« PreviousContinue »
is not destroyed by it, but is subserved.” Novatian, in like manner, says, “God originating from God, so as to be the Second Person, yet not interfering with the Father's right to be called the one God. For, had He not a birth, then indeed when compared with Him who had no birth, He would seem, from the appearance of equality in both, to make two who were without birth", and therefore two Godse."
Accordingly it is impossible to worship One of the Divine Persons, without worshipping the Others also. In praying to the Father, we only arrive at His
mysterious presence through His Son and Spirit; and in praying to the Son and Spirit, we are necessarily carried on beyond them to the source of Godhead from which They are derived. We see this in the very form of many of the received addresses to the Blessed Trinity; in which, without intended reference to the mediatorial scheme, the Son and Spirit seem, even in the view of the Divine Unity, to take a place in our thoughts
Again he says, that “the Trinity descending from the Father by closely knit and connected steps, both is consistent with the monarchia (Unity), and protects the economia (revealed dispensation).”
7 [Or unoriginate; viz. on åyévvntos and óvapxos, in the next Section.]
8 Petav. Præf. 5, § 1. iii. ; $ 8. Dionysius of Alexandria implies the same doctrine, when he declares; “We extend the indivisible Unity into the Trinity, and again we concentrate the indestructible Trinity into the Unity." And Hilary, to take a Post-Nicene authority, We do not detract from the Father, His being the one God, when we say also that the Son is God. For He is God from God, one from one; therefore one God, because God is from Himself. On the other hand, the Son is not on that account the less God, because the Father is the one God. For the only-begotten Son of God is not without birth, so as to detract from the Father His being the one God, nor is He other than God, but because He is born of God.” De Trin. i. Vide also Athan. de Sent. Dionys. 17. Bull, Defens. iv. 4, § 7.
between the Father and His creatures; as in the ordinary doxologies “to the Father through the Son and by the Spirit,” or “to the Father and Son in the unity of the Holy Ghost.”
This gives us an insight into the force of expressions, common with the primitive Fathers, but bearing, in the eyes of inconsiderate observers, a refined and curious character. They call the Son, “God of God, Light of Light,” &c., much more frequently than simply God, in order to anticipate in the very form of words, the charge or the risk of ditheism. Hence, also, the illustrations of the sun and his rays, &c., were in such repute; viz. as containing, not only a description, but also a defence of the Catholic doctrine. Thus Hippolytus says, “When I say that the Son is distinct from the Father, I do not speak of two Gods; but, as it were, light of light, and the stream from the fountain, and a ray from the sun'." It was the same reason which led the Fathers to insist upon the doctrine of the divine generation.
9 Bull, Defens. iv. 4, § 5.
VARIATIONS IN THE ANTE-NICENE THEOLOGICAL
THERE will, of course, be differences of opinion, in deciding how much of the ecclesiastical doctrine, as above described, was derived from direct Apostolical Tradition, and how much was the result of intuitive spiritual perception in scripturally informed and deeply religious minds. Yet it does not seem too much to affirm, that copious as it may be in theological terms, yet hardly one can be pointed out which is not found or strictly implied in the New Testament itself. And indeed so much perhaps will be granted by all who have claim to be considered Trinitarians; the objections, which some among them may be disposed to raise, lying rather against its alleged over-exactness in systematizing Scripture, than against the truths themselves which are contained in it. But it should be remembered, that it is we in after times who systematize the statements of the Fatherş, which, as they occur in their works, are for the most part as natural and unpremeditated as those of the inspired volume itself. If the more exact terms and phrases of any writer be brought together, that is, of a writer who has fixed prin
ciples at all, of course they will appear technical and severe. We count the words of the Fathers, and measure their sentences; and so convert doxologies into creeds. That we do so, that the Church has done so more or less from the Nicene Council downwards, is the fault of those who have obliged us, of those who," while men slept,” have “sowed tares among the wheat.”
This remark applies to the statements brought together in the last Section, from the early writers : which, even though generally subservient to certain important ends, as, for instance, the maintenance of the Unity of God, &c., are still on the whole written freely and devotionally. But now the discussion passes on to that more intentional systematizing on the part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, which, unavoidable as it was, yet because it was in part conventional and individual, was ambiguous, and in consequence afforded at times an apparent countenance to the Arian heresy. It often becomes necessary to settle the phraseology of divinity, in points, where the chief problem is, to select the clearest words to express notions in which all agree; or to find the proposition which will best fit in with, and connect, a number of received doctrines. Thus the Calvinists dispute among themselves whether or not God wills the damnation of the non-elect ; both parties agree in doctrine, they doubt how their own meaning may be best expressed'. However clearly we see, and firmly we grasp the truth, we have a natural fear of the appearance of inconsistency; nay, a becoming fear of misleading others by our inaccuracy of language; and especially when our words have been misinterpreted by opponents, are we anxious to guard against such an inconvenience in future. There are two characteristics of opinions subjected to this intellectual scrutiny: first, they are variously expressed during the process; secondly, they are consigned to arbitrary formulas, at the end of it. Now, to exemplify this in certain Ante-Nicene statements of the great Catholic doctrine.
1 Vid. another instance infra, ch. v. § 2, in the controversy about the use of the word hypostasis.
The word årjévvntos, ingenitus (unborn, ingenerate), was the philosophical term to denote that which had existed from eternity. It had accordingly been applied by Aristotle to the world or to matter, which was according to his system without beginning; and by Plato to his ideas. Now since the Divine Word was according to Scripture generate, He could not be called ingenerate (or eternal), without a verbal contradiction. In process of time a distinction was made between åyévntos and àyéventos, (increate and ingenerate,) according as the letter v was or was not doubled, so that the Son might be said to be αγενήτως γεννητός (increately generate). The argument which arose from this perplexity of language, is urged by Arius himself; who ridicules the ảyevvntoyevès, ingenerately-generate, which he conceives must be ascribed, according to the orthodox creed, to the Son of God'. Some years afterwards, the same was the palmary, or rather the essential argument of Eunomius, the champion of the Anomoeans.
2 Vid. infra, Section 5.