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use of all words but those which actually occur in Scripture, is a superstition, an encroachment on Scripture liberty, and an impediment to freedom of thought; and especially unreasonable, considering that a traditional system of theology, consistent with, but independent of, Scripture, has existed in the Church from the Apostolic age. “Why art thou in that excessive slavery to the letter," says Gregory Nazianzen, “and employest a Judaical wisdom, dwelling upon syllables, while letting slip realities? Suppose, on thy saying twice five, or twice seven, I were to understand thence ten or fourteen; or, if I spoke of a man, when thou hadst named an animal rational and mortal, should I in that case appear to thee to trifle? How could I so appear, in merely expressing your own meaning 5?” But, inasmuch as this liberty was an evangelical privilege, which might be allowed to the Arian disputants, on the other hand it was a dangerous privilege also, ever to be subjected to a profound respect for the sacred text, a cautious adherence to the whole of the doctrine therein contained, and a regard also for those received statements, which, though not given to us as inspired, probably are derived from inspired teachers. Now the most liberal admission which can be made in behalf of the Arians, is, to grant that they did not in controversy throw aside the authority of Scripture altogether; that is, proclaim themselves unbelievers; for it is evident that they took only just
6 Petav. iv. 5, § 6. [Athanasius ever exalts the theological sense over the words, whether sacred or ecclesiastical, which are its vehicle, and this even to the apparent withholding of the symbol duootorov. Vide Orat. ii. 3, and Ath. Tr. p. 17, m; p. 76, i. ; p. 157, i; p. 210, e; p. 264, g; p. 524, h.]
so much of it as would afford them a basis for erecting their system of heresy by an abstract logical process. The mere words “Father and Son,” “ birth,” “ origin,” &c., were all that they postulated of revealed authority for their argument; they professed to do all the rest for themselves. The meaning of these terms in their context, the illustration which they afford to each other, and, much more, the divine doctrine considered as one undivided message, variously exhibited and dispersed in the various parts of Scripture, were excluded from the consideration of controversialists, who thought that truth was gained by disputing instead of investigating.
2. Next, it will be observed that, throughout their discussions, they assumed as an axiom, that there could be no mystery in the Scripture doctrine respecting the nature of God. In this, indeed, they did but follow the example of the contemporary spurious theologies; though their abstract mode of reasoning from the mere force of one or two Scripture terms, necessarily forced them more than other heretics into the use and avowal of the principle. The Sabellian, to avoid mystery, denied the distinction of Persons in the Divine Nature. Paulus, and . afterwards Apollinaris, for the same reason, denied the existence of two Intelligent Principles at once, the Word and the human soul, in the Person of Christ. The Arians adopted both errors. Yet what is a mystery in doctrine, but a difficulty or inconsistency in the intellectual expression of it? And what reason is there for supposing, that Revelation addresses itself to the intellect, except so far as intellect is necessary for conveying and fixing its truths on the heart? Why are
we not content to take and use what is given us, without asking questions? The Catholics, on the other hand, pursued the intellectual investigation of the doctrine, under the guidance of Scripture and Tradition, merely as far as some immediate necessity called for it; and cared little, though one mode of expression seemed inconsistent with another. Thus, they developed the notion of " substance" against the Pantheists, of the
Hypostatic Word” against the Sabellians, of the “ Internal Word” to meet the imputation of Ditheism; still they did not use these formulæ for any thing beyond shadows of sacred truth, symbols witnessing against the speculations into which the unbridled intellect fell.
Accordingly, they were for a time inconsistent with each other in the minor particulars of their doctrinal statements, being far more bent on opposing error, than on forming a theology :-inconsistent, that is, before the experience of controversy and the voice of tradition had detached them from less accurate or advisable expressions, and made them correct, or at least compare and adjust their several declarations. Thus, some said that there was but one hypostasis, meaning substance, in God; others three hypostases, meaning Subsistences or Persons ; and some spoke of one usia, meaning substance, while others spoke of more than one usia. Some allowed, some rejected, the terms probole and homoüsion, according as they were guided by the prevailing heresy of the day, and by their own judgment how best to meet it. Some spoke of the Son as existing from everlasting in the Divine Mind; others implied that the Logos was everlasting, and became the Son in time. Some asserted
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.
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,
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.