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called sons of God, by the unchangeableness of His nature, stripping off all reverence, they answer, that God, foreknowing and foreseeing His obedience, chose Him out of all creatures; chose Him, I say, not as possessing aught by nature and prerogative above the others (since, as they say, there is no Son of God by nature), nor bearing any peculiar relation towards God; but, as being, as well as others, of an alterable nature, and preserved from falling by the pursuit and exercise of virtuous conduct; so that, if Paul or Peter had made such strenuous progress, they would have gained a sonship equal to His.”
In another letter, which was addressed to the Churches, he says, “It is their doctrine, that God was not always a Father, that the Word of God has not always existed, but was made out of nothing; for the self-existing God made Him, who once was not, out of what once was not. ... Neither is He like the Father in substance, nor is He the true and natural Logos of the Father, nor His true Wisdom, but one of His works and creatures; and He is catachrestically the Word and Wisdom, inasmuch as He Himself was made by the proper Logos of God, and by that Wisdom which is in God, by which God made all things, and Him in the number. Hence He is mutable and alterable by nature, as other rational beings; and He is foreign and external to God's substance, being excluded from it. He was made for our sakes, in order that God might create us by Him as by an instrument; and He would not have had subsistence, had not God willed our making. Some one asked them, if the Word of God could change, as the devil changed?
They scrupled not to answer,'Certainly, He
More than enough has now been said in explanation of a controversy, the very sound of which must be painful to any one who has a loving faith in the Divinity of the Son. Yet so it has been ordered, that He who was once lifted up to the gaze of the world, and hid not His face from contumely, has again been subjected to rude scrutiny and dishonour in the promulgation of His religion to the world. And His true followers have been themselves obliged in His defence to raise and fix their eyes boldly on Him, as if He were one of themselves, dismissing the natural reverence, which would keep them ever at His feet. The subject may be dismissed with the following remarks :
1. First, it is obvious to notice the unscriptural character of the arguments on which the heresy was founded. It is true that the Arians did not neglect to support their case from such detached portions of the Inspired Volume as suited their purpose; but still it can never be said that they showed that earnest desire of sacred truth, and careful search into its documents, which alone mark the Christian inquirer. The question is not merely whether they confined themselves to the language of Scripture, but whether they began with the study of it. Doubtless, to forbid in controversy the
4 Like in substance, uolos kat' ovolav [This, as we shall see afterwards, in the Homæusian, the symbol of the Eusebians or Semi-Arians], mutable and alterable, Tpertos kal da/owtós; excluded, åreo xovouévos.
use of all words but those which actually occur in Scripture, is a superstition, an encroachment on Scripture liberty, and an impediment to freedom of thought; and especially unreasonable, considering that a traditional system of theology, consistent with, but independent of, Scripture, has existed in the Church from the Apostolic age. “Why art thou in that excessive slavery to the letter,” says Gregory Nazianzen, “and employest a Judaical wisdom, dwelling upon syllables, while letting slip realities ? Suppose, on thy saying twice five, or twice seven, I were to understand thence ten or fourteen; or, if I spoke of a man, when thou hadst named an animal rational and mortal, should I in that case appear to thee to trifle ? How could I so appear, in merely expressing your own meaning " ?" But, inasmuch as this liberty was an evangelical privilege, which might be allowed to the Arian disputants, on the other hand it was a dangerous privilege also, ever to be subjected to a profound respect for the sacred text, a cautious adherence to the whole of the doctrine therein contained, and a regard also for those received statements, which, though not given to us as inspired, probably are derived from inspired teachers. Now the most liberal admission which can be made in behalf of the Arians, is, to grant that they did not in controversy throw aside the authority of Scripture altogether; that is, proclaim themselves unbelievers ; for it is evident that they took only just so much of it as would afford them a basis for erecting their system of heresy by an abstract logical process. The mere words “Father and Son,” “ birth," " origin," &c., were all that they postulated of revealed authority for their argument; they professed to do all the rest for themselves. The meaning of these terms in their context, the illustration which they afford to each other, and, much more, the divine doctrine considered as one undivided message, variously exhibited and dispersed in the various parts of Scripture, were excluded from the consideration of controversialists, who thought that truth was gained by disputing instead of investigating.
5 Petav. iv. 5, $ 6. [Athanasius ever exalts the theological sense over the words, whether sacred or ecclesiastical, which are its vehicle, and this even to the apparent withholding of the symbol duootolov. Vide Orat. ii. 3, and Ath. Tr. p. 17, m; p. 76, i.; p. 157, i; p. 210, e; p. 264, 8; p. 524, h.]
2. Next, it will be observed that, throughout their discussions, they assumed as an axiom, that there could be no mystery in the Scripture doctrine respecting the nature of God. In this, indeed, they did but follow the example of the contemporary spurious theologies; though their abstract mode of reasoning from the mere force of one or two Scripture terms, necessarily forced them more than other heretics into the use and avowal of the prin. ciple. The Sabellian, to avoid mystery, denied the distinction of Persons in the Divine Nature. :· Paulus, and afterwards Apollinaris, for the same reason, denied the existence of two Intelligent Principles at once, the Word and the human soul, in the Person of Christ. The Arians adopted both errors. Yet what is a mystery in doctrine, but a difficulty or inconsistency in the intellectual expression of it? And what reason is there for supposing, that. Revelation addresses itself to the intellect, except so far as intellect is necessary for conveying and fixing its truths on the heart? Why are
we not content to take and use what is given us, without asking questions? The Catholics, on the other hand, pursued the intellectual investigation of the doctrine, under the guidance of Scripture and Tradition, merely as far as some immediate necessity called for it; and cared little, though one mode of expression seemed inconsistent with another. Thus, they developed the notion of “ substance" against the Pantheists, of the “ Hypostatic Word” against the Sabellians, of the “ Internal Word” to meet the imputation of Ditheism ; still they did not use these formulæ for any thing beyond shadows of sacred truth, symbols witnessing against the speculations into which the unbridled intellect fell.
Accordingly, they were for a time inconsistent with each other in the minor particulars of their doctrinal statements, being far more bent on opposing error, than on forming a theology :-inconsistent, that is, before the experience of controversy and the voice of tradition had detached them from less accurate or advisable expressions, and made them correct, or at least compare and adjust their several declarations. Thus, some said that there was but one hypostasis, meaning substance, in God; others three hypostases, meaning Subsistences or Persons; and some spoke of one usia, meaning substance, while others spoke of more than one usia. Some allowed, some rejected, the terms probole and homoüsion, according as they were guided by the prevailing heresy of the day, and by their own judgment how best to meet it. Some spoke of the Son as existing from everlasting in the Divine Mind; others implied that the Logos was everlasting, and became the Son in time. Some asserted