The Truth Incarnate

Today, I came across an interesting passage in Augustine’s letter to Volusianus.  This passage is filled with good doctrine and contains some interesting thoughts on secular philosophy.

 

Wherefore the Word of God, who is also the Son of God, co-eternal with the Father, the Power and the Wisdom of God, mightily pervading and harmoniously ordering all things, from the highest limit of the intelligent to the lowest limit of the material creation, revealed and concealed, nowhere confined, nowhere divided, nowhere distended, but without dimensions, everywhere present in His entirety,—this Word of God, I say, took to Himself, in a manner entirely different from that in which He is present to other creatures, the soul and body of a man, and made, by the union of Himself therewith, the one person Jesus Christ, Mediator between God and men, in His deity equal with the Father, in His flesh, i.e. in His human nature, inferior to the Father, —unchangeably immortal in respect of the divine nature, in which He is equal with the Father, and yet changeable and mortal in respect of the infirmity which was His through participation with our nature.

 

In this Christ there came to men, at the time which He knew to be most fitting, and which He had fixed before the world began, the instruction and the help necessary to the obtaining of eternal salvation. Instruction came by Him, because those truths which had been, for men’s advantage, spoken before that time on earth not only by the holy prophets, all whose words were true, but also by philosophers and even poets and authors in every department of literature (for beyond question they mixed much truth with what was false), might by the actual presentation of His authority in human nature be confirmed as true for the sake of those who could not perceive and distinguish them in the light of essential Truth, which Truth was, even before He assumed human nature, present to all who were capable of receiving truth. Moreover, by the fact of His incarnation, He taught this above all other things for our benefit,—that whereas men longing after the Divine Being supposed, from pride rather than piety, that they must approach Him not directly, but through heavenly powers which they regarded as gods, and through various forbidden rites which were not holy but profane,—in which worship devils succeed, through the bond which pride forms between mankind and them, in taking the place of holy angels,—now men might understand that the God whom they were regarding as far removed, and whom they approached not directly but through mediating powers, is actually so very near to the pious longings of men after Him, that He has condescended to take a human soul and body into such union with Himself that this complete man is joined to Him in the same way as the body is joined to the soul in man, excepting that whereas both body and soul have a common progressive development. He does not participate in this growth, because it implies mutability, a property which God cannot assume. Again, in this Christ the help necessary to salvation was brought to men, for without the grace of that faith which is from Him, no one can either subdue vicious desires, or be cleansed by pardon from the guilt of any power of sinful desire which he may not have wholly vanquished. As to the effects produced by His instruction, is there now even an imbecile, however weak, or a silly woman, however low, that does not believe in the immortality of the soul and the reality of a life after death ? Yet these are truths which, when Pherecydes the Assyrian for the first time maintained them in discussion among the Greeks of old, moved Pythagoras of Samos so deeply by their novelty, as to make him turn from the exercises of the athlete to the studies of the philosopher. But now what Virgil said we all behold: ” The balsam of Assyria grows everywhere.”  And as to the help given through the grace of Christ, in Him truly are the words of the same poet fulfilled: ” With Thee as our leader, the obliteration of all the traces of our sin which remain shall deliver the earth from perpetual alarm.”  (The Works of Aurelius Augustine, Vol 13, p. 186-188)

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