8. The Temporal Procession

{196} [Note] I have something more to say still. In regard to truths so far above us, it is impossible for us to draw the line precisely between such of our Lord's acts as belong immediately to His Sonship, and those which belong to His office; since, even as regards our human relations, we often have a difficulty in determining their limits. According to our opportunities or circumstances we take upon ourselves duties which are not simply obligatory upon us, but are brought upon us by our position, or called for by their appropriateness; and we are often unable, if we attempt it, to trace up each act to its right principle. Jacob toiled and endured sun and frost for many years in his duties of a shepherd in Padan-aram; how many of his acts were absolutely due to Laban, on the ground of his being a hired servant, and how far did he give a free service either for love of Rachel, or as Laban's son-in-law and representative? Where did obligation end, and generosity begin? David, again, in defence of his father's flock, smote the lion and the bear; how far did duty compel him to that fight, and how far was it spontaneous zeal? It may be difficult to decide; but still the two ideas are quite distinct, service and devotion; {197} and we do not deny that Jacob was the son-in-law and nephew of Laban, and David the son of Jesse, because we fall into the error of thinking that there was a strict obligation upon them personally, to show the solicitude which they exercised in fact for the flocks committed to their charge.

And so as regards the acts of our Lord as recorded in Scripture, and the colour given to them by the early Fathers. They may have attributed acts to His Nature, which belonged to His Person or to His office, without thereby intending to deny that He had an intrinsic divinity, and had undertaken a temporal economy. He was the Son of God, equal to the Father; He took works upon Him beneath that Divine Majesty; they were such as were not obligations of His Nature, nor of His Person, but they were congruous to His Person, and they might look very like what essentially belonged to Him; but after all, they were works such as God alone could undertake. He was Creator, Preserver, Archetype of all things, but not simply as God, but as God the Son, and further, as God the Son in an office of ministration; perhaps His creative acts might be called services, as afterwards He took upon Himself "the form of a servant;" or at least they might so be called by this or that early Father. Such writers might be mistaken in so terming them; and there were many questions in detail which they might doubt about or answer variously:—why He was called an Angel; how He was High Priest, by nature or by office; in what sense He was First-born of creation; in what aspect of His Person "He cannot do anything of Himself;" {198} nay, even such a question as, Did the Word become the Son? which will come before us in the sequel. Errors in these details, if they made them, would not prove that the writers did not hold distinctly the fundamental truth that the Co-eternal Word became in the beginning the ministrative Word, who created and upholds all things; and, if they actually did profess that He was the Creator, how does it invalidate or obscure such a profession, that they held also that He created at the Father's will? No creature could create, but a Son might serve. Thus the Fathers of the first four centuries may have enlarged on the acts natural or congruous to His Divine Person, and the medieval theologians may have rather dwelt upon the thought of Him in His absolute Divine Perfections as co-equal with the Father; but it is as unjust to say that Origen, Hippolytus, Dionysius or Methodius introduced Arianism, as to say that Alexander, Athanasius and Basil favoured it, merely because they, one and all, in their writings contrast the Son with the God and Father of all, as being the First-born in creation, or, to use the Platonic term, the Prophoric Word, giving existence, life, light, order, and permanence to the whole world.

At the same time I do not deny, on the contrary I am proposing to show, that this doctrine of the Syncatabasis of the Son, true as it is, did, as well as the Principatus of the Father, accidentally shelter and apparently countenance that form of Arianism, which gained such sudden and wide extension in Christendom on the conversion of the Empire to Christianity.

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Note

The phrase "temporalis processio" is used by St. Thomas, Qu. 43, art. 2, of the Son's Incarnation. It is here used analogously for His coming to create, &c., as by Billuart de Trin. Diss. 1 art. 2, 4.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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