarily. When exhorting to lowliness of mind, Paul would never have brought forward a lesser one, as obedient to a greater. If he were exhorting servants to obey their masters, he might have done so with propriety, but when exhorting the free to obey the free, to what purpose could he bring forward the subjection of a servant to a master? of a lesser to a greater? He says not, “Let the lesser be subject to the greater,” but ye who are of equal honor with each other be ye subject, “each counting other better than themselves.” Why then did he not bring forward even the obedience of the wife, and say, As the wife obeys her husband, so do ye also obey. Now if he did not bring forward that state in which there is equality and liberty, since in that the subjection is but slight, how much less would he have brought forward the subjection of a slave? I said above, that no one so praises a man for abstaining from evil, nor even mentions him at all; no one who desires to praise a man for continence would say, he has not committed adultery, but, he has abstained from his own wife; for we do not consider abstinence from evil as a matter of praise at all, it would be ridiculous.
I said that the “form of a servant” was a true form, and nothing less. Therefore “the form of God” also is perfect, and no less. Why says he not, “being made in the form of God,” but “being in the form of God”? This is the same as the saying, “I am that I am.” (Ex. iii. 14.) “Form” implies unchangeableness, so far as it is form. It is not possible that things of one substance should have the form of another, as no man has the form of an angel, neither has a beast the form of a man. How then should the Son?
Now in our own case, since we men are of a compound nature, form pertains to the body, but in the case of a simple and altogether uncompounded nature it is of the substance. But if thou contendest that he speaks not of the Father, because the word is used without the article, in many places this is meant, though the word be used without the article. Why say I, in many places? for in this very place he says, “He counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God,” using the word without the article, though speaking of God the Father.
I would add our own explanation, but I fear that I shall overwhelm your minds. Meanwhile remember what has been said for their refutation; meanwhile let us root out the thorns, and then we will scatter the good seed after that the thorns have been rooted out, and a little rest has been given to the land; that when rid of all the evil thence contracted, it may receive the divine seed with full virtue.
Let us give thanks to God for what has been spoken; let us entreat Him to grant us the guarding and safe keeping thereof, that both we and ye may rejoice, and the heretics may be put to shame. Let us beseech Him to open our mouth for what follows, that we may with the same earnestness lay down our own views. Let us supplicate Him to vouchsafe us a life worthy of the faith, that we may live to His glory, and that His name may not be blasphemed through us. For, “woe unto you,” it is written, “through whom the name of God is blasphemed.” (Isa. lii. 5, LXX. nearly.) For if, when we have a son, (and what is there more our own than a son,) if therefore when we have a son, and are blasphemed through him, we publicly renounce him, turn away from him, and will not receive him; how much more will God, when He has ungrateful servants who blaspheme and insult Him, turn away from them and hate them? And who will take up him whom God hates and turns away from, but the Devil and the demons? And whomsoever the demons take, what hope of salvation is left for him? what consolation in life?
As long as we are in the hand of
God, “no one is able to pluck us out” (John x. 28.), for that hand
is strong; but when we fall away from that hand and that help, then are
we lost, then are we exposed, ready to be snatched away, as a
“bowing wall, and a tottering fence” (Ps. lxii. 3.); when the wall
is weak, it will be easy for all to surmount. Think not this which I am
about to say refers to Jerusalem alone, but to all men. And what was
spoken of Jerusalem? “Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song
of my beloved touching His vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard in
a very fruitful hill, and I made a fence about it, and surrounded it
with a dike, and planted it with the vine of Sorech, and built a tower
in the midst of it, and also dug a wine press in it, and I looked that
it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth thorns. And now, O men of
Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, judge between Me and My vineyard.
What should have been done to My vineyard, that I have not done to it?
Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it
forth thorns? Now therefore I will tell you what I will do to My
vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be for a
prey, and I will break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden
down. And I will leave My vineyard, and it shall not be pruned or
digged, but thorns shall come up upon it, as upon a desert land. I will
also command the clouds, that they rain no rain upon it. For the
vineyard of the Lord of Sabaoth is the house of Israel, and the men of
Judah His pleasant plant. I looked that it should do judgment, but it
did iniquity, and a cry instead of righteousness.” (Isa. v.
1–7, LXX.) This is spoken also of every soul. For when God who loveth
man hath done all that is needful and man then bringeth forth thorns
instead of grapes, He will take away the fence, and break down the
wall, and we shall be for a prey. For hear what another prophet speaks
in his lamentations: “Why hast thou broken down her fences, so
that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the
wood doth ravage it, and the wild beasts of the field feed on
it.” (Ps. lxxx. 12, 13.) In the former place
He speaks of the Mede and the Babylonian, here nought is said of them,
but “the boar,” and “the solitary beast” is the
Devil and all his host, because of the ferocity and impurity of his
disposition. For when it would show us his rapacity, it saith,
“As a roaring lion he walketh about, seeking whom he may
devour” (1 Pet. v. 8.): when his poisonous,
his deadly, his destructive nature, it calleth him a snake, and a
scorpion; “For tread,” saith He, “upon serpents and
scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy” (Luke x.
when it would represent his strength as well as his venom, it calleth
him a dragon; as when it says, This dragon “whom thou hast formed
to take his pastime therein.” (Ps. civ. 26.) Scripture
everywhere calleth him a dragon, and a crooked serpent, and an adder
lxxiv. 13, 14.); he is a beast of many folds, and varied in his devices,
and his strength is great, he moves all things, he disturbs all things,
he turns all things up and down. (
See now what scorn is it, yea, what misery, to see him standing over our heads, who has been given to us to tread down. And whence is this? it is of ourselves. If we choose, he becomes great; and if we choose, he becomes of small power. If we take heed to ourselves, and take up our stand with Him who is our King, he draws himself in, and will be no better than a little child in his warfare against us. Whensoever we stand apart from Him, he puffeth himself up greatly, he uttereth terrible sounds, he grindeth his teeth, because he finds us without our greatest help. For he will not approach to us, except God permit him; for if he dared not to enter into the herd of swine, except by God’s permission, how much less into men’s souls. But God does permit him, either chastening or punishing us, or making us more approved, as in the case of Job. Seest thou that he came not to him, neither dared to be near him, but trembled and quaked? Why speak I of Job? When he leaped upon Judas, he dared not to seize on him wholly, and to enter into him, until Christ had severed him from the sacred band. He attacked him indeed from without, but he dared not enter in, but when he saw him cut off from that holy flock, he leaped upon him with more than wolfish vehemence, and left him not till he had slain him with a double death.
These things are written for our admonition. What gain have we from knowing that one of the twelve was a traitor? what profit? what advantage? Much. For, when we know whence it was that he arrived at this deadly counsel, we are on our guard that we too suffer not the like. Whence came he to this? From the love of money. He was a thief. For thirty pieces of silver he betrayed his Lord. So drunken was he with the passion, he betrayed the Lord of the world for thirty pieces of silver. What can be worse than this madness? Him to whom nothing is equivalent, nothing is equal, “before whom the nations are as nothing” (Isa. xl. 15.), Him did he betray for thirty pieces of silver. A grievous tyrant indeed is the love of gold, and terrible in putting the soul beside itself. A man is not so beside himself through drunkenness607
For tell me, why didst thou betray Him? He called thee, when a man unmarked and unknown. He made thee one of the twelve, He gave thee a share in His teaching, He promised thee ten thousand good things, He caused thee to work wonders, thou wert sharer of the same table, the same journeys, the same company, the same intercourse, as the rest. And were not these things sufficient to restrain thee? For what reason didst thou betray Him? What hadst thou to charge Him with, O wicked one? Rather, what good didst thou not receive at His hands? He knew thy mind, and ceased not to do His part. He often said, “One of you shall betray Me.” (Matt. xxvi. 21.) He often marked thee, and yet spared thee, and though He knew thee to be such an one, yet cast thee not out of the band. He still bore with thee, He still honored thee, and loved thee, as a true disciple, and as one of the twelve, and last of all (oh, for thy vileness!), He took a towel, and with His own unsullied hands He washed thy polluted feet, and even this did not keep thee back. Thou didst steal the things of the poor, and that thou mightest not go on to greater sin, He bore this too. Nothing persuaded thee. Hadst thou been a beast, or a stone, wouldest thou not have been changed by these kindnesses towards thee, by these wonders, by these teachings? Though thou wast thus brutalized, yet still He called thee, and by wondrous works He drew thee, thou wast more senseless than a stone, to Himself. Yet for none of these things didst thou become better.
Ye wonder perhaps at such folly of the traitor; dread therefore that which wounded him. He became such from avarice, from the love of money. Cut out this passion, for to these diseases does it give birth; it makes us impious, and causes608
It cannot, it cannot be that an avaricious man should ever see the face of Christ! This is one of the things which are impossible. It is a root of evils, and if he that possesses one evil thing, falls from that glory, where shall he stand who bears with him the root? He who is the servant of money cannot be a true servant of Christ. Christ Himself hath declared that the thing is impossible. “Ye cannot,” He says, “serve God and Mammon,” and, “No man can serve two masters” (Matt. vi. 24.), for they lay upon us contrary orders. Christ says, “Spare the poor”; Mammon says, “Even from the naked609
I know that many hear me say these things with pain, and indeed it is not without pain I say them. But why need I say these things? I could wish the things concerning the kingdom to be ever my discourse, of the rest, of the waters of rest, of the green pastures, as the Scripture says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Ps. xxiii. 2.), there He maketh me to dwell. I could wish to speak of the place, whence “sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isa. li. 11.)
I could wish to discourse of the pleasures of being with Christ, though they pass all expression and all understanding. Yet would I speak of these things according to my power. But what shall I do? it is not possible to speak concerning a kingdom612