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part of mankind.” But, after the Logos had been revealed as the sacred object of the faith, the hope, and the religious worship of the Christians, the mysterious system was embraced by a numerous and increasing multitude in every province of the Roman world. Those persons who, from their age, or sex, or occupations, were the least qualified to judge, who were the least exercised in the habits of abstract reasoning, aspired to contemplate the economy of the Divine Nature; and it is the boast of Tertullian * that a Christian mechanic could readily answer such questions as had perplexed the wisest of the Grecian sages. Where the subject lies so far beyond our reach, the difference between the highest and the lowest of human understandings may indeed be calculated as infinitely small; yet the degree of weakness may perhaps be measured by the degree of obstinacy and dogmatic confidence. These speculations, instead of being treated as the amusement of a vacant hour, became the most serious business of the present, and the most useful preparation for a future, life. A theology, which it was incumbent to believe, which it was impious to doubt, and which it might be dangerous, and even fatal, to mistake, became the familiar topic of private meditation and popular discourse. The cold indifference of philosophy was inflamed by the fervent spirit of devotion; and even the metaphors of common language suggested the fallacious prejudices of sense and experience. The Christians, who abhorred the gross and impure generation of the Greek mythology,” were tempted to argue from the familiar analogy of the filial and paternal relations. The character of Son seemed to imply a perpetual subordination to the voluntary author of his existence; * but, as the act of generation, in the most spiritual and abstracted sense, must be supposed to transmit the properties of a common nature,” they durst not presume to circumscribe the powers of the duration of the Son of an eternal and omnipotent Father. Fourscore years after the death of Christ, the Christians of Bithynia declared before the tribunal of Pliny that they invoked him as a god; and his divine honours have been perpetuated in every age and country by the various sects who assume the name of his disciples.* Their tender reverence for the memory of Christ and their horror for the profane worship of any created being would have engaged them to assert the equal and absolute divinity of the Logos, if their rapid ascent towards the throne of heaven had not been imperceptibly checked by the apprehension of violating the unity and sole supremacy of the great Father of Christ and of the Universe. The suspense and fluctuation produced in the minds of the Christians by these opposite tendencies may be observed in the writings of the theologians who flourished after the end of the apostolic age and before the origin of the Arian controversy. Their suffrage is claimed, with equal confidence, by the orthodox and by the heretical parties; and the most inquisitive critics have fairly allowed that, if they had the good fortune of possessing the Catholic verity, they have delivered their conceptions in loose, inaccurate, and sometimes contradictory language.”
* In a treatise which professed to explain the opinions of the ancient philosophers concerning the nature of the gods we might expect to discover the theological Trinity of Plato. But Cicero very honestly confessed that, though he had translated the Timaeus, he could never understand that mysterious dialogue. See Hieronym. praef. ad l. xii. in Isaiam, tom. v. p. 154.
* Tertullian in Apolog. c. 46. See Bayle, Dictionnaire, au mot Simonide. His remarks on the presumption of Tertullian are profound and interesting.
35 Lactantius, iv. 8. Yet the Probole, or Prolatio, which the most orthodox divines borrowed without scruple from the Valentinians, and illustrated by the comparisons of a fountain and stream, the sun and its rays, &c. either meant nothing or favoured a material idea of the divine generation. See Beausobre, tom. i. l. iii. c. 7, p. 548.
* Many of i. primitive writers have frankly confessed that the Son owed his being to the will of the Father. See Clarkes Scripture Trinity, p. 280-287. On the other hand, Athanasius and his followers seem unwilling to grant what they are afraid to deny. The schoolmen extricate themselves from this difficulty by the distinction of a preceding and a concomitant will. Petav. Dogm. Theolog. tom. ii. l. vi. c. 8, p. 587-603.
Authority of II. The devotion of individuals was the first circumstance
which distinguished the Christians from the Platonists; the second was the authority of the church. The disciples of philosophy asserted the rights of intellectual freedom, and their respect for the sentiments of their teachers was a liberal and voluntary tribute, which they offered to superior reason. But the Christians formed a numerous and disciplined society; and the jurisdiction of their laws and magistrates was strictly exercised over the minds of the faithful. The loose wanderings of the imagination were gradually confined by creeds and confes
37 See Petav. Dogm. Theolog. tom. ii. l. ii. c. 10, p. 159.
38 Carmenque Christo quasi Deo dicere secum invicem. . Plin. Epist. x. 97. The sense of Deus, eeds, Elohim, in the ancient languages, is critically examined by Le Clerc (Ars Critica, p. 150-756), and the propriety of worshipping a very excellent creature is ably defended by the Socinian Emlyn (Tracts, p. 29-36, 51-145).
30 See Daillé de Usu Patrum, and Le Clerc, Bibliothèque Universelle, tom. x. p. 409. To arraign the faith of the Anti-Nicene fathers was the object, or at least has been the effect, of the stupendous work of Petavius on the Trinity (Dogm. Theolog. tom. ii.); nor has the deep impression been erased by the learned defence of Bishop Bull,
sions;” the freedom of private judgment submitted to the public wisdom of synods; the authority of a theologian was determined by his ecclesiastical rank; and the episcopal successors of the apostles inflicted the censures of the church on those who deviated from the orthodox belief. But in an age of religious controversy every act of oppression adds new force to the elastic vigour of the mind; and the zeal or obstinacy of a spiritual rebel was sometimes stimulated by secret motives of ambition or avarice. A metaphysical argument became the cause or pretence of political contests; the subtleties of the Platonic school were used as the badges of popular factions, and the factions distance which separated their respective tenets was enlarged or magnified by the acrimony of dispute. As long as the dark heresies of Praxeas and Sabellius laboured to confound the Father with the Son,” the orthodox party might be excused if they adhered more strictly and more earnestly to the distinction, than to the equality, of the divine persons. But, as soon as the heat of controversy had subsided, and the progress of the Sabellians was no longer an object of terror to the churches of Rome, of Africa, or of Egypt; the tide of theological opinion began to flow with a gentle but steady motion toward the contrary extreme; and the most orthodox doctors allowed themselves the use of the terms and definitions which had been censured in the mouth of the sectaries.” After the edict of toleration had restored peace and leisure to the Christians, the Trinitarian controversy was revived in the ancient seat of Platonism, the learned, the opulent,
40 The most ancient creeds were drawn up with the greatest latitude. See Bull (Judicium Eccles. Cathol.), who tries to prevent Episcopius from deriving any advantage from this observation. [Before the Nicene Council, no creed had been drawn up as a test of orthodoxy. here were various formulae of Christian belief (ria reis) in various places for the use of catechumens. This has been emphasized by Mr. Gwatkin.]
41 The heresies of Praxeas, Sabellius, &c. are accurately explained by Mosheim (p. 425, 680-714). Praxeas, who came to Rome about the end of the second century, deceived, for some time, the simplicity of the bishop, and was confuted by the pen of the angry Tertullian. [These are the Monarchian heresies; see below, p. 347.]
42 Socrates acknowledges that the heresy of Arius proceeded from his strong desire to embrace an opinion the most diametrically opposite to that of Sabellius. [For the comprehension of the theological import of the Arian controversy, consult Gwatkin's Arianism, p. 9. “Arianism laid down a merely external, Sabellianism a merely economic, Trinity." As neither satisfied, it “became necessary to fall back on Scripture to revise the idea of a divine personality, and acknowledge not three individuals but three eternal aspects (Smográoets) of the divine, facing inward on each other as well as outward on the world". The earlier conception of God, so far as distinguished from the world, was one of abstract simplicity; the expulsion of this inadequate conception from the doctrine of the Trinity is the chief result won out of the Arian controversy.]
the tumultuous city of Alexandria; and the flame of religious discord was rapidly communicated from the schools to the clergy, the people, the province, and the East. The abstruse question of the eternity of the Logos was agitated in ecclesiastical conferences and popular sermons; and the heterodox opinions of Arius * were soon made public by his own zeal and by that of his adversaries. His most implacable adversaries have acknowledged the learning and blameless life of that eminent presbyter, who, in a former election, had declared, and perhaps generously declined, his pretensions to the episcopal throne.*. His competitor Alexander assumed the office of his judge. The important cause was argued before him; and, if at first he seemed to hesitate, he at length pronounced his final sentence, as an absolute rule of faith.” The undaunted presbyter, who presumed to resist the authority of his angry bishop, was separated from the communion of the church. But the pride of Arius was supported by the applause of a numerous party. He reckoned among his immediate followers two bishops of Egypt, seven presbyters, twelve deacons, and (what may appear almost incredible) seven hundred virgins. A large majority of the bishops of Asia appeared to support or favour his cause; and their measures were conducted by Eusebius of Caesarea, the most learned of the Christian prelates, and by Eusebius of Nicomedia, who had acquired the reputation of a statesman without forfeiting that of a saint. Synods in Palestine and Bithynia were opposed to the synods of Egypt. The attention of the prince and people was attracted by this theo ogical dispute; and the decision, at the end of six years,” was referred to the supreme authority of the general council of Nice.
*:::::::::: When the mysteries of the Christian faith were danger
* The figure and manners of Arius, the character and numbers of his first proselytes, are painted in very lively colours by Epiphanius (tom. i. Haeres. lxix. 3, p. 729); and we cannot but regret that he should soon forget the historian, to assume the task of controversy.
* See Philostorgius (l. i. c. 3) and Godefroy's ample Commentary. Yet the credibility of Philostorgius is lessened in the eyes of the orthodox by his Arianism; and in those of rational critics by his passion, his prejudice, and his ignorance.
*Sozomen (l. i. c. 15) represents Alexander as indifferent, and even ignorant, in the beginning of the controversy; w le Socrates (l. i. c. 5) ascribes the origin of the dispute to the vain curiosity of his theological speculations. Dr. Jortin (Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. ii. p. 178) has censured, with his usual freedom, the conduct of Alexander: mpos op- or ééârrera. . . . Šuoios @povety oxeaevae.
* The flames of Arianism might burn for some time in secret ; but there is reason to believe that they burst out with violence as early as the year 319. Tillemont, Mém. Ecclés. tom. vi. p. 774-780,
ously exposed to public debate, it might be observed that the human understanding was capable of forming three distinct, though imperfect, systems concerning the nature of the Divine Trinity; and it was pronounced that none of these systems, in a pure and absolute sense, were exempt from heresy and error.” I. According to the first hypothesis, which was maintained by Arianism Arius and his disciples, the Logos was a dependent and spontaneous production, created from nothing by the will of the Father. The Son, by whom all things were made,” had been begotten before all worlds, and the longest of the astronomical periods could be compared only as a fleeting moment to the extent of his duration; yet this duration was not infinite,” and there had been a time which preceded the ineffable generation of the Logos. On this only-begotten Son the Almighty Father had transfused his ample spirit, and impressed the effulgence of his glory. Visible image of invisible perfection, he saw, at an immeasurable distance beneath his feet, the thrones of the brightest archangels: yet he shone only with a reflected light, and, like the sons of the Roman emperors who were invested with the titles of Caesar or Augustus,” he governed the universe in obedience to the will of his Father and Monarch. II. In Trithelm the second hypothesis, the Logos possessed all the inherent, incommunicable perfections which religion and philosophy appropriate to the Supreme God. Three distinct and infinite minds or substances, three co-equal and co-eternal beings, com
47 Quid credidit? Certe, aut tria nomina audiens tres Deos esse credidit, et idololatra effectus est; aut in tribus vocabulis trinominem credens Deum, in Sabelli ha-resim incurrit; aut edoctus ab Arianis unum esse verum Deum, Patrem, filium et spiritum sanctum credidit creaturas. Aut extra haec quid credere potuerit nescio. Hieronym. adv. Luciferianos. Jerom reserves for the last the orthodox system, which is more complicated and difficult.
48 As the doctrine of absolute creation from nothing was gradually introduced among the Christians (Beausobre, tom. ii. p. 165-215), the dignity of the workman very naturally rose with that of the work. [A statement, by Arius of his own doctrine is preserved by Theodoret, H. E. i. 5., “By will and counsel the Son existed (oréarn) before time (mpo xpóvov kai mpo alevov), full, God, only begotten, unchangeable; and before his begetting or creation or defining or founding, he was not; for he was not unbegotten." Another formulation of his doctrine, after his own work Thalia, is given by Athanasius in the Orat. contra Arianos, i. 5. Gibbon brings out the point that the Son was created though he began to be before time.]
* The metaphysics of Dr. Clarke (Scripture Trinity, p. 276-280) could digest an eternal generation from an infinite cause.
to This profane and absurd simile is employed by several of the primitive fathers, particularly by Athenagoras, in his Apology to the emperor Marcus and his son; oit is alleged, without censure, by Bull himself. See Defens, Fid. Nicen. S. iii. c. 5, No. 4.