by St. Irenaeus of Lyons
Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapters 7, 10, 11, 23
Therefore Abraham also, knowing the Father through the Word, who made heaven and earth, confessed Him to be God; and having learned, by an announcement [made to him], that the Son of God would be a man among men, by whose advent his seed should be as the stars of heaven, he desired to see that day, so that he might himself also embrace Christ; and, seeing it through the spirit of prophecy, he rejoiced [Genesis 17:17].
Wherefore Symeon also, one of his descendants, carried fully out the rejoicing of the patriarch, and said:
“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all people: a light for the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of the people Israel” [Luke 2:29].
And the angels, in like manner, announced tidings of great joy to the shepherds who were keeping watch by night [Luke 2:8]. Moreover, Mary said,
“My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my salvation” [Luke 1:46].
The rejoicing of Abraham descending upon those who sprang from him — those, namely, who were watching, and who beheld Christ, and believed in Him; while, on the other hand, there was a reciprocal rejoicing which passed backwards from the children to Abraham, who did also desire to see the day of Christ’s coming. Rightly, then, did our Lord bear witness to him, saying,
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad”.
For not alone upon Abraham’s account did He say these things, but also that He might point out how all who have known God from the beginning, and have foretold the advent of Christ, have received the revelation from the Son Himself; who also in the last times was made visible and passible, and spoke with the human race, that He might from the stones raise up children unto Abraham, and fulfil the promise which God had given him, and that He might make his seed
“as the stars of heaven” [Genesis 15:5],
as John the Baptist says:
“For God is able from these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” [Matthew 3:9].
Now, this Jesus did by drawing us off from the religion of stones, and bringing us over from hard and fruitless cogitations, and establishing in us a faith like unto Abraham. As Paul does also testify, saying that we are children of Abraham because of the similarity of our faith, and the promise of inheritance [Romans 4:12; Galatians 4:28].
He is therefore one and the same God, who called Abraham and gave him the promise. But He is the Creator, who does also through Christ prepare lights in the world, [namely] those who believe from among the Gentiles. And He says,
“You are the light of the world” [Matthew 5:14];
that is, as the stars of heaven. Him, therefore, I have rightly shown to be known by no man, unless by the Son, and to whomsoever the Son shall reveal Him. But the Son reveals the Father to all to whom He wills that He should be known; and neither without the goodwill of the Father nor without the agency of the Son, can any man know God. Wherefore did the Lord say to His disciples,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes unto the Father but by Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also: and from henceforth you have both known Him, and have seen Him” [John 14:6-7].
From these words it is evident, that He is known by the Son, that is, by the Word….
Wherefore also John does appropriately relate that the Lord said to the Jews:
“You search the Scriptures, in which you think you have eternal life; these are they which testify of me. And you are not willing to come unto Me, that you may have life” [John 5:39-40].
How therefore did the Scriptures testify of Him, unless they were from one and the same Father, instructing men beforehand as to the advent of His Son, and foretelling the salvation brought in by Him?
“For if you had believed Moses, you would also have believed Me; for he wrote of Me” [John 5:46];
[saying this,] no doubt, because the Son of God is implanted everywhere throughout his writings: at one time, indeed, speaking with Abraham, when about to eat with him; at another time with Noah, giving to him the dimensions [of the ark]; at another, inquiring after Adam; at another, bringing down judgment upon the Sodomites; and again, when He becomes visible, and directs Jacob on his journey, and speaks with Moses from the bush. And it would be endless to recount [the occasions] upon which the Son of God is shown forth by Moses. Of the day of His passion, too, he was not ignorant; but foretold Him, after a figurative manner, by the name given to the passover; and at that very festival, which had been proclaimed such a long time previously by Moses, did our Lord suffer, thus fulfilling the passover. And he did not describe the day only, but the place also, and the time of day at which the sufferings ceased, and the sign of the setting of the sun, saying:
“You may not sacrifice the passover within any other of your cities which the Lord God gives you; but in the place which the Lord your God shall choose that His name be called on there, you shall sacrifice the passover at even towards the setting of the sun” [Deuteronomy 16:5-6].
And already he had also declared His advent, saying,
“There shall not fail a chief in Judah, nor a leader from his loins, until He come for whom it is laid up, and He is the hope of the nations; binding His foal to the vine, and His ass’s colt to the creeping ivy. He shall wash His stole in wine, and His upper garment in the blood of the grape; His eyes shall be more joyous than wine, and His teeth whiter than milk.”
For, let those who have the reputation of investigating everything, inquire at what time a prince and leader failed out of Judah, and who is the hope of the nations, who also is the vine, what was the ass’s colt [referred to as] His, what the clothing, and what the eyes, what the teeth, and what the wine, and thus let them investigate every one of the points mentioned; and they shall find that there was none other announced than our Lord, Christ Jesus.
Wherefore Moses, when chiding the ingratitude of the people, said,
“You infatuated people, and unwise, do you thus requite the Lord?” [Deuteronomy 32:6].
And again, he indicates that He who from the beginning founded and created them, the Word, who also redeems and vivifies us in the last times, is shown as hanging on the tree, and they will not believe in Him. For he says,
“And your life shall be hanging before your eyes, and you will not believe your life.”
“Has not this same one your Father owned you, and made you, and created you?”…
But that it was not only the prophets and many righteous men, who, foreseeing through the Holy Spirit His advent, prayed that they might attain to that period in which they should see their Lord face to face, and hear His words, the Lord has made manifest, when He says to His disciples,
“Many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them” [Matthew 13:17].
In what way, then, did they desire both to hear and to see, unless they had foreknowledge of His future advent? But how could they have foreknown it, unless they had previously received foreknowledge from Himself? And how do the Scriptures testify of Him, unless all things had ever been revealed and shown to believers by one and the same God through the Word; He at one time conferring with His creature, and at another propounding His law; at one time, again, reproving, at another exhorting, and then setting free His servant, and adopting him as a son (in filium); and, at the proper time, bestowing an incorruptible inheritance, for the purpose of bringing man to perfection? For He formed him for growth and increase, as the Scripture says:
“Increase and multiply” [Genesis 1:28].
And in this respect God differs from man, that God indeed makes, but man is made; and truly, He who makes is always the same; but that which is made must receive both beginning, and middle, and addition, and increase. And God does indeed create after a skillful manner, while, [as regards] man, he is created skilfully. God also is truly perfect in all things, Himself equal and similar to Himself, as He is all light, and all mind, and all substance, and the fount of all good; but man receives advancement and increase towards God. For as God is always the same, so also man, when found in God, shall always go on towards God. For neither does God at any time cease to confer benefits upon, or to enrich man; nor does man ever cease from receiving the benefits, and being enriched by God. For the receptacle of His goodness, and the instrument of His glorification, is the man who is grateful to Him that made him; and again, the receptacle of His just judgment is the ungrateful man, who both despises his Maker and is not subject to His Word; who has promised that He will give very much to those always bringing forth fruit, and more [and more] to those who have the Lord’s money.
“Well done,” He says, “good and faithful servant: because you have been faithful in little, I will appoint you over many things; enter into the joy of your Lord” [Matthew 25:21].
The Lord Himself thus promises very much.
As, therefore, He has promised to give very much to those who do now bring forth fruit, according to the gift of His grace, but not according to the changeableness of knowledge; for the Lord remains the same, and the same Father is revealed; thus, therefore, has the one and the same Lord granted, by means of His advent, a greater gift of grace to those of a later period, than what He had granted to those under the Old Testament dispensation. For they indeed used to hear, by means of [His] servants, that the King would come, and they rejoiced to a certain extent, inasmuch as they hoped for His coming; but those who have beheld Him actually present, and have obtained liberty, and been made partakers of His gifts, do possess a greater amount of grace, and a higher degree of exultation, rejoicing because of the King’s arrival: as also David says,
“My soul shall rejoice in the Lord; it shall be glad in His salvation”.
And for this cause, upon His entrance into Jerusalem, all those who were in the way recognised David their king in His sorrow of soul, and spread their garments for Him, and ornamented the way with green boughs, crying out with great joy and gladness,
“Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord: hosanna in the highest” [Matthew 21:8].
But to the envious wicked stewards, who circumvented those under them, and ruled over those that had no great intelligence, and for this reason were unwilling that the king should come, and who said to Him,
“Do you hear what these say?”
did the Lord reply,
“Have you never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings have You perfected praise?”
— thus pointing out that what had been declared by David concerning the Son of God, was accomplished in His own person; and indicating that they were indeed ignorant of the meaning of the Scripture and the dispensation of God; but declaring that it was Himself who was announced by the prophets as Christ, whose name is praised in all the earth, and who perfects praise to His Father from the mouth of babes and sucklings; wherefore also His glory has been raised above the heavens.
If, therefore, the self-same person is present who was announced by the prophets, our Lord Jesus Christ, and if His advent has brought in a fuller [measure of] grace and greater gifts to those who have received Him, it is plain that the Father also is Himself the same who was proclaimed by the prophets, and that the Son, on His coming, did not spread the knowledge of another Father, but of the same who was preached from the beginning; from whom also He has brought down liberty to those who, in a lawful manner, and with a willing mind, and with all the heart, do Him service; whereas to scoffers, and to those not subject to God, but who follow outward purifications for the praise of men (which observances had been given as a type of future things — the law typifying, as it were, certain things in a shadow, and delineating eternal things by temporal, celestial by terrestrial), and to those who pretend that they do themselves observe more than what has been prescribed, as if preferring their own zeal to God Himself, while within they are full of hypocrisy, and covetousness, and all wickedness—[to such] has He assigned everlasting perdition by cutting them off from life….
For which reason the Lord declared to the disciples:
“Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look upon the districts (regiones), for they are white [already] to harvest. For the harvest-man receives wages, and gathers fruit unto life eternal, that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together. For in this is the saying true, that one sows and another reaps. For I have sent you forward to reap that whereon you bestowed no labour; other men have laboured, and you have entered into their labours” [John 4:35].
Who, then, are they that have laboured, and have helped forward the dispensations of God? It is clear that they are the patriarchs and prophets, who even prefigured our faith, and disseminated through the earth the advent of the Son of God, who and what He should be: so that posterity, possessing the fear of God, might easily accept the advent of Christ, having been instructed by the prophets. And for this reason it was, that when Joseph became aware that Mary was with child, and was minded to put her away privately, the angel said to him in sleep:
“Fear not to take to you Mary your wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. For she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins” [Matthew 1:20].
And exhorting him [to this], he added:
“Now all this has been done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken from the Lord by the prophet, saying, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel'”;
thus influencing him by the words of the prophet, and warding off blame from Mary, pointing out that it was she who was the virgin mentioned by Isaiah beforehand, who should give birth to Emmanuel. Wherefore, when Joseph was convinced beyond all doubt, he both did take Mary, and joyfully yielded obedience in regard to all the rest of the education of Christ, undertaking a journey into Egypt and back again, and then a removal to Nazareth. [For this reason,] those who knew not the Scriptures nor the promise of God, nor the dispensation of Christ, at last called him the father of the child. For this reason, too, did the Lord Himself read at Capernaum the prophecies of Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me; to preach the Gospel to the poor has He sent Me, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind” [Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18].
At the same time, showing that it was He Himself who had been foretold by Isaiah the prophet, He said to them: “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
For this reason, also, Philip, when he had discovered the eunuch of the Ethiopians’ queen reading these words which had been written:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb is dumb before the shearer, so He opened not His mouth: in His humiliation His judgment was taken away” [Acts 8:27, Isaiah 53:7];
and all the rest which the prophet proceeded to relate in regard to His passion and His coming in the flesh, and how He was dishonoured by those who did not believe Him; easily persuaded him to believe in Him, that He was Christ Jesus, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and suffered whatsoever the prophet had predicted, and that He was the Son of God, who gives eternal life to men. And immediately when [Philip] had baptized him, he departed from him.
For nothing else [but baptism] was wanting to him who had been already instructed by the prophets: he was not ignorant of God the Father, nor of the rules as to the [proper] manner of life, but was merely ignorant of the advent of the Son of God, which, when he had become acquainted with, in a short space of time, he went on his way rejoicing, to be the herald in Ethiopia of Christ’s advent. Therefore Philip had no great labour to go through with regard to this man, because he was already prepared in the fear of God by the prophets.
For this reason, too, did the apostles, collecting the sheep which had perished of the house of Israel, and discoursing to them from the Scriptures, prove that this crucified Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God; and they persuaded a great multitude, who, however, [already] possessed the fear of God. And there were, in one day, baptized three, and four, and five thousand men [Acts 2:41, Acts 4:4].