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Latin maintenance of the One Hypostasis, and Three Personæ ; as if such a formula tended to Sabellianismo.
This is but a general account of the difference between the Eastern and Western theology; for it is difficult to ascertain, when the language of the Greeks first became fixed and consistent. Some eminent critics have considered, that usia was not discriminated from hypostasis, till the Council which has given rise to these remarks. Others maintain, that the distinction between them is recognized in the “substance or hypostasis 3” of the Nicene Anathema; and these certainly have the authority of St. Basil on their side*. Without attempting an opinion on a point, obscure in itself, and not of chief importance in the controversy, the existing difference between the Greeks and Latins, at the times of the Alexandrian Council, shall be here stated.
At this date, the formula of the Three Hypostases seems, as a matter of fact, to have been more or less a characteristic of the Arians. At the same time, it was held by the orthodox of Asia, who had communicated with them; that is, interpreted by them, of course, in the orthodox sense which it now bears. This will account for St. Basil's explanation of the Nicene Anathema ; it being natural in an Asiatic Christian, who seems (unavoidably) to have arianized for the first thirty years of his life, to imagine (whether rightly or not) that he perceived in it the distinction between Usia and Hypo
(For the meaning of Usia and Hypostasis, vide Appendix, No. 4.] 3 εξ ουσίας και υποστάσεως.
4 Vid. Petav. Theol. Dogm. tom. ii. lib. iv. Bull, Defens. Fid. Nic. ii. 9, § 11.
5 j. e. Semi-Arianized.
stasis, which he himself had been accustomed to recognize. Again, in the schism at Antioch, which has been above narrated, the party of Meletius, which had so long arianized, maintained the Three Hypostases, in opposition to the Eustathians, who, as a body, agreed with the Latins, and had in consequence been accused by the Arians of Sabellianism. Moreover, this connexion of the Oriental orthodox with the Semi-Arians, partly accounts for some apparent tritheisms of the former; a heresy into which the latter certainly did fallo.
Athanasius, on the other hand, without caring to be uniform in his use of terms, about which the orthodox differed, favours the Latin usage, speaking of the Supreme Being as one Hypostasis, i.e. substance. And in this he differed from the previous writers of his own Church ; who, not having experience of the Latin theology, nor of the perversions of Arianism, adopt, not only the word hypostasis but (what is stronger) the words “nature” and “ substance,” to denote the separate Personalities of the Son and Spirit. i
As to the Latins, it is said that, when Hosius came to Alexandria before the Nicene Council, he was desirous that some explanation should be made about the Hypostasis ; though nothing was settled in consequence. But, soon after the Council of Sardica, an addition was
Petav. i. fin. iv. 13, § 3. The illustration of three men, as being under the same nature (which is the ground of the accusation which some writers have brought against Gregory Nyssen and others, vid. Cudw. iv. 36. p. 597. 601, &c. Petav. iv. 7. and 10. Gibbon, ch. xxi.), was but an illustration of a particular point in the doctrine, and directed against the &Tepovo btns of the Arians. It is no evidence of tritheism. Vid. Petav. tom. i. iv. 13, § 6–16; and tom, i. ii. 4.
made to its confession, which in Theodoret runs as follows: “Whereas the heretics maintain that the Hypostases of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are distinct and separate, we declare that according to the Catholic faith there is but one Hypostasis (which they call Usia) of the Three; and the Hypostasis of the Son is the same as the Father's ?."
Such was the state of the controversy, if it may so be called, at the time of the Alexandrian Council; the Church of Antioch being, as it were, the stage, upon which the two parties in dispute were represented, the Meletians siding with the orthodox of the East, and the Eustathians with those of the West. The Council, however, instead of taking part with either, determined, in accordance with the writings of Athanasius himself, that, since the question merely related to the usage of words, it was expedient to allow Christians to understand the “hypostasis” in one or other sense indifferently. The document which conveys its decision, informs us of the grounds of it. “If any propose to make additions to the Creed of Nicæa, (says the Synodal letter,) stop such persons and rather persuade them to pursue peace; for we ascribe such conduct to nothing short of a love of controversy. Offence having been given by a declaration on the part of certain persons, that there are Three Hypostases, and it having been urged that this language is not scriptural, and for that reason suspicious, we desired that the inquiry might not be pushed beyond the Nicene Confession. At the same time, because of this spirit of controversy, we questioned them, whether they spoke, as the Arians, of Hypostases foreign and dissimilar to each other, and diverse in substance, each independent and separate in itself, as in the case of individual creatures, or the offspring of man, or, as different substances, gold, silver, or brass; or, again, as other heretics hold, of Three Origins, and Three Gods. In answer, they solemnly assured us, that they neither said nor had imagined any such thing. On our inquiring, “In what sense then do you say this, or why do you use such expressions at all ? they answered, “ Because we believe in the Holy Trinity, not as a Trinity in name only, but in truth and reality 8. We acknowledge the Father truly and in real subsistence, and the Son truly in substance, and subsistent, and the Holy Ghost subsisting and existing'. They said too, that they had not spoken of Three Gods, or Three Origins, nor would tolerate that statement or notion ; but acknowledged a Holy Trinity indeed, but only One Godhead, and One Origin, and the Son consubstantial with the Father, as the Council declared, and the Holy Spirit, not a creature, nor foreign, but proper to and indivisible from, the substance of the Son and the Father.
7 Thcod. Hist. ii. S.
“Satisfied with this explanation of the expressions in question, and the reasons for their use, we next examined the other party, who were accused by the above-mentioned as holding but One Hypostasis, whether their
8 ópeotwoav. 9 Υιον αληθώς ενούσιον όντα και υφεστωτα, και πνεύμα "Αγιον υφεστος
teaching coincided with that of the Sabellians, in destroying the substance of the Son and the subsistence of the Holy Spirit. They were as earnest as the others could be, in denying both the statement and thought of such a doctrine; 'but we use Hypostasis (subsistence), they said,
considering it means the same as Usia (substance), and we hold that there is but one, because the Son is from the Usia (substance) of the Father, and because of the identity of Their nature; for we believe, as in One Godhead, so in One Divine Nature, and not that the Father's is one, and that the Son's is foreign, and the Holy Ghost's also. It appeared then, that both those, who were accused of holding Three Hypostases, agreed with the other party, and those, who spoke of one Substance, professed the doctrine of the former in the sense of their interpretation ; by both was Arius anathematized as an enemy of Christ, Sabellius and Paulus of Samosata as impious, Valentinus and Basilides as strangers to the truth, Manichæus, as an originator of evil doctrines. And, after these explanations, all, by God's grace, unanimously agree, that such expressions were not so desirable or accurate as the Nicene Creed, the words of which they promised for the future to acquiesce in and to use?.”
Plain as was this statement, and natural as the decision resulting from it, yet it could scarcely be expected to find acceptance in a city, where recent events had increased dissensions of long standing. In providing the injured and zealous Eustathians with an ecclesiastical head, Lucifer had, under existing circumstances, admi
1 Athan. Tom. ad Antioch, 5 and 6.