Page images
PDF
EPUB

The reverential spirit in which the Fathers held the doctrine of the gennesis, led them to the use of other forms of expression, partly taken from Scripture, partly not, with a view of signifying the fact of the Son's full participation in the divinity of Him who is His Father, without dwelling on the mode of participation or origination, on which they dared not speculate'. Such were the images of the sun and its radiance, the fountain and the stream, the root and its shoots, a body and its exhalation, fire and the fire kindled from it; all which were used as emblems of the sacred mystery in those points in which it was declared in Scripture, viz. the mystery of the Son's being from the Father and, as such, partaker in His divine perfections. The first of these is found in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where our Lord is called “the brightness of God's glory." These illustrations had a further use in their very variety, as reminding the Christian that he must not dwell on any one of them for its own sake. The following passage from Tertullian will show how they were applied in the inculcation of the sacred doctrine. “Even when a ray is shot forth from the sun, though it be but a part from the whole, yet the sun is in the ray, inasmuch as it is the ray of the sun; nor is its substance separated, but drawn out. In like manner there is Spirit from Spirit, and God from God. As when a light is kindled from another, the original Hosts, and the King of Israel, and Jehovah, see to it whether the Son also be not signified by these passages, as being in His own right the Almighty God, inasmuch as He is the Word of the Almighty God.” Bull, Defens. ii. 6, § 3. 7, § 4.

3 Vid Athan. ad Scrap. i. 20.

light remains entire and undiminished, though you borrow "from it many like itself; so That which proceeds from God, is called at once God, and the Son of God, and Both are One."

So much is evidently deducible from what Scripture tells us concerning the generation of the Son; that there is, (so to express it,) a reiteration of the One Infinite Nature of God, a communicated divinity, in the Person of our Lord; an inference supported by the force of the word “only begotten," and verified by the freedom and fulness with which the Apostles ascribe to Christ the high incommunicable titles of eternal perfection and glory. There is one other notion conveyed to us in the doctrine, which must be evident as soon as stated, little as may be the practical usefulness of dwelling upon it. The very name of Son, and the very idea of derivation, imply a certain subordination of the Son to the Father, so far forth as we view Him as distinct from the Father, or in His personality: and frequent testimony is borne to the correctness of this inference in Scripture, as in the descriptions of the Divine Angel in the Old Testament, revived in the closing revelations of the New; and in such passages as that above cited from St. John's Gospel . This is a truth which every Christian feels, admits, and acts upon; but from piety he would not allow himself to reflect on what he does, did not the attack of heresies oblige him. The direct answer which a true religious loyalty leads him to make to any question about the subordination of the Son, is that such comparisons are irreverent, that the Son

4 Bull, Defens. ii: 7, $ 2. 5 Rev. viii. 3. o Jolin v. 19—30.

is one with the Father, and that unless he honours the Son in all the fulness of honour which he ascribes to the Father, he is disobeying His express command. It may serve as a very faint illustration of the offence given him, to consider the manner in which he would receive any question concerning the love which he feels respectively for two intimate friends, or for a brother and sister, or for his parents : though in such cases the impropriety of the inquiry, arises from the incommensurableness, not the coincidence, of the respective feelings. But false doctrine forces us to analyze our own notions, in order to exclude it. Arius argued that, since our Lord was a Son, therefore He was not God: and from that time we have been obliged to determine how much we grant and what we deny, lest, while praying without watching, we lose all. Accordingly, orthodox theology has since his time worn a different aspect; first, inasmuch as divines have measured what they said themselves; secondly, inasmuch as they have measured the Ante-Nicene language, which by its authors was spoken from the heart, by the necessities of controversies of a later date. And thus those early teachers have been made appear technical, when in fact they have only been reduced to system; just as in literature what is composed freely, is afterwards subjected to the rules of grammarians and critics. This must be taken as an apology for whatever there is that sounds harsh in the observations which I have now to make, and for the injustice which I may seem incidentally to do in the course of them to the ancient writers whose words are in question.

“The Catholic doctors,” says Bishop Bull, "both before and after the Nicene Council, are unanimous in declaring that the Father is greater than the Son, even as to divinity; i. e. not in nature or any essential perfection, which is in the Father and not in the Son, but alone in what may be called authority, that is in point of origin, since the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son ?.” Justin, for instance, speaks of the Son as “having the second place after the unchangeable and everlasting God and Father of all.” Origen says that “the Son is not more powerful than the Father, but subordinate (útodeboTEpov); according to His own words, “The Father that sent Me, is greater than I.” This text is cited in proof of the same doctrine by the Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers, Alexander, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Chry( 7 Bull, Defens. iv. 2, § 1. Or, again, to take the words of Petavius : [“ Filius eandem numero cum Patre divinitatem habet, sed proprietate differt. Proinde Filietas ipsa Paternitate equodammodo minor est, vel Filius, qua Filius, Patre, ut Pater est, minor dicitur, quoniam origine est posterior, non autem ut Deus,” ii. 2, § 15.] Cudworth, too, observes : “ Petavius himself, expounding the Athanasian creed, writeth in this manner: The Father is in a right Catholic manner affirmed by most of the ancients, to be greater than the Son, and He is commonly said also, without reprehension, to be before Him in respect of original.' Whereupon he concludeth the true meaning of that Creed to be this, that no Person of the Trinity is greater or less than other in respect of the essence of the Godhead common to them all .... but that notwithstanding there may be some inequality in them, as they are Hic Deus et Hæc Persona. Wherefore when Athanasius, and the other orthodox Fathers, writing against Arius, do so frequently assert the equality of all the Three Persons, this is to be understood in way of opposition to Arius only, who made the Son to be unequal to the Father, as étepoollo los .... one being God, and the other a creature ; they affirming on the contrary, that He was equal to the Father, as duocúolos .... that is, as God and not a creature.” Cudw. Intell. Syst. 4, § 36.

sostom, Cyril, and others, of whom we may content ourselves with the words of Basil : “My Father is greater than I,' that is, so far forth as Father, since what else does 'Father' signify, than that He is cause and origin of Him who was begotten by Him? ” and in another place, “ The Son is second in order to the Father, since He is from Him; and in dignity, inasmuch as the Father is the origin and cause of His existence®.”

Accordingly, the primitive writers, with an unsuspicious yet reverent explicitness, take for granted the ministrative character of the relation of both Son and Spirit towards the Father; still of course speaking of Them as included in the Divine Unity, not as external to it. Thus Irenæus, clear and undeniable as is his orthodoxy, still declares, that the Father “is ministered to in all things by His own Offspring and Likeness, the Son and Holy Ghost, the Word and Wisdom, of whom all angels are servants and subjectso." In like manner, a ministry is commonly ascribed to the Son and Spirit, and a bidding and willing to the Father, by Justin, Irenæus, Clement, Origen, and Methodius', altogether in the spirit of the Post-Nicene authorities already cited : and without any risk of misleading the reader, as soon as the second and third Persons are understood to be internal to the Divine Mind, connaturalia instrumenta, concurrent (at the utmost) in no stronger sense, than when the human will is said to

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »