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the Arians were pressed by the Catholics in dispute, and fairly challenged to refer the matter in controversy to the concurring judgment of the writers before them, and to put it upon that issue ; the Arians declined it, and durst not abide the trial. See the story at large, in h Socrates and i Sozomen. So dull were the Catholics at that time, nay, so unthinking were the Arians too, that they could not perceive, what is now so clear to the Doctor, that the generality of writers, before the Council of Nice, were on the Arian side: but one party was confident, and the other suspected, at least, that the contrary was true.
But I need not take this indirect way of confuting the Doctor's assertion; though it affords us a very strong presumption, and is of much greater weight and authority than the single judgment of any of the moderns : many of the Ante-Nicene writings, by the good providence of God, are yet extant, and can speak for themselves; besides that the incomparable Bishop Bull has unanswerably defended them, and vindicated them from all such exceptions as appeared to have any shadow of truth or probability in them. To show you how little reason the Doctor or yourself hath to boast of the Ante-Nicene writers as favourable to your cause, I shall here set down several positions, in which the Doctor and you run manifestly counter to the whole stream of antiquity..
1. That the Son is not consubstantial with God the Father. You are directly opposite to all antiquity in this your leading position, on which the rest hang, and on which the controversy turns. This is very clear from the testimonies collected by Bishop Bull, and from what additional observations I have made under the last Query.
2. That the Son is not coeternal with the Father. Consubstantiality implies coeternity : besides that the aforementioned learned Prelate has given us numerous direct testimonies for it from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, above twenty of them; not one of any note plainly contradicting them. These two main points being determined against you, the rest are of less moment. Yet I cannot find that the ancients agreed with you in your other inferior positions, which you bring in as under-props to your scheme.
h Lib. v. c. 10.
i Ibid. vii. c. 12.
3. That God is a relative word, Jeòs and Jeórns signifying not substance, but dominion and authority. This is directly k contrary to all Catholic antiquity, a very few instances excepted.
4. That God the Father only was God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This position I have shown to be contrary to the sentiments of the Ante-Nicene writers.
5. That the titles of one, only, &c. are exclusive of the Son. This also I have shown, in these papers, to be directly contrary to the judgment of the ancients.
6. That the Son had not distinct worship paid him till after his resurrection. This, in the sense wherein you understand it, is not true; nor agreeable to the sentiments of the ancient Church.
7. That Father and Son (or any two Persons) ought not to be called one God. I have referred to the Ante-Nicene writers, who so called them, more than once. Some of the testimonies may be seen at large in Dr. Fiddes.
8. That the title of God, in Scripture, in an absolute construction, always signifies the Father. Directly con
k See Fiddes, vol. i. p. 375, &c. and what I have observed above, p. 60. Nothing more common than Isórns for divine nature (as av gewrórns also for the human) in ecclesiastical writers. I shall point to a few instances only out of many.
Melito apud Cav. Hist. Lit. vol. ii. p. 33. Grabe, Spicileg. vol. ii. p. 245. Hippolyt. vol. i. p. 226. vol. ii. p. 24. Orig.contr. Cels. p. 342, 404. Cyril. Hierosol. Catech. xi. p. 142. Cyril. Alex. Thesaur. p. 232. Dial. i. de Trin. p. 405. Damasc. de Orth. Fid. 1. iii. c. 11.
N. B. There is, in strictness, some difference between tò Isãoy and Jiórns, (though the latter is often used for the former,) such nearly as between concrete and abstract; but still Jsórns refers to nature and substance, (as Oròs also generally does not dominion. Abstract names of substances are not very common indeed. (See Locke, H. U. 1. iii. c. 8.) but here there was a necessity for it.
trary to the stream of antiquity; as may appear, besides other arguments, from their application of Scripture texts, of the Old Testament, in which God is spoken of absolutely, to the Son.
9. That an inferior God may be admitted besides the supreme, and worship paid to both. Nothing can strike more at the very fundamentals of religion than this position, in the judgment of the ancients in general. ..
10. That the Son is not efficient cause of the universe, and of all created beings. This I take to be contrary to all the ancients. See the testimonies above?.
11. That the Son himself is made, or created. This neither you nor the Doctor admit in terms; but in reality, and in other words, you both do; as hath been shown. This position is flatly contrary to the doctrine of the ancients. The testimonies have been referred to above. There are other particulars, which I may at present forget, or which may less deserve notice. These are enough to show that the Doctor's pretences to the Ante-Nicene Fathers are groundless.
What then has the Doctor to plead for himself, and for his so great assurance in this particular? First, that the Anté-Nicene (as did also the Post-Nicene) Fathers allowed a subordination; which is very true, but not at all pertinent; nor can any consequence be certainly drawn from it, in favour of the Doctor's hypothesis ; which he himself seems to be aware of, as I have remarked above m. Another thing is, that the Ante-Nicene writers, some of them, spoke of a temporal generation by the will of the Father; which I have accounted for in my former pages. And a third thing is, that the generality of the ancients, when they speak of God absolutely, ordinarily mean the Father, and they distinguish his Person by some eminent titles and peculiar appellations; which may be easily accounted for.
Can these three considerations, or if there be more such,
m Page 212.
be ground sufficient for the Doctor to say, that the generality of the Ante-Nicene writers are clearly on his side, when they expressly contradict him in so many particulars as I have mentioned; several of them essentials of his hypothesis ? The most that in truth can, or in justice ought to be said, is that, in some particulars, they seem to favour him; but could not really mean it, unless they notoriously contradicted themselves. The very utmost which the most sanguine man of your side should hope for, is, that the Fathers may be found contradictory to one another, or to themselves, in order to null their evidence. If they are consistent, they are ours certainly. And this difference there is plainly between us and you: that, as to your principles, the Fathers are express, clear, and full against them; no possibility of reconciling them together: as to ours, they are nowhere directly and expressly against us. If they are at all against us, it is only indirectly, and must be made out by inference, deduction, and remote consequences, neither clear nor certain. They may be reconciled to our principles, to themselves, and to one another : but as to any consistent agreement with yours, it is utterly impracticable.
Now supposing the Doctor ever so strongly to believe that the Ante-Nicene writers, in general, held principles which necessarily infer and imply his conclusion ; yet we insist upon it, that they ought not to be judged of from any obscure disputable consequences which the Doctor draws for them, against what they drew for themselves. If we once take the liberty of denominating, sorting, or ranking of men with any side, not according to what themselves, perhaps rightly, professed, but according to what some imagine, in reason and good consequence, they ought to have professed, we may call Protestants, Papists; Arminians, Calvinists; Orthodox, Heretics ; and what not. There are some common principles which all mankind agree in; and the several differences and distinctions amongst them arise only from their drawing consequences differently; and it is this that gives them their particular and special denomination. Now since it is evident and visible, as the light, that the Ante-Nicene writers did not own the consequences which the Doctor makes for them, but expressly and clearly rejected them; constantly affirming the eternity and consubstantiality of the Son, (the very points of difference between us and the Doctor,) it is plain and obvious to common sense, that the Doctor has no just claim or title to them, but that we have: they were, in the main points, clearly on our side, (consistent, or not consistent, is not now the question,) and as clearly against him. It is to no purpose to plead, in this case, that premises only are of any weight, and that conclusions always stand for nothing. This may be allowed in argumentalion; but not in determining on what side any person, or any body of men were in this particular question; whether such conclusions follow from such premises. In this, the Ante-Nicene writers were directly and plainly Anti-Arian ; and therefore it is a great abuse of language, and as great an injury to them and to the truth, for the Doctor to say that they were, “ in the 6 whole, clearly on his side.” .
But you had promised the world great matters from a book of Dr. Whitby's, which has since seen the light; and I am therefore obliged to say something to it, though otherwise I should much rather wave it; because it is wrote only to scholars, with whom it can do no harm; and because, I believe, you are sensible, before this time, how uncautious a thing it is to promise in the dark; and to be sponsor for another's performance so long beforehand. Dr. Whitby is a person that has done good service to the Church, and to the learned world; and one would be willing to throw a veil over his late misconduct in this controversy, did not the imprudent triumphs of others oblige us to take some notice of it. But let us come to the point : I shall show you, in some short strictures upon the performance, how little you are to hope for