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which is the designation of our Lord in Scripture; and so far he adopted a fair and unexceptionable mode of reasoning. Human relations, though the merest shadows of “heavenly things,” yet would not of course be employed by Divine Wisdom without fitness, nor unless with the intention of instructing us. But what should be the exact instruction derived by us from the word “ Son” is another question. The Catholics (not to speak of their guidance from tradition in determining it) had taken “Son” in its most obvious meaning; as interpreted moreover by the title “ Only-begotten," and as confirmed by the general tenor of Revelation. But the Arians selected as the sense of the figure, that part of the original import of the word, which, though undeniably included in it, when referred to us, is at best what logicians call a property deduced from the essence or nature, not an element of its essential idea, and which was especially out of place, when the word was used to express a truth about the Divine Being. That a father is prior to his son, is not suggested, though it is implied, by the force of the terms, as ordinarily used; and it is an inference altogether irrelevant, when the inquiry has reference to that Being, from our notion of whom time as well as space is necessarily excluded. It is fair, indeed, to object at the outset to the word “Father” being applied at all in its primary sense to the Supreme Being; but this was not the Arian ground, which was to argue from, not against, the metaphor employed. Nor was even this the extent of perverseness which their argument evidences. Let it be observed, that they admitted the primary sense of the word, in order to introduce a mere secondary sense, contending that, because our Lord was to be considered really as a Son, therefore in fact He was no Son at all. In the first proposition Arius assumes that He is really a Son, and argues as if He were; in the third he has arrived at the conclusion that He was created, that is, no Son at all, except in a secondary sense, as having received from the Father a sort of adoption. An attempt was made by the Arians to smooth over their inconsistency, by adducing passages of Scripture, in which the works of God are spoken of as births,
8 “ [Non recte faciunt, qui vim adhibent, ut sic se habeat exemplum, ut prototypum. Non enim esset jam exemplum, nisi haberet aliquid dis. simile.” Leont. Contr. Nest. i. p. 539, ed. Canis.]
-as in the instance from Job, “ He giveth birth to the drops of dew.” But this is obviously an entirely new mode of defending their theory of a divine adoption, and does not relieve their original fault; which consisted in their arguing from an assumed analogy, which the result of that argument destroyed. For, if He be the Son of God, no otherwise than man is, that is, by adoption, what becomes of the argument from the anterior and posterior in existence '? as if the notion of adoption contained in it any necessary reference to the nature and circumstances of the two parties between whom it takes place.
2. Accordingly, the Arians were soon obliged to betake themselves to a more refined argument. They dropped the consideration of time, and withdrew the inference involving it, which they had drawn from the
9 [That is, an adopted son is not necessarily younger, but might be older, than the person adopting him.]
literal sense of the word “ Son.” Instead of this, they maintained that the relation of Father and Son, as such, in whatever sense considered, could not but imply the notion of voluntary originator, and, on the other hand, of a free gift conferred; and that the Son must be essentially inferior to Him, from whose will His existence resulted. Their argument was conveyed in the form of a dilemma:" Whether the Father gave birth to the Son volens or nolens ?” The Catholics wisely answered them by a counter inquiry, which was adapted to silence, without countenancing, the presumptuous disputant. Gregory of Nazianzus asked them,“ Whether the Father is God, volens or nolens ?” And Cyril of Alexandria, “Whether He is good, compassionate, merciful, and holy, with or against His choice ? For, if He is so in consequence of choosing it, and choice ever precedes what is chosen, these attributes once did not exist in God.” Athanasius gives substantially the same answer, solving, however, rather than confuting, the objection. “The Arians,” he says,“ direct their view to the contradictory of willing, instead of considering the more important and the previous question ; for, as unwillingness is opposed to willing, so is nature prior to willing, and leads the way to it.”
3. Further :-the Arians attempted to draw their conclusion as to the dissimilarity of the Father and the Son, from the divine attribute of the “Ingenerate" (unborn or increate), which, as I have already said, was acknowledged on all hands to be the peculiar attribute of the Father, while it had been the philosophical as well as Valentinian appellation of the Supreme God. This was the chief resource of the Anomoeans, who revived the pure Arian heresy, some years after the death of its first author. Their argument has been expressed in the following form :-that “it is the essence of the Father to be ingenerate, and of the Son to be generate; but unborn and born cannot be the same?” The shallowness, as well as the miserable trifling of such disputations on a serious subject, renders them unworthy of a refutation.
i Petav. ii. 5, $ 9; vi. 8. 14. [“Generatio non potestatis est, sed naturæ." Ambros. Incarn. 79. 'H yévvnois púoews épyov, ń do kolois Den hoews. Damasc. F. O. i. 8, p. 133.]
4. Moreover, they argued against the Catholic sense of the word “ Son,” from what they conceived to be its materiality; and, unwarrantably contrasting its primary with its figurative signification, as if both could not be preserved, they contended that, since the word must be figurative, therefore it could not retain its primary sense, but must be taken in the secondary sense of adoption.
5. Their reasonings (so to call them) had now conducted them thus far :-to maintain that our Lord was a creature, advanced, after creation, to be a son of God. They did not shrink from the inference which these positions implied, viz. that He had been put on trial as other moral agents, and adopted on being found worthy; that His holiness was not essential, but acquired.
6. It was next incumbent on them to explain in what sense our Lord was the “ Only-begotten,” since they refused to understand that title in the Catholic sense of the Homoüsion or consubstantial. Accordingly, while pronouncing the divine birth to be a kind of creation, or an adoption, they attempted to hide the offensiveness of the heretical doctrine by the variety and dignity of the prerogatives, by which they distinguished the Son from other creatures. They declared that He was, strictly speaking, the only creature of God, as being alone made immediately by Him; and hence He was called Only-begotten, as “born alone from Him alone 3,” whereas all others were made through Him, as the instrument of Divine Power; and that in consequence He was “a creature, but not as being one of the creatures, a birth or production, but not as being one of the produced * ;” that is, to express their sentiment with something of the same ambiguity, “He was not a creature like other creatures.” Another ambiguity of language followed. The idea of time depending on that of creation, they were able to grant that He, who was employed in forming all things, therefore brought time itself into being, and was “before all time;" not granting thereby that He was everlasting, but meaning that He was brought into existence “timelessly,” independent of that succession of second causes (as they are called), that elementary system, seemingly self-sustained and self-renovating, to the laws of which creation itself may be considered as subjected.
2 Beausobre, Hist. Manich. iii. 7, § 2.