Philoxenus, Ascetic Discourse (1894) pp.23-48. Discourse 2 -- On Faith
[P. 26] THE SECOND DISCOURSE: WHICH TEACHETH WHICH IS THE FIRST COMMANDMENT THAT THE MAN WHO DRAWETH NIGH TO THE DISCIPLESHIP OF CHRIST SHOULD LAY HOLD UPON.
Whosoever wisheth to draw nigh in systematic order to the life and conduct of the discipleship of Christ before all things it is meet that he should within himself lay hold upon sure faith, which maketh certain that God is, and enquireth not; which holdeth His words to be sure; and seeketh not to investigate His nature; which hearkeneth to His words, and judgeth not His deeds and actions. For faith maketh [man] believe God in everything that He speaketh without requiring testimonies and proofs of the certainty of His word, the certain proof that it is God Who speaketh being sufficient for him. Signs and testimonies and proofs are demanded when it is man who doeth or sayeth anything, but when it is God Himself who speaketh, and the Lord of the universe Who sayeth that He will perform [it], it is necessary for us to believe, it being sufficient for the persuading of our faith that it is God Himself Who speaketh and will perform. And man hath not the power to judge His will; for how can [p. 27] man who hath been made judge the will of Him that created him? For as the vessel cannot chide the handicraftsman and [ask] why he hath thus formed it, |24 or judge any of his works, so also is it with man who is a rational vessel, and he hath no power to chide with the Workman Who made him. And although man possesseth the speech of knowledge it was not given to him to judge the will of Him that made him, but that he might be a panegyrist of the knowledge which formed him; for the rational man is farther removed from the power of scrutinizing His Creator, than is the speechless vessel from the power of criticising him that made it. For the giving of thanks have we received speech from God our Creator, and in order that we may admire His created things hath He placed in us thoughts of knowledge. That we may perceive Him He hath made us to possess a sense of wisdom, and that we may receive a foretaste of His gracious acts hath He placed within our soul the sense of discernment. That we may see Him in His works He hath given to us the eye of faith which can see deeply into His secret things. God is too great to be investigated by the thoughts, and His dispensation surpasseth the seeking out of speech. And with His nature go also His works: for as His nature is inscrutable so also the deeds and actions of His nature cannot be sought out. And His will and wish cannot be judged, either for what reason hath He willed thus, or for what reason hath He done thus; for as He cannot be judged by us as to why He hath made us in this form, and why He hath formed us, and placed us in the world in this order of constitution, so also none of His wishes can be found fault with by us, either as to why He willed thus, [p. 28] or why He performed.
"He that would draw nigh to God is bound to believe that He is, and [that] to those who seek Him He |25 will be a rewarder;" 1 this law hath Paul committed to the man who wisheth to draw nigh to God, and this obligation of rewarding [him] is laid upon God. He must believe only that God is, and whosoever believeth that He is, from what time and in what manner [He existeth] he will not enquire. So also is it with His will, if he heareth [it], and His word, and His doctrine; that it is the will of God Himself he will be sure, and the voice and commandment of God he will hearken unto and believe. That he should judge why, and in what form, and for what reason [He is] thus is the insolent investigation of the soul which hath not perceived God.
It is meet for every man that would draw nigh to God that he should possess the mind of a child; and as a child is towards his father and mother, so should he be towards God and towards His dispensation. And as the child receiveth instruction from his master without searching into his words or examining his doctrine, and without judging in his thoughts that which he teacheth him—for he hath not sufficient ability in his own thoughts to be a judge of what he heareth—so also is it meet for the man to be towards God, neither enquiring into Him with his words, nor judging His deeds and actions in secret thoughts; for he is a child, and like a child he should incline his ear unto His instruction, and receive it with faith. And it was also for this reason that God gave birth to us a second time, that He might teach us that we were children [p. 29] and infants of the world born unto faith, for the womb which gave us birth — that is, |26 baptism in which the Spirit is mingled—has been made the means. Now we have been born in faith, and as the natural child who is born from the womb existeth wholly in natural simplicity and knoweth nothing of the world, and seeketh not to know, and enquireth not, and thinketh not, and speaketh not, except that he moveth only with the living motions of nature, being remote from all power of the mind, so also this child, of the Spirit, who hath been brought forth by the womb of baptism instead of by the natural womb, is not bound to enquire concerning Him that begot him while he listeneth to His words with sincerity, and he should become like a child to His doctrine, accepting [His] commands and drawing not nigh to enquire into them. And as that natural child learneth the names of the things of the world without understanding their power, so also let [the child of the Spirit] accept the names and words, and God shall give him the secret of understanding them. For in respect of that knowledge we are children and infants compared to the unspeakable wisdom of God, and thus also are we called by the word of our Redeemer, [Who said], "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and restrain them not, for of those who are like these is the kingdom of God".2 And again in another place He said, "Whosoever will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter into it."3
For as is the faith of little children in respect of the things of [this] world, so is it meet [p. 30] that our faith should be towards the words which are spoken to us by God, because thus is also the child |27 towards the word which he heareth from his father, and everything which is promised to him by him he believeth without doubt that he will give him and that he will not fail in his word, and he doth not question him; he doth not first make investigations concerning it, and test its power, and attack its trustworthiness, and then accept it. And if the thing which hath been promised unto him be too great for the power of his father [to perform] he knoweth not how to distinguish it, but everything which he saith to him he accepteth from him directly and doubteth not. And if he seeth purple raiment upon a king's son, or the crown which is placed upon his head, he asketh his father to give them to him, and he believeth in the sincerity of his mind that he will give them to him, for concerning him he thinketh that he is able to do everything. And if he seeth a snake or a scorpion he doth not hesitate to stretch out his hand towards them in his simplicity, and he biddeth his father or his mother to give them to him, and he also maketh known the desire of his simplicity by his weeping [if they give them not to him]; and his constant importunity concerning them, and his cries, and his tears, testify that he asketh [for them] with all the power of his nature, believing that the power of his father is able to resist the injuries of the harmful reptile, and he hath no doubt whatever in his soul that that which he desireth can be given to him. Therefore after this type of children did our Lord command that all those who would receive His kingdom should become, believing and holding to be sure the promises of God unto them like children. For our Lord proclaimed and revealed His kingdom to corporeal beings, and said, [p. 31] "Repent ye, for the |28 kingdom of heaven hath drawn nigh."4 Thou hast heard the voice of him that proclaimed concerning His kingdom, believe it then undoubtingly, especially since thou hast learned that it is the voice of God. Meditate not in thy soul how this kingdom can be, and try not to search out these spiritual countries in thy imagination; take not upon thyself the customary habit of the thoughts of the body when thou hearest of incorporeal, countries, and fashion not imaginary forms out of thy heart concerning these glorious mansions which the Ascension of the Son hath prepared [for thee]; and think not to order in thy knowledge that which the knowledge of God hath fashioned aforetime. Thou wast not called to search out the kingdom, neither its preparation nor construction, but only to be an heir and a guest, that thou mightest enjoy thyself out of the overflowing abundance of its spiritual delights. Thou hast heard the word concerning the kingdom which Jesus speaketh to thee, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven hath drawn nigh;" to thee He hath said, "Repent," and not that thou shouldst be one who should try to examine into the kingdom, for that is near unto thee if thou wilt draw nigh unto it. Now the drawing nigh unto the kingdom cannot be arrived at by the questionings of these words which enquire, "How, and in what manner, and what the kingdom is like;" but let each of us keep the laws of the kingdom, and perform the commandments which have been committed unto us by the Ruler of the kingdom.
All these things by faith thou hast heard concerning God, that He is from everlasting [p. 32] and world |29 without end, and that He existeth in His own being, and that He hath not come into being from any other substance; and that He is not One Person, but a Nature, existing of Itself, which is believed and confessed in Three Persons. And moreover, the word of faith teacheth thee to be certain concerning the Persons, that He Who begot cannot be divided, and that He Who was born cannot be separated,5 but the Father together with His Son is everlastingly and eternally of like nature with the Holy Spirit. That they exist is all that thou [needest] to confess. How, and from what time, or in what manner, and to what limit, and with what form and order, and what is their likeness, and how they can be Three not being divided from each other, and how it is that since they are in each other they are called Three, and how the Son can have been born since He hath not been separated from the Father, and how the Father begot him since He hath not gone forth from Him, and how it is that having been in existence from everlasting and world without end they are not described as Three Beings— these things and others which are like unto them are accepted by faith, and without faith man is not able to hear them [and believe them]. Even the ordinary hearing is not able to bear them unless faith be found to precede them and to accept them.
And thus also is it in respect of the spiritual natures and orders of celestial beings, and it is faith which maketh it possible to receive every word which is spoken concerning them; [p. 33] for otherwise there must necessarily be unbelief, since the Book calleth them |30 "absolute spiritual beings" [in one place], and in another it speaketh of them as "compacted bodies," to which it attributeth forms which are different from each other. Concerning the Seraphim 6 we are told by the word of the Book [that they have] wings and faces, and concerning the Cherubim 7 [we are told that they have] other forms which are different from each other; which of these statements are we to accept as true? for according to the outward hearing of the word each contradicts the other. The statement that they are spirits we believe, the statement that they are compacted bodies we hold to be true, the statement that their construction consisteth of forms of different kinds we accept; and we receive them all by faith, because it hath been said by God that their [four] sides were "living animals" [which] were "full of eyes as they turned round." 8 And by this word He hath taught us that the whole of the spiritual nature can see, and that all of it can hear, and that all of it can perceive, and that all of it can think, and that all of it can put things to the test,9 and that all of it can understand, and that all of it can desire with the desire of its nature; and it doth not hear with one member and not with another, or see with one and not with another, but the whole of it is hearing, and the whole of it is seeing, and everything which it is that it is wholly. And its hearing is not disturbed by its vision when with the member with which it heareth it [also] seeth, or when with that with which it thinketh it also tasteth; and we believe them to be undisturbed and undestroyed by each other. |31
Now in respect of compacted bodily natures which have been discovered to be the opposites of these spiritual beings, in that they hear with one [member], and see with another, and taste with another, and smell with another, and feel with another, and think with another, contrary to the constitution of their members the movement of their passions maketh division; [p. 34] but above, with these spiritual natures, each one of them is wholly and entirely one thing in all his motions, and his members—head, and feet, and hands, and face, and back, and front, and length, and breadth, and colour, and forms which are different from each other—are not separated. For in these natures there is not the composition of these members, and it happeneth not that because there is no eye there is no vision of the eye, or that because there is no ear there is no hearing of the ear, or that because there is no bodily palate they have no [power of] tasting spiritual things, or that because they have no wings they cannot fly, or that because they have no legs they cannot move about, or that because they have none of the members of the heart they cannot think; but they possess all the service of the members, although they have no compacted members. And how the operation of the members is established without the members themselves we have no power in our own knowledge to understand; but by this [power) which is given to us by God, I mean faith, we understand these things, and although they do not at all fall under the investigation of the human thoughts they are accepted by us without any doubt. For from faith we learn this [fact] that they exist, and not they only, but also the Being Who existeth of Himself, their Creator, by faith we accept that He is. |32
The stablishing of all our instruction (or doctrine) is in faith, for although the appearance and march of things teacheth and maketh understanding men wise concerning [p. 35] their Creator, yet faith should precede even this, for behold, because there was no faith this became a lie unto many. And to speak briefly, everything which is of the spirit, and the whole world of spiritual beings, faith seeth and faith perceiveth. If we do not take faith within our soul we shall understand nothing outside of that which can be seen. To [understand] these things which are seen faith is unnecessary because the vision of the eye seeth them, for they are corporeal in their nature, and man looketh at them corporeally; but the whole world of the spirit is perceived by faith, and it seems as if that world could not exist if there were no faith.
Observe then how great is the power of faith, for all the spiritual things which are would, without it, be as if they existed not; and not only living works or spiritual countries, but that Being which is, would be, if we had no faith, as if He existed not For this reason Paul looked upon the mystery of our doctrine, and said, "He that would draw nigh to God is bound to believe that He 10 is;" he commanded the disciple [first] to take faith upon himself, and then to draw nigh to the discipleship of Christ. For Paul knew that the spiritual nature could not fall under the bodily senses, and that it could not be known, for not even one of the bodily senses [p. 36] could subjugate it, and for this reason he commanded us in his doctrine to believe only that He is. Now the Creator divided the whole |33 of the corporeal nature into five kinds; one may be seen, another may be heard, another may be smelled, another may be perceived, and another may be touched; and He gave to man five senses with which he might be sensible of the world in its multitudinous varieties. Therefore, outside these five senses which I have enumerated a man can neither perceive anything of the corporeal world, nor doth the world exist to him outside these senses. And the remainder of everything which is spiritual, whether it be that which existeth of itself or whether it be things which are created, cannot be subjected to one of these five forms, neither can it be experienced by [any] one of these five senses. And for this reason also when our Lord gave us this blessing of perceiving Him, He delivered unto us first of all faith, with which we might perceive Him, and then He revealed to us concerning Himself, and for this reason the blessed Paul said 11 that "Faith [cometh] from the hearing of the ear, and the hearing of the ear from the word of God." By the hearing of the word of God Paul taught us to receive faith, and although faith hath been implanted in our construction by God our Creator, yet hath it been corrupted and changed from faith to error, and after the manner of that natural wisdom which hath also been given to us in our construction we have changed it, and instead of the wisdom of God we have gathered together the wisdom of [this] world with it. And something else which is external to God through the wisdom of God have we changed, [p. 37] even as Paul saith, "Through the wisdom of God the world knew not the wisdom of God." 12 |34
And thus also hath the natural faith which is in us been turned into error, and these things which have been given to us by the Creator for [our] advantage have been found by us to be a loss, for we have changed their profitable orderings, and we have made use of them in a manner other than that for which they were designed. Our faith hath believed in what is unseemly, and our wisdom hath made acquaintance, with what is not befitting; for where faith was unnecessary there have we made use of faith. For what the eye of the body saw, and what all the bodily senses perceived, that thing was understood to be something else by our faith, and we expected one thing in the place of another. And because of all this the ordering of the faith which was implanted in us by the Creator hath been destroyed, the word of God hath been implanted in us a second time, and the power which is in us hath been stirred up by the doctrine of Christ; for this reason He urgeth with all His words, high and low, that faith should be in us, saying, "Verily I say unto you if there be in you faith like a grain of mustard seed ye shall say to this mountain, Remove hence; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be too difficult for you."13
He taught us by faith that nothing should be too difficult for us, and according to this everything can be overcome by the power of faith, according to the command (or decision) of the word of Christ. For by faith signs took place, and wonderful deeds were wrought, and mighty works were completed, [p. 38] and things worthy of admiration were accomplished. |35 Everything which is above nature faith alone performeth, whether it be the raising of the dead, or the healing of the sick, or the curing of those who are smitten with disease, or the cleansing of lepers, or the opening of the eyes of the blind, or the making the lame to walk, or the making sound and stablishing of all the other members of the body, or the making to speak those having impediments, or the making the deaf to hear, or the driving away of devils : all these faith perfecteth. By faith a mountain removeth from its place, by faith the sea and rivers have been crossed on foot, and by the power of faith all natural things have been obedient to the voice of man. And to speak briefly, faith giveth the power of God to man, for when he hath once believed, everything that he wisheth he doeth by the power of faith. Faith changeth feebleness of the body into its own mightiness, and the despicable order of man it maketh into the audible command of God. Faith looketh upon something which existeth not as if it were something which doth exist, and that which existeth it accounteth as if it existed not. And this also is an example of the power of God, concerning Whom Paul spake, "He calleth the things that are not as though they were." 14 And the Prophet said, "He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers;" 15 and again, "He looketh on the earth and it trembleth; He rebuketh the mountains, and they smoke." 16 And again the prophet Isaiah saith, [p. 39] "All the nations are accounted as nothing by Him." 17 Now these things the Spirit of God spake |36 concerning the power of God, that those things which were not He called to come into existence, and that what did exist He called and changed into nothing. To this power also He compareth faith, not only in that matter of [the working] of signs and wonderful things, in that the things which are not it worketh after the manner of God, and those which are it bringeth to an end and finisheth by the power of God, but also in that those things which, because of their being hidden, were accounted as if they existed not, were perceived by it as if they were manifest, and those which are, and in which we labour, and by which we are ministered unto, are accounted as if they existed not, for [faith] saw aforetime their dissolution. And although their nature was not to pass away, it made them pass away; and although they existed, it dissolved them; and although they were visible, they were to it invisible; and although their delights could be experienced, they were as nothing to it; and although all created things were to run, to faith they would be at rest. When it seeth death it maketh not sure that it is death, and riches are accounted poverty by it, and everything which is in the world or is even of the nature of the world it looketh upon as if it existed not, because its course is about to be annulled, and its affairs to cease. The things which are remote and afar off, it bringeth and placeth near in front of it, and it looketh upon them face to face; and without a covering (or vail) it looketh upon all secret things and regardeth all things that are hidden. To the sight [p. 40] of the body the kingdom of heaven is afar off, yet the eye of faith regardeth it; these mansions in the house of the Father, which are remote according to the body, hath |37 faith already dwelt in. That spiritual light shineth in its country gloriously, and faith hath already walked therein and gazed upon it. The apparel of our glory is in heaven, but faith hath already put it on. Our spiritual riches and possessions are there, and our faith receiveth therefrom and giveth away. Our true city is in heaven, and faith henceforth dwelleth therein. Our race, and family, and parents are in that country, and faith speaketh with them, and is in conversation with them always. The table of our happiness is there set, and faith rejoiceth thereat continually. The spring of life from which we drink there floweth, and faith at all times drinketh therefrom. The powers of life and ranks of light are in the country of life, and faith glorieth with them.
And why should I speak concerning things which, although they be glorious, are externals, and although they be mighty and worthy of wonder, have been newly constituted? If they are remote from us now by reason of their hiddenness, yet are we about to draw nigh unto them when we have become [beings] of the spirit according to the ordering of their country. And what shall we say concerning these things? Wherever is the self-existent Nature of God, Who is remote and afar off from everything, He is near to faith; and however remote He may be He is not remote from it; and however far off He may be He is not far off from it; and although He be away beyond everything [p. 41] yet is He near to faith; and although He be within all rational things and inarticulate things, and in things which have life and in things which feel not, wherever He may be, there is faith with Him. For this is the nature of the vision of faith; |38 what cannot be seen it seeth; what cannot be known it kopweth; what cannot be perceived it perceiveth; and what is illimitably afar off it seeth and becometh nigh thereunto. And however minute, and concealed, and hidden, and spiritual, and exalted, and unutterable be that natural thing which faith seeketh to see, the more triumphant is its vision of it. Now on those things which are very great faith is wont to seize and, show her [power] of investigation, for it is accounted by her a disgrace to remain with small things, and to be held back to created things, and therefore she passeth through everything and is detained by nothing, except by the Creator. The capacity of creatures is not able to bear and to grasp the power of faith, for not one of them can believe therein, and if it believeth therein [it thinketh] that faith is a created thing, and not that it is self-existent; now the trial thereof can only be made in God; for it casteth everything away and setteth all natural things upon one side, and doth itself draw nigh to the Creator. For faith mak-eth to pass away the things which now exist, and it bringeth on those which are about to come into existence. Faith is the tongue of God, and faith is the command of the Creator. Faith commandeth, and like God it is obeyed in every thing; [p. 42] it beckoneth, and all creation respondeth to it. And the power of God is the power of faith, because the power of faith is derived from God. Faith is the mistress of created things, and as a mistress who giveth orders to her handmaids and is obeyed by them, even so faith commandeth all creation, and it obeyeth her. And it is a marvellous thing that not only are created things obedient unto faith, but even the Creator Himself resisteth |39 not her will; whatsoever she seeketh she receiveth, and whatsoever she asketh from Him He giveth to her, and [when] she calleth to Him He answereth her.
The door of the Giver is opened to the petitions of faith, even as He said, "Whatsoever ye shall ask, not being doubtful, ye shall receive." 18 In the house of God faith giveth her commands like a mistress of wealth and a ruler of possessions. The mystery of faith is a wonderful and exalted thing, and no man is able to fathom its mystery; and it is so great that it is a place of habitation for God. Faith is that which is not a name only, nor is it even voice or speech; but it is that which sheweth itself by the true examination of the soul, and by the sure and certain stability of the thoughts, and it denieth not itself, but in this respect also it is to be compared with God, concerning Whom Paul saith, "He cannot deny Himself." 19 Thus also is it with the faith which denieth not itself, which bringeth not doubt upon itself, upon which no suspicion falleth, and whose power fear reacheth not. Everything that it wisheth, it doeth, and whatsoever it seeketh is given unto it.
[p. 43] The man who would draw nigh unto God is bound to lay hold upon faith in his soul, for faith hath no thoughts which dissolve one the other, neither hath it opinions which annul each other. Faith retracteth not what it doeth and sayeth, and it blameth not itself when once it hath spoken and asked for what it desireth. And as in God there can be no repentance concerning anything which He doeth and speaketh, even so there ariseth no repentance in faith concerning |40 whatsoever it doeth, so that in this respect it is to be likened unto God. Faith is a command, and its command ruleth; it prayeth with confidence, and according to its confidence its prayer is straightway perfected into works. There are instances in which faith doth not even offer up prayer and then give a command concerning something; but it speaketh with authority like unto God. And as there is nothing which is able to resist the command of God, so also can nothing resist the command of faith. There are instances in which faith prayeth and in which it revealeth itself in its prayer; and there are instances in which while it prayeth not it giveth the command authoritatively, and it is answered. Elijah did not pray before Ahab and then was heard, but the faith which was in him gave the command authoritatively, and what he commanded immediately stood firm. And his word had more power over all natures and created things than the command of a king concerning the provinces of his dominion. "As the Lord, the mighty One, liveth, before Whom I stand this day, there shall not be rain or dew these three years until I speak." 20 It is not written that he prayed [first], and then spake, but immediately creation heard his word it bowed itself under the nod of his command. [p. 44] All things hearkened unto the command of a mortal man as if it had been the word of God. The clouds were obedient unto him, he called the earth and it answered him, he commanded the air, and it did not appear in its variable forms. All creation became a submissive handmaid before the word of Elijah's faith, and, although disturbed by the |41 command which her mistress had spoken to her, [nevertheless] ministered thereunto.
And in another place, concerning the captains of the hosts who went up to bring him down with the others who were with them, it is written that he commanded and spake with Godlike authority, and the fire of God came down from heaven and burnt them all up. "If I be a prophet, as thou sayest, let fire come down from heaven and consume thee and the fifty who are with thee," 21 and straightway and without delay, the fire descended from heaven upon the unclean, and it burnt into them as it came down, and to the word of the prophet there was actual fulfilment.
Now in other places it is written that faith prayed and was afterwards heard, according to that which is written, "And he bowed himself, and put his face between his knees, and he sent his disciple to look by the way of the sea".22 And again when he raised the widow's son, he prayed, and prostrated himself,23 and then raised him. And in this prayer also faith made its appearance. For if he had not believed that he could raise him, he would not have taken the boy from his mother, and have carried him up [to his chamber] and have cast him upon the bed. And again also he commanded his disciple [p. 45] with authority, saying, "Ask whatsoever thou wishest, and I will give it to thee before I am taken from thee;" 24 and according to what the disciple asked and the master commanded, the Spirit ministered in very deed, and bestowed the gift upon Elisha.
Now when he was offering up sacrifices on Mount |42 Carmel in the sight of Ahab and of all Israel, "Answer me, Lord, answer me, Lord," he cried out, "that all this people may know that thou art the Lord, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done everything by Thy command;" 25 and until he had prayed he was not answered and no fire came down. And the reason why in one case they prayed, and in another gave commands with authority is manifest; in the one their feebleness was apparent, and in the other the power of God towards them was revealed. For while they were praying and making entreaty they appeared like the feeble children of men; but while they were giving commands and being obeyed without prayer, it was recognized that it was the power of God which was with their command. In the one place they spoke like children of men, and in the other like the servants of God, that is to say like gods of flesh, for the faith which was in them made them heavenly gods. And in this respect also they are to be compared to Christ God, who in some cases wrought things like a Being of power, and in others He [first] entreated and afterwards worked. He did not raise Lazarus until He had prayed;26 He did not bless the bread and distribute it to the multitudes until He had looked up to heaven;27 and He did not give the command for the ears of the deaf man to be opened until He had spit, and laid His fingers upon his ears, [p. 46] and looked up to heaven.28 Others, however, He healed by a command of power, without either looking up to heaven or asking His Father. For by a command of power He raised |43 up the young man, the son of the widow;29 with a word He called to the daughter of the chief of the congregation and straightway she stood up;30 He commanded the sea31 and it was silent, and the wind and it was stilled; He spake 32 only, "Fill the water pots with water and draw out and bear to the governor of the feast," and created matter delayed not [to do] His will. "I say unto thee," He spake to the dumb spirit,33 and immediately it departed from the man. "I will, be thou clean," He spake to the leper,34 and as He willed, straightway the leprosy fled from his body.
For in this manner Jesus also wrought marvellous things, so that He might also bring Himself down to those whom, by His grace, He called, His "brethren"; and that it might not be grievous unto them that they were not answered until they had prayed He humbled Himself and prayed, and was afterwards answered. For the Lord took upon Himself equality with His servants in order that that which is written might be fulfilled, "In everything it was meet that He should be like unto His brethren."35 He gave unto them dominion that they might speak with authority, and be answered, so that by this they might be known to be the servants of God; and He gave boldness to faith that it might do everything that it wished. Thus also with power did Joshua, the son of Nun, command the sun and the moon, and they were restrained, [p. 47] and each of them stood still in its course. Joshua stretched out his hand and |44 spake 36 with the power of faith, saying, "Thou sun, tarry in Gibeon, and thou moon, in the valley of Ajalon;" and the sun was restrained, and the moon stood until the people had taken vengeance upon its enemies.
And why should I speak concerning the prophets [only] in the case of a nation in the whole of which—together with women and children—faith showed forth such mighty triumphs as these? For faith, as it had-been commanded, cried out, and the walls 37 [of Jericho] were not able to stand against its voice. In every place faith manifested such triumphs as these, and it worked marvellous things in all the Holy Books. He that hath perceived the power of faith, and hath had experience thereof in very deed, knoweth that it wrought these things, and he believeth also that it doeth [still] such things as these.
Therefore, O thou who wishest to become a disciple of God, do thou also get faith, the mistress of all possessions. Let this thing be to thee the beginning of thy instruction, and lay it as the foundation of the building of thy tower, in such a way that if it were to seize the height of heaven it would not fall, for the edifice of faith is its foundation, which cannot be shaken by waves and winds. And Jesus also set this faith [as] a foundation by the hand of Simon,38 and as our Lord made it the beginning, so also is it meet that the disciple, who would draw nigh to discipleship in systematic order, should first of all begin with it. Faith Jesus made the foundation of the whole Church, do thou also lay the foundation for thine own rule and manner of life therewith. He built thereupon excellent rules |45 of life and conduct for the whole world, and do thou [p. 48] build upon it thine own triumphs and order of life. He laid it out as a foundation for all the generations of the world after His coming, and do thou make it the beginning of thy life which is in God. See then how great faith is, in that it is sufficient to bear all children of men!
And Jesus also made faith the foundation of the edifice of the Church because He saw aforetime its invincible might, its unconquerable assurance, its never-diminishing strength, its irreproachable triumph, its power which cannot be overthrown, its unenfeebled strength, its irresistible command, its decree of judgment which never turneth back, its never-failing word, and its dominion which can never fall into contempt. This faith, the mistress of triumphant deeds, did Jesus make the foundation of the Church, and the beginning of the building of His holy Body, that He might teach all men to begin therewith, and that the disciple might make it the foundation of all his rule and conduct of life. It was not set by Him to be the foundation of the Church to show its power only, but also to teach every man who might wish to begin to build the new edifice of his discipleship to make it the beginning [thereof], and in all other parts of the building it will support and raise up the mansions of the virtues. For not one fine stone can go up to the building of this tower, unless faith carrieth it up, and there is no life in any of the limbs of good deeds [p. 49] unless the life of faith be in them. And as, without the life of the soul, all the members of the body are dead, so without the life of faith all the deeds and acts of righteousness are dead. And as the members live through the soul so do works live through faith. And as |46 although the members of the body may be healthy and sound, yet so long as the soul is not m them they are useless, and their beauty and healthiness profit them nothing, so although a man may be sound in the running [of the race] of righteousness, and work strenuously in his rule and conduct of life, as long as faith be not in the members of his works, his service is in vain. And as all the members receive feeling from the life of the soul, for through the life thereof each one of them moveth in the ordering of its nature, and in the service which appertaineth thereto—the eye to see, the ear to hear, the palate to taste, the nostrils to draw breath, the hand to touch, the feet to walk—and the whole body moveth and worketh, and trembleth with the movements of life in every form through the service of all its members, so also in this manner are the members of the works of righteousness, and as long as the life of faith be not in them they are dead and useless.
For fasting is not fasting if faith be not therewith, and alms are accounted nothing if they be not given in faith; [p. 50] neither is loving-kindness anything if faith be not therewith. The life of the Nazarite and ascetic is nothing unless faith be mingled therewith, and humility and subjection are nothing unless faith supporteth them, and painful seclusion is nothing if faith be not therewith; for the blessing of faith is not mingled therein, neither is it accounted a blessing, and the name of righteousness which is not mingled with faith perisheth, and its labours are in vain. For as the shadow of the body is not called the body, and as the shadow of the hand or foot is not called by the name of one of the members, so also the body of |47 righteousness in which there existeth not the life of faith cannot be called the body, nor can fasting be called fasting, or self-denial and asceticism be called by the names of true members. Without faith they all are a shadow and a dead body; and they cannot be spoken of as a true body, for they stand in suspicion, and they toil in a strange vineyard. And faith is the hedge [which protecteth] the plants of the commandments of Christ, and every plant which is found inside this hedge belongeth to Christ, and is planted in His vineyard, and those plants which are outside this hedge are called wild plants, which either bear no fruit at all, or if they bear any, the wild beast trampleth down and the birds of the air destroy it; and if it come to pass that they remain they are parched, and the sweetness of food is not in them.
This is the vineyard [p. 51] for which the master of the house hired labourers, and every one whom he saw standing outside he accounted idle, and persuaded him to work in his vineyard. By faith the good things which have been discovered may be preserved, and by faith those things which are not [in us] may be acquired. For faith gathereth treasure together, and preserveth riches; it layeth up wealth and, preserveth it. Faith is the foundation and the architect, and faith is laid out under the structure of the building, and it mounteth up therewith. Faith formeth the members, and faith maketh them to live. Faith planteth the plants of the spirit, and faith tilleth the plants of the spirit. Faith is the hedge [round about] the plants, and faith is the fountain which watereth them. Faith giveth birth, and faith is the nurse. Faith is the body, and faith is the soul which is in the body. Faith |48 scattereth seed, and faith reapeth and gathereth in the crops. Faith planteth the trees, and faith plucketh and carrieth in the fruit thereof. Faith is everything, for faith is sufficient to be everything.
Therefore, O disciple, lay hold upon this faith, and in this sure thing be strong and slacken not; and whatsoever thou believest, ask and thou shalt receive [it] from Christ Who hath promised to give it, to Whom, and to His Father, and to the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Here endeth the Second Discourse, which is on Faith.
[Footnotes renumbered and moved to the end. Page numbers in square brackets refer to the pages of volume 1, the Syriac text.]
1. 1 Hebrews xi. 6.
2. 1 St. Matthew xix. 14.
3. 2 St. Mark x. 15.
4. 1 St. Matthew iii. 2.
5. 1 Literally "cut."
6. 1 Isaiah vi. 2; Ezekiel i. 7.
7. 2 Ezekiel x. 1-22.
8. 3 Ezekiel i. 18.
9. 4 Literally "taste."
10. 1 Hebrews xi. 6.
11. 1 Romans x. 17.
12. 2 i Corinthians i. 21.
13. 1 St. Matthew xvii. 20.
14. 1 Romans iv. 17.
15. 2 Nahum i. 4.
16. 3 Psalm civ. 32.
17. 4 Isaiah xl. 17.
18. 1 St. Matthew xxi. 22.
19. 2 2 Timothy ii. 13.
20. 1 1 Kings xvii. 1.
21. 1 2 Kings i. 10.
22. 2 1 Kings xviii. 42.
23. 3 1 Kings xvii. 17 ff.
24. 4 2 Kings ii. 9.
25. 1 1 Kings xviii. 36, 37.
26. 2 St. John xi. 41.
27. 3 St. Matthew xiv. 19.
28. 4 St. Mark vii. 33, 34.
29. 1 St. Luke vii. 14.
30. 2 St. Mark v. 41, 42.
31. 3 St. Matthew viii. 26.
32. 4 St. John ii. 7.
33. 5 St. Mark ix. 25.
34. 6 St. Matthew viii. 3.
35. 7 Hebrews ii. 17.
36. 1 Joshua x. 12.
37. 2 Joshua vi. 20.
38. 3 Compare St. Matthew xvi. 18.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2003. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.
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