On The Incarnation

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On the Incarnation (eBook) | Monergism

For being Word of the Father , and above all, He alone of natural fitness was both able to recreate everything, and worthy to suffer on behalf of all and to be ambassador for all with the Father. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through: seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what had come to pass: that the things whereof He Himself was Artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of men , and how little by little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery — lest the creature should perish, and His Father's handiwork in men be spent for nought — He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours.

For He did not simply will to become embodied, or will merely to appear. For if He willed merely to appear, He was able to effect His divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But He takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man , a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being Himself mighty, and Artificer of everything, He prepares the body in the Virgin as a temple unto Himself, and makes it His very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling.

And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father — doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord's body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers , and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.

For the Word, perceiving that no otherwise could the corruption of men be undone save by death as a necessary condition, while it was impossible for the Word to suffer death, being immortal , and Son of the Father; to this end He takes to Himself a body capable of death, that it, by partaking of the Word Who is above all, might be worthy to die in the stead of all, and might, because of the Word which had come to dwell in it, remain incorruptible, and that thenceforth corruption might be stayed from all by the Grace of the Resurrection.

Whence, by offering unto death the body He Himself had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from any stain, straightway He put away death from all His peers by the offering of an equivalent. For being over all, the Word of God naturally by offering His own temple and corporeal instrument for the life of all satisfied the debt by His death. And thus He, the incorruptible Son of God , being conjoined with all by a like nature, naturally clothed all with incorruption, by the promise of the resurrection. For the actual corruption in death has no longer holding-ground against men, by reason of the Word, which by His one body has come to dwell among them.

And like as when a great king has entered into some large city and taken up his abode in one of the houses there, such city is at all events held worthy of high honour , nor does any enemy or bandit any longer descend upon it and subject it; but, on the contrary, it is thought entitled to all care, because of the king's having taken up his residence in a single house there: so, too, has it been with the Monarch of all.

For now that He has come to our realm, and taken up his abode in one body among His peers, henceforth the whole conspiracy of the enemy against mankind is checked, and the corruption of death which before was prevailing against them is done away. For the race of men had gone to ruin, had not the Lord and Saviour of all, the Son of God , come among us to meet the end of death. Now in truth this great work was peculiarly suited to God's goodness. For if a king, having founded a house or city, if it be beset by bandits from the carelessness of its inmates, does not by any means neglect it, but avenges and reclaims it as his own work, having regard not to the carelessness of the inhabitants, but to what beseems himself; much more did God the Word of the all-good Father not neglect the race of men , His work, going to corruption: but, while He blotted out the death which had ensued by the offering of His own body, He corrected their neglect by His own teaching, restoring all that was man's by His own power.

And, again: But we behold Him, Who has been made a little lower than the angels , even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour , that by the grace of God He should taste of death for every man.


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Then He also points out the reason why it was necessary for none other than God the Word Himself to become incarnate; as follows: For it became Him, for Whom are all things, and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory , to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through suffering; by which words He means, that it belonged to none other to bring man back from the corruption which had begun, than the Word of God , Who had also made them from the beginning.

And that it was in order to the sacrifice for bodies such as His own that the Word Himself also assumed a body, to this, also, they refer in these words : Forasmuch then as the children are the sharers in blood and flesh, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same, that through death He might bring to naught Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil ; and might deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

On the Incarnation (eBook)

For by the sacrifice of His own body, He both put an end to the law which was against us, and made a new beginning of life for us, by the hope of resurrection which He has given us. For since from man it was that death prevailed over men, for this cause conversely, by the Word of God being made man has come about the destruction of death and the resurrection of life; as the man which bore Christ says: For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive: and so forth. This then is the first cause of the Saviour's being made man.

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But one might see from the following reasons also, that His gracious coming among us was fitting to have taken place. God , Who has the power over all things, when He was making the race of men through His own Word, seeing the weakness of their nature, that it was not sufficient of itself to know its Maker, nor to get any idea at all of God ; because while He was uncreate, the creatures had been made of nought, and while He was incorporeal, men had been fashioned in a lower way in the body, and because in every way the things made fell far short of being able to comprehend and know their Maker — taking pity, I say, on the race of men , inasmuch as He is good , He did not leave them destitute of the knowledge of Himself, lest they should find no profit in existing at all.

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For what profit to the creatures if they knew not their Maker? Or how could they be rational without knowing the Word and Reason of the Father , in Whom they received their very being? For there would be nothing to distinguish them even from brute creatures if they had knowledge of nothing but earthly things.

Nay, why did God make them at all, as He did not wish to be known by them? Whence, lest this should be so, being good, He gives them a share in His own Image, our Lord Jesus Christ , and makes them after His own Image and after His likeness: so that by such grace perceiving the Image, that is, the Word of the Father , they may be able through Him to get an idea of the Father , and knowing their Maker, live the happy and truly blessed life.

But men once more in their perversity having set at nought, in spite of all this, the grace given them, so wholly rejected God , and so darkened their soul , as not merely to forget their idea of God , but also to fashion for themselves one invention after another. For not only did they grave idols for themselves, instead of the truth , and honour things that were not before the living God , and serve the creature rather than the Creator, but, worst of all, they transferred the honour of God even to stocks and stones and to every material object and to men , and went even further than this, as we have said in the former treatise.

So far indeed did their impiety go, that they proceeded to worship devils, and proclaimed them as gods, fulfilling their own lusts. For they performed, as was said above, offerings of brute animals, and sacrifices of men , as was meet for them , binding themselves down all the faster under their maddening inspirations.

For this reason it was also that magic arts were taught among them, and oracles in various places led men astray, and all men ascribed the influences of their birth and existence to the stars and to all the heavenly bodies, having no thought of anything beyond what was visible. And, in a word, everything was full of irreligion and lawlessness, and God alone, and His Word, was unknown, albeit He had not hidden Himself out of men's sight, nor given the knowledge of Himself in one way only; but had, on the contrary, unfolded it to them in many forms and by many ways.

For whereas the grace of the Divine Image was in itself sufficient to make known God the Word , and through Him the Father; still God , knowing the weakness of men , made provision even for their carelessness: so that if they cared not to know God of themselves, they might be enabled through the works of creation to avoid ignorance of the Maker. But since men's carelessness, little by little, descends to lower things, God made provision, once more, even for this weakness of theirs, by sending a law, and prophets , men such as they knew , so that even if they were not ready to look up to heaven and know their Creator, they might have their instruction from those near at hand.

For men are able to learn from men more directly about higher things. So it was open to them, by looking into the height of heaven, and perceiving the harmony of creation, to know its Ruler, the Word of the Father , Who, by His own providence over all things makes known the Father to all, and to this end moves all things, that through Him all may know God. Or, if this were too much for them, it was possible for them to meet at least the holy men, and through them to learn of God , the Maker of all things, the Father of Christ; and that the worship of idols is godlessness, and full of all impiety.

Or it was open to them, by knowing the law even, to cease from all lawlessness and live a virtuous life. For neither was the law for the Jews alone, nor were the Prophets sent for them only, but, though sent to the Jews and persecuted by the Jews , they were for all the world a holy school of the knowledge of God and the conduct of the soul. God's goodness then and loving-kindness being so great — men nevertheless, overcome by the pleasures of the moment and by the illusions and deceits sent by demons , did not raise their heads toward the truth , but loaded themselves the more with evils and sins , so as no longer to seem rational, but from their ways to be reckoned void of reason.

So then, men having thus become brutalized, and demoniacal deceit thus clouding every place, and hiding the knowledge of the true God , what was God to do? To keep still silence at so great a thing, and suffer men to be led astray by demons and not to know God? And what was the use of man having been originally made in God's image?

For it had been better for him to have been made simply like a brute animal, than, once made rational, for him to live the life of the brutes. Or where was any necessity at all for his receiving the idea of God to begin with?


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For if he be not fit to receive it even now, it were better it had not been given him at first. Or what profit to God Who has made them, or what glory to Him could it be, if men, made by Him, do not worship Him, but think that others are their makers? For God thus proves to have made these for others instead of for Himself. Once again, a merely human king does not let the lands he has colonized pass to others to serve them, nor go over to other men; but he warns them by letters, and often sends to them by friends, or, if need be, he comes in person, to put them to rebuke in the last resort by his presence, only that they may not serve others and his own work be spent for naught.

Shall not God much more spare His own creatures, that they be not led astray from Him and serve things of nought? Especially since such going astray proves the cause of their ruin and undoing, and since it was unfitting that they should perish which had once been partakers of God's image. What then was God to do? Or what was to be done save the renewing of that which was in God's image, so that by it men might once more be able to know Him? But how could this have come to pass save by the presence of the very Image of God , our Lord Jesus Christ? For by men's means it was impossible, since they are but made after an image; nor by angels either, for not even they are God's images.

Whence the Word of God came in His own person, that, as He was the Image of the Father , He might be able to create afresh the man after the image.

But, again, it could not else have taken place had not death and corruption been done away. Whence He took, in natural fitness, a mortal body, that while death might in it be once for all done away, men made after His Image might once more be renewed. None other then was sufficient for this need, save the Image of the Father.

For as, when the likeness painted on a panel has been effaced by stains from without, he whose likeness it is must needs come once more to enable the portrait to be renewed on the same wood: for, for the sake of his picture, even the mere wood on which it is painted is not thrown away, but the outline is renewed upon it; 2.

Whence He said to the Jews also: Except a man be born again, not meaning, as they thought, birth from woman , but speaking of the soul born and created anew in the likeness of God's image. But since wild idolatry and godlessness occupied the world, and the knowledge of God was hid, whose part was it to teach the world concerning the Father? Man's, might one say? But it was not in man's power to penetrate everywhere beneath the sun; for neither had they the physical strength to run so far, nor would they be able to claim credence in this matter, nor were they sufficient by themselves to withstand the deceit and impositions of evil spirits.

For where all were smitten and confused in soul from demoniacal deceit, and the vanity of idols , how was it possible for them to win over man's soul and man's mind — whereas they cannot even see them? Or how can a man convert what he does not see?

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But perhaps one might say creation was enough; but if creation were enough, these great evils would never have come to pass. For creation was there already, and all the same, men were grovelling in the same error concerning God. Who, then, was needed, save the Word of God , that sees both soul and mind , and that gives movement to all things in creation, and by them makes known the Father?

For He who by His own Providence and ordering of all things was teaching men concerning the Father , He it was that could renew this same teaching as well. How, then, could this have been done?

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