No prevailing political influence at Nicæa.


whole world maintaining the Apostolical Creed." need not, therefore, hesitate to accept the Nicene formula as the testimony of all the Churches.

Any suspicion which might arise, of the proceedings having been tainted by political influence, is sufficiently obviated by what remains of Constantine's own correspondence at that time. Whether from ignorance, he being yet a catechumen and recent convert, or from the habit of looking at all things with the eye of a mere statesman, or from whatever reason, he was far, indeed, from entering into the views of St. Athanasius and those who acted with him. His language in the letter to Alexander, whereby he at first endeavoured to stifle the controversy, was such as this: "A certain empty question, which ought neither to have been asked nor answered an argument kindled not concerning any main point of the Divine commands no new heresy brought in.

a dispute about matters trifling to an excess of insignificance you may keep up communion with each other, however decidedly your opinions vary in some minute point of detail." And it is too well known how easily he was afterwards perverted by the arts of Eusebius. The agreement, therefore, among the Bishops was in no sort the result of state influence: it can only be explained by the fact, that such was in reality the tenor of the traditional confessions of their several Churches.


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Now such a harmony of statements all over the world, even beyond the limits of the Roman Empire, (for the Indians too are mentioned as allowing the Creed',) admits of no account but a common origin; and that common origin can only be the first Gospel, as it was every where preached

Ap. Socr. i. 7. p. 15. D. E; 16. C; 17. C.

• St. Ath. ad Afros, §. 2. αὕτη πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην πεπλήρωκε ταύτην ἔγνωσαν καὶ Ἰνδοὶ, καὶ ὅσοι παρὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις βαρβάροις εἰσὶ Χριστιανοί. i. 892. Β.

by Apostles and apostolical men. It is, in fact, a complete instance of successful application of the triple test of Vincentius. The "ubique" is insured by the Council representing all Churches; the "semper," in each Church, by the succession of Bishops, each receiving the Creed as a trust at his consecration; the "ab omnibus," by the like delivery of the same Creed to every Christian at his Baptism. The whole together constitutes an infallible tradition, of the same sort as that which induces us to receive the Scriptures themselves as genuine. And the comparison of it with Holy Scripture, which took place at Nicæa, and has been since repeated over and over, is the same kind of satisfactory confirmation to it, as when, in surveying a country, a line on being actually measured is found to be exactly of the length, which it ought to be on computation, perhaps through a long series of triangles. Such an operation strengthens the surveyor's confidence, on the one hand in the goodness of his instruments, on the other in the accuracy of his figures: just as the coincidence of Scripture and Tradition at Nicæa tends to prove (may we not say morally demonstrates?) both that the tradition is apostolical and that the interpretation is sound. Nor does it appear that the Arians of that time often, if ever, questioned this broad statement of Church practice; they commonly satisfied themselves with metaphysical and critical objections to particular words in the Creed, or particular constructions of the text of Scripture.

Now because the Romanists make bold with the word Tradition on very different matters from this-mere instructions of a part of the present Church, in no wise able to stand the test of Vincentius, even supposing them uncontradicted in Scripture-are we therefore to throw aside or depreciate a tradition, established as we see the Nicene Creed is? Can we fairly say it is of small use, either in

412 Tendency of the Doctrine of Primitive Tradition,

confirming the natural interpretation of God's word, or in directing us what sort of points to esteem fundamental ? Can any one of us soberly say, with any degree of confidence, where he himself might now have been without it? Take a case but too possible: suppose an inquiring person, not scholar enough to detect the falsehood and sophistry of the Arian and Socinian interpretations, nor to follow the argument when others detect them; must not this man rest his faith on Tradition? i. e. on the assurances of better scholars than himself, that the words of Scripture really mean what the Church says they do? And which Tradition would be safer and more consoling,—that of a few scholars and their writings, or that of the Apostolical Church, properly so called? Surely this latter, rightly understood, is a great blessing, and touches the foundation, and we cannot be too thankful for it. Surely men know not what they are doing, when they go about to shake our reliance on it. In conclusion, a few words shall be offered to those who recoil from Tradition not so much on argumentative grounds, as because they seem to feel that whatever is introduced, over and above the words of Holy Scripture, lessens the sacredness of any religious contemplation, and hinders it from being altogether devotional. Such persons would do well to consider, whether the view which they depreciate would not tend to put them more entirely in possession of the words of Scripture, exempting them once and for ever from haunting doubts, and leaving them free to such thoughts as piety delights in. Let them once fairly endeavour to imagine themselves convinced that the Nicene Tradition is true and divine, and see what would then be their feelings on the subject. It would be with them in some measure as if a voice came from Heaven, to say, This and this only is the meaning of the Scriptures touching the foundation of the faith. Were such a miracle

to be vouchsafed, would it take away veneration from the Scriptures? Would it shake our confidence in them? Would it not be welcomed by some as a deliverance from doubt; by others as superseding in a great measure all necessity for that kind of critical discussion of God's Word, which is continually leading them into peril of irreverence; by all, as a most merciful addition to the supernatural treasure of Faith and Hope? Now the case of the Nicene Tradition is perhaps as near an approach to the realization of this supposed miracle, as might consist with the ordinary course of God's moral government. Perhaps, had the evidence for it been more overpowering, no room would have been left for the requisite trial of our faith.

It follows, that we obtain in this way not only more entire conviction of understanding than if we were left to the unaided study of Scripture, but more also of that which is, on earth, Faith's appropriate sanction and encouragement -the reverential sense of the immediate presence of God. We discern an echo, as it were, of the Divine voice, remote but unquestionable, and infallibly guiding us towards the true and only temple:-a ray, not from Antiquity only, but from the very Source of light, falling on the pages of the Bible, and bringing out in its full lustre that high and sacred Truth, which many might otherwise have failed to discern, and many more feared to enunciate. As things are, we see it so clearly, that we can hardly understand how any one should ever miss it; and so, as in many other instances, the very abundance, anticipating our want, hinders our being duly thankful. But it is the part of Faith to remedy this; and the part also of Charity to remember our brethren, who feel, many of them, and own their need of such guidance.

Of course, if so it had pleased Almighty God, the Scriptures might have been all clear of themselves; or


Tradition, God's providential Way with us.

their meaning might have been clearly revealed to individuals at a certain stage of their progress in the Christian life or there might be somewhere in the present Church an unerring court of appeal to fix their interpretation. Men may go on imagining the advantages of such a dispensation, until they have persuaded themselves that things are really so ordered. But theories of that kind, after all that can be said in their favour,-must they not incur the censure of true wisdom, as partaking of " that idle and not very innocent employment of forming imaginary models of a world, and schemes of governing it'?" How much better, humbly to acquiesce in God's dispensations as we find them! How much more dutiful, with all seriousness to use our privilege of belonging to a Church, which on the one hand refers us to Scripture as the standard and treasure of all necessary doctrine, on the other hand "ties her doctors, as much as the Council of Trent does, to expound Scripture according to the consent of the ancient Fathers"."

Bp. Butler, Pref. to Anal. sub fine. "Bp. Taylor's Works, x. 322.

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