Understanding “On the Incarnation” – Chapter 12

On the Incarnation – Chapter 12

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1. God knew the limitations of mankind, you see; and although the grace of being made in His Image was enough to give them a knowledge of the Word and through Him of the Father, as a safeguard against their neglect of this grace, He also provided the works of creation as means by which the Maker might be known.

2. This was not all. Man’s neglect of the indwelling grace tends ever to increase; and against this further weakness God also made provision by giving them a law, and by sending them prophets, men who they knew. So, if they were slow in looking up to heaven, they could still gain a knowledge of their Maker from those who were close at hand; for men can learn directly about higher things from other men. Therefore, three ways were open to them, by which they could obtain the knowledge of God.

3. They could look up into the immensity of heaven, and by reflecting on the harmony of creation come to know its Ruler, the Word of the Father, Whose all-ruling providence makes known the Father to all.

4. Or, if this was beyond them, they could speak with holy men, and through them could learn to know God, the Maker of all things, the Father of Christ, and to recognize the worship of idols as the denial of the truth and full of all impiety.

5. Or else, in the third place, they could turn from lukewarmness and lead a good life simply by knowing the law. For the law was not only given for the Jews, nor was it only for their sakes that God sent the prophets, though it was to the Jews that they were sent and by the Jews that they were persecuted. The law and the prophets were a sacred school of the knowledge of God and of the conduct of the spiritual life for the whole world. So great, indeed, were the goodness and the love of God. Yet men, bowed down by the pleasures of the moment and by the deceit and illusions of the evil spirits, did not lift up their heads towards the truth. So weighed down were they with their wickedness that they seemed to be brute beasts raher than reasonable men, reflecting the very Likeness of the Word.

Commentary

God had provided all that mankind needed to grow into a knowledge of the Word and of the Father, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. There was no obstacle on the part of God. But God has done even more and provided the created world as a means of discovering a knowledge of God.

He has even taken into account that mankind tends to become more and more neglectful of what we have received from God. This does not move God to anger but to an even greater compassion. He sent the Law and the Prophets because of this weakness of mankind. God wanted mankind to have as many possibilities of discovering knowledge of him as possible. So that even if people did not look around at the creation and see God, they could listen to other men and hear about God. Far from rejecting mankind because of our weakness, God provided three ways for us to find him.

In the first place we can look at creation and be led to think of God. Now that we can see the smallest aspects of the universe, and the most distant and immense, there is an even greater possibility of seeing God as the creator and sustainer of all. But secondly, there is the possibility of speaking with those who know God, and who have already experienced his life and love themselves. While thirdly, it is possible for anyone to turn to the Law, since it was for all mankind, and begin to seek to live a good life, as far as they are able, and stir up in themselves some desire for God.

All of these are given in the goodness and love of God for mankind. It as always his desire and intention that mankind should turn to him and live for him, in accordance with the divine image. But we were too absorbed with pleasures, and were easily deceived, that we became like animals rather than reasonable persons. We were unable to look up to God, because we were so bowed down by the weight of our wickedness.

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