Page images
PDF
EPUB

and which it behoves them to cleave to. This is so agreeable to the common sense and reason of mankind; and the advantage of having antiquity of one's side is so apparent, that I will venture to say, none ever talked against it, who did not suspect, at least, that antiquity was against them: and this I take to be one of your greatest misfortunes in this controversy ; that you are sensible how much it would weaken your cause to give up the Fathers; and yet, you are certain, in the result, to weaken it as much, by pretending to keep them.

QUERY XXVIII. Whether it be at all probable, that the primitive Church

should mistake in so material a point as this is; or that the whole stream of Christian writers should mistake in telling us what the sense of the Church was ; and whether such a cloud of witnesses can be set aside without weakening the only proof we have of the canon of Scripture, and the integrity of the sacred text ?

IN answer hereto, you admit that “ the testimony of - the whole stream of antiquity is sufficient to determine, 66 in fact, what faith the Church hath always professed " and declared in her public forms,” I am content to put the matter upon this issue; and let the point be decided from their professions in baptism, creeds, doxologies, hymns, which were public forms; and from public censures passed upon heretics, which are as clear evidence as the other of the Church's faith at that time. Only I would not exclude collateral proofs; such as the declared sentiments of eminent Church-writers, the interpretations of creeds, left us by those that recite them, (such as those of Irenæus, Tertullian, and others;) and ecclesiastical history, telling us what the tradition of the Church was, down to such a time. From these put together, we have very clear and full proof that the Catholic Church did all along profess a Trinity of consubstantial, coeternal Persons, in unity of nature, substance, and Godhead. This, the incomparable Bishop Bull has sufficiently shown in his Defensio Fidei Nicenæ, Judicium Ecclesia, and Primitiva Traditio. Bishop Stillingfieet pursued the same argument, with variety of learning, in bis Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, chapter the 9th, which he concludes in these words :: “ Taking the sense of those arti« cles, as the Christian Church understood them from " the Apostles' times, then we have as full and clear evi« dence of this doctrine, as we have that we received the Scriptures from them.Dr. Clarke's and Dr. Whitby's pretences to the contrary have been sufficiently answered; pårtly by the learned gentleman who wrote the True Scripture Doctrine continued, and partly by these sheets. You have little to object, but that the Fathers did not assert an individual consubslantiality, in your sense; which is true; and is no more than telling me, that they were not mad, when I contend that they were sober.

But you add; the question is, whether, supposing the Fathers had unanimously declared for our notion, “ whe66 ther (in a question not of fact, like that concerning the 66 canon of Scripture, but of judgment and reasoning) such " a testimony would prove that those Scriptures 'reveal it; " or whether such an interpretation of Scripture “ would be as infallible as Scripture itself.” But this is no question at all between us. What we pretend is, that we have as good proof of the doctrine of the Church, as of the canon of Scripture. Whether the Church, after the Apostles, was as infallible as the Apostles themselves, is quite another question. We think it very unlikely that the apostolic churches should not know the mind of the Apostles; or should suddenly vary from it, in any matter of moment. We look upon it as highly improbable that the faith of those churches should so soon run counter to any thing in Scripture; since they had the best opportunities of knowing what Scripture meant; were made up of wise and good men, men who would sooner die than commit any error in that kind wilfully. Upon this, we believe the concurring judgment of antiquity. to be, though not infallible; yet the safest comment upon Scripture; and to have much more weight in it, than there generally is in wit and criticism; and therefore not to be rejected, where the words of Scripture will, with any propriety, bear that interpretation. This is sufficient for us to say or pretend. We have as plausible arguments, to speak modestly, from Scripture, as you can pretend to have: nay, we think your notions utterly irreconcileable with Scripture, according to the natural, obvious, grammatical construction of words. And besides all this, we have, what you want, the concurring sense of the ancients plainly for us. The question then is not, whether Scripture and Fathers be equally infallible: all the Fathers together are not so valuable, or so credible, as any one inspired writer. But it is plainly this: whether the ancient Heretics or Catholics, as they have been distinguished, have been the best interpreters of disputed texts; and whether we are now to close in with the former, or the latter. You would insinuate that you have Scripture, and we Fathers only: but we insist upon it, that we have both; as for many other reasons, so also for this, because both, very probably, went together: and as you certainly want one, so it is extremely probable that you have neither; for this very reason, among many others, because you have not both. This argument is of force and weight; and will hardly yield to any thing short of demonstration ; much less will it yield to such sort of reasonings as you are obliged to make use of, wanting better, to support your novel opinions.

The sum of the whole matter is this. The unanimous sense of the ancients, upon any controversial point, is of great moment and importance towards fixing the sense of Scripture, and preventing its being ill used by desultorious wits, who love to wander out of the common way; and can never want some colour for any opinion almost whatever. We do not appeal to the ancients, as if we could not maintain our ground, from Scripture and reason, against all opposers: this has been done over and over. Athanasius, Hilary, Basil, the two Gregories, Chrysostom, Austin, Cyril, and others, undertook the cause on the foot of Scripture, and were easily superior to all the Arians. But since we have an advantage, over and above Scripture evidence, from the concurring sentiments of antiquity, we think it very proper to take that in also; and we shall not easily suffer it to be wrested from us.

QUERY XXIX. Whether private reasoning, in a matter above our compre

hension, be a safer rule to go by, than the general sense and judgment of the primitive Church, in the first 300 years; or, supposing it doubtful what the sense of the Church was within that time, whether what was determined by a council of 300 bishops soon after, with the greatest care and deliberation, and has satisfied men of the greatest sense, piety, and learning, all over the Christian world, for 1400 years since, may not satisfy wise and good men now?

HERE you tell me, as usual, when you have little else to say, that the Council of Nice knew nothing of individual consubstantiality: and then you add, pleasantly, that you “ turn the Query against the Querist; and lay 66 claim to the Nicene Confession.” What! lay claim to a confession made in direct opposition to the men of your principles? You say, if any consubstantiality is to be found in that Creed, it is the specific, not individual. And what if it were ? Would that give you any claim to the Nicene Confession? Are God and his creatures consubstantial, of the same rank, sort, kind, or species? You are forced to have recourse to a figurative sense, which pretence I have obviated above. You are so kind to the Querist, as to be “ willing to suppose and believe,” that he “is not ignorant of the true and only sense of the 66 word duocúo sos;” meaning thereby the specific sense. In return, I will be so just to you, as to say, that you understand the word very right: and yet the Nicene Fathers

did not teach a merely specific consubstantiality. The word óp.oouosos expresses their sense; but not their whole sense, in that article. It expresses an equality of nature, and signifies that the Son is as truly equal in nature to the Father, as one man is equal to another, or any individual equal to another individual of the same sort or species. And this was chiefly to be insisted on against the Arians, who denied such equality, making the Son a creature. Wherefore the true reason, to use Dr. Cud. worth's words, only mutatis mutandis, why the Nicene Fathers Jaid so great a stress upon the ouoouo sov, was not because this alone was sufficient to make Father and Son one God; but because they could not be so without it. d'Opocúolos the Son must be, or he could not be God at all, in the strict sense; and yet if he was barely ouoouo 105, like as one human person is to another, the two would be two Gods. And therefore the Nicene Fathers, not content to say only that the Son is ouoouolos, insert likewise, “ God of God, Light of Light, begotten,” &c. and, “ of “ the substance of the Father;” and this they are known to have declared over and over, to be “ without any di« vision:” all which taken together expresses a great deal more than ouoouonos would do alone; and are, as it were, so many qualifying clauses, on purpose to prevent any such misconstruction and misapprehension, as the word

Hi tres, quia unius substantiæ sunt, unum sunt; et summe unum sunt, ubi nulla naturarum, nulla est diversitas voluntatum. Si autem natura unum essent, et consensione non essent, non summe unum essent: si vero natura dispares essent, unum non essent. Hi ergo tres, qui unum sunt propter ineffabilem conjnnctionem Deitatis, qua ineffabiliter copulantur, unus Deus est. Aug. contr. Marim. 1. ii. p. 698.

This is very full to our purpose; and, by the way, may show how far St. Austin was from Sabellianism ; which some have weakly pretended to charge him with. But there are many passages in this piece against Maximin, one of his very latest pieces, full against Sabelliunism, as well as against Arianism. I may just remark, that there is a deal of difference between unius substantiæ, and una substantia. Two men are unius ejusdemque substantiæ, not una substantia. But the three Persons are not only unius substantiæ, but una substantia. The modern sense of consubstantial takes in both.

« PreviousContinue »