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II.] Consequences of the Nicene Council. 277 under the Christian Dispensation, is sufficiently proved by the history of Ananias and Sapphira. It is remarkable too, that the similar occurrences, which happen at the present day, are generally connected with some unusual perjury or extreme blasphemy; and, though we may not infer the sin from the circumstance of the temporal infliction, yet, the commission of the sin being ascertained, we may well account, that its guilt is providentially impressed on the minds and enlarged in the estimation of the multitude, by the visible penalty by which it is followed. Nor do we in such cases necessarily pass any absolute sentence upon the person, who appears to be the object of Divine Visitation; but merely upon the particular act which provoked it, and which has its fearful character of evil stamped upon it, independent of the punishment which draws our attention to it. The man of God, who prophesied against the altar in Bethel, is not to be regarded by the light of his last act, though a judgment followed it, but according to the general tenor of his life. Arius also must thus be viewed ; though, unhappily, his closing deed is but the seal of a prevaricating and presumptuous career.
Athanasius, who is one of the authorities from whom the foregoing account is taken, received it from Macarius, a presbyter of the Church of Constantinople, who was in that city at the time. He adds, “while the Church was rejoicing at the deliverance, Alexander administered the communion in pious and orthodox form, praying with all the brethren and glorifying God greatly; not as if rejoicing over his death, (God forbid ! for to all men it is appointed once to die,) but because in this event there was displayed somewhat more than a human judgment. For the Lord Himself, judging between the threats of the Eusebians and the prayer of Alexander, has in this event given sentence against the heresy of the Arians; showing it to be unworthy of ecclesiastical fellowship, and manifesting to all, that though it have the patronage of Emperor and of all men, yet that by the Church itself it is condemned?.”
COUNCILS IN THE REIGN OF CONSTANTIUS?.
The death of Arius was productive of no important consequences in the history of his party. They had never deferred to him as their leader, and since the Nicene Council had even abandoned his creed. The theology of the Eclectics had opened to Eusebius of Cæsarea a language less obnoxious to the Catholics and to Constantine, than that into which he had been betrayed in Palestine ; while his namesake, possessing the confidence of the Emperor, was enabled to wield weapons more decisive in the controversy than those which Arius had used. From that time Semi-Arianism was their profession, and calumny their weapon, for the deposition,
1 [In this Chapter a change in the structure of the sentences has been made here and there, with the view of relieving the intricacies the narrative.]
? [Vid. Appendix, No. 6.]
by legal process, of their Catholic opponents. This is the character of their proceedings from A.D. 328 to A.D. 350; when circumstances led them to adopt a third creed, and enabled them to support it by open force.
1. It may at first sight excite our surprise, that men who were so l'ittle careful to be consistent in their professions of faith, should be at the pains to find evasions for a test, which they might have subscribed as a matter of course, and then dismissed from their thoughts. But, not to mention the natural desire of continuing an opposition to which they had once committed themselves, and especially after a defeat, there is, moreover, that in religious mysteries which is ever distasteful to secular minds. The marvellous, which is sure to excite the impatience and resentment of the baffled reason, becomes insupportable when found in those solemn topics, which it would fain look upon, as necessary indeed for the uneducated, but irrelevant when addressed to those who are already skilled in the knowledge and the superficial decencies of virtue. The difficulties of science may be dismissed from the mind, and virtually forgotten; the pręcepts of morality, imperative as they are, may be received with the condescension, and applied with the modifications, of a self-applauding refinement. But what at once demands attention, yet refuses to satisfy curiosity, places itself above the human mind, imprints on it the thought of Him who is eternal, and enforces the necessity of obedience for its own sake. And thus it becomes to the proud and irreverent, what the consciousness of guilt is to the sinner; a spectre haunting the field, and disturbing the complacency, of their intellectual investigations. In this at least, throughout their changes, the Eusebians are consistent,-in their hatred of the Sacred Mystery.
It has sometimes been scornfully said, on the other hand, that the zeal of Christians, in the discussion of theological subjects, has increased with the mysteriousness of the doctrine in dispute. There is no reason why we should shrink from the avowal. Doubtless, a subject that is dear to us, does become more deeply fixed in our affections by its very peculiarities and incidental obscurities. We desire to revere what we already love; and we seek for the materials of reverence in such parts of it, as exceed our intelligence or imagination. It should therefore excite our devout gratitude, to reflect how the truth has been revealed to us in Scripture in the most practical manner; so as both to humble and to win over, while it consoles, those who really love it. Moreover, with reference to the particular mystery under consideration, since a belief in our Lord's Divinity is closely connected (how, it matters not) with deep religious feeling generally,-involving a sense both of our need and of the value of the blessings which He has procured for us, and an emancipation from the tyranny of the visible world,—it is not wonderful, that those, who would confine our knowledge of God to things seen, should dislike to hear of His true and only Image. If the unbeliever has attempted to account for the rise of the doctrine, by the alleged natural growth of a veneration for the Person and acts of the Redeemer,