Continuation of the Holy Gospel According to Matthew
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world
A Message From St. Hilary of Poitiers’ De Trinitate, Book II.
Believers have always found their satisfaction in that Divine utterance, which our ears heard recited from the Gospel at the moment when that Power, which is its attestation, was bestowed upon us: Go now and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world . What element in the mystery of man’s salvation is not included in those words? What is forgotten, what left in darkness? All is full, as from the Divine fulness; perfect, as from the Divine perfection. The passage contains the exact words to be used, the essential acts, the sequence of processes, an insight into the Divine nature. He bade them baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that is with confession of the Creator and of the Only-begotten, and of the Gift. For God the Father is One, from Whom are all things; and our Lord Jesus Christ the Only-begotten, through Whom are all things, is One; and the Spirit, God’s Gift to us, Who pervades all things, is also One. Thus all are ranged according to powers possessed and benefits conferred;—the One Power from Whom all, the One Offspring through Whom all, the One Gilt Who gives us perfect hope. Nothing can be found lacking in that supreme Union which embraces, in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, infinity in the Eternal, His Likeness in His express Image, our enjoyment of Him in the Gift.
When we hear the name Father, is not sonship involved in that Name? The Holy Ghost is mentioned by name; must He not exist? We can no more separate fatherhood from the Father or sonship from the Son than we can deny the existence in the Holy Ghost of that gift which we receive.
It is the Father to Whom all existence owes its origin. In Christ and through Christ He is the source of all. In contrast to all else He is serf-existent. He does not draw His being from without, but possesses it from Himself and in Himself. He is infinite, for nothing contains Him and He contains all things; He is eternally unconditioned by space, for He is illimitable; eternally anterior to time, for time is His creation. Let imagination range to what you may suppose is God’s utmost limit, and you will find Him present there; strain as you will there is always a further horizon towards which to strain. Infinity is His property, just as the power of making such effort is yours. Words will fail you, but His being will not be circumscribed. Or again, turn back the pages of history, and you will find Him ever present; should numbers fail to express the antiquity to which you have penetrated, yet God’s eternity is not diminished. Gird up your intellect to comprehend Him as a whole; He eludes you, God, as a whole, has left something within your grasp, but this something is inextricably involved in His entirety. Thus you have missed the whole, since it is only a part which remains in your hands; nay, not even a part, for you are dealing with a whole which you have failed to divide. For a part implies division, a whole is undivided, and God is everywhere and wholly present wherever He is. Reason, therefore, cannot cope with Him, since no point of contemplation can be found outside Himself and since eternity is eternally His. This is a true statement of the mystery of that unfathomable nature which is expressed by the Name ‘Father:’ God invisible, ineffable, infinite. Let us confess by our silence that words cannot describe Him; let sense admit that it is foiled in the attempt to apprehend, and reason in the effort to define. Yet He has, as we said, in ‘Father’ a name to indicate His nature; He is a Father unconditioned. He does not, as men do, receive the power of paternity from an external source. He is unbegotten, everlasting, inherently eternal. To the Son only is He known, for no one knoweth the Father save the Son and him to whom the Son willeth to reveal Him, nor yet the Son save the Father. Each has perfect and complete knowledge of the Other. Therefore, since no one knoweth the Father save the Son, let our thoughts of the Father be at one with the thoughts of the Son, the only faithful Witness, Who reveals Him to us.
The Son draws His life from that Father Who truly has life; the Only-begotten from the Unbegotten, Offspring from Parent, Living from Living. As the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave He to the Son also to have life in Himself. The Son is perfect from Him that is perfect, for He is whole from Him that is whole. This is no division or severance, for Each is in the Other, and the fulness of the Godhead is in the Son. Incomprehensible is begotten of Incomprehensible, for none else knows Them, but Each knows the Other; Invisible is begotten of Invisible, for the Son is the Image of the invisible God, and he that has seen the Son has seen the Father also. There is a distinction, for They are Father and Son; not that Their Divinity is different in kind, for Both are One, God of God, One God Only begotten of One God Unbegotten. They are not two Gods, but One of One; not two Unbegotten, for the Son is born of the Unborn. There is no diversity, for the life of the living God is in the living Christ. So much I have resolved to say concerning the nature of their Divinity not imagining that I have succeeded in making a summary of the faith, but recognising that the theme is inexhaustible. So faith, you object, has no service to render, since there is nothing that it can comprehend. Not so; the proper service of faith is to grasp and confess the truth that it is incompetent to comprehend its Object.
We have the appointment of the Father’s will. The Virgin, the birth, the Body, then the Cross, the death, the visit to the lower world; these things are our salvation. For the sake of mankind the Son of God was born of tile Virgin and of the Holy Ghost. In this process He ministered to Himself; by His own power—the power of God—which overshadowed her He sowed the beginning of His Body, and entered on the first stage of His life in the flesh. He did it that by His Incarnation He might take to Himself from the Virgin the fleshly nature, and that through this commingling there might come into being a hallowed Body of all humanity; that so through that Body which He was pleased to assume all mankind might be hid in Him, and He in return, through His unseen existence, be reproduced in all. Thus the invisible Image of God scorned not the shame which marks the beginnings of human life. He passed through every stage; through conception, birth, wailing, cradle and each successive humiliation.
What worthy return can we make for so great a condescension? The One Only-begotten God, ineffably born of God, entered the Virgin’s womb and grew and took the frame of poor humanity. He Who upholds the universe, within Whom and through Whom are all things, was brought forth by common childbirth; He at Whose voice Archangels and Angels tremble, and heaven and earth and all the elements of this world are melted, was heard in childish wailing. The Invisible and Incomprehensible, Whom sight and feeling and touch cannot gauge, was wrapped in a cradle. If any man deem all this unworthy of God, the greater must he own his debt for the benefit conferred the less such condescension befits the majesty of God. He by Whom man was made had nothing to gain by becoming Man; it was our gain that God was incarnate and dwelt among us, making all flesh His home by taking upon Him the flesh of One. We were raised because He was lowered; shame to Him was glory to us. He, being God, made flesh His residence, and we in return are lifted anew from the flesh to God.
Let us hear from our Lord’s own words what is the work of the Holy Ghost within us. He says, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. For it is expedient for you that I go: if I go I will send you the Advocate. And again, I will ask the Father and He shall send you another Advocate, that He may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth. He shall guide you nto all truth, for He shall not speak from Himself, but whatsoever things He shall hear He shall speak, and He shall declare unto you the things that are to come. He shall glorify Me, for He shall take of Mine. These words were spoken to show how multitudes should enter the kingdom of heaven; they contain an assurance of the goodwill of the Giver, and of the mode and terms of the Gift. They tell how, because our feeble minds cannot comprehend the Father or the Son, our faith which finds God’s incarnation hard of credence shall be illumined by the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Bond of union and the Source of light.
The next step naturally is to listen to the Apostle’s account of the powers and functions of this Gift. He says, As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God. For ye received not the Spirit of bondage again unto fear, but ye received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father; and again, For no man by the Spirit of God saith anathema to Jesus, and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit; and he adds, Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, and diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord, and diversities of workings, but the same God, Who worketh all things in all. But to each one is given the enlightenment of the Spirit, to profit withal. Now to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith in the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings in the One Spirit, to another workings of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh the One and same Spirit. Here we have a statement of the purpose and results of the Gift; and I cannot conceive what doubt can remain, after so clear a definition of His Origin, His action and His powers.
Let us therefore make use of this great benefit, and seek for personal experience of this most needful Gift. For the Apostle says, in words I have already cited, But we have not received the spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know tire the things that are given unto us by God. We receive Him, then, that we may know. Faculties of the human body, if denied their exercise, will lie dormant. The eye without light, natural or artificial, cannot fulfill its office; the ear will be ignorant of its function unless some voice or sound be heard; the nostrils unconscious of their purpose unless some scent be breathed. Not that the faculty will be absent, because it is never called into use, but that there will be no experience of its existence. So, too, the soul of man, unless through faith it have appropriated the gift of the Spirit, will have the innate faculty Of apprehending God, but be destitute of the light of knowledge, That Gift, which is in Christ, is One, yet offered, and offered fully, to all; denied to none, and given to each according to the measure of his willingness to receive; its stores the richer, the more earnest the desire to earn them. This gift is with us unto the end of the world, the solace of our waiting, the assurance, by the favours which He bestows, of the hope that shall be ours, the light of our minds, the sun of our souls. This Holy Spirit we must seek and must earn, and then hold fast by faith and obedience to the commands of God.