Basil the Great|
On the Holy Spirit
From: Schaff - Wace, (ed)., Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II, v. 8, tr. by the Rev. Blomfield Jackson, London 1894.
In how many ways "through whom" is used; and in what sense "with whom" is more suitable. Explanation of how the Son receives a commandment, and how late is sent.
17. When, then, the apostle "thanks God through Jesus Christ," and again says that "through Him" we have "received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations," or "through Him have access unto this grace wherein we stand and rejoice," he sets forth the boons conferred on us by the Son, at one time making the grace of the good gifts pass through from the Father to us, and at another bringing us to the Father through Himself. For by saying "through whom we have received grace and apostleship," he declares the supply of the good gifts to proceed from that source; and again in saying "through whom we have had access," he sets forth our acceptance and being made "of the household of God" through Christ. Is then the confession of the grace wrought by Him to usward a detraction from His glory? Is it not truer to say that the recital of His benefits is a proper argument for glorifying Him? It is on this account that we have not found Scripture describing the Lord to us by one name, nor even by such terms alone as are indicative of His godhead and majesty. At one time it uses terms descriptive of His nature, for it recognises the "name which is above every name," the name of Son, and speaks of true Son, and only begotten God, and Power of God, and Wisdom, and Word. Then again, on account of the divers manners wherein grace is given to us, which, because of the riches of His goodness, according to his manifold wisdom, he bestows on them that need, Scripture designates Him by innumerable other titles, calling Him Shepherd, King Physician, Bridegroom, Way, Door, Fountain, Bread, Axe, and Rock. And these, titles do not set forth His nature, but, as I have remarked, the variety of the effectual working which, out of His tender-heartedness to His own creation, according to the peculiar necessity of each, He bestows upon them that need. Them that have fled for refuge to His ruling care, and through patient endurance have mended their wayward ways, He calls "sheep," and confesses Himself to be, to them that hear His voice and refuse to give heed to strange teaching, a "shepherd." For "my sheep, He says, "hear my voice." To them that have now reached a higher stage and stand in need of righteous royalty, He is a King.
And in that, through the straight way of His commandments, He leads men to good actions, and again because He safely shuts in all who through faith in Him betake themselves for shelter to the blessing of the higher wisdom, He is a Door.
So He says, "By me if any man enter in, ... he shall go in and out and shall find pastare." Again, because to the faithful He is a defence strong, unshaken, and harder to break than any bulwark, He is a Rock. Among these titles, it is when He is styled Door, or Way, that the phrase "through Him" is very appropriate and plain. As, however, God and Son, He is glorified with and together with the Father, in that "at, the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Wherefore we use both terms, expressing by the one His own proper dignity, and by the other His grace to usward.
18. For "through Him" comes every succour to our souls, and it is in accordance with each kind of care that an appropriate title has been devised. So when He presents to Himself the blameless soul, not having spot or wrinkle, like a pure maiden, He is called Bridegroom, but whenever He receives one in sore plight from the devil's evil strokes, healing it in the heavy infirmity of its sins, He is named Physician. And shall this His care for us degrade to meanness oar thoughts of Him? Or, on the contrary, shall it smite us with amazement at once at the mighty power and love to man of the Saviour, in that He both endured to suffer with us in our infirmities, and was able to come down to our weakness? For not heaven and earth and the great seas, not the creatures that live in the water and on dry land, not plants, and stars, and air, and seasons, not the vast variety in the order of the universe, so well sets forth the excellency of His might as that God, being incomprehensible, should have been able, impassibly, through flesh, to have come into close conflict with death, to the end that by His own suffering He might give us the boon of freedom from suffering. The apostle, it is true, says, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." But in a phrase of this kind there is no suggestion of any lowly and subordinate ministry, but rather of the succour rendered "in the power of his might." For He Himself has bound the strong man and spoiled his goods, that is, us men, whom our enemy had abused in every evil activity, and made "vessels meet for the Master's use " us who have been perfected for every work through the making ready of that part of us which is in our own control. Thus we have had our approach to the Father through Him, being translated from "the power of darkness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." We must not, however, regard the oeconomy through the Son as a compulsory and subordinate ministration resulting from the low estate of a slave, but rather the voluntary solicitude working effectually for His own creation in goodness and in pity, according to the will of God the Father. For we shall be consistent with true religion if in all that was and is from tithe to time perfected by Him, we both bear witness to the perfection of His power, and in no case put it asunder from the Father's will. For instance, whenever the Lord is called the Way, we are carried on to a higher meaning, and not to that which is derived from the vulgar sense of the word. We understand by Way that advance to perfection which is made stage by stage, and in regular order, through the works of righteousness and" the illumination of knowledge;" ever longing after what is before, and reaching forth unto those things which remain, until we shall have reached the blessed end, the knowledge of God, which the Lord through Himself bestows on them that have trusted in Him. For our Lord is an essentially good Way, where erring and straying are unknown, to that which is essentially good, to the Father. For "no one," He says, "cometh to the Father but ["by" A.V.] through me." Such is our way up to God "through the Son."
19. It will follow that we should next in order point out the character of the provision of blessings bestowed on us by the Father "through him." Inasmuch as all created nature, both this visible world and all that is conceived of in the mind, cannot hold together without the care and providence of God, the Creator Word, the Only begotten God, apportioning His succour according to the measure of the needs of each, distributes mercies various and manifold on account of the many kinds and characters of the recipients of His bounty, but appropriate to the necessities of individual requirements. Those that are confined in the darkness of ignorance He enlightens: for this reason He is true Light. Portioning requital in accordance with the desert of deeds, He judges: for this reason He is righteous Judge. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son." Those that have lapsed from the lofty height of life into sin He raises from their fall: for this reason He is Resurrection. Effectually working by the much of His power and the will of His goodness He does all things. He shepherds; He enlightens; He nourishes; He heals; He guides; He raises up; He calls into being things that were not; He upholds what has been created. Thus the good things that come from God reach us "through the Son," who works in each case with greater speed than speech can utter. For not lightnings, not light's course in air, is so swift; not eyes' sharp turn, not the movements of our very thought. Navy by the divine energy is each one of these in speed further surpassed than is the slowest of all living creatures outdone in motion by birds, or even winds, or the rush of the heavenly bodies: or, not to mention these, by our very thought itself. For what extent of time is needed by Him who "upholds all things by the word of His power," and works not by bodily agency, nor requires the help of hands to form and fashion, but holds in obedient following and unforced consent the nature of all things that are? So as Judith says,
"Thou hast thought, and what things thou didst determine were ready at hand." On the other hand, and test we should ever be drawn away by the greatness of the works wrought to imagine that the Lord is without beginning, what saith the Self-Existent? "I live through [by, A.V.] the Father," and the power of God; "The Son hath power [can, A.V.] to do nothing of himself." "And the self-complete Wisdom? I received "a commandment what I should say and what I should speak." Through all these words He is guiding us to the knowledge of the Father, and referring our wonder at all that is brought into existence to Him, to the end that "through Him" we may know the Father. For the Father is not regarded from the difference of the operations, by the exhibition of a separate and peculiar energy; for whatsoever things He sees the Father doing, "these also doeth the Son likewise;" but He enjoys our wonder at all that comes to pass out of the glory which comes to Him from the Only Begotten, rejoicing in the Doer Himself as well as in the greatness of the deeds, and exalted by all who acknowledge Him as Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, "through whom [by whom, A.V.] are all things, and for whom are all things." Wherefore, saith the Lord, "All mine are thine," as though the sovereignty over created things were conferred on Him, and "Thine are mine," as though the creating Cause came thence to Him. We are not to suppose that He used assistance in His action, or yet was entrusted with the ministry of each individual work by detailed commission, a condition distinctly menial and quite inadequate to the divine dignity. Rather was the Word full of His Father's excellences; He shines forth from the Father, and does all things according to the likeness of Him that begat Him. For if in essence He is without variation, so also is He without variation in power. And of those whose power is equal, the operation also is in all ways equal. And Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. And so "all things are made through [by, A.V.] him," and "all things were created through [by, A.V.] him and for him," not in the discharge of any slavish service, but in the fulfilment of the Father's will as Creator.
20. When then He says, "I have not spoken of myself," and again, "As the Father said unto me, so I speak," and" The word which ye hear is not mine. but [the Father's] which sent me," and in another place, "As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do," it is not because He lacks deliberate purpose or power of initiation, nor yet because He has to wait for the preconcerted key-note, that he employs language of this kind. His object is to make it plain that His own will is connected in indissoluble union with the Father. Do not then let us understand by what is called a "commandment" a peremptory mandate delivered by organs of speech, and giving orders to the Son, as to a subordinate, concerning what He ought to do. Let us rather, m a sense befitting the Godhead, perceive a transmission of will, like the reflexion of an object in a mirror, passing without note of time from Father to Son. "For the Father loveth the Son and sheweth him all things," so that "all things that the Father hath" belong to the Son, not gradual accruing to Him little by little, but with Him all together and at once. Among men, the workman who has been thoroughly taught his craft, and, through long training, has sure and established experience in it, is able, in accordance with the scientific methods which now he has in store, to work for the future by himself. And are we to suppose that the wisdom of God, the Maker of all creation, He who is eternally perfect, who is wise, without a teacher, the Power of God, "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," needs piecemeal instruction to mark out the manner and measure of His operations? I presume that in the vanity of your calculations, you mean to open a school; you will make the one take His seat in the teacher's place, and the other stand by in a scholars ignorance, gradually learning wisdom and advancing to perfection, by lessons given Him bit by bit. Hence, if you have sense to abide by what logically follows, you will find the Son being eternally taught, nor yet ever able to reach the end of perfection, inasmuch as the wisdom of the Father is infinite, and the end of the infinite is beyond apprehension. It results that whoever refuses to grant that the Son has all things from the beginning will never grant that He will reach perfection. But I am ashamed at the degraded conception to which, by the course of the argument, I have been brought down. Let us therefore revert to the loftier themes of our discussion.
21. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; not the express image, nor yet the form, for the divine nature does not admit of combination; but the goodness of the will, which, being concurrent with the essence, is beheld as like and equal, or rather the same, in the Father as in the Son.
What then is meant by "became subject"? What by "delivered him up"? It is meant that the Son has it of the Father that He works in goodness on behalf of men. But you must hear too the words, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law;" and "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Give careful heed, too, to the words of the Lord, and note how, whenever He instructs us about His Father, He is in the habit of using terms of personal authority, saying," I will; be thou clean;" and "Peace, be still;" and "But I say unto you;" and "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee;" and all other expressions of the same kind, in order that by these we may recognise our Master and Maker, and by the former may be taught the Father of our Master and Creator.
Thus on all sides is demonstrated the true doctrine that the fact that the Father creates through the Son neither constitutes the creation of the Father imperfect nor exhibits the active energy of the Son as feeble, but indicates the unity of the will; so the expression "through whom" contains a confession of an antecedent Cause, and is not adopted in objection to the efficient Cause.