Page images
PDF
EPUB

that He was unoriginate, others denied it. Some, when interrogated by heretics, taught that He was born of the Father at the Father's will; others, from His nature, not His will; others, neither with His willing nor not willing. Some declared that God was in number Three; others, that He was numerically One; while to others it perhaps appeared more philosophical to exclude the idea of number altogether, in discussions about that Mysterious Nature, which is beyond comparison with itself, whether viewed as Three or One, and neither falls under nor involves any conceivable species".

In all these various statements, the object is clear and unexceptionable, being merely that of protesting and practically guarding against dangerous deductions from the Scripture doctrine; and the problem implied in all of them is, to determine how this end may best be effected. There are no signs of an intellectual curiosity in the tenor of these Catholic expositions, prying into things not seen as yet; nor of an ambition to account for the representations of the truth given us in the sacred writings. But such a temper is the very characteristic of the Arian disputants. They insisted on taking the terms of Scripture and of the Church for more than they signified, and expected their opponents to admit inferences altogether foreign to the theological sense in which they were really used. Hence, they sometimes accused the orthodox of heresy, sometimes of self-contradiction. The Fathers of the Church have come down to us loaded with the imputation of the strangest errors,

• Justin, Tryph. 61. 100, &c. Petav. vi. 8. §. 14, 15. 18.
7 Petav. iv. 13.

merely because they united truths, which heresies only shared among themselves; nor have writers been wanting in modern times, from malevolence or carelessness, to aggravate these charges. The mystery of their creed has been converted into an evidence of concurrent heresies. To believe in the actual Incarnation of the Eternal Wisdom, has been treated, not as orthodoxy, but as an Ariano-Sabellianism. To believe that the Son of God was the Logos, was Sabellianism; to believe that the pre-existent Logos was the Son of God, was Valentinianism. Gregory of Neo-Cæsarea was called a Sabellian, because he spoke of one substance in the Divine Nature; he was called a forerunner of Arius, because he said that Christ was a creature. Origen, so frequently accused of Arianism, seemed to be a Sabellian, when he said that the Son was the Auto-aletheia, the Archetypal Truth. Athenagoras is charged with Sabellianism by the very writer (Petau), whose general theory it is that he was one of those Platonizing Fathers who anticipated Arius'. Alexander, who at the opening of the controversy, was accused by Arius of Sabellianizing, has in these latter times been detected by the flippant Jortin to be an advocate of Semi-Arianism', which was the peculiar enemy and assailant of Sabellianism in all its forms. The celebrated word, homoüsion, has not escaped a similar contrariety of charges. Arius himself ascribes it to the Manichees; the Semi-Arians at Ancyra anathematize it, as Sabellian. It is in the same spirit that Arius, in his letter to Eusebius, scoffs at the “eternal birth," and the “ingenerate generation,” as ascribed to the Son in the orthodox theology; as if the inconsistency, which the words involved, when taken in their full sense, were a sufficient refutation of the heavenly truth, of which they are, each in its place, the partial and relative expression.

*8 [“Eorum error veritati testimonium dicit, et in consona perfidorum sententia in unum recte fidei modulum concinunt.” Vigil. Theps. contr. Eut. ii. init.]

9 Bull, Defens. iii. 5. § 4.
? Jortin, Eccles. Hist. vol. ii. pp. 179, 180.

The Catholics sustained these charges with a prudence, which has (humanly speaking) secured the success of their cause, though it has availed little to remove the calumnies heaped upon themselves. The great Dionysius, who has himself been defamed by the “accuser of the brethren,” declares perspicuously the principle of the orthodox teaching. “The particular expressions which I have used,” he says, in his defence," cannot be taken separate from each other.... whereas my opponents have taken two bald words of mine, and sling them at me from a distance; not understanding, that, in the case of subjects, partially known, illustrations foreign to them in nature, nay, inconsistent with each other, aid the inquiry ?."

However, the Catholics of course considered it a duty to remove, as far as they could, their own verbal inconsistencies, and to sanction one form of expression, as orthodox in each case, among the many which might be adopted. Hence distinctions were made between the unborn and unmade, origin and cause, as already noticed. But these, clear and intelligible as they were in themselves, and valuable, both as facilitating the argument and disabusing the perplexed inquirer, opened to the heretical party the opportunity of a new misrepresentation. Whenever the orthodox writers showed an anxiety to reconcile and discriminate their own expressions, the charge of Manicheism was urged against them; as if to dwell upon, were to rest in the material images which were the signs of the unknown truths. Thus the phrase, “Light of Light,” the orthodox and almost apostolic emblem of the derivation of the Son from the Father, as symbolizing Their inseparability, mutual relation, and the separate fulness and exact parallelism and unity of Their perfections, was interpreted by the gross conceptions of the Manichæan Hieracas :.

2 Athan. de Sent. Dionys. 18.

3. When in answer to such objections the Catholics denied that they attached other than a figurative meaning to their words, their opponents suddenly turned round, and professed the figurative meaning of the terms to be that which they themselves advocated. This inconsistency in their mode of conducting the argument deserves notice. It has already been instanced in the original argument of Arius, who maintained, that, since the word Son in its literal sense included among other ideas that of a beginning of being, the Son of God had had a beginning or was created, and therefore was not really a Son of God at all. It was on account of such unscrupulous dexterity in the controversy, that Alexander and Athanasius give them the title of chameleons. “They are as variable and uncertain in their opinions,” says the latter,) “as chameleons in their colour. When refuted, they look confused, and when examined they are perplexed; however, at length they recover their assurance, and bring forward some evasion. Then, if this in turn is exposed, they do not rest till they have devised some new absurdity, and, as Scripture says, meditate vain things, so that they may secure the privilege of being profane *.”

3 The εκ Θεού was treated tlius : ει γαρ εκ Θεού εστί, και εγέννησεν εξ αυτού ο Θεός, ώς ειπείν, εξ ιδίας υποστάσεως φύσει, και εκ της ιδίας ουσίας, ουκούν ώγκώθη, η τομήν εδέξατο, ή εν τη γεννάν έπλατύνθη, η συνεστάλη, + Tt Tân card dân vuaT LÀà DTéơng. Epiph. Her. Ixix. 15. Or, to take the objection made at Nicæa to the duocúolov by Eusebius and some others : emel gàpěparav ducobolov elval, 8 êk Tivds cotlv, katà μερισμόν, ή κατά δεύσιν, ή κατά προβολήν κατά προβολήν μεν, ώς εκ ριζών βλάστημα, κατά δε ρεύσιν, ώς οι πατρικοί παίδες, κατά μερισμόν δε, ως βώλου χρυσίδες δύο ή τρεις κατ' ουδέν δε τούτων έστιν ο Υιός, διά τούτο ου TUYkaTanzeeơOai Tigre Aerov. Socr. i. 8.

Let us, however, pursue the Arians on their new ground of allegory. It has been already observed, that they explain the word Only-begotten in the sense of onlycreated ; and considered the oneness of the Father and Son to consist in an unity of character and will, such as exists between God and His Saints, not in nature.

Now, surely, the temper of mind, which had recourse to such a comparison between Christ and us, to defend a heresy, was still more odious, if possible, than the original impiety of the heresy itself. Thus, the honours graciously bestowed upon human nature, as well as the condescending self-abasement of our Lord, were made to subserve the cause of the blasphemer. It is a known peculiarity of the message of mercy, that it views the Church of Christ as if clothed with, or hidden within, the glory of Him who ransomed it; so that there is no name or title belonging to Him literally, which is not in a secondary

* Athan. de Decr. Nic. 1. Socr. i. 6. [Vide Ath. Tr. p. 81, t.]

« PreviousContinue »