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Chapter XVI.—How We are to Explain the Passages of Scripture Which Ascribe to God Human Affections.

Here again arise the cavillers, who say that joy and pain are passions of the soul: for they define joy as a rational elevation and exultation, as rejoicing on account of what is good; and pity as pain for one who suffers undeservedly; and that such affections are moods and passions of the soul. But we, as would appear, do not cease in such matters to understand the Scriptures carnally; and starting from our own affections, interpret the will of the impassible Deity similarly to our perturbations; and as we are capable of hearing; so, supposing the same to be the case with the Omnipotent, err impiously. For the Divine Being cannot be declared as it exists: but as we who are fettered in the flesh were able to listen, so the prophets spake to us; the Lord savingly accommodating Himself to the weakness of men. 2326 Since, then, it is the will of God that he, who is obedient to the commands and repents of his sins should be saved, and we rejoice on account of our salvation, the Lord, speaking by the prophets, appropriated our joy to Himself; p. 364 as speaking lovingly in the Gospel He says, “I was hungry, and ye gave Me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me to drink. For inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these, ye did it to Me.” 2327 As, then, He is nourished, though not personally, by the nourishing of one whom He wishes nourished; so He rejoices, without suffering change, by reason of him who has repented being in joy, as He wished. And since God pities richly, being good, and giving commands by the law and the prophets, and more nearly still by the appearance of his Son, saving and pitying, as was said, those who have found mercy; and properly the greater pities the less; and a man cannot be greater than man, being by nature man; but God in everything is greater than man; if, then, the greater pities the less, it is God alone that will pity us. For a man is made to communicate by righteousness, and bestows what he received from God, in consequence of his natural benevolence and relation, and the commands which he obeys. But God has no natural relation to us, as the authors of the heresies will have it; neither on the supposition of His having made us of nothing, nor on that of having formed us from matter; since the former did not exist at all, and the latter is totally distinct from God unless we shall dare to say that we are a part of Him, and of the same essence as God. And I know not how one, who knows God, can bear to hear this when he looks to our life, and sees in what evils we are involved. For thus it would turn out, which it were impiety to utter, that God sinned in [certain] portions, if the portions are parts of the whole and complementary of the whole; and if not complementary, neither can they be parts. But God being by nature rich in pity, in consequence of His own goodness, cares for us, though neither portions of Himself, nor by nature His children. And this is the greatest proof of the goodness of God: that such being our relation to Him, and being by nature wholly estranged, He nevertheless cares for us. For the affection in animals to their progeny is natural, and the friendship of kindred minds is the result of intimacy. But the mercy of God is rich toward us, who are in no respect related to Him; I say either in our essence or nature, or in the peculiar energy of our essence, but only in our being the work of His will. And him who willingly, with discipline and teaching, accepts the knowledge of the truth, He calls to adoption, which is the greatest advancement of all. “Transgressions catch a man; and in the cords of his own sins each one is bound.” 2328 And God is without blame. And in reality, “blessed is the man who feareth alway through piety.” 2329



[This anthropopathy is a figure by which God is interpreted to us after the intelligible forms of humanity. Language framed by human usage makes this figure necessary to revelation.]


Matt. 25:35, 40.


Prov. v. 22.


Prov. xxviii. 14.

Next: Chapter XVII.—On the Various Kinds of Knowledge.