« PreviousContinue »
the sole Power, Wisdom, and Image, eternal and in all respects', of the Father, and very God, the followers of Eusebius were detected making signs to each other, to express that this also could be applied to ourselves.
For we ton, they said, are called in Scripture the image and glory of God; we are said to live always ... There are many powers; the locust is called in Scripture “ a great power.” Nay, that we are God's own sons, is proved expressly from the text, in which the Son calls us brethren. Nor does their assertion, that He is very (true) God, distress us; He is very God, because He was made such. This was the unprincipled meaning of the Arians. But here too the Bishops, seeing through their deceit, brought together from Scripture, the radiance, source and stream, express Image of Person, 'In Thy Light we shall see light,' 'I and the Father are one,' and last of all, expressed themselves more clearly and concisely, in the phrase "consubstantial with the Father;' for all that was beforesaid has this meaning. As to their complaint about non-scriptural phrases, they theinselves are evidence of its futility. It was they who began with their impious expressions; for, after their “Out of nothing,' and 'Once was not,' going beyond Scripture in order to be impious, now they make it a grievance, that, in condemning them, we go beyond Scripture, in order to be pious ?.” The last remark is important; even those traditional statements of the Catholic doctrine, which were more explicit than Scripture, had not as yet, when the controversy began, taken
the shape of formulæ. It was the Arian defined propositions of the “out of nothing," and the like, which called for the imposition of the “consubstantial.”
It has sometimes been said, that the Catholics anxiously searched for some offensive test, which might operate to the exclusion of the Arians. This is not correct, inasmuch as they have no need to search ; the "from God's substance” having been openly denied by the Arians, five years before the Council, and no practical distinction between it and the consubstantial existing, till the era of Basil and his Semi-Arians. Yet, had it been necessary, doubtless it would have been their duty to seek for a test of this nature; nay, to urge upon the heretical teachers the plain consequences of their doctrine, and to drive them into the adoption of them. These consequences are certain of being elicited in the long-run ; and it is but equitable to anticipate them in the persons of the heresiarchs, rather than to suffer them gradually to unfold and spread far and wide after their day, sapping the faith of their deluded and less guilty followers. Many a man would be deterred from outstepping the truth, could he see the end of his course from the beginning. The Arians felt this, and therefore resisted a detection, which would at once expose them to the condemnation of all serious men. In this lies the difference between the treatment due to an individual in heresy, and to one who is confident enough to publish the innovations which he has originated. The former claims from us the most affectionate sympathy, and the most considerate attention. The latter should meet with no mercy; he assumes the office of the Tempter, and, so far forth as his error goes, must be dealt with by the competent authority, as if he were embodied Evil. To spare him is a false and dangerous pity. It is to endanger the souls of thousands, and it is uncharitable towards himself.
THE ECUMENICAL COUNCIL OF NICÆA
IN THE REIGN OF CONSTANTINE.
HISTORY OF THE NICENE COUNCIL.
The authentic account of the proceedings of the Nicene Council is not extant'. It has in consequence been judged expedient to put together in the foregoing Chapter whatever was necessary for the explanation of the Catholic and Arian creeds, and the controversy concerning them, rather than to reserve any portion of the doctrinal discussion for the present, though in some respects the more appropriate place for its introduction. Here then the transactions at Nicæa shall be reviewed in their political or ecclesiastical aspect.
1 Vide Ittigius, Hist. Conc. Nic. § 1. The rest of this volume is drawn up from the following authorities : Eusebius, Vit. Const. Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret, Hist. Eccles., the various historical tracts of Athanasius, Epiphanius Hær. lxix. lxxiii., and the Acta Conciliorum. Of moderns, especially Tillemont and Petavius; then, Maimbourg's History of Arianism, the Benedictine Life of Athanasius, Cave's Life of Athanasius and Literary History, Gibbon's Roman History, and Mr. Bridges' Rcign of Constantine.
1. Arius first published his heresy about the year 319. With his turbulent conduct in 306 and a few years later we are not here concerned. After this date, in 313, he is said, on the death of Achillas, to have aspired to the primacy of the Egyptian Church; and, according to Philostorgius", the historian of his party, a writer of little credit, to have generously resigned his claims in favour of Alexander, who was elected. His ambitious character renders it not improbable that he was a candidate for the vacant dignity; but, if so, the difference of age between himself and Alexander, which must have been considerable, would at once account for the elevation of the latter, and be an evidence of the indecency of Arius in becoming a competitor at all. His first attack on the Catholic doctrine was conducted with an openness which, considering the general duplicity of his party, is the most honourable trait in his character. In a public meeting of the clergy of Alexandria, he accused his diocesan of Sabellianism; an insult which Alexander, from deference to the talents and learning of the objector, sustained with somewhat too little of the dignity befitting “the ruler of the people.” The mischief which ensued from his misplaced meekness was considerable. Arius was one of the public preachers of Alexandria ; and, as some suppose, Master of the Catechetical School. Others of the city Presbyters were stimulated by his example to similar irregularities. Colluthus, Carponas, and Sarmatas began to form each
Philost. i. 3.