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foregoing Chapter contain sufficient evidence, that they had rather to reconcile themselves to the adoption of a formula which expedience suggested, and to the use of it as a test, than to discover a means of ejecting or subduing their opponents. In the very beginning of the controversy, Eusebius of Nicomedia had declared, that he would not admit the "from the substance” as an attribute of our Lord". A letter containing a similar avowal was read in the Council, and made clear to its members the objects for which they had met; viz. to ascertain the character and tendency of the heresy; to raise a protest and defence against it; lastly, for that purpose, to overcome their own reluctance to the formal and unauthoritative adoption of a word, in explanation of the true doctrine, which was not found in Scripture, had actually been perverted in the previous century to an heretical meaning, and was in consequence forbidden by the Antiochene Council which condemned Paulus.
The Arian party, on the other hand, anxious to avoid a test, which they themselves had suggested, presented a Creed of their own, drawn up by Eusebius of Cæsarea. In it, though the expression of the substance” or “consubstantial” was omitted, every term of honour and dignity, short of this, was bestowed therein upon the Son of God; who was designated as the Logos of God, God of God, Light of Light, Life of Life, the Onlybegotten Son, the First-born of the whole creation, of the Father before all worlds, and the Instrument of creating them. The Three Persons were confessed to be
CHAP. III. in real hypostasis or subsistence (in opposition to Sabellianism), and to be truly Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Catholics saw very clearly, that concessions of this kind on the part of the Arians did not conceal the real question in dispute. Orthodox as were the terms employed by them, naturally and satisfactorily as they would have answered the purposes of a test, had the existing questions never been agitated, and consistent as they were with certain producible statements of the Ante-Nicene writers, they were irrelevant at a time when evasions had been found for them all, and triumphantly proclaimed. The plain question was, whether our Lord was God in as full a sense as the Father, though not to be viewed as separable from Him; or whether, as the sole alternative, He was a creature; that is, whether He was literally of, and in, the one Indivisible Essence which we adore as God, “consubstantial with God," or of a substance which had a beginning. The Arians said that He was a creature, the Catholics that He was very God; and all the subtleties of the most fertile ingenuity could not alter, and could but hide, this fundamental difference. A specimen of the Arian argumentation at the Council has already been given on the testimony of Athanasius; happily it was not successful. A form of creed was drawn up by Hosius, containing the discriminating terms of orthodoxy ®; and anathemas were added against all who maintained the heretical formulæ, Arius and his immediate followers being mentioned by name. In order to prevent misapprehension of the sense in which the test was used, explanations accompanied it. Thus carefully defined, it was offered for subscription to the members of the Council; who in consequence bound themselves to excommunicate from their respective bodies all who actually obtruded upon the Church the unscriptural and novel positions of Arius. As to the laity, they were not required to subscribe any test as the condition of communion; though they were of course exposed to the operation of the anathema, in case they ventured on positive innovations on the rule of faith.
5 [Justice has not been done here to the ground of tradition, on which the Fathers specially took their stand. For example, “Who. ever heard such doctrine ?” says Athanasius; “whence, from whom did they gain it ? Who thus expounded to them when they were at school ?” Orat. i. & 8. “Is it not enough to distract a man, and to
While the Council took this clear and temperate view of its duties, Constantine acted a part altogether consistent with his own previous sentiments, and praiseworthy under the circumstances of his defective knowledge. He had followed the proceedings of the assembled prelates with interest, and had neglected no opportunity of impressing upon them the supreme importance of securing the peace of the Church. On the opening of the Council, he had set the example of conciliation, by burning publicly, without reading, certain charges which had been presented to him against some of its members; a noble act, as conveying a lesson to all present to repress every private feeling, and to deliberate for the wellbeing of the Church Catholic to the end of time, Such was his behaviour, while the question in
make him stop his ears ? ” the note and references.]
§ 35. Vide Ath. Tr. pp. 190, 191, with .
controversy was still pending; but when the decision was once announced, his tone altered, and what had been a recommendation of caution, at once became an injunction to conform. Opposition to the sentence of the Church was considered as disobedience to the civil authority; the prospect of banishment was proposed as the alternative of subscription; and it was not long before seven of the thirteen dissentient Bishops submitted to the pressure of the occasion, and accepted the creed with its anathemas as articles of peace.
Indeed the position in which Eusebius of Nicomedia had placed their cause, rendered it difficult for them consistently to refuse subscription. The violence, with which Arius originally assailed the Catholics, had been succeeded by an affected earnestness for unity and concord, so soon as his favour at Court allowed him to dispense with the low popularity by which he first rose into notice. The insignificancy of the points in dispute which had lately been the very ground of complaint with him and his party against the particular Church which condemned him, became an argument for their yielding, when the other Churches of Christendom confirmed the sentence of the Alexandrian. It is said, that some of them substituted the “ homcüsion” (“like in substance"), for the “homoüsion” (“one in substance ”), in the confessions which they presented to the Council; but it is unsafe to trust the Anomaan Philostorgius, on whose authority the report rests o, in a charge against the Eusebian party, and perhaps after all he merely means, . 1.] History of the Nicene Council. 263 that they explained the latter by the former as an excuse for their own recantation. The six, who remained unpersuaded, had founded an objection, which the explanations set forth by the Council had gone to obviate, on the alleged materialism of the word which had been selected as the test. At length four of them gave way; and the other two, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and another, withdrawing their opposition to the "homoüsion," only refused to sign the condemnation of Arius. These, however, were at length released from their difficulty, by the submission of the heresiarch himself; who was pardoned on the understanding, that he never returned to the Church, which had suffered so much from his intrigues. There is, however, some difficulty in this part of the history. Eusebius shortly afterwards suffered a temporary exile, on a detection of his former practices with Licinius to the injury of Constantine; and Arius, apparently involved in his ruin, was banished with his followers into Illyria.
6 Philost. i. 9,