« PreviousContinue »
unseemly to discuss in public, as being attainable only by the sober and watchful, by slow degrees, with dependence on the Giver of wisdom, and with strict obedience to the light which has already been granted. Then, they would scarcely express in writing, what is now not only preached to the mixed crowds who frequent our churches, but circulated in print among all ranks and classes of the unclean and the profane, and pressed upon all who choose to purchase it. Nay, so perplexed is the present state of things, that the Church is obliged to change her course of acting, after the spirit of the alteration made at Nicæa, and unwillingly to take part in the theological discussions of the day, as a man crushes venomous creatures of necessity, powerful to do it, but loathing the employment. This is the apology which the author of the present work, as far as it is worth while to introduce · himself, offers to all soberminded and zealous Christians, for venturing to exhibit publicly the great evangelical doctrines, not indeed the medium of controversy or proof (which would be a still more humiliating office), but in an historical and explanatory form. And he earnestly trusts, that, while doing so, he may be betrayed into no familiarity or extravagance of expression, cautiously lowering the Truth, and (as it were), wrapping it in reverent language, and so depositing it in its due resting-place, which is the Christian's heart; guiltless of those unutterable profanations with which a scrutinizing infidelity wounds and lacerates it. Here, again, is strikingly instanced the unfitness of books, compared with private communication, for the purposes of religious instruction; levelling, as they do, the distinctions of mind and temper by the formality of the written character, and conveying each kind of knowledge the less perfectly, in proportion as it is of a moral nature, and requires to be treated with delicacy and discrimination.
As to the primitive Fathers, with their reverential feelings towards the Supreme Being, great must have been their indignation first, and then their perplexity, when apostates disclosed and corrupted the sacred truth, or when the heretical or philosophical sects made guesses approximating to it. Though the heretics also had their mysteries, yet, it is remarkable, that as regards the high doctrines of the Gospel, they in great measure dropped that restraint and reserve by which the Catholics partly signified, and partly secured a reverence for them. Tertullian sharply exposes the want of a grave and orderly discipline among them in his day. “It is uncertain,"
“who among them is catechumen, who believer. They meet alike, they hear alike, they pray alike; nay, though the heathen should drop in, they will cast holy things to dogs, and their pearls, false jewels as they are, to swine. This overthrow of order they call simplicity, and our attention to it they call meretricious embellishment. They communicate with all men promiscuously; it being nothing to them in what they differ from them, provided they join with them for the destruction of the truth. They are all high-minded; all make pretence of knowledge. Their catechumens are perfect in the faith before they are fully taught. Even their women are
singularly forward ; venturing, that is, to teach, to argue, to exorcise, to undertake cures, nay, perhaps to baptise*:
The heretical spirit is ever one and the same in its various forms: this description of the Gnostics was exactly paralleled, in all those points for which we have introduced it here, in the history of Arianism ; historically distinct as is the latter system from Gnosticism. Arius began by throwing out his questions as a subject of debate for public consideration; and at once formed crowds of controversialists from those classes who were the least qualified or deserving to take part in the discussion. Alexander, his diocesan, accuses him of siding with the Jews and heathen against the Church; and certainly we learn from the historians, that the heathen philosophers were from the first warmly interested in the dispute, so that some of them attended the Nicene Council, for the chance of ascertaining the orthodox doctrine. Alexander also charges him with employing women in his disturbance of the Church, apparently referring at the same time to the Apostle's prediction of them. He speaks especially of the younger females as zealous in his cause, and as traversing Alexandria in their eagerness to promote it;-a fact confirmed by Epiphanius, who speaks (if he may be credited) of as many as seven hundred from the religious societies of that city at once taking part with the heresiarch'. But Arius carried his agitation lower still. It is on no other authority than that of the historian Philostorgius, his own partisan, that
4 Tertull. de Præscr. hæret. § 41.
we are assured of his composing and setting to music, songs on the subject of his doctrine for the use of the rudest classes of society, with a view of familiarizing them to it. Other of his compositions, of a higher literary excellence, were used at table as a religious accompaniment to the ordinary meal; one of which, in part preserved by Athanasius, enters upon the most sacred portions of the theological question'. The success of these exertions in drawing public attention to his doctrine is recorded by Eusebius of Cæsarea, who, though no friend of the heresiarch himself, is unsuspicious evidence as being one of his party. “ From a little spark a great fire was kindled. The quarrel began in the Alexandrian Church, then it spread through the whole of Egypt, Lybia, and the farther Thebais; then it ravaged the other provinces and cities, till the war of words enlisted not only the prelates of the churches, but the people too. At length the exposure was so extraordinary, that even in the heathen theatres, the divine doctrine became the subject of the vilest ridicule ?." Such was Arianism at its commencement; and if it was so indecent in the hands of its originator, who, in spite of his courting the multitude, was distinguished by a certain reserve and loftiness in his personal deportment, much more flagrant was its impiety under the direction of his less refined successors. Valens, the favourite bishop of Constantius, exposed the solemnities of the Eucharist in a judicial examination to which Jews and heathens were admitted; Eudoxius, the
6 Philost. ii. 2. Athan. in Arian. i. 5; de Syn. 15. 7 Euseb. Vit. Const. ii. 61. Vid. Greg. Naz. Orat. i. 142; [ii. 81, 82.]
Arianizer of the Gothic nations, when installed in the patriarchal throne of Constantinople, uttered as his first words a profane jest, which was received with loud laughter in the newly-consecrated Church of St. Sophia ; and Aetius, the founder of the Anomceans, was the grossest and most despicable of buffoons. Later still, we find the same description of the heretical party in a discourse of the kind and amiable Gregory of Nazianzus. With a reference to the Arian troubles he
says, is priest an empty name; contempt is poured upon the rulers, as Scripture says. . . . All fear is banished from our souls, shamelessness has taken its place. Knowledge is now at the will of him who chooses it, and all the deep mysteries of the Spirit. We are all pious, because we condemn the impiety of others. We use the infidels as our arbiters, and cast what is holy to dogs, and pearls before swine, publishing divine truths to profane ears and minds; and, wretches as we are, we carefully fulfil the wishes of our enemies, while, without blushing, we 'pollute ourselves in our inventions
Enough has now been said, by way of describing the condition of the Catholic Church, defenceless from the very sacredness and refinement of its discipline, when the attack of Arianism was made upon it; insulting its silence, provoking it to argue, unsettling and seducing its members', and in consequence requiring its authori
8 Athan. Apol. contr. Arian. 31. Socr. ii. 43. Cave, Hist. Literar. vol. 1. [Eustathius speaks of the παράδοξοι της 'Αρείου θυμέλης μεσόχοροι. Phot. Bibl. p. 759. 30.]
9 Greg. Naz. Orat. i. 135; [ii. 79.] 1 [“ Is it not enough to distract a man, on mere hearing, though unable to controvert, and to make him stop his ears, from astonishment at the