Augustine on NT 152
152 3. Let now those ungodly babblers, whosoever they be, who presume on their own strength, let them hear and see these things: let them hear who say, God made me a man, I make myself just. O thou who art worse and more detestable than the Pharisee! The Pharisee in the Gospel did indeed call himself just, but yet he gave thanks to God for it. He called himself just, but yet he gave God thanks. “I thank Thee, O God, that I am not as the rest of men.” “I thank Thee, O God. He gives God thanks, that he is not as the rest of men: and yet he is blamed as being proud and puffed up; not in that he gave God thanks, but in that he desired as it were no more to be added unto him. “I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men, unjust.” So then thou art just; so then thou askest for nothing; so then thou art full already; so then the life of man is not a trial upon earth;17 so then thou art full already; so then thou aboundest already, so then thou hast no ground for saying, “Forgive us our debts!” What must his case be then who impiously impugns grace, if he is blamed who give thanks proudly?
4. And, lo, after the case had been stated, and the sentence pronounced, little children also came forth, yea, rather, are carried and presented to be touched. To be touched by whom, but the Physician? Surely, it will be said, they must be whole. To whom are the infants presented to be touched? To whom? To the Saviour. If to the Saviour, they are brought to be saved. To whom, but to Him “who came to seek and to save what was lost.”18 How were they lost? As far as concerns them personally, I see that they are without fault, I am seeking for their guiltiness. Whence is it? I listen to the Apostle, “By one man sin entered into the world. By one man,” he says, “sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men by him in whom all sinned.”19 Let then the little children come, let them come: let the Lord be heard. “Suffer little children to come unto Me.”20 Let the little ones come, let the sick come to the Physician, the lost to their Redeemer: let them come, let no man hinder them. In the branch they have not yet committed any evil, but they are ruined in their root. “Let the Lord bless the small with the great.”21 Let the Physician touch both small and great. the cause of the little ones we commend to their eiders. Speak ye for them who are mute, pray for them who weep. If ye are not their elders to no purpose, be ye their guardians: defend them who are not able yet to manage their own cause. Common is the loss, let the finding be common: we were lost all together, together be we found in Christ. Uneven is the desert, but common is the grace. They have no evil but what they have drawn from the source: they have no evil but what they have derived from the first original. Let not them keep them off from salvation. who to what they have so derived have added much more evil. The eider in age is the eider in iniquity too. But the grace of God effaceswhat thou hast derived, effaces too what thou hast added. For, “where sin abounded, gracehath superabounded.”22
2 (Lc 18,1
3 (Lc 18,8 Vulgate.
4 (Rm 10,13
5 (Rm 10,14
6 (Lc 22,46
8 (Lc 22,31-32.
9 (Lc 17,5
10 (Mc 9,24).
11 (Lc 18,9-11.
12 (Lc 18,12
13 (Lc 18,13
14 (Ps 138,6.
16 (Lc 18,14
17 (Jb 7,1 Sept.
18 (Lc 19,10
19 (Rm 5,12
20 (Lc 18,16
21 (Ps 115,13).
22 (Rm 5,20
116 On the words of the gospel, Lc 24,36 “He himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, peace be unto you,” etc.
1). The Lord appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, as ye have heard, and saluted them, saying, “Peace be unto you.”1 This is peace indeed, and the salutation of salvation: for the very word salutation has received its name from salvation.2 And what can be better than that Salvation Itself should salute man? For Christ is our Salvation. He is our Salvation, who was wounded for us, and fixed by nails to the tree, and being taken down from the tree, was laid in the sepulchre. And from the sepulchre He arose, with His wounds healed, His scars kept. For this He judged expedient for His disciples, that His scars should be kept,where by the wounds of their hearts might be healed. What wounds? The wounds of unbelief. For He appeared to their eyes, exhibiting real flesh, and they thought they saw a spirit. It is no light wound, this wound of the heart. Yea, they have made a malignant heresy who have abided in this wound. But do we suppose that the disciples had not been wounded, because they were so quickly healed? Only, Beloved, suppose, if they had continued in this wound, to think that the Body which had been buried, could not rise again, but that a spirit in the image of a body, deceived the eyes of men: if they had continued in this belief, yea, rather in this unbelief, not their wounds, but their death would have had to be bewailed.
2. But what said the Lord Jesus? “Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts ascend into your hearts?”3 If thoughts ascend into your heart, the thoughts come from the earth. But it iss good for a man, not that a thought should ascend.into his heart, but that his heart should itself ascend upwards, where the Apostle would have believers place their hearts, to whom he said, “If ye be risen with Christ, mind those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Seek those things which are above, not the things which are upon the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ your life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.”4 In what glory? The glory of the resurrection. In what glory? Hear the Apostle saying of this body, “It is sown in dishonour, it shall rise in glory.”5 This glory the Apostles were unwilling to assign to their Master, their Christ, their Lord: they did not believe that His Body could rise from the sepulchre: they thought Him to be a Spirit, though they saw His flesh, and they believed not their very eyes. Yet we believe them who preach but do not show Him. Lo, they believed not Christ who showed Himself to them. Malignant wound! Let the remedies for these scars come forth. “Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts ascend into your hearts? See My hands and My feet,” where I was fixed with the nails. “Handle and see.” But ye see, and yet do not see. “Handle and see.” What? “That a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. When He had thus spoken,” so it is written, “He showed them His hands and His feet.”6
3. “And while they were yet in hesitation, and wondered for joy.”7 Now there was joy already, and yet hesitation continued. For a thing incredible had taken place, yet taken place it had. Is it at this day a thing incredible, that the Body of the Lord rose again from the sepulchre? The whole cleansed world8 has believed it; whoso has not believed it, has remained in his uncleanness. Yet at that thee it was incredible: and persuasion was addressed not to the eyes only, but to the hands also, that by the bodily senses faith might descend into their heart, and that faith so descending into their heart might be preached throughout the world to them who neither saw nor touched, and yet without doubting believed. “Have ye,” saith He, “anything to eat?” How much doeth the good Builder still to build up the edifice of faith? He did not hunger, yet He asked to eat. And He ate by an act of His power, not through necessity. So then let the disciples acknowledge the verity of His body, which the world has acknowledged at their preaching.
4. If haply there be any heretics who still in their hearts maintain that Christ exhibited Himself to sight, but that Christ’s was not very flesh; let them now lay aside that error, and let the Gospel persuade them. We do but blame them for entertaining this conceit: He will damn them if they shall persevere in it. Who art thou who dost not believe that a body laid in the sepulchre could rise again? If thou art a Manichee, who dost not believe that He was crucified either, because thou dost not believe that He was even born, thou declarest that all that He showed was false. He showed what was false, and dost thou speak the truth? Thou dost not lie with thy mouth, and did He lie in His body? Lo thou dost suppose that He appeared unto the eyes of men what He really was not, that He was a spirit, not flesh. Hear Him: He loves thee, let Him not condemn thee. Hear Him speaking: lo, He speaks to thee, thou unhappy one, He speaks to thee, “Why art thou troubled, and why do thoughts ascend into thine heart?” “See,” saith He, “My hands and My feet. Handle and see, because a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have.” This spake the Truth, and did He deceive? It was a body then, it was flesh; that which had been buried, appeared. Let doubting perish, and meet praise ensue.
5. He showed himself then to the disciples. What is” Himself”? The Head of His Church. The Church was foreseen by Him as in thee to be throughout the world, by the disciples it was not yet seen. He showed the Head, He promised the Body. For what did He add next? “These are the words which I spake to you, while I was yet with you”9 What is this,” While I was yet with you”? Was He not with them then when He was speaking to them? What is, “when I was yet with you “? was with you as mortal, which now I am not. I was with you when I had yet to die. What is, “with you”? With you who were to die, Myself to die. Now I am no more with you: for I am with those who are to die, Myself to die no more for ever. This then is what I said to you. What? “That all things must be fulfilled which are written in the Law, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me.”10 I told you that all things must be fulfilled. “Then opened He their understanding.”11 Come then, O Lord, employ Thy keys, open, that we may understand. Lo, Thou dost tell all things, and yet are not believed. Thou art thought to be a spirit, art touched, art rudely handled,12 and yet they who touch Thee hesitate. Thou dost admonish them out of the Scriptures, and yet they understand Thee not. Their hearts are closed, open, and enter in. He did so. “Then opened He their understanding.” Open, O Lord, yea, open the heart of him who is in doubt concerning Christ. Open “his” understanding who believes that Christ was a phantom. “Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.”
6. And “He said unto them.” What? “That thus it behoved. That thus it is written, and thus it behoved.” What? “That Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead the thirdday.”13 And this they saw, they saw Him suffering, they saw Him hanging, they saw Him with them alive after His resurrection. What then did they not see? The Body, that is, the Church. Him they saw, her they saw not. They saw the Bridegroom, the Bride yet lay hid. Let him promise her too. “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” This is the Bridegroom, what of the Bride? “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”14 This the disciples did not yet see: they did not yet see the Church throughout all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. They saw the Head, and they believed the Head touching the Body. By, this which they saw, they believed that which they saw not. We too are like to them: we see something which they saw not, and something we do not see which they did see. What do we see, which they saw not? The Church throughout all nations. What do we not see, which they saw? Christ present in the flesh. As they saw Him, and believed concerning the Body, so do we see the Body; let us believe concerning the Head. Let what we have respectively seen help us. The sight of Christ helped them to believe the future Church: the sight of the Church helps us to believe that Christ has risen. Their faith was made complete, and ours is made complete also. Their faith was made complete from the sight of the Head, ours is made complete by the sight of the Body. Christ was made known to them “wholly,” and to us is He so made known: but He was not seen “wholly” by them, nor by us has He been “wholly” seen. By them the Head was seen, the Body believed. By us the Body has been seen, the Head believed. Yet to none is Christ lacking: in all He is complete, though to this day His Body remains imperfect. The Apostles believed; through them many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem believed; Judaea believed. Samaria believed. Let the members be added on, the building added on to the foundation. “For no other foundation can any man lay,” says the Apostle, “than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.”15 Let the Jews rage madly, and be filled with jealousy: Stephen be stoned, Saul keep the raiment of them who stone him, Saul, one day to be the Apostle Paul.16 Let Stephen be killed, the Church of Jerusalem dispersed in confusion: out of it go forth burning brands, and spread themselves and spread their flame. For in the Church of Jerusalem, as it were burning brands were set on fire by the Holy Spirit, when they had all one soul, and one heart to God-ward.17 When Stephen was stoned, that pile suffered persecution: the brands were dispersed, and the world was set on fire.
7. And then intent on his furious schemes, that Saul received letters from the chief of the priests, and began his journey in his cruel rage, breathing out slaughter, thirsting for blood, to drag bound and to hurry off to punishment whomsoever he could, and from every quarter that he could, and to satiate himself with the shedding of their blood. But where was God, where was Christ, where He that had crowned Stephen? Where, but in heaven? Let Him now look on Saul, and mock him in his fury, and call froth heaven, “‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?’18 I am in heaven, and thou in earth, and yet thou persecutest Me. Thou dost not touch the body, but my members thou art treading down. Yet what art thou doing? What art thou gaining? ‘It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’ Kick as thou wilt, thou only distressest thyself. Lay aside thy fury then, recover soundness. Lay aside evil counsel, seek after good succour.” By that voice he was struck to the earth. Who was struck to the earth? The persecutor. Lo, by that one word was he overcome. After what wast thou going, after what was thy fury carrying thee? Those whom thou wast seeking out, now thou followest; whom thou wast persecuting, now for them thou sufferest persecution. He rises up the preacher, who was struck to the earth, the persecutor. He heard the Lord’s voice. He was blinded, but in the body only, that he might be enlightened in heart. He was brought to Ananias, catechised on sundry points, baptized, and so came forth an Apostle. Speak then, preach, preach Christ, spread His doctrine, O thou goodly leader of the flock,19 but lately a wolf. See him, mark him, who once was raging. “But for me, God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.”20 Spread the Gospel: scatter with thy mouth what thou hast conceived in thine heart. Let the nations hear, let the nations believe; let the nations multiply, let the Lord’s empurpled spouse spring forth from the blood of Martyrs. And from her how man), have come already, how many members have cleaved to the Head, and cleave to Him still and believe! They were baptized, and others shall be baptized, and after them shall others come. Then I say, at the end of the world shall the stones be joined to the, foundation, living stones, holy stones, that at the end the whole edifice may be built by that Church, yea by this very Church which now sings the new song, while the house is in building. For so the Psalm itself says,” When the house was in building after the captivity;” and what says it, “Sing unto the Lord a new song, sing unto the Lord all the earth.”21 How great a house is this! But when does it sing the new song? When it is in building. When is it dedicated? At the end of the world. Its foundation has been already dedicated, because He hath ascended into heaven, and dieth no more. When we too shall have risen to die no more, then shall we be dedicated.
1 (Lc 24,36
2 Salutatio a salute.
3 (Lc 24,38
4 (Col 3,1 etc.
5 (1Co 15,43
6 (Lc 24,38-40.
7 (Lc 24,41
8 Totus hoc credidit mundus, qui non credidit remansit immundus.
9 (Lc 24,44
10 (Lc 24,44
11 (Lc 24,45
13 (Lc 24,46
14 (Lc 24,47
15 (1Co 3,11
16 (Ac 7,58).
17 (Ac 4,32
18 (Ac 9,4
20 (Ga 6,14
21 (Ps 115,1 Sept. (xcvi. 1, English version).
117 On the words of the gospel, Jn 1,1 “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God,” etc. Against the arians.
1. The section of the Gospel which has been read, most dearly beloved brethren, looketh for the pure eye of the heart. For from John’s Gospel we have understood our Lord Jesus Christ according to His Divinity for the creating of the whole creation, and according to His Humanity for the recovery of the creature fallen. Now in this same Gospel we find what sort and how great a man was John, that from the dignity of the dispenser it may be understood of how great a price is the Word which could be announced by such a man; yea, rather how without price is That which surpasseth all things. For any purchasable thing is either equal to the price, or it is below it, or it exceeds it. When any one procures a thing for as much as it is worth, the price is equal to the thing which is procured; when for less, it is below it; when for more, it exceeds it. But to the Word of God nothing can either be equalled, or to exchange can anything be below It, or above It. For all things can be below the Word of God, for that “all things were made by Him;”1 yet are they not in such wise below, as if they were the price of the Word, that any one should give something to receive That. Yet if we may say so, and if any principle or custom of speaking admit this expression, the price for procuring the Word, is the procurer himself, who will have given himself for himself to This Word. Accordingly when we bay anything we look out for something to give, that for the price we give we may have the thing we wish to buy. And that which we give is without us; and if it was with us before, what we give becomes without us, that that which we procure may be with us. Whatever price the purchaser may find it, it must needs be such as that he gives what he has, and receives what he has not; yet so that he from whom the price goes himself remains, and that for which he gives the price is added to him. But whoso would procure this Word, whoso would have it, let him not seek for anything without himself to give, let him give himself. And when he shall have done this, he doth not lose himself, as he loseth the price when he buys anything.
2. The Word of God then is set forth before all men; let them who can, procure It, and they can who have a godly will. For in That Word is peace; and “peace on earth is to men of good will.”2 So then whoso will procure it, let him give himself. This is as it were the price of the Word, if so it may in any way be said, when he that giveth doth not lose himself, and gaineth the Word for which he giveth himself, and gaineth himself too in the Word to whom he giveth himself. And what giveth he to the Word? Not ought that is any other’s than His, for whom he giveth himself; but what by the Same Word was made, that is given back to Him to be remade; “All things were made by Him.” If all things, then of course man too. If the heaven, and earth, and sea, and all things that are therein, if the whole creation; of course more manifestly he, who being made after the image of God by the Word was made man.
3. I am not now, brethren, discussing how the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”3 can be understood. After an ineffable sort it may be understood; it cannot by the words of man he made to be understood. I am treating of the Word of God, and telling you why It is not understood. I am not now speaking to make It understood, but I tell you what hinders It from being understood. For He is a certain Form, a Form not formed, but the Form of all things formed; a Form unchangeable, without failure, without decay, without thee, without place, surpassing all things, being in all things, as at once a kind of foundation in which they are, and a Head-stone under which they are. If you say that all things are in Him, you lie not. For This Word is called the Wisdom of God; and we have it written, “In Wisdom hast Thou made all things.”4 Lo, then in Him are all things: and yet in that He is God, under Him are all things. I am showing how incomprehensible is what has been read; yet it has been read, not that it should be comprehended by man, but that man should sorrow that he comprehends it not, and find out whereby he is hindered from comprehending, and remove those hindrances, and, himself changed from worse to better, aspire after the perception of the unchangeable Word. For the Word doth not advance or increase by the addition of those who know It; but is Entire, if thou abide; Entire, if thou depart; Entire, when thou dost return; abiding in Itself, and renewing all things. It is then the Form of all things, the Form unfashioned, without thee, as I have said, and without space. For whatsoever is contained in space, is circumscribed. Every form is circumscribed by bounds;it hath limits where-from and whereunto it reaches. Again, what is contained in place, and has extension in a sort of bulk and space, is less in its parts than in the whole. God grant that ye may understand.
4. Now from the bodies which are day by day before our eyes, which we see, which we touch, among which we live, we are able to judge how that every body hath a form in space. Now everything which occupies a certain space, is less in its parts than in its whole. The arm, for instance, is a part of the human body; of course the arm is less than the whole body. And if the arm be less, it occupies a smaller space. So again the head, in that it is a part of the body, is contained in less space, and is less than the whole body of which it is the head. So all things which are in space, are less in their several parts than in the whole. Let us entertain no such idea, no such thought concerningThat Word. Let us not form our conceptionsof spiritual things from the suggestion of the flesh. That Word, That God, is not less in part than in the whole.
5. But thou art not able to conceive of any such thing. Such ignorance is more pious thanpresumptuous knowledge. For we are speakingof God. It is said, “And the Word was God.”5 We are speaking of God; what marvel, if thou do not comprehend? For if thou comprehend, He is not God. Be there a pious confession of ignorance, rather than a rash profession of knowledge. To reach to God in any measure by the mind, is a great blessedness; but to comprehend Him. is altogether impossible. God is an object for the mind, He is to be understood; a body is for the eyes, it is to be seen. But thinkest thou that thou comprehendest a body by the eye? Thou canst not at all. For whatever thou lookest at, thou dost not see the whole. If thou seest a man’s face, thou dost not see his back at the thee thou seest the face; and when thou seest the back, thou dost not at that thee see the face. Thou dost not then so see, as to comprehend; but when thou seest another part which thou hadst not seen before, unless memory aid thee to remember that thou hast seen that from which thou dost withdraw, thou couldest never say that thou hadst comprehended anything even on the surface. Thou handiest what thou seest, turnest it about on this side and that, or thyself dost go round it to see the whole. In one view then thou canst not see the whole. And as long as thou turnest it about to see it, thou art but seeing the parts; and by putting together that thou hast seen the other parts, thou dost fancy that thou seest the whole. But this must not be understood as the sight of the eyes, but the activity of the memory. What then can be said, Brethren, of that Word? Lo, of the bodies which are before our eyes we say they cannot comprehend them by a glance; what eye of the heart then comprehendeth God? Enough that it reach to Him if the eye be pure. But if it reach, it reacheth by a sort of incorporeal and spiritual touch, yet it doth not comprehend; and that, only if it be pure. And a man is made blessed by touching with the heart That which ever abideth Blessed; and that is this Very Everlasting Blessedness, and that Everlasting Life, whereby man is made to live; that Perfect Wisdom, whereby man is made wise; that Everlasting Light, whereby man becomes enlightened. And see how by this touch thou art made what thou wast not, thou dost not make that thou touchest be what it was not before. I repeat it, there grows no increase to God from them that know Him, but to them that know Him, from the knowledge of God. Let us not suppose, dearly beloved Brethren, that we confer any benefit on God, because I have said that we give Him in a manner a price. For we do not give Him aught whereby He can be increased, Who when thou fallest away, is Entire, and when thou returnest, abideth Entire, ready to make Himself seen that He may bless those who turn to Him, and punish those with blindness who turn away. For by this blindness, as the beginning of punishment, doth He first execute vengeance on the soul that turns away from Him. For whoso turns away from the True Light, that is from God, is at once made blind. He is not yet sensible of his punishment, but he hath it already.
6. Accordingly, dearly beloved brethren, let us understand that the Word of God is incorporeally, inviolably, unchangeably, without temporal nativity, yet born of God. Do we think that we can any how persuade certain unbelievers that that is not it, consistent with the truth, which is said by us according to the Catholic faith,which is contrary to the Arians, by whom the Church of God hath been often tried, forasmuchas carnal men receive with greater ease what they have been accustomed to see? For some have dared to say, “The Father is greater than the Son, and precedes Him in thee;” that is, the Father is greater than the Son, and the Son is less than the Father, and is preceded by the Father in thee. And they argue thus; “If He was born, of course the Father was before His Son was born to Him.” Attend; may He be with me, whilst your prayers assist me, andwith godly heed desire to receive what He may give, what He may suggest to me; may He be with me, that I may be able in some sort to explain what I have begun. Yet, brethren, I tell you before I begin, if I shall not be able to explain it, do not suppose that it is the failure of the proof, but of the man. Accordingly I exhortand entreat you to pray; that the mercy of God may be with me, and make the matter be so explained by me, as is meet for you to hear, and for me to speak. They then say thus; “If He be the Son of God, He was born.” This we confess. For He would not be a Son, if He were not born. It is plain, the faith admits it, the Catholic Church approves it, it is truth. They then go on; “If the Son was born to the Father, the Father was before the Son was born to Him.” This the faith rejects, Catholic ears reject it, it is anathematized, whoso entertains this conceit is without, he belongs not to the fellowship and society of the saints. Then says he, “Give me an explanation, how the Son could be born to the Father, and yet be coeval with Him of whom He was born?”
7. And what can we do, brethren, when we are conveying lessons of spiritual things to carnal men; even if so be we ourselves too are not carnal, when we intimate these spiritual truths to carnal then, to men accustomed to the idea of earthly nativities, and seeing the order of these creatures, where succession and departure separates off in age them that beget and them that are begotten? For after the father the son is born, to succeed the father, who in thee of course must die. This do we find in men, this in other animals, that the parents are first, the children after them in thee. Through this custom of observation they desire to transfer carnal things to spiritual, and by their intentness on carnal things are more easily led into error. For it is not the reason of the hearers which follows those who preach such things, but custom which even entangles themselves, that they do preach such things. Anti what shall we do? Shall we keep silence? Would that we might! For perchance by silence something might be thought of worthy of the unspeakable subject. For whatsoever cannot be spoken, is unspeakable. Now God is unspeakable. For if the Apostle Paul saith, that he “was caught up even unto the third heaven, and that he heard unspeakable words;”6 how much more unspeakable is He, who showed such things, which could not be spoken by him to whom they were shown? So then, brethren, if could keep silence, and say, “This is the faith contains; so webelieve; thou art not able to receive it, thou art but a babe; thou must patiently endure till thy wings be grown, lest when thou wouldest fly without wings, it should not be the free7 courseof liberty, but the fill of temerity.” What dothey say against this? “O if he had anything to say, he would say it to me. This is the mereexcuse of one who is at fault. He is overcomeby the truth, who does not choose to answer.” He to whom this is said, if he make no answer, though he be not conquered in himself is yet conquered in the wavering brethren. For the weak brethren hear it, and they think that there is really nothing to be said; and perhaps they think right that there is nothing to be said, yet not that there is nothing to be felt. For a man can express nothing which he cannot also feel; but he may feel something which he cannot express.
8. Nevertheless, saving the unspeakableness of that Sovereign Majesty, test when we shall have produced certain similitudes against them, any one should think that we have by them arrived at that which cannot be expressed or conceived by babes (and if it can be at all even by the more advanced, it can only be in part, only in a riddle, only “through a glass;” but not as yet, “rice to rice”8 ), let us too produce certain similitudes against them, whereby they may be refuted, not “it” comprehended. For when we say that it may very possibly happen, that it may be understood, that He may both be born, and yet Coeternal with Him of whom He was born, in order to refute this, and prove it as it were to be false, they bring forth similitudes against us. From whence? From the creatures, and they say to us, “Every man of course was before he begat a son, he is greater in age than his son; and so a horse was before he begat his foal, and a sheep, and the other animals.” Thus do they bring similitudes from the creatures.
9. What! must we labour too, that we may find resemblances of those things which we are establishing? And what if I should not find any, might I not rightly say, “The Nativity of the Creator hath, it may be, no resemblance of itself among the creatures? For as far as He surpasseth the things which are here, in that He is there, so far doth He surpass the things which are born here, in that He was born there. All things here have their being from God; and yet what is to he compared with God? So all things which are born here, are born by His agency. And so perhaps there is no resemblance of His Nativity found, as there is none found whether of His Substance, Unchangeableness, Divinity, Majesty. For what can be found here like these? If then it chance that no resemblance of His Nativity either be found, am I therefore overwhelmed, because I have not found resemblances to the Creator of all things, when desiring to find in the creature what is like the Creator?”
Augustine on NT 152