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Chapter IV.—The Next Stage Occurs in the Creation of Man by the Eternal Word. Spiritual as Well as Physical Gifts to Man. The Blessings of Man’s Free-Will.
The goodness of God having, therefore, provided man for the pursuit of the knowledge of Himself, added this to its original notification,27392739 Præconio suo. that it first prepared a habitation for him, the vast fabric (of the world) to begin with, and then afterwards27402740 Postmodum…postmodum. the vaster one (of a higher world,27412741 See Bp. Bull on The State of Man before the Fall, Works, ii. 73–81.) that he might on a great as well as on a smaller stage practise and advance in his probation, and so be promoted from the good which God had given him, that is, from his high position, to God’s best; that is, to some higher abode.27422742 Habitaculum majus. In this good work God employs a most excellent minister, even His own Word. “My heart,” He says, “hath emitted my most excellent Word.”27432743 “Eructavit cor. meum Sermonem optimum” is Tertullian’s reading of Ps. xlv. 1, “My heart is inditing a good matter,” A.V., which the Vulgate, Ps. xliv. 1, renders by “Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum,” and the Septuagint by ᾽Εξηρεύξατο ἡ καρδία μου λόγον ἀγαθόν. This is a tolerably literal rendering of the original words, רָהַשׂ לִֹגִּי רָכָר טוֹב. In these words the Fathers used to descry an adumbration of the mystery of the Son’s eternal generation from the Father, and His coming forth in time to create the world. See Bellarmine, On the Psalms (Paris ed. 1861), vol. i. 292. The Psalm is no doubt eminently Messianic, as both Jewish and Christian writers have ever held. See Perowne, The Psalms, vol. i. p. 216. Bishop Bull reviews at length the theological opinions of Tertullian, and shows that he held the eternity of the Son of God, whom he calls “Sermo” or “Verbum Dei.” See Defensio Fidei Nicænæ (translation in the “Oxford Library of the Fathers,” by the translator of this work) vol. ii. 509–545. In the same volume, p. 482, the passage from the Psalm before us is similarly applied by Novatian: “Sic Dei Verbum processit, de quo dictum est, Eructavit cor meum Verbum bonum.” [See vol. ii. p. 98, this series: and Kaye, p. 515.] Let Marcion take hence his first lesson on the noble fruit of this truly most excellent tree. But, like a most clumsy clown, he has grafted a good branch on a bad stock. The sapling, however, of his blasphemy shall be never strong: it shall wither with its planter, and thus shall be manifested the nature of the good tree. Look at the total result: how fruitful was the Word! God issued His fiat, and it was done: God also saw that it was 300good;27442744 Gen. i. not as if He were ignorant of the good until He saw it; but because it was good, He therefore saw it, and honoured it, and set His seal upon it; and consummated27452745 Dispungens, i.e., examinans et probans et ita quasi consummans (Oehler). the goodness of His works by His vouchsafing to them that contemplation. Thus God blessed what He made good, in order that He might commend Himself to you as whole and perfect, good both in word and act.27462746 This twofold virtue is very tersely expressed: “Sic et benedicebat quæ benefaciebat.” As yet the Word knew no malediction, because He was a stranger to malefaction.27472747 This, the translator fears, is only a clumsy way of representing the terseness of our author’s “maledicere” and “malefacere.” We shall see what reasons required this also of God. Meanwhile the world consisted of all things good, plainly foreshowing how much good was preparing for him for whom all this was provided. Who indeed was so worthy of dwelling amongst the works of God, as he who was His own image and likeness? That image was wrought out by a goodness even more operative than its wont,27482748 Bonitas et quidem operantior. with no imperious word, but with friendly hand preceded by an almost affable27492749 Blandiente. utterance: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”27502750 Gen. i. 26. Goodness spake the word; Goodness formed man of the dust of the ground into so great a substance of the flesh, built up out of one material with so many qualities; Goodness breathed into him a soul, not dead but living. Goodness gave him dominion27512751 Præfecit. over all things, which he was to enjoy and rule over, and even give names to. In addition to this, Goodness annexed pleasures27522752 Delicias. to man so that, while master of the whole world,27532753 Totius orbis possidens. he might tarry among higher delights, being translated into paradise, out of the world into the Church.27542754 There is a profound thought here; in his tract, De Pœnit. 10, he says, “Where one or two are, is the church, and the church is Christ.” Hence what he here calls Adam’s “higher delights,” even spiritual blessings in Christ with Eve. [Important note in Kaye, p. 304.] The self-same Goodness provided also a help meet for him, that there might be nothing in his lot that was not good. For, said He, that the man be alone is not good.27552755 See Gen. ii. 18. He knew full well what a blessing to him would be the sex of Mary,27562756 Sexum Mariæ. For the Virgin Mary gave birth to Christ, the Saviour of men; and the virgin mother the Church, the spouse of Christ, gives birth to Christians (Rigalt.). and also of the Church. The law, however, which you find fault with,27572757 Arguis. and wrest into a subject of contention, was imposed on man by Goodness, aiming at his happiness, that he might cleave to God, and so not show himself an abject creature rather than a free one, nor reduce himself to the level of the other animals, his subjects, which were free from God, and exempt from all tedious subjection;27582758 Ex fastidio liberis. but might, as the sole human being, boast that he alone was worthy of receiving laws from God; and as a rational being, capable of intelligence and knowledge, be restrained within the bounds of rational liberty, subject to Him who had subjected all things unto him. To secure the observance of this law, Goodness likewise took counsel by help of this sanction: “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”27592759 Gen. ii. 17. For it was a most benignant act of His thus to point out the issues of transgression, lest ignorance of the danger should encourage a neglect of obedience. Now, since27602760 Porro si. it was given as a reason previous to the imposition of the law, it also amounted to a motive for subsequently observing it, that a penalty was annexed to its transgression; a penalty, indeed, which He who proposed it was still unwilling that it should be incurred. Learn then the goodness of our God amidst these things and up to this point; learn it from His excellent works, from His kindly blessings, from His indulgent bounties, from His gracious providences, from His laws and warnings, so good and merciful.
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