« PreviousContinue »
they might, and should have done, had they been of Dr. Clarke's principles, or of yours. No: a they only deny any division or diminution of the Father's substance, and illustrate, as well as they are able, so sublime a mystery, by one light kindled, as it were, from another ; by the sun and its rays; by fountain and streams; stock and branch: all instances of the same specific nature, and banswering in some circumstances, though defective in others. One would not desire a fuller and clearer testimony, that those or the like similitudes were intended to signify the same with a proper consubstantiality, than we meet with in Dionysius of Alexandriac...
Then, for their answers to the charge of Tritheism, as understood by the Sabellians, how easy it would have been for them to have told the objectors, that they did not take the word God in the strict sense; that Moses and other mortal men had been called Gods; that they believed the Son to be no more than a creature, though the most perfect of all creatures; and that the Sabellians did them a very great and manifest injury, to imagine otherwise of them. This would, this must have been their answer to the charge of Tritheism, as understood by the objectors, had they not otherwise “ learned Christ.” Instead of this, they appear to be very sensible of the just weight and importance of the objection. They must secure the divinity of the Son, and yet preserve the unity too. They have recourse to unity of substance, (even against those who made one substance to signify one Hypostasis,) as Tertullian frequently does, in his dispute with Praxeas : and notwithstanding that the Sabellians had, if I may so speak, carried the Son's divinity too high, insomuch as to make him the very same Hypostasis with the Father ; yet the utmost that the Catholics could be brought to say, in degradation of him, was only this ; that he was subordinate as a Son; equal in every respect, but as a Son can be equal to a Father ; inferior, in point of original, (the Father being head and fountain of all,) but still of the same nature, power, substance, and perfections; subsisting in and from the Father, inseparably and constantly, always and everywhere; and therefore one God with him. And if any person, though in the warmth of dispute, did but happen to drop any doubtful expressions, tending any way to lessen the dignity of the Son, or was but suspected to do so; the alarm was soon taken, and it awakened the jealousy of the Catholics; who could not bear any appearance of it. This was remarkably seen, in the famous case of Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, sixty years before the rise of Arius, and is recorded by Athanasius in his works.
.. Just. M. Dial. p. 183, 373. Tat. p. 21, 22. Athenag. p. 40, 96. Origen, Pamph. Apol. Tertull. Apol. c. 21. adv. Prax. c. 8. Theognost. apud Athanas. vol. i. p. 230. Hippolyt. contr. Noët. c. 11. p. 13. Dionys. Alexand. Resp. ad Quæst. 5. Conf. Prud. Apotheos. p. 172.
6 See Bull, D. F. p. 120.
5. To this we may add, that while the Sabellian controversy was on foot, (which was at least a hundred years, and could never have lasted so long, had the Catholics been of any other principles than those which I here maintain,) I say, while this was on foot, how easy would it have been for the Catholics to have pinched them close, and to have pressed them with variety of arguments, more than they did, had they been of your principles, or of Dr. Clarke's? The Father is eternal, but the Son not so; the Father is omniscient, but the Son ignorant of the day of judgment; the Father is omnipotent, but the powers of the Son finite and limited; in a word, the Father is Creator, but the Son a creature ; and therefore they cannot be one and the same Hypostasis, or Suppositum. This argument had been irrefragable, and could not have failed of being urged and pressed home, by men of such acute parts as Tertullian, Origen, Hippolytus, and others, had it been consistent with Catholic principles; or had they not believed, that the Son was consubstantial, in the proper sense, enjoying all the essential perfections of the Father, in common with him.
6. It would be endless almost to proceed in this argument: the rest I shall throw into a narrower compass, and only give hints for your leisure thoughts to inquire into. The strict sense which the ancients had of the word God, as signifying substance, and applying it to the Son, in the same sense; their admitting but one substance to be strictly divine, and their utter abhorrence of any inferior deities; their appropriating worship to the one true God, and worshipping the Son notwithstanding; their unanimous belief of the Son's being eternal, uncreated, omnipotent, and of his being Creator, Preserver, and Sustainer of the universe: any one of these, singly almost, would be sufficient for the proof of a proper consubstantiality, as asserted by the Ante-Nicene Catholic writers : but all together, and taken with the other particulars before mentioned, they make so full, so clear, so ample a demonstration of a matter of fact, that a man must be of a very peculiar constitution, who, after having well considered the evidences, can make the least doubt or scruple of it. And this I hope may be sufficient in answer to your pretence of an oratorical or figurative consubstantiality; a pretence, which you lay down with an unusual diffidence, and without so much as one reason, or authority, to support it.
It being evident, from what hath been said, that it was a proper, not figurative, consubstantiality, which the Ante-Nicene Fathers inviolably maintained ; this is all I am concerned for. As to the question, whether it shall be called specific or numerical, I am in no pain about it. Neither of the names exactly suits it; nor perhaps any other we can think on. It is such a consubstantiality as preserves the unity, without destroying the distinct personality; such as neither Sabellians nor Arians would come into, but the Catholics maintained, with equal vigour, against both. It is a medium, to preserve the priority of the Father, and withal the divinity, the essential divinity, of Son and Holy Ghost : in a word; it is the sober, middle way, between the extravagancies of both extremes.
Query XXVI. Whether the Doctor did not equivocate or prevaricate
strangely, in saying, do The generality of writers before « the Council of Nice were, in the whole, clearly on his “ side :" when it is manifest, they were, in the general, no farther on his side, than the allowing a subordination amounts to ; no farther than our own Church is on his side, while in the main points of difference, the ETERNITY and consUBSTANTIALITY, they are clearly against him that is, they were on his side, so far as we acknowledge him to be right, but no farther.
IN defence of the Doctor, you appeal to his very numerous, and, as you say, plain quotations from the ancient authors. And this, you promise beforehand, will be made further evident to all learned and unprejudiced persons, as soon as “ Dr. Whitby's Observations on Bishop Bull's .“ Defens. Fid. Nic. appear in the world.” As to the Doctor's pretended plain quotations from the ancient authors, they have not plainly, nor at all determined against the coeternity and consubstantiality of the Son, the points in question; and therefore can do the Doctor no service: but, on the contrary, the Ante-Nicene writers, in general, have determined plainly against him, as to the main of his doctrine, wherein he differs from us. In asserting which, I say no more than the great Athanasius told the Arians long ago; and it is fact, that all the writers before them, of any repute or judgment, were directly against them. “e We give you demonstration,” says he, “ that “our doctrine has been handed down to us from fathers “ to fathers. But you, ye revivers of Judaism and disci“ples of Caiphas, what writers can you bring to father “ your tenets ? Not a. man can you name, of any repute .“ for sense or judgment. All to a man are against “you," &c. To the same purpose speaks St. Austin, in a
d Answer to Dr. Wells, p. 28.
Athanas. de Decret. Syn. Nic. p. 233.
XXVI. OF SOME QUERIES. 277 studied discourse, which may be supposed to contain his coolest and most serious thoughts. “f All the Catholic “interpreters of the Old or New Testament, that I could “ read, who have wrote before me on the Trinity, which “is God, intended to teach, conformable to Scripture, " that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost do, by the insepara“ ble equality of one and the same substance, make up “ the unity divine.” Here you may observe the sum of the Catholic doctrine. The same homogeneous substance, and inseparability. The first makes each Hypostasis, res divina ; the last makes all to be una substantia, una summa res, one undivided, or individual, or numerical substance; one God. This is the ancient Catholic doctrine; and, I think, of the Schools too; though the Schoolmen have perplexed it with innumerable subtilties. Hilary expresses it briefly thus : “ Naturæ indissimilis, atque inseparabilis “unitas.” This, I say, is the doctrine; confute it, if you please, or if you can: in the meanwhile, however, let us honestly own the fact. But to proceed.
There were many writings extant in the times of Athanasius and Austin, which have not come down to us; and therefore their testimonies, in the case, are of the greater force. I might mention other Catholics, about that time, who appealed to antiquity, with all the assurance and freedom imaginable. But the most remarkable instance to our purpose is, that when in the time of Theodosius
f Omnes, quos legere potui, qui ante me scripserunt de Trinitate, quæ est Deus, divinorum librorum veterum et novorum Catholici tractatores hoc intenderunt secundum Scripturas docere, quod Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus, unius ejusdemque substantiæ inseparabili æqualitate divinam insinuent unitatem. Aug. Trin. I. i. c. 3. p. 753.
8 I shall add another passage of St. Austin, to explain his sense more clearly.
Trinitas propter Trinitatem Personarum, et unus Deus propter inseparabilem Divinitatem, sicut unus Omnipotens propter inseparabilem Omnipotentiam. Ita ut etiam cum de singulis quæritur, unusquisque eorum et Deus et Omnipotens esse respondeatur; cum vero de omnibus simul, non tres Dii, vel tres Omnipotentes, sed unus Deus Omnipotens : tanta inest in tribus inseparabilis unitas, quæ sic se voluit prædicari. August. in Civit. Dei, 1. xi. c. 24.