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A.D. 318-325. THE HOMOODSION. 57
Protestant churches. But if the same word had not served to stigmatize the heretics and to unite the catholics, it would have been inadequate to the purpose of the majority by whom it was introduced into the orthodox creed. This majority was divided into two parties, distinguished by a contrary tendency to the sentiments of the Tritheists and of the Sabellians. But as those opposite extremes seemed to overthrow the foundations either of natural or revealed religion, they mutually agreed to qualify the rigour of their principles, and to disavow the just, but invidious, consequences which might be urged by their antagonists. The interest of the common cause inclined them to join their numbers and to conceal their differences; their animosity was softened by the healing counsels of toleration, and their disputes were suspended by the use of the mysterious Homoousian, which either party was free to interpret according to their peculiar tenets. The Sabellian sense, which, about fifty years before, had obliged the council of Antioch M to prohibit this celebrated term, had endeared it to those theologians who entertained a secret but partial affection for a nominal Trinity. But the more fashionable saints of the Arian times, the intrepid Athanasius, the learned Gregory Nazianzen, and the other pillars of the church, who supported with ability and success the Nicene doctrine, appeared to consider the expression of substance as if it had been synonymous with that of nature; and they ventured to illustrate their meaning by affirming that three men, as they belong to the same common species, are consubstantial or homoousian to each other.58 This pure and distinct equality was tempered, on the one hand, by the internal connection and spiritual penetration which indissolubly unites the divine persons ;59 and, on the other, by the pre-eminence of the Father, which was acknowledged as far as it is compatible with the independence of the Son.60 Within these limits the almost invisible and tremulous ball of orthodoxy was allowed securely to vibrate. On either side, beyond this consecrated ground, the heretics and the daemons lurked in ambush to surprise and devour the unhappy wanderer. But as the degrees of theological hatred depend on the spirit of the war rather than on the importance of the controversy, the heretics who degraded were treated with more severity than those who annihilated the person of the Son. The life of Athanasius was consumed in irreconcileable opposition to the impious madness of the Arians,61 but he defended above twenty years the Sabellianism of Marcellus of Ancyra; and when at last he was compelled to withdraw himself from his communion, he continued to mention with an ambiguous smile the venial errors of his respectable friend.6*
"See Bull, Defens. Fid. Nicea. sect. ii. 0. i. p. 25-36. He thinks it his duty to reconcile two orthodox synods.
48 According to Aristotle, the stars were homoousian to each other. "That Ho"moousiits meonB of one substance in kind, hath been shown by Petavius, Curcellams, "Cudworth, Le Clerc, &c., and to prove it would be actum cyere." This is the just remark of Dr. Jortin (vol. ii. p. 212), who examines the Arian controversy with learning, candour, and ingenuity.
a See Petavius (Dogm. Theolog. torn. ii. 1. iv. c. 16, p. 453, &c.), Cudworth (p. 559), Bull (sect. iv. p. 285-290, edit. Grab.). The •riii^iinwit, or circumincessio, is perhaps the deepest and darkest corner of the whole theological abyss.
60 The third section of Bull's Defence of the Nicene Faith, which some of his antagonists have called nonsense, and others heresy, is consecrated to the supremacy of the Father.
The authority of a general council, to which the Arians themselves had been compelled to submit, inscribed on the banners of the orthodox party the mysterious characters of the word Jlomoousion, which essentially contributed, notwithstanding some obscure disputes, some nocturnal combats, to maintain and perpetuate the uniformity of faith, or at least of language. The Consubstantialists, who by their success have deserved and obtained the title of Catholics, gloried in the simplicity and steadiness of their own creed, and insulted the repeated variations of their adversaries, who were destitute of any certain rule of faith. The sincerity or the cunning of the Arian chiefs, the fear of the laws or of the people, their reverence for Christ, their hatred of Athanasius, all the causes, human and divine, that influence and disturb the counsels of a theological faction, introduced among the sectaries a spirit of discord and inconstancy, which in the course of a few years erected eighteen different models of religion,63 and avenged the violated dignity of the church. The zealous Hilary,64 who, from the peculiar hardships of his situation, was inclined to extenuate rather than to aggravate the errors of the Oriental clergy, declares that, in the wide extent of the ten provinces of Asia to which he had been banished, there could be found very few prelates who had preserved the knowledge of the true God.64
61 The ordinary appellation with which Athanasius and his followers chose to compliment the Arians was that of Ariornnnites.
62 Epiphaniua, torn. i. Hieres. lxxii. 4, p. 837. See the adventures of Marcellus, in Tillemont (Mem. Eccles. torn. vii. p. 880-899). His work, in one book, of the Unity of God, was answered in the three books, which are still extant, of Eusebius. After a long and careful examination, Petavius (torn. ii. 1. i. c. 14, p. 78) has reluctantly pronounced the condemnation of Marcellus.
65 Athanasius, in Ins epistle concerning the synods of Seleucia and Rimini (torn. i. p. 886-905 [p. 735 sctjq., ed. Bened.]), has given an ample list of Arian creeds, which has been enlarged and improved by the labours of the indefatigable Tillemont (Mem. Ecclcs. torn. vi. p. 477).
M Erasmus, with admirable sense and freedom, has delineated the just character of Hilary. To revise his text, to compose the annals of his life, and to justify his sentiments and conduct, is the province of the Benedictine editors.
84 Absque episcopo Eleusio et paucis cum eo, ex majore parte Asianse decern provincial, inter quas consisto, vere Deum nesciunt. Atquc utinam penitus nescirent! cum procliviore enim venia ignorarent quam obtrectarent. Hilar, de Synodis, sive de Fide Orientalium, c. 63, p. 1186, edit. Benedict. In the celebrated parallel between atheism and superstition, the bishop of Poitiers would have been surprised in the philosophic society of Bayle and Plutarch.
A.d. 318-325. ARIAN SECTS. 69
The oppression which he had felt, the disorders of which he was the spectator and the victim, appeased, during a short interval, the angry passions of his soul; and in the following passage, of which I shall transcribe a few lines, the bishop of Poitiera unwarily deviates into the style of a Christian philosopher. "It is a thing," says Hilary, "equally deplorable and dangerous, that there are as many creeds "as opinions among men, as many doctrines as inclinations, and as "many sources of blasphemy as there are faults among us; because "we make creeds arbitrarily, and explain them as arbitrarily. The "Homoousion is rejected, and received, and explained away by "successive synods. The partial or total resemblance of the Father "and of the Son is a subject of dispute for these unhappy times. "Every year, nay, every moon, we make new creeds to describe "invisible mysteries. We repent of what we have done, we defend "those who repent, we anathematize those whom we defended. We "condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in "that of others; and, reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we "have been the cause of each other's ruin." 66
It will not be expected, it would not perhaps be endured, that I should swell this theological digression by a minute ex
amination of the eighteen creeds, the authors of which, for the most part, disclaimed the odious name of their parent Arius. It is amusing enough to delineate the form, and to trace the vegetation, of a singular plant; but the tedious detail of leaves without flowers, and of branches without fruit, would soon exhaust the patience and disappoint the curiosity of the laborious student. One question, which gradually arose from the Arian controversy, may, however, be noticed, as it served to produce and discriminate the three sects who were united only by their common aversion to the Homoousion of the Nicene synod. 1. If they were asked whether the Son was like unto the Father, the question was resolutely answered in the negative by the heretics who adhered to the principles of Arius, or indeed to those of philosophy, which seem to establish an infinite difference between the Creator and the most excellent of his creatures. This obvious consequence was maintained by Aetius,67 on whom the zeal of his adversaries bestowed the surname of the Atheist. His restless
"Hilarius ad Constantium, 1. i. c. 4, 5, p. 1227, 1228. This remarkable passage deserved the attention of Mr. Locke, who has transcribed it (vol. iii. p. 470) into the model of his new commonplace book.
•' In Philostorgius (1. iii. c. 15) the character and adventures of Aetius appear singular enough, though they are carefully softened by the hand of a friend. The editor Godefroy (p. 153), who was more attached to his principles than to his author, has collected the odious circumstances which his various adversaries have preserved or invented.
and aspiring spirit urged him to try almost every profession of human life. He was successively a slave, or at least a husbandman, a travelling tinker, a goldsmith, a physician, a schoolmaster, a theologian, and at last the apostle of a new church, which was propagated by the abilities of his disciple Eunomius.68 Armed with texts of Scripture, and with captious syllogisms from the logic of Aristotle, the subtle Aetius had acquired the fame of an invincible disputant, whom it was impossible either to silence or to convince. Such talents engaged the friendship of the Arian bishops, till they were forced to renounce and even to persecute a dangerous ally, who, by the accuracy of his reasoning, had prejudiced their cause in the popular opinion, and offended the piety of their most devoted followers. 2. The omnipotence of the Creator suggested a specious and respectful solution of the likeness of the Father and the Son; and faith might humbly receive what reason could not presume to deny, that the Supreme God might communicate his infinite perfections, and create a being similar only to himself.09 These Arians were powerfully supported by the weight and abilities of their leaders, who had succeeded to the management of the Eusebian interest, and who occupied the principal thrones of the East. They detested, perhaps with some affectation, the impiety of Aetius; they professed to believe, either without reserve or according to the Scriptures, that the Son was different from all other creatures, and similar only to the Father. But they denied that he was either of the same or of a similar substance; sometimes boldly justifying their dissent, and sometimes objecting to the use of the word substance, which seems to imply an adequate, or at least a distinct, notion of the nature of the Deity. 3. The sect which asserted the doctrine of a similar substance was the most numerous, at least in the provinces of Asia; and when the leaders of both parties were assembled in the council of Seleucia,70 tJieir opinion would have prevailed by a majority of one hundred and five to forty-three bishops. The Greek word which was chosen to express this mysterious resemblance bears so close an affinity to the orthodox symbol, that the profane of every age have derided the
68 According to the judgment of a man who respected both those sectaries, Aetius had been endowed with a stronger understanding, and Eunomius had acquired more art and learning (Philostorgius, 1. viii. c. 18). The confession and apology of Eunomius (FabriciuB, Bibliot. Grsec. torn. viii. p. 258-305) is one of the few heretical pieceB which have escaped.
• Yet, according to the opinion of Estius and Bull (p. 297), there is one power, that of creation, which God cannot communicate to a creature. Estius, who so accurately defined the limits of Omnipotence, waB a Dutchman by birth, and by trade a scholastic divine. Dupin, Bibliot. Eccles. torn. xvii. p. 45.
70 Sabinus (ap. Socrat. 1. ii. c. 39) had copied the acts; Athanasius and Hilary have explained the divisions of this Arian synod; the other circumstances which are relative to it are carefully collected by Baronius and Tillemont.
A.D. 318-325. FAITH OF THE WESTERN CHURCH. 61
furious contests which the difference of a single diphthong excited between the Homoousians and the Homoiousians. As it frequently happens that the sounds and characters which approach the nearest to each other accidentally represent the most opposite ideas, the observation would be itself ridiculous, if it were possible to mark any real and sensible distinction between the doctrine of the Semi-Arians, as they were improperly styled, and that of the Catholics themselves. The bishop of Poitiers, who in his Phrygian exile very wisely aimed at a coalition of parties, endeavours to prove that, by a pious and faithful interpretation,71 the Ebmoiousion may be reduced to a consubstantial sense. Yet he confesses that the word has a dark and suspicious aspect; and, as if darkness were congenial to theological disputes, the Semi-Arians, who advanced to the doors of the church, assailed them with the most unrelenting fury.
The provinces of Egypt and Asia, which cultivated the language and manners of the Greeks, had deeply imbibed the venom Faith of of the Arian controversy. The familiar study of the Pla- Ot^s"tm tonic system, a vain and argumentative disposition, a churchcopious and flexible idiom, supplied the clergy and people of the East with an inexhaustible flow of words and distinctions; and, in the midst of their fierce contentions, they easily forgot the doubt which is recommended by philosophy, and the submission which is enjoined by religion. The inhabitants of the West were of a less inquisitive spirit; their passions were not so forcibly moved by invisible objects, their minds were less frequently exercised by the habits of dispute; and such was the happy ignorance of the Gallican church, that Hilary himself, above thirty years after the first general council, was still a stranger to the Nicene creed.72 The Latins had received the rays of divine knowledge through the dark and doubtful medium of a translation. The poverty and stubbornness of their native tongue was not always capable of affording just equivalents for the Greek terms, for the technical words of the Platonic philosophy,73 which had been consecrated, by the Gospel or by the church, to express the
71 Fideli et pia intelligentii . . . De Synod, c. 77, p. 1193. In his short apologetical notes (first published by the Benedictines from a MS. of Chartres) he observes that he used this cautious expression, quia intelligerem et impiam, p. 1206. See p. 1146. Philostorgius, who saw those objects through a different medium, is inclined to forget the difference of the important diphthong. See in particular viii. 17, and Godefroy, p. 352.
"Testor Deum cceli atque terrsc me cum neutrum audissem, semper tamen utrumque sensisae. . . . Regeneratus pridem et in episcopatu aliquantisper manens fidem Nicenam nunquam nisi exsulaturus audivi. Hilar, de Synodis, c. xci. p. 1205. The Benedictines aro persuaded that he governed the diocese of Poitiers several years before his exile.
"Seneca (Epist. Iviii.) complains that even the To »» of the Platonists (the ens of the bolder schoolmen) could not be expressed by a Latin noun.