Page images

required it. Its history is the proof of this. It started with a boldness not inferior to that of Paulus; but as soon as it was attacked, it suddenly coiled itself into a defensive posture, and plunged amid the thickets of verbal controversy. At first it had not scrupled to admit the peccable nature of the Son; but it soon learned to disguise such consequences of its doctrine, and avowed that, in matter of fact, He was indefectible. Next it borrowed the language of Platonism, which, without committing it to any real renunciation of its former declarations, admitted of the dress of a high and almost enthusiastic piety. Then it professed an entire agreement with the Catholics, except as to the adoption of the single word consubstantial, which they urged upon it, and concerning which, it affected to entertain conscientious scruples. At this time it was ready to confess that our Lord was the true God, God of God, born timeapart, or before all time, and not a creature as other creatures, but peculiarly the Son of God, and His accurate Image. Afterwards, changing its ground, it protested, as we shall see, against non-scriptural expressions, of which itself had been the chief inventor; and proposed an union of all opinions, on the comprehensive basis of a creed, in which the Son should be merely declared to be in all things like the Father," or simply "like Him." This versatility of profession is an illustration of the character given of the Arians by Athanasius, some pages back, which is further exemplified in their conduct at the Council in which they were condemned; but it is here adduced to show the danger to which the Church was exposed from a party who had no fixed tenet, except that of opposition to the true notion of Christ's divinity; and whose teaching, accordingly, had no firm footing of internal consistency to rest upon, till it descended to the notion of His simple humanity, that is, to the doctrine of Artemas and Paulus, though they too, as well as Arius, had enveloped their impieties in such admissions and professions, as assimilated it more or less in appearance to the faith of the Catholic Church.

The conduct of the Arians at Nicæa, as referred to, was as follows. 6 When the Bishops in Council assembled," says Athanasius, an eye-witness, “were desirous of ridding the Church of the impious expressions invented by Ariųs, 'the Son is out of nothing,' is a creature,

once was not,'' of an alterable nature,' and perpetuating those which we receive on the authority of Scripture, that the Son is the Only-begotten of God by nature, the Word, Power, the sole Wisdom of the Father, very God, as the Apostle John says, and as Paul, the Radiance of His glory, and the express Image of His Person; the Eusebians, influenced by their own heterodoxy, said one to another, 'Let us agree to this; for we too are of God, there being one God, of whom are all things.'.. ; . The Bishops, however, discerning their cunning, and the artifice adopted by their impiety, in order to express more clearly the of God,' wrote down of God's substance, creatures being said to be of God, as not existing of themselves without cause, but having an origin of their production; but the Son being peculiarly of the substance of the Father. . Again, on the Bishops asking the few advocates of Arianism present, whether they allowed the Son to be, not a creature, but

[ocr errors]

the sole Power, Wisdom, and Image, eternal and in all respeets', of the Father, and very God, the followers of Eusebius were detected making signs to each other, to express that this also could be applied to ourselves. "For we too, they said, are called in Scripture the image and glory of God; we are said to live always .. There are many powers; the locust is called in Scripture

a great power.” Nay, that we are God's own sons, is proved expressly from the text, in which the Son calls us brethren. Nor does their assertion, that He is very (true) God, distress us; He is very God, because He was made such.' This was the unprincipled meaning of the Arians. But here too the Bishops, seeing through their deceit, brought together from Scripture, the radiance, source and stream, express Image of Person, 'In Thy Light we shall see light,' 'I and the Father are one,' and last of all, expressed themselves more clearly and concisely, in the phrase consubstantial with the Father ;' for all that was beforesaid has this meaning. As to their complaint about non-scriptural phrases, they theinselves are evidence of its futility. It was they who began with their impious expressions; for, after their

Out of nothing,' and 'Once was not,' going beyond Scripture in order to be impious, now they make it a grievance, that, in condemning them, we go beyond Scripture, in order to be pious". The last remark is important; even those traditional statements of the Catholic doctrine, which were more explicit than Scripture, had not as yet, when the controversy began, taken

9 απαράλλακτον. . i Athan. Ep. ad Afros., 5, 6.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the shape of formulæ. It was the Arian defined propositions of the “out of nothing," and the like, which called for the imposition of the “consubstantial.

It has sometimes been said, that the Catholics anxiously searched for some offensive test, which might operate to the exclusion of the Arians. This is not correct, inasmuch as they have no need to search ; the "from God's substancehaving been openly denied by the Arians, five years before the Council, and no practical distinction between it and the consubstantial existing, till the era of Basil and his Semi-Arians. Yet, had it been necessary, doubtless it would have been their duty to seek for a test of this nature; nay, to urge upon the heretical teachers the plain consequences of their doctrine, and to drive them into the adoption of them. These consequences are certain of being elicited in the long-run; and it is but equitable to anticipate them in the persons of the heresiarchs, rather than to suffer them gradually to unfold and spread far and wide after their day, sapping the faith of their deluded and less guilty followers. Many a man would be deterred from outstepping the truth, could he see the end of his course from the beginning. The · Arians felt this, and therefore resisted a detection, which would at once expose them to the condemnation of all serious men. In this lies the difference between the treatment due to an individual in heresy, and to one who is confident enough to publish the innovations which he has originated. The former claims from us the most affectionate sympathy, and the most considerate attention. The latter should meet with no mercy; he assumes the office of the Tempter,

and, so far forth as his error goes, must be dealt with by the competent authority, as if he were embodied Evil. To spare him is a false and dangerous pity. It is to endanger the souls of thousands, and it is uncharitable towards himself.

« PreviousContinue »