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THE SCHOOLS OF THE SOPHISTS.
As Antioch was the birth-place, so were the Schools of the Sophists the place of education of the heretical spirit which we are considering. In this section, I propose to show its disputatious character, and to refer it to these Schools as the source of it.
The vigour of the first movement of the heresy, and the rapid extension of the controversy which it introduced, are among the more remarkable circumstances connected with its history. In the course of six years, it called for the interposition of a General Council; though of three hundred and eighteen bishops there assembled, only twenty-two, on the largest calculation, and, as it really appears, only thirteen, were after all found to be its supporters. Though thus condemned by the whole Christian world, in a few years it broke out again; secured the patronage of the imperial court, which had recently been converted to the Christian faith ; made its way into the highest dignities of the Church; presided at her Councils, and tyrannized over the majority of her members who were orthodox believers.
Now, doubtless, one chief cause of these successes is found in the circumstance, that Lucian's pupils were brought together from so many different places, and were promoted to posts of influence in so many parts of the Church. Thus Eusebius, Maris, and Theognis, were bishops of the principal sees of Bithynia; Menophantes was exarch of Ephesus; and Eudoxius was one of the bishops of Comagene. Other causes will hereafter appear in the secular history of the day; but here I am to speak of their talent for disputation, to which after all they were principally indebted for their success.
It is obvious, that in every contest, the assailant, as such, has the advantage of the party assailed; and that, not merely from the recommendation which novelty gives to his cause in the eyes of bystanders, but also from the greater facility in the nature of things, of finding, than of solving objections, whatever be the question in dispute. Accordingly, the skill of a disputant mainly consists in securing an offensive position, fastening on the weaker points of his adversary's case, and then not relaxing his hold till the latter sinks under his impetuosity, without having the opportunity to display the strength of his own cause, and to bring it to bear upon his opponent; or, to make use of a familiar illustration, in causing a sudden run upon his resources, which the circumstances of time and place do not allow him to meet. This was the artifice to which Arianism owed its first successes?. It owed them to the circumstance of its being in its original
i åvanndwoi gàp 's Avoontñpes küves cis exopwv šuvvav. Epiph. Hær. Ixix. 15. Vide the whole passage.
form) a sceptical rather than a dogmatic teaching; to its proposing to inquire into and reform the received creed, rather than to hazard one of its own. The heresies which preceded it, originating in less subtle and dexterous talent, took up a false position, professed a theory, and sunk under the obligations which it involved. The monstrous dogmas of the various Gnostic sects pass away from the scene of history as fast as they enter it. Sabel. lianism, which succeeded, also ventured on a creed; and vacillating between a similar wildness of doctrine, and a less imposing ambiguity, soon vanished in its turn?. But the Antiochene School, as represented by Paulus of Samosata and Arius, took the ground of an assailant, attacked the Catholic doctrine, and drew the attention of men to its difficulties, without attempting to furnish a theory of less perplexity or clearer evidence.
The arguments of Paulus (which it is not to our purpose here to detail) seem fairly to have overpowered the first of the Councils summoned against him (A.D. 264), which dissolved without coming to a decision'. A second, and (according to some writers) a third, were successively convoked, when at length his subtleties were exposed and condemned ; not, however, by the reasonings of the Fathers of the Council themselves, but by the instrumentality of one Malchion, a presbyter of Antioch, who, having been by profession a Sophist, encountered his adversary with his own arms*. Even in yielding, the
2 Vide § 5, infra. [Gregory Naz. speaks of a ganhun after these heresies, and before Arianism. Orat. xxv. 8.]
3 Euseb. Hist. vii. 28. Cave, Hist. Literar. vol. i. p. 158. 4 [σφόδρα καταπολεμούνται οι πολέμιοι, όταν τους αυτών όπλοις xpóueda kat' attwy. Socr. iii. 16.)
arts of Paulus secured from his judges an ill-advised concession, the abandonment of the celebrated word homoüsion (consubstantial), afterwards adopted as the test at Nicæa; which the orthodox had employed in the controversy, and to which Paulus objected as open to a misinterpretation'. Arius followed in the track thus marked out by his predecessor. Turbulent by character, he is known in history as an offender against ecclesiastical order, before his agitation assumed the shape which has made his name familiar to posterity. When he betook himself to the doctrinal controversy, he chose for the first open avowal of his heterodoxy the opportunity of an attack upon his diocesan, who was discoursing on the mystery of the Trinity to the clergy of Alexandria. Socrates, who is far from being a partisan of the Catholics, informs us, that Arius being well skilled in dialectics sharply replied to the bishop, accused him of Sabellianism, and went on to argue that " if the Father begat the Son, certain conclusions would follow," and so proceeded. His heresy, thus founded in a syllogism, spread itself by instruments of a kindred character. First, we read of the excitement which his reasonings produced in Egypt and Libya ; then of his letters addressed to Eusebius and to Alexander, which display a like pugnacious and almost satirical spirit; and then of his verses composed for the use of the populace in ridicule of the orthodox doctrine?. But afterwards, when the heresy was arraigned before the Nicene Council, and placed on the defensive, and later still, when its successes reduced it to the necessity of occupying the chairs of theology, it suffered the fate of the other dogmatic heresies before it; split, in spite of court favour, into at least four different creeds, in less than twenty years' ; and at length gave way to the despised but indestructible truth which it had for a time obscured.
5 Bull. Defens...Fid. Nic. ii. i. & 9-14. 6 Epiph. Hær. lxix. 2.
7 Socr. i. 5, 6. Theod. Hist. i. 5. Epiphan. Hær. Ixix. 7, 8. Philostorg. ii. 2. Athan. de Decret. 16.
Arianism had in fact a close connexion with the existing Aristotelic school. This might have been conjectured, even had there been no proof of the fact, adapted as that philosopher's logical system confessedly is to baffle an adversary, or at most to detect error, rather than to establish truth'. But we have actually reason, in the circumstances of its history, for considering it as the offshoot of those schools of inquiry and debate which acknowledged Aristotle as their principal authority, and were conducted by teachers who went by the name of Sophists. It was in these schools that the leaders of the heretical body were educated for the part assigned them in the troubles of the Church. The oratory of Paulus of Samosata is characterized by the distinguishing traits of the scholastic eloquence in the descriptive letter of the Council which condemned him; in which, moreover, he is stigmatized by the most disgraceful title to which a Sophist was exposed by the degraded exercise of his pro
8 Petav. Dogm. Theol. t. ii. i. 9 and 10.
9 “Omnem vim venenorum suorum in dialectica disputatione constituunt, quæ philosophorum sententia definitur non adstruendi vim habere, sed studium destruendi. Sed non in dialectica complacuit Deo salvum facere populum suum.” Ambros. de Fide, i. 5. [$ 42.]