Page images

might have been his own previous errors of doctrine. The general principle of restoration, which they had made the rule of their conduct towards the Arianizers, led them to this. Accordingly, a commission was appointed to proceed to Antioch, and to exert their endeavours to bring the dissension to a happy termination.

Their charitable intentions, however, had been already frustrated by the unfortunate interference of Lucifer. This Latin Bishop, strenuous in contending for the faith, had little of the knowledge of human nature, or of the dexterity in negotiation, necessary for the management of so delicate a point as that which he had taken upon himself to settle. He had gone straight to Antioch, when Eusebius of Vercellæ proceeded to Alexandria ; and, on the Alexandrian commission arriving at the former city, the mischief was done, and the mediation ineffectual. Indulging, instead of overcoming, the natural reluctance of the Eustathians to submit to Meletius, Lucifer had been induced, with the assistance of two others, to consecrate a separate head for their communion, and by so doing re-animate a dissension, which had run its course and was dying of itself. The result of this indiscretion was the rise of an additional, instead of the termination of the existing schism. Eusebius, who was at the head of the commission, retired from Antioch in disgust. Lucifer, offended at becoming the object of censure, separated first from Eusebius, and at length from all who acknowledged the conforming Arianizers. He founded a sect, which was called after his name, and lasted about fifty years.

As to the schism at Antioch, it was not terminated till the time of Chrysostom about the end of the century. Athanasius and the Egyptian Churches continued in communion with the Eustathians. Much as they had desired and exerted themselves for a reconciliation between the parties, they could not but recognize, while it existed, that body which had all along suffered and laboured with themselves. And certainly the intercourse, which Meletius held with the unprincipled Acacius, in the Antiochene Council the following year, and his refusal to communicate with Athanasius, were not adapted to make them repent their determination'. The Occidentals and the Churches of Cyprus followed their example. The Eastern Christians, on the contrary, having for the most part themselves arianized, took part with the Meletians. At length St. Chrysostom successfully exerted his influence with the Egyptian and Western Catholics in behalf of Flavian, the successor of Meletius; a prelate, it must be admitted, not blameless in the ecclesiastical quarrel, though he had acted a bold part with Diodorus, afterwards Bishop of Tarsus, in resisting the insidious attempts of Leontius to secularize the Church.


The Council of Alexandria was also concerned in determining a doctrinal question; and here too it exercised a virtual mediation between the rival parties in the Antiochene Church.

The word Person which we venture to use in speaking of those three distinct and real modes in which it has

9 Vit. S. Basil, p. cix, ed. Benedict. reconciling Meletius to Athanasius. p. lxxxvii, and S. Basilii, p. cix.]

[Basil at length succeeded in Vitt. Benedictt. S. Athanasii,

pleased Almighty God to reveal to us His being, is in its philosophical sense too wide for our meaning. Its essential signification, as applied to ourselves, is that of an individual intelligent agent, answering to the Greek hypostasis, or reality. On the other hand, if we restrict it to its etymological sense of persona or prosopon, that is character, it evidently means less than the Scripture doctrine, which we wish to define by means of it, as denoting merely certain outward manifestations of the Supreme Being relatively to ourselves, which are of an accidental and variable nature. The statements of Revelation then lie between these antagonistic senses in which the doctrine of the Holy Trinity may be erroneously conceived, between Tritheism, and what is popularly called Unitarianism.

In the choice of difficulties, then, between words which say too much and too little, the Latins, looking at the popular and practical side of the doctrine, selected the term which properly belonged to the external and defective notion of the Son and Spirit, and called Them Personæ, or Characters; with no intention, however, of infringing on the doctrine of their completeness and reality, as distinct from the Father, but aiming at the whole truth, as nearly as their language would permit. The Greeks, on the other hand, with their instinctive anxiety for philosophical accuracy of expression, secured the notion of Their existence in Themselves, by calling them Hypostases or Realities; for which they considered, with some reason, that they had the sanction of the Apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews. Moreover, they were led to insist upon this internal view of the

doctrine, by the prevalence of Sabellianism in the East in the third century; a heresy, which professed to resolve the distinction of the Three Persons, into a mere distinction of character. Hence the prominence given to the Three Hypostases or Realities, in the creeds of the Semi-Arians (for instance, Lucian's and Basil's, A.D. 341-358), who were the especial antagonists of Sabellius, Marcellus, Photinus, and kindred heretics. It was this praiseworthy jealousy of Sabellianism, which led the Greeks to lay stress upon the doctrine of the Hypostatic Word' (the Word in real existence), lest the bare use of the terms, Word, Voice, Power, Wisdom, and Radiance, in designating our Lord, should lead to a forgetfulness of His Personality. At the same time, the word usia (substance) was adopted by them, to express the simple individuality of the Divine Nature, to which the Greeks, as scrupulously as the Latins, referred the separate Personalities of the Son and Spirit.

Thus the two great divisions of Christendom rested satisfied each with its own theology, agreeing in doctrine, though differing in the expression of it. But, when the course of the detestable controversy, which Arius had raised, introduced the Latins to the phraseology of the Greeks, accustomed to the word Persona, they were startled at the doctrine of the three Hypostases; a term which they could not translate except by the word substance, and therefore considered synonymous with the Greek usia, and which, in matter of fact, had led to Arianism on the one hand, and Tritheism on the other. And the Orientals, on their part, were suspicious of the

1 [λόγος ενυπόστατος. Vide supr. p. 176.]

39 of the

Latin maintenance of the One Hypostasis, and Three Personæ ; as if such a formula tended to Sabellianismo.

This is but a general account of the difference between the Eastern and Western theology; for it is difficult to ascertain, when the language of the Greeks first became fixed and consistent. Some eminent critics have considered, that usia was not discriminated from hypostasis, till the Council which has given rise to these remarks. Others maintain, that the distinction between them is recognized in the “substance or hypostasis Nicene Anathema; and these certainly have the authority of St. Basil on their side“. Without attempting an opinion on a point, obscure in itself, and not of chief importance in the controversy, the existing difference between the Greeks and Latins, at the times of the Alexandrian Council, shall be here stated.

At this date, the formula of the Three Hypostases seems, as a matter of fact, to have been more or less a characteristic of the Arians. At the same time, it was held by the orthodox of Asia, who had communicated with them; that is, interpreted by them, of course, in the orthodox sense which it now bears. This will account for St. Basil's explanation of the Nicene Anathema; it being natural in an Asiatic Christian, who seems (unavoidably) to have arianized for the first thirty years of his life, to imagine (whether rightly or not) that he perceived in it the distinction between Usia and Hypo

? [For the meaning of Usia and Hypostasis, vide Appendix, No. 4.] 3 εξ ουσίας και υποστάσεως.

* Vid. Petav. Theol. Dogm. tom. ii. lib. iv. Bull, Defens. Fid. Nic. ii. 9, § 11.

5 i. e. Semi-Arianized.

« PreviousContinue »