« PreviousContinue »
the Son was but inhabited by a divine power or presence impersonal, and therefore had no real existence before He came in the flesh, it was a sufficient answer to appeal to the great works ascribed to Him in the beginning of all things, and especially to those angelic manifestations by which God revealed Himself to the elder Church, and which were universally admitted to be representations of the Living and Personal Word. The Synodal Letter accordingly professes a belief in the Son, as the Image and Power of God, which was before the worlds, in absolute existence, the living and intelligent Cause of creation; and cites some of the most striking texts descriptive of His ministrative office under the Jewish law, such as His appearance to Abraham and Jacob, and to Moses in the burning bush'. Such is the statement, in opposition to Paulus of Samosata, put forth by Gregory and his associate bishops at Antioch; and, the circumstances of the controversy being overlooked, it is obvious how easily it may be brought to favour the hypothesis, that the Son is in all respects distinct from the Father, and by nature as well as in revealed office inferior to Him.
Lastly, it so happened, that in the course of the third century, the word Homoüsion became more or less connected with the Gnostic, Manichæan, and Sabellian theologies. Hence early writers, who had but opposed these heresies, seemed in a subsequent age to have opposed what had been by that time received as the characteristic of orthodoxy; as, on the other hand, the Catholics, on their adopting it in that later age, were accused of what
9 Routh, Reliq. Sacr. vol. ii. p. 463.
in an earlier time would have been the Sabellian error, or again of the introduction of corporeal notions into their creed. But of this more hereafter.
Here a close may be put to our inquiry into the circumstances under which Arianism appeared in the early Church. The utmost that has been proposed has been to classify and arrange phenomena which present themselves on the surface of the history; and this, with a view of preparing the reader for the direct discussion of the doctrine which Arianism denied, and for the proceedings on the part of the Church which that denial occasioned. Especially has it been my object in this introduction, following the steps of our great divines, to rescue the Alexandrian Fathers from the calumnies which, with bad intentions either to them or to the orthodox cause, have been so freely and so fearlessly cast upon them. Whether Judaism or whether Platonism had more or less to do in preparing the way for the Arian heresy, are points of minor importance, compared with the vindication of those venerable men, the most learned, most eloquent, and most zealous of the AnteNicene Christians. With this view it has been shown above, that, though the heresy openly commenced, it but. accidentally commenced in Alexandria ; that no Alexandrian of name advocated it, and that, on its appearance, it was forthwith expelled from the Alexandrian Church, together with its author ';-next, that, even granting Platonism originated it, of which there is no
* [Vid. Athan. Apol. adv. Arian. 52, and Hist. Arian. 78 fin.]
proof, still there are no grounds for implicating the Alexandrian Fathers in its formation; that while the old Platonism, which they did favour, had no part in the origination of the Arian doctrine, the new Platonism or Eclecticism which may be conceived to have arianized, received no countenance from them; that if Eclecticism must abstractedly be referred to their schools, it arose out of them in no more exact sense than error ever springs from truth; that, instead of being welcomed by them, the sight of it, as soon as it was detected, led them rather to condemn their own older and innocent philosophy; and that, in Alexandria, there was no Eclectic successor to Ammonius (who concealed his infidelity to the last), till after the commencement of the Arian troubles ;—further, that granting (what is undeniable) that the Alexandrian Fathers sometimes use phrases which are similar to those afterwards adopted by the heretics, these were accidents, not the characteristics of their creed, and were employed from a studied verbal imitation of the Jewish and philosophical systems;—of the philosophical, in order to conceal their own depth of meaning, and to conciliate the heathen, a duty to which their peculiar functions in the Christian world especially bound them, and of the Jewish, from an affectionate reverence for the early traces, in the Old Testament, of God's long-meditated scheme of mercy to mankind;-or again, that where they seem to arianize, it is from incompleteness rather than from unsoundness in their confessions, occasioned by the necessity of opposing a contrary error then infecting the Church ; that five Fathers, who have more especially incurred
the charge of philosophizing in their creed, belong to the schools of Rome and Antioch, as well as of Alexandria, and that the most unguarded speculator in the Alexandrian, Origen, is the very writer first to detect for us, and to denounce the Arian tenet, at least sixty years before it openly presented itself to the world.
On the other hand, if, dismissing this side of the question, we ask whence the heresy actually arose, we find that contemporary authors ascribe it partially to Judaism and Eclecticism, and more expressly to the influence of the Sophists; that Alexander, to whose lot it fell first to withstand it, refers us at once to Antioch as its original seat, to Judaism as its ultimate source, and to the subtilties of disputation as the instrument of its exhibition : that Arius and his principal supporters were pupils of the school of Antioch; and lastly, that in this school at the date fixed by Alexander, the above-mentioned elements of the heresy are discovered in alliance, almost in union, Paulus of Samosata, the judaizing Sophist, being the favourite of a court which patronized Eclecticism, when it was neglected at Alexandria.
It is evident that deeper and more interesting questions remain, than any which have here been examined. The real secret causes of the heresy; its connexion with the character of the age, with the opinions then afloat, viewed as active moral influences, not as parts of a system; its position in the general course of God's providential dealings with His Church, and in the prophecies of the New Testament; and its relation towards