« PreviousContinue »
ples as have been before mentioned. None were ever condemned by the Church as Tritheists, but such as either denied the unity of principium, or made the Hypostases heterogeneous, separate, or alien from each other.
We have seen then that there is no just ground from Scripture or antiquity to charge our doctrine with Tritheism. If there be any pretence from the nature and reason of the thing itself, it is of very slight moment. The divine nature is best known from Revelation : it is from thence we discover that God is not μονοπρόσωπος, a single Hypostasis, but that the Father has his coessential and coeternal Son and Holy Spirit always in him and with him. We can have no other right conception of the one God, (to use the words of * Hippolytus,) but by believing in a real Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is the faith of the ever blessed Trinity; which Scripture and Fathers hold forth to us; and which is too strongly supported, to be weakened by any wit or criticism. As to those who take Trinity and Tritheism for synonymous terms, they may go on to value themselves upon it. They have Jews, Pagans, and Heretics, fifteen hundred years backwards, to countenance them in it. It is sufficient to have shown, that wiser and better men, the truly primia tive and Catholic Church, never thought it Tritheism; but condemned those that thought so.
Having taken off the charge from our doctrine, I come, next, to fix it upon yours; where, I humbly conceive, it ought to lie. I do not pretend that you are Tritheists, in every sense; but in the same sense that the Pagans are called Polytheists, and in the Scripture-sense of the word God, as explained and contended for by yourselves. One divine Person is, with you, equivalent to one God; and
s "aalws Ts fy® Osò youíoma peine duwé peeda, làs peina örtws Targi, rai vim, rah áyio futópati tissúowev. Hippol. contr. Noët. p. 16.
I shall add his doxology, because it has but lately appeared in the Greek, and so has been less took notice of.
Ούτος ο Θεός ο άνθρωπος δι' ημάς γεγονώς, και πάντα υπέταξεν Πατήρ, αυτό και δόξα και το κράτος αμα Πατρί και αγίω πνεύματι, εν τη αγία εκκλησία, και ναν, και har, xai sis tous aiôvсes rūs aiávas, é páx. P. 20, vol. 2. Fabric.
two, to two Gods; and three, to three Gods: the case is plain; the consequence unavoidable. One supreme and two inferior Gods, is your avowed doctrine: and, certainly, the asserting three Gods (whether coordinate or otherwise) is Tritheism ; against the first commandment, against the whole tenor of Scripture, and the principles of the primitive Church. It is, to me, an instance of the ill effects of vain philosophy, and shows how the “dis“puter of this world” may get the better of the Christian; when men appear so much afraid of an imaginary error in metaphysics, and, to avoid it, run into a real one, against Scripture and antiquity. You tell me, indeed, that if I am positive in this, you will bring both y Ante-Nicene and Nicene Fathers against me. But let me advise you to read them (a second time) over; and you will see no reason to be sanguine in this matter. The Doctor has cited some passages from them, and made them seemingly speak his sense; though, in the main doctrine, they are clearly against him, as I have observed 2 above. You appeal to these Fathers, as vouchers for you. But let us attend, however, to what you say.
“ The ancient writers of the Church unanimously
· The sense of Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, in relation to Tria theism, may be seen in the following passages.
'Έξής δ' άν είκότως λέγοιμι και προς διαιρώντας και κατατέμνοντας και αναιρώντας το σεμνότατον κήρυγμα της εκκλησίας του Θεού, την μοναρχίαν εις τρείς δυνάμεις τινας και μιμερισμένας υποτάσεις, και θεότητας τρείς––οι τρείς Θεούς τρόπον τινά. κηρύττουσιν, εις τρεις υποσάσεις ξενας αλλήλων παντάπασι κεχωρισμένας διαιρούντας, rin ávías Mováda. Dionys. Roman. apud Athanas. vol. i. p. 231.
Ο μεν αρχάς εισάγων δύο, δύο κηρύττει Θεούς: αύτη Μαρκίωνος ή δυσσέβεια---πάλιν ο Θεός αγένηταν είναι λίγων, άλλον δε Θεόν γένησον, δύο και αυτός λίγει Θεός, δια την της ουσίας διαφοράν, ήν βλασφήμως εισάγει όπου δε μία μεν η Αρχή, εκ δε το εξ αυτής γέννημα -είς θεός, τελείας μεν εν Πατρί της θεότητος νοεμένης, τελείας δε και εν υια της πατρικής θεότητος υπαρχούσης. Αthαn. contr. Sabell. Greg, p. 42. Comp. Basil. Ηom. 27, contr. Sabell. p. 604, 605.
Πώς έν έσαι μία θεόσης, εί ουκ έσι, καθ' υμάς Ομοσίως τω Πατρί, ει γαρ έχει τινά διάσασιν, ήτοι διαφοράν κατά τον της ουσίας λόγον, έτεροϊος μέν αν είη Θεός και, υιός, ετεροϊος δε ο πατήρ, και δύο κατά τούτο Θεούς ανάγκη λέγειν· όπίρ έσιν ασεβές, και ουδέ μέχρι μόνον ακοής παραδεκτόν. Ομoύσιος άρα τω Πατρί ο υιός: ούτω γαρ το ίν 9ιότητι σωθήσεται, Cyril. Aler. Thesaur. p. 78.
* Query 5.
“ agree, thať nothing but an absolute equality and coor“ dination in God the Father and the Son can make 56' them two Gods; and that the real subordination of the « Son to the Father preserves the Church from Poly“theism,” (p. 100: In the next page, you appeal to « Athanasius for the sense of the Nicene and Póst-Nicene " Fathers,” and to Hilary and Basil, in order to clear your doctrine from the charge of Tritheism ; little ima gining that these good and great men have a condemned your doctrine, as Polytheism and Paganism, over and over;' as all know, that are any thing conversant iti their works: Well: but what have they said to countenance your notion? This only; that unity of principle clears' the Church's! doctrine from the charge of Tritheism. Not your doca trine, not the Arian doctrine; but the Catholic doctrine. For since equality of nature, and unity of principle too, are both requisite; the Catholics admitting the former (as their adversaries well knew) had nothing farther needful to insist upon, in answer to the charge of Tritheism, but
the latter. Unity of principle' and sameness of nature · together might make two Persons one God, (according to
the unanimous opinion of the ancients,) but not either of them alone.
But now, in respect to the Arian (that is, your) doctrine, the pretence of unity of principle is perfectly absurd. The Son is supposed a creature of the Father's: if his being of, or from, the Father, in this sense, makes him one God with the Father, it will follow, that angels, or men, or even things inanimate, are one God with the Father also. Indeed, to do you justice, you do not so much as pretend, that unity of principle, or any thing else, can make him one God with the Father. Which is enough to show, how very widely, you differ from the ancients, in the main point of all. They thought it necessary to assert, that Father and Son were both one God. So Irenæus, Athenagoras, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandrià, Origen,
Athanas. Orat. iii. p. 565, 566. Hilar. p. 916. Basil. Ep. lxx. p. 863. Hom. xxvii. p. 601, &c.
Hippolytus, Lactantius, and even Eusebius himself, after some debates upon it: as may appear from the testimonies b before referred to: and of the Post-Nicene Catholic writers, in general, every body knows how they contended for it. They thought that the divinity of the Son could not be otherwise secured, and Polytheism at the same time avoided, than by asserting Father and Son to be one God; and they thought right. But what do you do? Or how can you contrive to clear your scheme? We ask if the Son be God, as well as the Father? You say, Yes: how then is there but one God? Your answer is, The Father is supreme, and therefore he, singly, is the one God. This is taking away what you gave us before, and retracting what you asserted of the Son. If supremacy only makes a Person God, the Son is no God, upon your principles : or, if he is God notwithstanding, then Father and Son are two Gods. Turn this over, as often as you please, you will find it impossible to extricate yourself from it. You can say only this; that you do not admit two supreme Gods. This is very true: no more did the Pagan Polytheists, nor the idolatrous Samaritans, nor others condemned in Scripture for Polytheism. You stand pretty fair upon the principles of philosophy; and are not guilty of any manifest error in metaphysics, upon this article. But you are such a Tritheist, as, upon Scriptureprinciples, and upon the principles of the Catholic Church, both e before and after the Nicene Council, must 'stand condemned. Your belief of the Fathers being for you, in this particular, is pure fancy and fiction; owing, I suppose, to your seeing only some pieces of them in Dr. Clarke. You can find but very little among the ancients, which either directly or indirectly favours your notion of å supreme and a subordinate God. They condemned it
Qu. Ü. 6. 16. !
.. . ; oprit :. . c N. B. I do not say that the Ante-Nicene writers would have called the Arian doctrine Tritheism; perhaps, blasphemy rather. But they would have charged it with Paganism, (see Tertullian above, p. 39.) which comes to the same with what the Post-Nicene said of it.
implicitly, in their disputes with the Pagans, all along: and no sooner was it started in the Church, but the Catholics were alarmed at it; and immediately condemned it as reviving of creature-worship, and restoring Gentilism, and Pagan Polytheism. Two Gods, a greater and a less, a supreme and an inferior, no Scripture, no sound reason, no good Catholic ever taught; no church would have endured. A separate God from the Supreme, an inferior created God, would not only have been looked upon as Polytheism and contradiction, considered in itself; but as heresy and blasphemy, if understood of God and Christ.
To conclude this head: if we understand the word God in the strict sense, it is ridiculous to charge the Arian scheme with plurality of Gods. But, if it be understood in the loose popular sense, or in your own sense of it, it is equally ridiculous to deny it. Mr. Nye, who, you know, has studied this controversy much and long, and is no friend either to the truly Catholic scheme or yours, condemning both as Tritheism, is pleased however so far to give the preference to the former, as to declare, that “ the Arian heresy is only a more absurd and « less defensible Tritheism d.” Of all the four schemes which have been followed, the Sabellian, Catholic, Arian, and Socinian; the Sabellian only, which entirely ungods the Son, (that is, by denying him any distinct divine personality, and admitting only a human personality, viz. of the man Christ,) and annihilates the Holy Ghost, stands perfectly clear of any appearance of Polytheism. The Catholic appears chargeable, but really is not so: the Arian and Socinian both appear so, and are so; wherefore a charge of Tritheism must come from them with a very ill grace. For, was the charge really just, and were we weak enough to assert three coordinate Gods; yet even that could not be more repugnant to the whole drift, scope, and tenor of the sacred writ, than the admitting a plurality of Gods, great and little, sovereign and inferior,
hear of any appear hut really is n
Explicat. of the Articles of Div. Unity, p. 91.,