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always had a compassionate tenderness for men, and at last took their nature upon him, to free them from the slavery of demons, to open the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf, to guide their paths in the way of righteousness, to deliver them from death and hell, and to bestow on them everlasting life, and to put them into a capacity of living an heavenly life here upon earth; and lastly, that God made himself man to teach man to be like unto God.-Believe, therefore, in one God, who is God and man, and receive eternal salvation for a recompense."
Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, was distinguished for his natural abilities, for his eloquence, for his fervent piety, and for his exertions to promote the cause of Christ. He suffered martyrdom in the third century. In his writings, he expresses his sentiments respecting Jesus Christ. In one of his letters, be writes thus, "How shameful must it be for a Christian to be unwilling to suffer, when the Master suffered first; and that we should be unwilling to suffer for our sins, when he who had no sin of his own, suffered for us. The Son of God suffered that he might make us the sons of God.” In this quotation, he calls Christ by the scriptural names, Master, and Son of God. If his use of these names do not prove what were his particular sentiments of Christ's nature and character, what he said of his sufferings carries evidence that he believed that his death was an expiatory sacrifice.
Again this Christian father remarks, "What glory! what joy! to be admitted to see God, to be honored, to partake of the joy of eternal light and salvation with Christ the Lord your God.” Again he gives the same divine name to Christ. “We ought not by a long delay and neglect, to suffer the temples of God to remain in captivity, but to labor with all our might and quickly to shew our obsequiousness to Christ our Judge, our Lord and our God.'
Cyprian, a little before his execution, being interrogated and threatened by the proconsul, replied,
3. "My safety and virtue is Christ the Lord, whom I u desire to serve for ever." In these quotations he
viewed Christ as a sacrifice for sin; he called him our the Lord and our God; and he expressed a desire to y serve him for ever. If he believed Christ's divinity, he was consistent in making these expressions.
Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, expressed his ideas on the doctrine of the Trinity with clearness and decision. “The Father, (says he cannot be separated from the Son, as he is the Father; for that name at
the same time establishes the relation. Neither can [ the Son be separated from the Father, for the word
Father implies the union; and the Spirit is in their
hands, because it cannot exist without him, who sends LUT
it to him who bears it. Thus we understand the in
divisible Unity of the Trinity; and we comprehend the ti Trinity in the Unity without any diminution.”
It is not foreign to our purpose to introduce here Paul of Samosata, who was bishop of Antioch. He He taught that Christ “was by nature a common man as Twe are.” In consequence of this sentiment, and of
the irregularities of his life, a large council was called # at Antioch. He was induced to recant, and gave
such appearances of sincerity, that Firmilian and the al council believed him;" and he was suffered to retain hi his bishopric. His dissimulation did not remain long e concealed. After a few years another council, con
sisting of seventy bishops, was convened. “The am.biguous Paul” at this time disclosed his sentiments i respecting Christ., “All the bishops agreed to his
deposition and exclusion from the Christian church." This decision was made in the year 269; and it proves that a disbelief of the divinity of Christ was not the prevailing opinion of that time; and that it was discountenanced by the Christian church.
Felix was the successor of Dionysius of Rome. He wrote a letter to- Maximus of Alexandria, in which he speaks thus, probably on account of Paul's heresy.' “We believe that our Savior Jesus Christ was born of
the virgin Mary; we believe that he himself is the eternal God, and the Word, and not a man whom God hath taken into himself, so as that man should be distinct from him: for the Son of God being perfect, God was also made perfect man, being incarnate of the virgin."
Origin flourished in the third century. He was acknowledged to be a man of ability, learning, piety and indefatigable in his labors. Trinitarians and Unitarians, both have claimed him. Sometimes he expressed his ideas concerning the Father, Son, and Spirit in language, which entitled him to the ranks of Trinitarians. At other times his language naturally imported that he was a Unitarian. It is not necessary to contend about his sentiments, On whichever side he may stand, his opinion will not affect the question. If he believed a plurality in the divine nature he will add only one to the long list of fathers, who for three centuries believed the same. If he held only to an allegorical Tripity, as some contend that he did, he was one of those, who appeared to adhere more closely to his system of philosophy than to express declarations of scripture. In whichever scale he falls, his weight will be less than if he had been generally correct in his views of the other parts of Christianity
. Speaking of Origen, Mosheim says, “I would not believe this witness upon his oath, vending as he manifestly does, such flimsy lies.”
This is a brief view of the opinions of the most distinguished fathers of the three first centuries concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, especially concerning the nature and character of Jesus Christ. It appears by their language that they believed he was divine; and that they and the church considered those heretical, who denied his divinity. This be the testimony of the friends of Christianity. Let us attend to the testimony of some of its early enemies, so that by the mouth of both witnesses the subject may be well established.
Pliny, it is well known, was a bitter enemy of the Christians. In his letter to Trajan, early in the second century, he writes thus: “And this was the account, which they gave me of the nature of the religion they once had professed, whether it deserves the name of crime or error, that they were accustomed on a certain day to meet before day light, and to repeat among themselves an hymn to Christ, as to a God, and to bind themselves by an oath with an obligation of pot committing any wickedness,” &c. This account of the practice of Christians was given to Pliny by some apostate Christians. This account clearly shews that the Christians of that time tendered divine honors to Jesus Christ. Their credibility is not invalidated by their being apostates. They had been with the Christians. They knew their practice; and it appears they would have no temptation to make a false statement on this point.
Lucian, another enemy of Christianity, belongs to the second century. He was remarkable for his sar
In his account of Peregrinus he speaks thus of Christians: “However, these people adore that great Person, who had been crucified in Palestine, as being the first who taught men that religion.--Since they separated from us, they persevere in rejecting the gods of the Grecians, and worshipping that deceiver, who was crucified." This is another evidence that Christians in the second century gave divine honors to Jesus Christ.
Celsus wrote near the close of the second century. Infidelity never, perhaps, appeared with greater malignity than in this man. A few quotations from him will shew what was then understood by Christians that Christ pretended to be, and what they understood that he really was. “Christ was privately educated, and served 'for hire in Egypt; got acquainted with miraculous arts there, returned, and for those miracles, declared himself God. Why should you, when an infant, be carried into Egypt, lest you should be mur
dered? God should not fear being put to death. You say that God was sent to sinners, &c. He had no reason to fear any mortal now, after he died, and as you say he was a God.” These quotations prove that Christians in the latter part of the second century believed that Christ made himself God; and that they also believed that he was God.
The testimony of Porphyry is similar to that of Celsus. He wrote in the third century. "Men wonder now, (said he) that distempers have seized the city so many years, Æsculapius and the other gods no longer dwelling among them; for since Jesus was honored, no one has received any public benefit from the gods.” Porphyry tells the following story: “A person asked Apollo how to make his wife relinquish Christianity? It is easier perhaps, replied the oracle, to write on water, or to fly into the air, than to reclaim her. Leave her in her folly to hymn in a faint mournful voice the dead God, who publicly suffered death from judges of singular wisdom."