IT is proposed in the following pages to trace the outlines of the history of Arianism, between the first and the second General Councils. These are its natural chronological limits, whether by Arianism we mean a heresy or a party in the Church. In the Council held at Nicaea, in Bithynia, AD 325, it was formally detected and condemned. In the subsequent years it ran its course, through various modifications of opinion, and with various success, till the date of the second General Council, held AD 381, at Constantinople, when the resources of heretical subtility being at length exhausted, the Arian party was ejected from the Catholic body, and formed into a distinct sect, exterior to it. It is during this period, while it still maintained its hold upon the creeds and the government of the Church, that it especially invites the attention of the student in ecclesiastical history. Afterwards, Arianism presents nothing new in its doctrine, and is only remarkable as becoming the animating principle of a second series of persecutions, when the barbarians of the North, who were infected with it, possessed themselves of the provinces of the Roman Empire.

The line of history which is thus limited by the two first Ecumenical Councils, will be found to pass through a variety of others, provincial and patriarchal, which form easy and intelligible breaks in it, and present the heretical doctrine in the various stages of its impiety. These, accordingly, shall be taken as cardinal points for our narrative to rest upon; and it will matter little in the result, whether it be called a history of the Councils, or of Arianism, between the eras already marked out.

However, it is necessary to direct the reader's attention in the first place, to the state of parties and schools, in and about the Church, at the time of its rise, and to the sacred doctrine which it assailed, in order to obtain a due insight into the history of the controversy; and the discussions which these subject involve, will occupy a considerable portion of the volume. I shall address myself without delay to this work; and, in this chapter, propose first to observe upon the connection of Arianism with the Church of Antioch, and upon the state and genius of that Church in primitive times. This shall be the subject of the present section: in those which follow, I shall consider its relation towards the heathen philosophies and heresies then prevalent; and towards the Church of Alexandria, to which, though with very little show of reasoning, it is often referred. The consideration of the doctrine of the Trinity shall form the second chapter.


During the third century, the Church of Antioch was more or less acknowledged as the metropolis of Syria, Cilicia, Phoenicia, Comagene, Osrhoene, and Mesopotamia, in which provinces it afterwards held patriarchal sway. It had been the original centre of Apostolical missions among the heathens; and claimed St. Peter himself for its first bishop, who had been succeeded by Ignatius, Theophilus, Babylas, and others of sacred memory in the universal Church, as champions and martyrs of the faith. The secular importance of the city added to the influence which accrued to it from the religious associations thus connected with its name, especially when the Emperors made Syria the seat of their government. This ancient and celebrated Church, however, is painfully conspicuous in the middle of the century, as affording so open a manifestation of the spirit of Antichrist, as to fulfill almost literally the prophecy of the Apostle in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians.

Paulus, of Samosata, who was raised to the see of Antioch not many years after the martyrdom of Babylas, after holding the episcopate for ten years, was deposed by a Council of eastern bishops, held in that city AD 272, on the ground of his heretical notions concerning the nature of Christ. His original calling seems to have been that of a sophists; how he obtained admittance into the clerical order is unknown; his elevation, or at least his continuance in the see, he owed to the celebrated Zenobia, to whom his literary attainments, and his political talents, may be supposed to have recommended him. Whatever were the personal virtues of the Queen of the East, who is said to have been a Jewess by birth or creed, it is not surprising that she was little solicitous for the credit or influence of the Christian Church within her dominions.

The character of Paulus is consigned to history in the Synodal Letter of the bishops, written at the time of his condemnation; which, being circulated through the Church, might fairly be trusted, even though the high names of Gregory of Neocaesarea and Firmilian were not found in the number of his judges. He is therein charged with a rapacity, an arrogance, a vulgar ostentation and desire of popularity, an extraordinary profaneness, and a profligacy, which cannot but reflect seriously upon the Church and clergy which elected, and so long endured him.

As to his heresy, it is difficult to determine what were his precise sentiments concerning the Person of Christ, though they were certainly derogatory of the doctrine of His absolute divinity and eternal existence. Indeed, it is probable that he had not any clear view on the solemn subject on which he allowed himself to speculate; nor had any wish to make proselytes, and form a party in the Church.

Ancient writers inform us that his heresy was a kind of Judaism in doctrine, adopted to please his Jewish patroness; and, if originating in this motive, it was not likely to be very systematic or profound. His habits, too, as a sophist, would dispose him to employ himself in attacks upon the Catholic doctrine, and in irregular discussion, rather than in the sincere effort to obtain some definite conclusions, to satisfy his own mind or convince others. And the supercilious spirit, which the Synodal letter describes as leading him to express contempt for the divines who preceded him at Antioch, would naturally occasion incaution in his theories, and a carelessness about guarding them from inconsistencies, even where he perceived them. Indeed, the Primate of Syria had already obtained the highest post to which ambition could aspire, and had nothing to labour for; and having, as we find, additional engagements as a civil magistrate, he would still less be likely to covet the barren honours of an heresiarch. A sect, it is true, .was formed upon his tenets, and called after his name, and has a place in ecclesiastical history till the middle of the fifth century; but it never was a considerable body, and even as early as the date of the Nicene Council had split into parties, differing by various shades of heresy from the orthodox faith.

We shall have a more correct notion, then, of the heresy of Paulus, if we consider him as the founder of a school rather than of a sect, as encouraging in the Church the use of those disputations and sceptical inquiries, which belonged to the Academy and other heathen philosophies, and as scattering up and down the seeds of errors, which sprang up and bore fruit in the generation after him. In confirmation of this view, which is suggested by his original vocation, by the temporal motives which are said to have influenced him, and by his inconsistencies, it may be observed, that his intimate friend and fellow-countryman, Lucian, who schismatized or was excommunicated on his deposition, held heretical tenets of a diametrically opposite nature, that is, such as were afterwards called Semi-Arian, Paulus himself advocating a doctrine which nearly resembled what is commonly called the Sabellian.

More shall be said concerning Paulus of Samosata presently; but now let us advance to the history of This Lucian, a man of learning, and at length a martyr, but who may almost be considered the author of Arianism. It is very common, though evidently illogical, to attribute the actual rise of one school of opinion to another, from some real or supposed similarity in their respective tenets. It is thus, for instance, Platonism, or again, Origenism, has been assigned as the actual source from which Arianism was derived.

Now, Lucian's doctrine is known to have been precisely the same as that species of Arianism afterwards called Semi-Arianism; but it is not on that account that I here trace the rise of Arianism to Lucian. There is an historical, and not merely a doctrinal connection between him and the Arian party. In his school are found, in matter of fact, the names of most of the original advocates of Arianism, and all those who were the most influential in their respective Churches throughout the East:—Arius himself, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Leontius, Eudoxius, Asterius, and others, who will be familiar to us in the sequel; and these men actually appealed to him as their authority, and adopted from him the party designation of Collucianists. In spite of this undoubted connection between Lucian and the Arians, we might be tempted to believe, that the assertions of the latter concerning his heterodoxy, originated in their wish to implicate a man of high character in the censures which the Church directed against themselves, were it not undeniable, that during the times of the three bishops who successively followed Paulus, Lucian was under excommunication. The Catholics too, are silent in his vindication, and some of them actually admit his unsoundness in faiths. However, ten or fifteen years before his martyrdom, he was reconciled to the Church; and we may suppose that he then recanted whatever was heretical in his creed: and his glorious end was allowed to wipe out from the recollection of Catholics of succeeding times those passages of his history, which nevertheless were so miserable in their results in the age succeeding his own. Chrysostom’s panegyric on the festival of his martyrdom is still extant, Ruffinus mentions him in honourable terms, and Jerome praises his industry, erudition, and eloquence in writing.

Such is the historical connection at the very first sight between the Arian party and the school of Antioch: corroborative evidence will hereafter appear, in the similarity of character which exists between the two bodies. At present, let it be taken as a confirmation of a fact, which Lucian's history directly proves, that Eusebius the historian, who is suspected of Arianism, and his friend Paulinus of Tyre, one of its first and principal supporters, though not pupils of Lucian, were more or less educated, and the latter ordained at Antioch; while in addition to the Arian bishops at Nicea already mentioned, Theodotus of Laodicea, Gregory of Berytus, Narcissus of Neronias, and two others, who were all supporters of Arianism at the Council, were all situated within the ecclesiastical influence, and some of them in the vicinity of Antioch; so that (besides Arius himself), of thirteen, who according to Theodoret, arianized at the Council, nine are referable to the Syrian patriarchate. If we continue the history of the controversy, we have fresh evidence of the connexion between Antioch and Arianism. During the interval between the Nicene Council and the death of Constantius (AD 325-361), Antioch is the metropolis of the heretical, as Alexandria of the orthodox party. At Antioch, the heresy recommenced its attack upon the Church after the decision at Nicaea. In a Council held at Antioch, it first showed itself in the shape of Semi-Arianism, when Lucian's creed was produced. There, too, in this and subsequent Councils, negotiations on the doctrine in dispute were conducted with the Western Church. At Antioch, lastly, and at Tyre, a suffragan see, the sentence of condemnation was pronounced upon Athanasius.


Hitherto I have spoken of individuals as the authors of the apostasy which is to engage our attention in the following chapters; but there is reason to fear that men like Paulus were but symptoms of a corrupted state of the Church. The history of the times gives us sufficient evidence of the luxuriousness of Antioch; and it need scarcely be said, that coldness in faith is the sure consequence of relaxation of morals. Here, however, passing by this consideration, which is too obvious to require dwelling upon, I would rather direct the reader's attention to the particular form which the Antiochene corruptions seem to have assumed, viz., that of Judaism; which at that time, it must be recollected, was the creed of an existing nation, acting upon the Church, and not merely, as at this day, a system of opinions more or less discoverable among professing Christians.

The fortunes of the Jewish people had experienced a favourable change since the reign of Hadrian. The violence of Roman persecution had been directed against the Christian Church; while the Jews, gradually recovering their strength, and obtaining permission to settle and make proselytes to their creed, at length became an influential political body in the neighborhood of their ancient home, especially in the Syrian provinces which were at that time the chief residence of the court. Severus (AD 194) is said to have been the first to extend to them the imperial favour, though he afterwards withdrew it. Heliogabalus, and Alexander, natives of Syria, gave them new privileges; and the latter went so far as to place the image of Abraham in his private chapel, among the objects of his ordinary worship. Philip the Arabian continued towards them a countenance, which was converted into, an open patronage in the reign of Zenobia. During the Decian persecution, they had been sufficiently secure at Carthage, to venture to take part in the popular ridicule which the Christians excited; and they arc even said to have stimulated Valerian to his cruelties towards the Church.

But this direct hostility was not the only, nor the most formidable means of harassing their religious enemies, which their improving fortunes opened upon them. With their advancement in wealth and importance, their national character displayed itself under a new exterior. The moroseness for which they were previously notorious, in great measure disappears with their dislodgment from the soil of their ancestors; and on their reappearance as settlers in a strange land, those festive, self-indulgent habits, "which, in earlier times, had but drawn on them the animadversion of their Prophets, became their distinguishing mark in the eyes of external observers. Manifesting a rancorous malevolence towards the zealous champions of the Church, they courted the Christian populace by arts adapted to captivate and corrupt the unstable and worldly-minded. Their pretensions to magical power gained them credit with the superstitious, to whom they sold amulets for the cure of diseases; their noisy spectacles attracted the curiosity of the idle, who weakened their faith, while they disgraced their profession, by attending the worship of the Synagogue. Accordingly there was formed around the Church a mixed multitude, who, without relinquishing their dependence on Christianity for the next world, sought in Judaism the promise of temporal blessings, and a more accommodating rule of life than the gospel revealed. Chrysostom found this evil so urgent at Antioch in his day, as to interrupt his course of homilies on the heresy of the Anomoeans, in order to direct his preaching against the seductions to which his hearers were then exposed, by the return of the Jewish festivals. In another part of the empire, the Council of Illiberis found it necessary to forbid a superstitious custom, which had been introduced among the country people, of having recourse to the Jews for a blessing on their fields. Afterwards, Constantine made a law against the intermarriage of Jews and Christians; and Constantius confiscated the goods of Christians who lapsed to Judaism. These successive enactments may be taken as evidence of the view entertained by the Church of her own danger, from the artifices of the Jews. Lastly, the attempt to rebuild the temple in Julian's reign, was but the renewal of a project on their part, which Constantine had already frustrated, for reinstating their religion in its ancient ritual and country.

Such was the position of the Jews towards the primitive Church, especially in the patriarchate of Antioch; which, I have said, was their principal place of settlement, and was at one time under the civil government of a Judaizing princess, the most illustrious personage of her times, who possessed influence enough over the Christian body to seduce the Metro­politan himself from the orthodox faith.


But the evidence of the existence of Judaism, as a system, in the portion of Christendom in question, is contained in a circumstance which deserves our particular attention; the adoption, in those parts, of the quartodeciman rule of observing Easter, when it was on the point of being discontinued in the Churches of Proconsular Asia, where it had first prevailed.

It is well known that at the close of the second century, a controversy arose between Victor, Bishop of Rome, and Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, concerning the proper time for celebrating the Easter feast, or rather for terminating the ante-paschal fast. At that time the whole of Christendom, with the exception of Proconsular Asia (a district of about two hundred miles by fifty), and its immediate neighborhoods, continued the fast on to the Sunday after the Jewish Passover, which they kept as Easter Day as we do now, in order that the weekly and yearly commemorations of the Resurrection might coincide. But the Christians of the Proconsulate, guided by Jewish custom, ended the fast on the very day of the paschal sacrifice, without regarding the actual place held in the week by the feast, which immediately followed; and were accordingly called Quartodecimans. Victor felt the inconvenience of this want of uniformity in the celebration of the chief Christian festival; and was urgent, even far beyond the bounds of charity, and the rights of his see, in his endeavour to obtain the compliance of the Asiatics. Polycrates, who was primate of the Quartodeciman Churches, defended their peculiar custom by a statement which is plain and unexceptionable. They had received their rule, he said, from St. John and St. Philip the Apostles, Polycarp of Smyrna, Melito of Sardis, and others; and deemed it incumbent on them to transmit as they had received. There was nothing Judaistic in this conduct; for, though the Apostles intended the Jewish discipline to cease with those converts who were born under it, yet it was by no means clear, that its calendar came under the proscription of its rites. On the other hand, it was natural that the Asian Churches should be affectionately attached to a custom which their first founders, and they inspired teachers, had sanctioned.

But the case was very different, when Churches, which had for centuries observed the Gentile rule, adopted a custom which at the time had only existence among the Jews. The Quartodecimans of the Proconsulate had come to an end by AD 276; and, up to that date, the Antiochene provinces kept their Easter feast in conformity with the Catholic usage; yet, at the time of the Nicene Council (fifty years afterwards), we find the Antiochenes the especial and solitary champions of the Jewish rule. We can scarcely doubt that they adopted it in imitation of the Jews who were settled among them, who are known to have influenced them, and who about that very date, be it observed, had a patroness in Zenobia, and, what was stranger, had almost a convert in the person of the Christian Primate. There is evidence, moreover, of the actual growth of the custom in the Patriarchate at the end of the third century; which Nicene Council, it was established only in the Syrian Churches, and was but making its way with incomplete success in the extremities of the Patriarchate. In Mesopotamia, Audius began his schism with the characteristic of the Quartodeciman rule, just at the date of the Council; and about the same time, Cilicia was contested between the two parties, as I gather from the conflicting statements of Constantine and Athanasius, that it did, and that it did not, conform to the Gentile custom. By the same time, the controversy had reached Egypt also. Epiphanius refers to a celebrated, contest, now totally unknown, between one Crescentius and Alexander, the first defender of the Catholic faith against Arianism.

It is true that there was a third Quartodeciman school, lying geographically between the Proconsulate and Antioch, which at first sight might seem to have been the medium by which the Jewish custom was conveyed on from the former to the latter; but there is no evidence of its existence till the end of the fourth century. In order to complete my account of the Quarto-decimans, and show more fully their relation to the Judaizers, I will here make mention of it; though, in doing so, I must somewhat digress from the main subject under consideration.

The portion of Asia Minor, lying between the Proconsulate and the river Halys, may be regarded, in the Ante-Nicene times, as one country, comprising the provinces of Phrygia, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Paphlagonia, afterwards included within the Exarchate of Caesarea; and was then marked by a religious character of a peculiar cast. Socrates, speaking of this district, informs us, that its inhabitants were distinguished above other nations by a strictness and seriousness of manners, having neither the ferocity of the Scythians and Thracians, nor the frivolity and sensuality of the Orientals. The excellent qualities, however, implied in this description, were tarnished by the love of singularity, the spirit of insubordination and separatism, and the gloomy spiritual pride which their history evidences. St. Paul's Epistle furnishes us with the first specimen of this unchristian temper, as evinced in the conduct of the Galatians, who, dissatisfied with the exact evangelical doctrine, aspired to some higher and more availing system than the Apostle preached to them.

What the Galatians were in the first century, Montanus and Novatian became in the second and third; both authors of a harsh and arrogant discipline, both natives of the country in question, and both meeting with special success in that country, although the schism of the latter was organized at Rome, of which Church he was a presbyter. It was, moreover, the peculiarity, more or less, of both Montanists and Novatians in those parts, to differ from the general Church as to the time of observing Easter; whereas, neither in Africa nor in Rome did the two sects dissent from the received rule. What was the principle or origin of this irregularity, does not clearly appear; unless we may consider as characteristic, what seems to be the fact, that when their neighbours of the Proconsulate were Quartodecimans, they (in the words of Socrates) "shrank from feasting on the Jewish festival", and after the others had conformed to the Gentile rule, they, on the contrary, openly judaized. This change in their practice, which took place at the end of the fourth century, was mainly effected by a Jew, of the name of Sabbatius, who becoming a convert to Christianity, rose to the episcopate in the Novatian Church. Sozomen, in giving an account of the transaction, observes that it was a national custom with the Galatians and Phrygians to judaize in their observance of Easter. Coupling this remark with Eusebius's mention of Churches in the neighbourhood of the Proconsulate, as included among the Quartodecimans whom Victor condemned, we may suspect that the perverse spirit which St. Paul reproves in his Epistle, and which we have been tracing in its Montanistic and Novatian varieties, still lurked in those parts in its original judaizing form, till after a course of years it was accidentally brought out by circumstances upon the public scene of ecclesiastical history. If further evidence of the connexion of the Quartodeciman usage with Judaism be required, I may refer to Constantine's Nicene Edict, which forbids it, among other reasons, on the ground of its being Jewish.


The evidence, which has been adduced for the existence of Judaism in the Church of Antioch, is not without its bearing upon the history of the rise of Arianism. I will not say that the Arian doctrine is the direct result of a judaizing practice; but it deserves consideration whether a tendency to derogate from the honour due to Christ, was not created by an observance of the Jewish rites, and much more, by that carnal, self-indulgent religion, which seems at that time to have prevailed in the rejected nation.

When the spirit and morals of a people are materially debased, varieties of doctrinal error spring up, as if self-sown, and are rapidly propagated. While Judaism inculcated a superstitious, or even idolatrous dependence on the mere casualties of daily life, and gave license to the grosser tastes of human nature, it necessarily indisposed the mind for the severe and unexciting mysteries, the large indefinite promises, and the remote sanctions, of the Catholic faith; which fell as cold and uninviting on the depraved imagination, as the doctrines of the Divine Unity and of implicit trust in the unseen God, on the minds of the early Israelites. Those who were not constrained by the message of mercy, had time attentively to consider tilt intellectual difficulties which were the medium of its communication, and heard but "a hard saying" in what was sent from heaven as "tidings of great joy." " The mind," says Hooker, " feeling present joy, is always marvellously unwilling to admit any other cogitation, and in that case, casteth off those disputes whereunto the intellectual part at other times easily draweth. . . The people that are said in the sixth of John to have gone after our Lord to Capernaum .. leaving Him on the one side of the sea of Tiberias, and finding Him again as soon as they themselves by ship were arrived on the contrary side .. as they wondered, so they asked also, 'Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?' The Disciples, when Christ appeared to them in a far more strange and miraculous manner, moved no question, but rejoiced greatly in what they saw ... The one, because they enjoyed not, disputed; the other disputed not, because they enjoyed."

It is also a question, whether the mere performance of the rites of the Law, of which Christ came as anti-type and repealer, has not a tendency to withdraw the mind from the contemplation of the more glorious and real images of the Gospel; so that the Christians of Antioch would diminish their reverence towards the true Saviour of man, in proportion as they trusted to the media of worship provided for a time by the Mosaic ritual. It is this consideration which accounts for the energy with which the great Apostle combats the adoption of the Jewish ordinances by the Christians of Galatia, and which might seem excessive, till vindicated by events subsequent to his own day. In the Epistle addressed to them, the Judaizers are described as men labouring under an irrational fascination, fallen from grace, and self­excluded from the Christian privileges; when in appearance they were but using, what on the one hand might be called mere external forms, and on the other, had actually been delivered to the Jews on Divine authority. Some light is thrown upon the subject by the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which it is implied throughout, that the Jewish rites, after their Antitype was come, did but conceal from the eye of faith His divinity, sovereignty, and all-sufficiency. If we turn to the history of the Church, we seem to see the evils in actual existence, which the Apostle anticipated in prophecy; that is, we see, that in the obsolete furniture of the Jewish ceremonial, there was in fact retained the pestilence of Jewish unbelief, tending (whether directly or not, at least eventually) to introduce fundamental error respecting the Person of Christ.

Before the end of the first century, this result is disclosed in the system of the Cerinthians and the Ebionites. These sects, though more or less infected with Gnosticism, were of Jewish origin, and observed the Mosaic Law; and whatever might be the minute peculiarities of their doctrinal views, they also agreed in entertaining Jewish rather than Gnostic conceptions of the Person of Christ. Ebion, especially, is characterised by his Humanitarian creed; while on the other hand, his Judaism was so notorious, that Tertullian does not scruple to describe him as virtually the object of the Apostle's censure in his Epistle to the Galatians.

The Nazarenes are next to be noticed;—not for the influence they exercised on the belief of Christians, but as evidencing, with the sects just mentioned, the latent connection between a judaizing discipline and heresy in doctrine. Who they were, and what their tenets, has been a subject of much controversy. It is sufficient for my purpose—and so far is undoubted—that they were at the same time "zealous of the Law" and unsound in their theology; and this without being related to the Gnostic families: a circumstance which establishes them as a more cogent evidence of the real connexion of ritual with doctrinal Judaism than is furnished by the mixed theologies of Ebion and Cerinthus. It is worth observing that their declension from orthodoxy appears to have been gradual; Epiphanius is the first writer who includes them by name in the number of heretical sects.

Such arc the instances of the connexion between Judaism and theological error, previously to the age of Paulus, who still more strikingly exemplifies it. First, we are in possession of his doctrinal opinions, which are grossly humanitarian; next we find, that in early times they were acknowledged to be of Jewish origin; further, that his ceremonial Judaism also was so notorious that one author even affirms that he observed the rite of circumcisions: and lastly, just after his day we discover the rise of a Jewish usage, the Quartodeciman, in the provinces of Christendom, immediately subjected to his influence.

It may be added that this view of the bearing of Judaism upon the sceptical school afterwards called Arian is countenanced by frequent passages in the writings of the contemporary Fathers, on which no stress, perhaps, could fairly be laid, were not their meaning interpreted by the above historical facts. Moreover, in the popular risings which took place in Antioch and Alexandria in favour of Arianism, the Jews sided with the heretical party; evincing thereby, not indeed any definite interest in the subject of dispute, but a sort of spontaneous feeling, that the side of heresy was their natural position; and further, that its spirit, and the character which it created, were congenial to their own. Or, again, if we consider the subject from a different point of view, and omitting dates and schools, take a general survey of Christendom during the first centuries, we shall find it divided into the same two parties, both on the Arian and the Quartodeciman questions; Rome and Alexandria with their dependencies being the champions of the Catholic tradition in either controversy, and Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor, being the strong­holds of the opposition. And these are the two questions which occasioned the deliberations of the Nicene Fathers.

However, it is of far less consequence, as it is less certain, whether Arianism be of Jewish origin, than whether it arose at Antioch: which is the point principally insisted on in the foregoing pages. For in proportion as it is traced to Antioch, so is the charge of originating it removed from the great Alexandrian School, upon which various enemies of our Apostolical Church have been eager to fasten it. In corroboration of what has been said above on this subject, I here add the words of Alexander, in his letter to the Church of Constantinople, at the beginning of the controversy; which are of themselves decisive in evidence of the part, which Antioch had, in giving rise to the detestable blasphemy which he was combating.

"Ye are not ignorant", he writes to the Constantinopolitan Church concerning Arianism, "that this rebellious doctrine belongs to Ebion and Artemas, and is in imitation of Paulus of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch, who was excommunicated by the sentence of the Bishops assembled in Council from all quarters. Paulus was succeeded by Lucian, who remained in separation for many years during the time of three bishops ... Our present heretics have drunk up the dregs of the impiety of these men, and are their secret offspring; Arius and Achillas, and their party of evil-doers, incited as they are to greater excesses by three Syrian prelates, who agree with them ... Accordingly, they have been expelled from the Church, as enemies of the pious Catholic teaching; according to St. Paul's sentence, 'If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him he anathema.'"





As Antioch was the birth-place, so were the Schools of the Sophists the place of education of the heretical spirit which we arc 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 but 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 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. Sabellianism, 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 (AD 264), which dissolved without coming to a decision. A second, and (according to some writers) a third, were successfully 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 arts of Paulus secured from his judges an ill-advised concession, the abandonment of the celebrated word homousion (consubstantial), afterwards adopted as the test at Nicaea; which the orthodox had employed in the controversy, and to which Paulus objected as open to a misinterpretations. 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 Lybia; 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.

Arianism had in fact a close connection 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 off-shoot 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 profession. The skill of Arius in the art of disputation is well known.

Asterius was a Sophist by profession. Aetius came from the School of an Aristotelian of Alexandria. Eunomius, his pupil, who reconstructed the Arian doctrine on its original basis, at the end of the reign of Constantius, is represented by Ruffinus as "preeminent in dialectic power." At a later period still, the like disputatious spirit and spurious originality are indirectly ascribed to the heterodox school, in the advice of Sisinnius to Nectarius of Constantinople, when the Emperor Theodosius required the latter to renew the controversy with a view to its final settlement. Well versed in theological learning, and aware that adroitness in debate was the very life and weapon of heresy, Sisinnius proposed to the Patriarch, to drop the use of dialectics, and merely challenge his opponents to utter a general anathema against all such Ante-Nicene Fathers as had taught what they themselves now denounced as false doctrine. On the experiment being tried, the heretics would neither consent to be tried by the opinions of the ancients, nor yet dared condemn those whom "all the people counted as prophets." "Upon this," say the historians who record the story, "the Emperor perceived that they rested their cause on their dialectic skill, and not on the testimony of the early Church."

Abundant evidence, were more required, could be added to the above, in proof of the connection of the Arians with the schools of heathen disputation. The two Gregories, Basil, Ambrose, and Cyril, protest with one voice against the dialectics of their opponents; and the sum of their declarations is briefly expressed by a writer of the fourth century, who calls Aristotle the Bishop of the Arians.


And while the science of argumentation provided the means, their practice of disputing for the sake of exercise or amusement supplied the temptation, of assailing received opinions. This practice, which had long prevailed in the Schools, was early introduced into the Eastern Church. It was there employed as a means of preparing the Christian teacher for the controversy with unbelievers. The discussion sometimes proceeded in the form of a lecture delivered by the master of the school to his pupils; sometimes in that of an inquiry, to be submitted to the criticism of his hearers; sometimes by way of dialogue, in which opposite sides were taken for argument-sake. In some cases, it was taken down in notes by the bystanders, at the time; in others committed to writing by the parties engaged in it. Necessary as these exercises would be for the purpose designed, yet they were obviously open to abuse, though moderated by ever so orthodox and strictly scriptural a rule, in an age when no sufficient ecclesiastical symbol existed, as a guide to the memory and judgment of the eager disputant. It is evident, too, how difficult it would be to secure opinions or arguments from publicity, which were but hazarded in the confidence of Christian friendship, and which, when viewed apart from the circumstances of the case, lent a seemingly deliberate sanction to heterodox novelties. Athanasius implies, that in the theological works of Origen and Theognostus, while the orthodox faith was explicitly maintained, nevertheless heretical tenets were discussed, and in their place more or less defended, by way of exercise in argument. The countenance thus accidentally given to the cause of error is evidenced in his eagerness to give the explanation. But far greater was the evil, when men destitute of religious seriousness and earnestness engaged in the like theological discussions, not with any definite ecclesiastical object, but as a mere trial of skill, or as a literary recreation; regardless of the mischief thus done to the simplicity of Christian morals, and the evil encouragement given to fallacious reasonings and sceptical views. The error of the ancient Sophists had consisted in their indulging without restraint or discrimination in the discussion of practical topics, whether religious or political, instead of selecting such as might exercise, without demoralizing, their minds. The rhetoricians of Christian times introduced the same error into their treatment of the highest and most sacred subjects of theology. We are told, that Julian commenced his opposition to the true faith by defending the heathen side of religious questions, in disputing with his brother Gallus; and probably he would not have been able himself to assign the point of time at which he ceased merely to take a part, and became earliest in his unbelief. But it is unnecessary to have recourse to particular instances, in order to prove the consequences of a practice so evidently destructive of a reverential and sober spirit.

Moreover, in these theological discussions, the disputants were in danger of being misled by the unsoundness of the positions which they assumed, as elementary truths or axioms in the argument. As logic and rhetoric made them expert in proof and refutation, so there was much in other sciences, which formed a liberal education, in geometry and arithmetic, to confine the mind to the contemplation of material objects, as if these could supply suitable tests and standards for examining those of a moral and spiritual nature; whereas there are truths foreign to the province of the most exercised intellect, some of them the peculiar discoveries of the improved moral sense (or what Scripture terms " the Spirit"), and others still less on a level with our reason, and received on the sole authority of Revelation.

Then, however, as now, the minds of speculative men were impatient of ignorance, and loth to confess that the laws of truth and falsehood, which their experience of this world furnished, could not at once be applied to measure and determine the facts of another. Accordingly, nothing was left for those who would not believe the incomprehensibility of the Divine Essence, but to conceive of it by the analogy of sense; and using the figurative terms of theology in their literal meaning as if landmarks in their inquiries, to suppose that then, and then only, they steered in a safe course, when they avoided every contradiction of a mathematical and material nature. Hence, canons grounded on physics were made the basis of discussions about possibilities and impossibilities in a spiritual substance, as confidently and as fallaciously, as those which in modern times have been derived from the same false analogies against the existence of moral self-action or free-will. Thus the argument by which Paulus of Samosata. baffled the Antiochene Council, was drawn from a sophistical use of the very word substance, which the orthodox had employed in expressing the scriptural notion of the unity subsisting between the Father and the Son.

Such too was the mode of reasoning adopted at Rome by the Artemas or Artemon, already mentioned, and his followers, at the end of the second century. A contemporary writer, after saying that they supported their "God-denying apostasy" by syllogistic forms of argument, proceeds, "Abandoning the inspired writings, they devote themselves to geometry, as becomes those who are of the earth, and speak of the earth, and are ignorant of Him who is from above. Euclid's treatises, for instance, are zealously studied by, some of them; Aristotle and Theophrastus are objects of their admiration; while Galen may be said even to be adored by others. It is needless to declare that such perverters of the sciences of unbelievers to the purposes of their own heresy, such diluters of the simple Scripture faith with heathen subtleties, have no claim whatever to be called believers." And such is Epiphanius's description of the Anomoeans, the genuine offspring of the original Arian stock. "Aiming," he says, "to exhibit the Divine Nature by means of Aristotelic syllogisms and geometrical data, they are thence led on to declare that Christ cannot be derived from God."


Lastly, the absence of an adequate symbol of doctrine increased the evils thus existing, by affording an excuse and sometimes a reason for investigations, the necessity of which had not yet been superseded by the authority of an ecclesiastical decision. The traditionary system, received from the first age of the Church, had been as yet but partially set forth in authoritative forms; and by the time of the Nicene Council, the voices of the Apostles were but faintly heard throughout Christendom, and might be plausibly disregarded by those who were unwilling to hear. Even at the beginning of the third century, the disciples of Artemas boldly pronounced their heresy to be apostolical, and maintained that all the bishops of Rome had held it till Victor inclusive, whose episcopate was but a few years before their own time. The progress of unbelief naturally led them on to disparage, rather than to appeal to their predecessors; and to trust their cause to their own ingenuity, instead of defending an inconvenient fiction concerning the opinions of a former age. It ended in teaching them to regard the ecclesiastical authorities of former times as on a level with the uneducated and unenlightened of their own days. Paulus did not scruple to express contempt for the received expositors of Scripture at Antioch; and it is one of the first accusations brought by Alexander against Arius and his party, that "they put themselves above the ancients, and the teachers of our youth, and the prelates of the day; considering themselves alone to be wise, and to have discovered truths, which had never been revealed to man before them ."

On the other hand, while the line of tradition, drawn out as it was to the distance of two centuries from the Apostles, had at length become of too frail a texture, to resist the touch of subtle and ill-directed reason, the Church was naturally unwilling to have recourse to the novel, though necessary measure, of imposing an authoritative creed upon those whom it invested with the office of teaching. If I avow my belief, that freedom from symbols and articles is abstractedly the highest state of Christian communion, and the peculiar privilege of the primitive Church, it is not from any tenderness towards that proud impatience of control in which many exult, as in a virtue: but first, because technicality and formalism are, in their degree, inevitable results of public confessions of faith; and next, because when confessions do not exist, the mysteries of divine truth, instead of being exposed to the gaze of the profane and uninstructed, are kept hidden in the bosom of the Church, far more faithfully than is otherwise possible; and reserved by a private teaching, through the channel of her ministers, as rewards in due measure and season, for those who are prepared to profit by them; for those, that is, who are diligently passing through the successive stages of faith and obedience. And thus, while the Church is not committed to declarations, which, most true as they are, still are daily wrested by infidels to their ruin; on the other hand, much of that mischievous fanaticism is avoided, which at present abounds from the vanity of men, who think that they can explain the sublime doctrines and exuberant promises of the Gospel, before they have yet learned to know themselves and to discern the holiness of God, under the preparatory discipline of the Law and of Natural Religion. Influenced, as we may suppose, by these various considerations, from reverence for the free spirit of Christian faith, and still more for the sacred truths which are the objects of it, and again from tenderness both for the heathen and the neophyte, who were unequal to the reception of the strong meat of the full Gospel, the rulers of the Church were dilatory in applying a remedy, which nevertheless the circumstances of the times imperatively required. They were loth to confess, that the Church had grown too old to enjoy the free, unsuspicious teaching with which her childhood was blest; and that her disciples must, for the future, calculate and reason before they spoke and acted. So much was this the case, that in the Council of Antioch (as has been said), on the objection of Paulus, they actually withdrew a test which was eventually adopted by the more experienced Fathers at Nicaea; and which, if then sanctioned, might, as far as the Church was concerned, have extinguished the heretical spirit in the very place of its birth. Meanwhile, the adoption of Christianity, as the religion of the empire, augmented the evil consequences of this omission, excommunication becoming more difficult, while entrance into the Church was less restricted than before.





As the Church of Antioch was exposed to the influence of Judaism, so was the Alexandrian Church characterized in primitive times by its attachment to that comprehensive philosophy, which was reduced to system about the beginning of the third century, and then went by the name of the New Platonic, or Eclectic. A supposed resemblance between the Arian and the Eclectic doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity, has led to a common notion that the Alexandrian Fathers were the medium by which a philosophical error was introduced into the Church; and this hypothetical cause of a disputable resemblance has been apparently evidenced by the solitary fact, which cannot be denied, that Arius himself was a presbyter of Alexandria.

We have already seen, however, that Arius was educated at Antioch; and we shall see hereafter that, so far from being favorably heard at Alexandria, he was, on the first promulgation of his heresy, expelled the Church in that city, and obliged to seek refuge among his Collucianists of Syria. And it is manifestly the opinion of Athanasius, that he was but the pupil or the tool of deeper 'men', probably of Eusebius of Nicomedia, who in no sense belongs to Alexandria. But various motives have led theological writers to implicate this celebrated Church in the charge of heresy.

Infidels have felt a satisfaction, and heretics have had an interest, in representing that the most learned Christian community did not submit implicitly to the theology taught in Scripture and by the Church; a conclusion, which, even if substantiated, would little disturb the enlightened defender of Christianity, who may safely admit that learning, though a powerful instrument of the truth in right hands, is no unerring guide into it. The Romanists, on the other hand, have thought by the same line of policy to exalt the Apostolical purity of their own Church, by the contrast of unfaithfulness in its early rival; and (what is of greater importance) to insinuate both the necessity of an infallible authority, by exaggerating the errors and contrarieties of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and the fact of its existence, by throwing us, for exactness of doctrinal statement, upon the decisions of the subsequent Councils. In the following pages, I hope to clear the illustrious Church in question of the grave imputation thus directed against her from opposite quarters: the imputation of considering the Son of God by nature inferior to the Father, that is, of platonizing or arianizing. But I have no need to profess myself her disciple, though, as regards the doctrine in debate, I might well do so; and, instead of setting about any formal defence, I will merely place before the reader the general principles of her teaching, and leave it to him to apply them, as far as he judges they will go, in explanation of the language, which has been the ground of the suspicions against her.


St. Mark, the founder of the Alexandrian Church, may be numbered among the personal friends and associates of that Apostle, who held it to be his especial office to convert the heathen; an office, which was impressed upon the community formed by the Evangelist, with a strength and permanence unknown in the other primitive Churches. The Alexandrian may peculiarly be called the Missionary and Polemical Church of Antiquity. Situated in the centre of the accessible world, and on the extremity of Christendom, in a city which was at once the chief mart of commerce, and a celebrated seat of both Jewish and Greek philosophy, it was supplied in especial abundance, both with materials and instruments prompting to the exercise of Christian zeal. Its catechetical school, founded (it is said) by the Evangelist himself, was a pattern to other Churches in its diligent and systematic preparation of candidates for baptism; while other institutions were added of a controversial character, for the purpose of carefully examining into the doctrines revealed in Scripture, and of cultivating the habit of argument and disputation.

While the internal affairs of the community were administered by its bishops, on these academical bodies, as subsidiary to the divinely-sanctioned system, devolved the defence and propagation of the faith, under the presidency of laymen or inferior ecclesiastics. Athenagoras, the first recorded master of the catechetical school, is known by his defence of the Christians, still extant, addressed to the Emperor Marcus. Pantenus, who succeeded him, was sent by Demetrius, at that time bishop, as missionary to the Indians or Arabians. Origen, who was soon after appointed catechist at the early age of eighteen, had already given the earnest of his future celebrity, by his persuasive disputations with the unbelievers of Alexandria. Afterwards he appeared in the character of a Christian apologist before an Arabian prince, and Mammea, the mother of Alexander Severus, and addressed letters on the subject of religion to the Emperor Philip and his wife Severa; and he was known far and wide in his day, for his indefatigable zeal and ready services in the confutation of heretics, for his various controversial and critical writings, and for the number and dignity of his converts.

Proselytism, then, in all its branches, the apologetic, the polemical, and the didactic, being tlie peculiar function of the Alexandrian Church, it is manifest that the writings of its theologians would partake largely of an exoteric character. I mean, that such men would write, not with the openness of Christian familiarity, but with the tenderness or the reserve with which we are accustomed to address those who do not sympathize with us, or whom we fear to mislead or to prejudice against the truth, by precipitate disclosures of its details. The example of the inspired writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was their authority for making a broad distinction between the doctrines suitable to the state of the weak and ignorant, and those which are the peculiar property of a baptized and regenerate Christian. The Apostle in that Epistle, when speaking of the most sacred Christian verities, as hidden under the allegories of the Old Testament, seems suddenly to check himself, from the apprehension that he was divulging mysteries beyond the understanding of his brethren; who, instead of being masters in Scripture doctrine, were not yet versed even in its elements, needed the nourishment of children rather than of grown men, nay, perchance, having quenched the illumination of baptism, had forfeited the capacity of comprehending even the first elements of the truth.

In the same place he enumerates these elements, or foundation of Christian teachings, in contrast with the esoteric doctrines which the "long-exercised habit of moral discernment" can alone appropriate and enjoy, as follows;—repentance, faith in God, the doctrinal meaning of the right of baptism, confirmation as the channel of miraculous gifts, the future resurrection, and the final separation of good and bad. His first Epistle to the Corinthians contains the same distinction between the carnal or imperfect and the established Christian, which is laid down in that addressed to the Hebrews. While maintaining that in Christianity is contained a largeness of wisdom, or (to use human language) a profound philosophy, fulfilling those vague conceptions of greatness, which had led the aspiring intellect of the heathen sages to shadow forth their unreal systems, he at the same time insists upon the impossibility of man's arriving at this hidden treasure all at once, and warns his brethren, instead of attempting to cross by a short path from the false to the true knowledge, to humble themselves to the low and narrow portal of the heavenly temple, and to become fools, that they might at length be really wise. As before, he speaks of the difference of doctrine suited respectively to neophytes and confirmed Christians, under the analogy of the difference of food proper for the old and young; a difference which lies, not in the arbitrary will of the dispenser, but in the necessity of the case, the more sublime truths of Revelation affording no nourishment to the souls of the unbelieving or unstable.

Accordingly, in the system of the early catechetical schools, the perfect, or men in Christ, were such as had deliberately taken upon them the profession of believers; had made the vows, and received the grace of baptism; and were admitted to all the privileges and the revelations of which the Church had been constituted the dispenser. But before reception into this full discipleship, a previous season of preparation, from two to three years, was enjoined, in order to try their obedience, and instruct them in the principles of revealed truth. During this introductory discipline, they were called Catechumens, and the teaching itself Catechetical, from the careful and systematic examination by which their grounding in the faith was effected. The matter of the instruction thus communicated to them, varied with the time of their discipleship, advancing from the most simple principle of Natural Religion to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, from moral truths to the Christian mysteries.

On their first admission they were denominated hearers, from the leave granted them to attend the reading of the Scriptures and sermons in the Church. Afterwards, being allowed to stay during the prayers, and receiving the imposition of hands as the sign of their progress in spiritual knowledge, they were called worshippers. Lastly, some short time before their baptism, they were taught the Lord's Prayer (the peculiar privilege of the regenerate), were entrusted with the knowledge of the Creed, and, as destined for incorporation into the body of believers, received the titles of competent or elect. Even to the last, they were granted nothing beyond a formal and general account of the articles of the Christian faith; the exact and fully developed doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, and still more, the doctrine of the Atonement, as once made upon the cross, and commemorated and appropriated in the Eucharist, being the exclusive possession of the serious and practised Christian. On the other hand, the chief subjects of catechisings, as we learn from Cyril, were the doctrines of repentance and pardon, of the necessity of good works, of the nature and use of baptism, and the immortality of the soul;—as the Apostle had determined them.

The exoteric teaching, thus observed in the Catechetical Schools, was still more appropriate, when the Christian teacher addressed himself, not to the instruction of willing hearers, but to controversy or public preaching. At the present day, there are very many sincere Christians, who consider that the evangelical doctrines are the appointed instruments of conversion, and, as such, exclusively attended with the Divine blessing. In proof of this position, with an inconsistency remarkable in those who profess a jealous adherence to the inspired text, and are not slow to accuse others of ignorance of its contents, they appeal, not to Scripture, but to the stirring effects of this (so-called) Gospel preaching, and to the inefficiency, on the other hand, of mere exhortations respecting the benevolence and mercy of God, the necessity of repentance, the rights of conscience, and the obligation of obedience. But it is scarcely the attribute of a generous faith, to be anxiously inquiring into the consequences of this or that system, with a view to decide its admissibility, instead of turning at once to the revealed word, and inquiring into the rule there exhibited to us. God can defend and vindicate His own command, whatever it turn out to be; weak though it seem to our vain wisdom, and unworthy of the Giver; and that His course in this instance is really that which the hasty religionist condemns as if the theory of unenlightened formalists, is evident to careful students of Scripture, and is confirmed by the practice of the Primitive Church.

As to Scripture, I shall but observe, in addition to the remarks already made on the passages in the Epistles to the Corinthians and Hebrews, that no one sanction can be adduced thence, whether of precept or of example, in behalf of the practice of stimulating the affections, such as gratitude or remorse, by means of the doctrine of the Atonement, in order to the conversion of the hearers;—that, on the contrary, it is its uniform method to connect the Gospel with Natural Religion, arid to mark out obedience to the moral law as the ordinary means of attaining to a Christian faith, the higher evangelical truths, as well as the Eucharist, which is the visible emblem of them, being received as the reward and confirmation of habitual piety;— that, in the preaching of the Apostles and Evangelists in the Book of Acts, the sacred mysteries are revealed to individuals in proportion to their actual religious proficiency; that the first principles of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, are urged upon Felix; while the elders of Ephesus are reminded of the divinity and vicarious sacrifice of Christ, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the Church; —lastly, that among those converts, who were made the chief instruments of the first propagation of the Gospel, or who are honoured with especial favour in Scripture, none are found who had not been faithful to the light already given them, and were not distinguished, previously to their conversion, by a strictly conscientious deportment.

Such are the divine notices given to those who desire an apostolical rule for dispensing the word of life; and as such, the ancient Fathers received them. They received them as the fulfillment of our Lord's command, "not to give that which is holy to dogs, nor to cast pearls before swine"; a text cited by Clement and Tertullian, among others, in justification of their cautious distribution of sacred truth. They also considered this caution as the result of the most truly charitable consideration for those whom they addressed, who were likely to be perplexed, not converted, by the sudden exhibition of the whole evangelical scheme. This is the doctrine of Theodoret, Chrysostom, and others, in their comments upon the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews. "Should a catechumen ask thee what the teachers have determined, (says Cyril of Jerusalem) tell nothing to one who is without. For we impart to thee a secret and a promise of the world to come. Keep safe the secret for Him who gives the reward. Listen not to one who asks, What harm is there in my knowing also?' Even the sick ask for wine, which, unseasonably given, brings on delirium; and so there come two ills, the death of the patient and the disrepute of the physician." In another place he says, "All may hear the Gospel, but the glory of the Gospel is set apart for the true disciples of Christ. To all who could hear, the Lord spake, but in parables; to His disciples He privately explained them. What is the blaze of Divine glory to the enlightened, is the blinding of unbelievers. These are the secrets which the Church unfolds to him who passes on from the catechumens, and not to the heathen. For we do hot unfold to a heathen the truths concerning Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; nay, not even in the case of catechumens, do we clearly explain the mysteries, but we frequently say many things indirectly, so that believers who have been taught may understand, and the others may not be injured."

The work of St. Clement, of Alexandria, called Stromateis, or Tapestry-work, from the variety of its contents, well illustrates the Primitive Church's method of instruction, as far as regards the educated portion of the community. It had the distinct object of interesting and conciliating the learned heathen who perused it; but it also exemplifies the peculiar caution then adopted by Christians in teaching the truth,—their desire to rouse the moral powers to internal voluntary action, and their dread of loading or formalizing the mind. In the opening of his work, Clement speaks of his miscellaneous discussions as mingling truth with philosophy; "or rather," he continues, "involving and concealing it, as the shell hides the edible fruit of the nut." In another place he compares them, not to a fancy garden, but to some thickly-wooded mountain, where vegetation of every sort, growing promiscuously, by its very abundance conceals from the plunderer the fruit trees, which are intended for the rightful owner. "We must hide," he says, "that wisdom, spoken in mystery, which the Son of God has taught us. Thus the Prophet Esaias has his tongue cleansed with fire, that he may be able to declare the vision; and our ears must be sanctified as well as our tongues, if we aim at being recipients of the truth. This was a hindrance to my writing; and still I have anxiety, since Scripture says, Cast not your pearls before swine; for those pure and bright truths, which are so marvellous and full of God to goodly natures, do but provoke laughter, when spoken in the hearing of the many." The Fathers considered that they had the pattern as well as the recommendation of this method of teaching in Scripture itself.





THE words of St. Jerome, with which the last section closed, may perhaps suggest the suspicion, that the Alexandrians, though orthodox themselves, yet incautiously prepared the way for Arianism by the countenance they gave to the use of the Platonic theological language. But, before speculating on the medium of connexion between Platonism and Arianism, it would be well to ascertain the existence of the connexion itself, which is very doubtful, whether we look for it in history, or in the respective characters of the parties professing the two doctrines; though it is certain that Platonism, and Origenism also, became the excuse and refuge of the heresy when it was condemned by the Church. I proceed to give an account of the rise and genius of Eclecticism, with the view of throwing light upon this question; that is, of showing its relation both to the Alexandrian Church and to Arianism.


The Eclectic philosophy is so called from its professing to select the better parts of the systems invented before it, and to digest these into one consistent doctrine. It is doubtful where the principle of it originated, but it is probably to be ascribed to the Alexandrian Jews. Certain it is, that the true faith never could come into contact with the heathen philosophies, without exercising its right to arbitrate between them, to protest against their vicious or erroneous dogmas, and to extend its countenance to whatever bore an exalted or a practical character. A cultivated taste would be likely to produce among the heathen the same critical spirit which was created by real religious knowledge; and accordingly we find in the philosophers of the Augustan and the succeeding age, an approximation to an eclectic or syncretistic system, similar to that which is found in the writings of Philo. Some authors have even supposed, that Potamo, the original projector of the school based on this principle, flourished in the reign of Augustus; but this notion is untenable, and we must refer him to the age of Severus, at the end of the second century. In the mean time, the Christians had continued to act upon the discriminative view of heathen philosophy which the Philonists had opened; and, as we have already seen, Clement, yet without allusion to particular sect or theory, which did not exist till after his day, declares himself the patron of the Eclectic principle. Thus we are introduced to the history of the School which embodied it.

Ammonius, the contemporary of Potamo, and virtually the founder of the Eclectic sect, was born of Christian parents, and educated as a Christian in the catechetical institutions of Alexandria, under the superintendence of Clement or Pantenus. After a time he renounced, at least secretly, his belief in Christianity; and opening a school of morals and theology on the stock of principles, esoteric and exoteric, which he had learned in the Church, he became the founder of a system really his own, but which by a dexterous artifice he attributed to Plato. The philosophy thus introduced into the world was forthwith patronized by the imperial court, both at Rome and in the East, and spread itself in the course of years throughout the empire, with bitter hostility and serious detriment to the interests of true religion; till at length, obtaining in the person of Julian a second apostate for its advocate, it became the authorized interpretation and apology for the state polytheism. It is a controverted point whether or not Ammonius actually separated from the Church. His disciples affirm it; Eusebius, though not without some immaterial confusion of statement, denies it. On the whole, it is probable that he began his teaching as a Christian, and but gradually disclosed the systematic infidelity on which it was grounded. We are told expressly that he bound his disciples to secrecy, which was not broken till they in turn became lecturers in Rome, and were led one by one to divulge the real doctrines of their master; nor can we otherwise account for the fact of Origen having attended him for a time, since he who refused to hear Paulus of Antioch, even when dependent on the patroness of that heretic, would scarcely have extended a voluntary countenance to a professed deserter from the Christian faith and name.

This conclusion is confirmed by a consideration of the nature of the error substituted by Ammonius for the orthodox belief; which was in substance what in these times would be called Neologism, a heresy which, even more than others, has shown itself desirous and able to conceal itself under the garb of sound religion, and to keep the form, while it destroys the spirit, of Christianity. So close, indeed, was the outward resemblance between Eclecticism and the Divine system of which it was the deadly enemy, that St. Austin remarks, in more than one passage, that the difference between the two professions lay only in the varied acceptation of a few words and propositions. This peculiar character of the Eclectic philosophy must be carefully noticed, for it exculpates the Catholic Fathers from being really implicated in proceedings, of which at first they did not discern the drift; while it explains that apparent connection which, at the distance of centuries, exists between them and the real originator of it.

The essential mark of Neologism is the denial of the exclusive divine mission and peculiar inspiration of the Scripture Prophets; accompanied the while with a profession of general respect for them as benefactors of mankind, as really instruments in God's hand, and as in some sense the organs of His revelations; nay, in a fuller measure such, than other religious and moral teachers. In its most specious form, it holds whatever is good and true in the various religions in the world, to have actually come from God: in its most degraded, it accounts them all equally to be the result of mere human benevolence and skill. In all its shapes, it differs from the orthodox belief, primarily, in denying the miracles of Scripture to have taken place, in the peculiar way therein represented, as distinctive marks of God's presence accrediting the teaching of those who wrought them; next, as a consequence, in denying this teaching, as preserved in Scripture, to be in such sense the sole record of religious truth, that all who hear it are bound to profess themselves disciples of it. Its apparent connection with Christianity lies (as St. Austin remarks) in the ambiguous use of certain terms, such as divine, revelation, inspiration, and the like; which may with equal ease be made to refer either to ordinary and merely providential, or to miraculous appointments in the counsels of Almighty Wisdom. And these words would be even more ambiguous than at the present day, in an age, when Christians were ready to grant, that the heathen were in some sense under a supernatural Dispensation, as was explained in the foregoing section.

The rationalism of the Eclectics, though equally opposed with the modern to the doctrine of the peculiar divinity of the Scripture revelations, was circumstantially different from it. The Neologists of the present day deny that the miracles took place in the manner related in the sacred record; the Eclectics denied their cogency as an evidence of the extraordinary presence of God. Instead of viewing them as events of very rare occurrence, and permitted for important objects in the course of Goes providence, they considered them to be common to every age and country, beyond the knowledge rather than the power of ordinary men, attainable by submitting to the discipline of certain mysterious rules, and the immediate work of beings far inferior to the Supreme Governor of the world. It followed that, a display of miraculous agency having no connection with the truth of the religious system which it accompanied, at least not more than any gift merely human was connected with it, such as learning or talent, the inquirer was at once thrown upon the examination of the doctrines for the evidence of the divinity of Christianity; and there being no place left for a claim on his allegiance to it as a whole, and for what is strictly termed faith, he admitted or rejected as he chose, compared and combined it with whatever was valuable elsewhere, and was at liberty to propose to himself that philosopher for a presiding authority, whom the Christians did but condescend to praise for his approximation towards some of the truths which Revelation had unfolded. The chapel of Alexander Severus was a fit emblem of that system, which placed on a level Abraham, Orpheus, Pythagoras, and the Sacred Name by which Christians are called. The zeal, the brotherly love, the beneficence, and the wise discipline of the Church, are applauded, and held up for imitation in the letters of the Emperor Julian; who at another time calls the Almighty Guardian of the Israelites a "great God," while in common with his sect he professed to restore the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to its ancient and pure Platonic basis. It followed as a natural consequence, that the claims of religion being no longer combined, defined, and embodied in a personal Mediator between God and man, its various precepts were dissipated back again and confused in the mass of human knowledge, as before Christ came; and in its stead a mere intellectual literature arose in the Eclectic School, and usurped the theological chair as an interpreter of sacred duties, and the instructor of the inquiring mind. "In the religion which he (Julian) had adopted," says Gibbon, "piety and learning were almost synonymous; and a crowd of poets, of rhetoricians, and of philosophers, hastened to the Imperial Court, to occupy the vacant places of the bishops, who had seduced the credulity of Constantius." Who does not recognize in this old philosophy the chief features of that recent school of liberalism and false illumination, political and moral, which is now Satan's instrument in deluding the nations, but which is worse and more earthly than it, inasmuch as his former artifice, affecting a religious ceremonial, could not but leave so much of substantial truth mixed in the system as to impress its disciples with somewhat of a lofty and serious character, utterly foreign to the cold, scoffing spirit of modern rationalism?

The freedom of the Alexandrian Christians from the Eclectic error was shown above, when I was explaining the principles of their teaching; a passage of Clement being cited, which clearly distinguished between the ordinary and the miraculous appointments of Providence. An examination of the dates of the history will show that they could not do more than bear this indirect testimony against it by anticipation. Clement himself was prior to the rise of Eclecticism; Origen, prior to its public establishment as a sect. Ammonius opened his school at the end of the second century, and continued to preside in it at least till AD 2437; during which period, and probably for some years after his death, the real character of his doctrines was carefully hidden from the world. He committed nothing to writing, whether of his exoteric or esoteric philosophy, and when Origen, who was scarcely his junior, attended him in his first years, probably had not yet decidedly settled the form of his system. Plotinus, the first promulgator and chief luminary of Eclecticism, began his public lectures AD 244; and for some time held himself bound by the promise of secrecy made to his master. Moreover, he selected Rome as the seat of his labours, and there is even proof that Origen and he never met. In Alexandria, on the contrary, the infant philosophy languished; no teacher of note succeeded to Ammonius; and even had it been otherwise, Origen had left the city for ever, ten years previous to that philosopher's death. It is clear, then, that he had no means of detecting the secret infidelity of the Eclectics; and the proof of this is still stronger, if, as Brucker calculates, Plotinus did not divulge his master's secret till AD 255, since Origen died AD 253. Yet, even in this ignorance of the purpose of the Eclectics, we find Origen, in his letter to Gregory expressing dissatisfaction at the actual effects which had resulted to the Church from that literature in which he himself was so eminently accomplished. "For my part," he says to Gregory, "taught by experience, I will own to you, that rare is the man, who, having accepted the precious things of Egypt, leaves the country, and uses them in decorating the worship of God. Most men who descend thither are brothers of Hadad (Jeroboam), inventing heretical theories with heathen dexterity, and establishing (so to say) calves of gold in Bethel, the house of God." So much concerning Origen's ignorance of the Eclectic philosophy. As to his pupils, Gregory and Dionysius, the latter, who was Bishop of Alexandria, died AD 264; Gregory, on the other hand, pronounced his panegyrical oration upon Origen, in which his own attachment to heathen literature is avowed, as early as AD 239; and besides, he had no connection whatever with Alexandria, having met with Origen at Caesarea. Moreover, just at this time there were heresies actually spreading in the Church of an opposite theological character, such as Paulianism; which withdrew their attention from the prospect or actual rise of a Platonic pseudo-theology; as will hereafter be shown.

Such, then, were the origin and principles of the Eclectic sect. It was an excrescence of the school of Alexandria, but not attributable to it, except as other heresies may be ascribed to other Churches, which give them birth indeed, but cast them out and condemn them when they become manifest. It went out from the Christians, but it was not of them:—whether it resembled the Arians, on the other hand, and what use its tenets were to them, are the next points to consider.


The Arian school has already been attributed to Antioch as its birth-place, and its character determined to be what we may call Aristotelico-Judaic. Now, at very first sight, there are striking points of difference between it and the Eclectics. On its Aristotelic side, its disputatious temper was altogether uncongenial to the new Platonists. These philosophers were commonly distinguished by their melancholy temperament, which disposed them to mysticism, and often urged them to eccentricities bordering on insanity. Far from cultivating the talents requisite for success in life, they placed the sublimer virtues in an abstraction from sense, and an indifference to ordinary duties. They believed that an intercourse with the intelligences of the spiritual world could only be effected by divesting themselves of their humanity; and that the acquisition of miraculous gifts would compensate for their neglect of rules necessary for the well-being of common mortals. In pursuit of this hidden talent, Plotinus meditated a journey into India, after the pattern of Apollonius; while bodily privations and magical rites were methods prescribed in their philosophy for rising in the scale of being. As might be expected from the professors of such a creed, the science of argumentation was disdained, as beneath the regard of those who were walking by an internal vision of the truth, not by the calculations of a tedious and progressive reason; and was only employed in condescending regard for such as were unable to rise to their own level. When Iamblichus was foiled in argument by a dialectician, he observed that the syllogisms of his sect were not weapons which could be set before the many, being the energy of those inward virtues which are the peculiar ornament of the philosopher. Notions such as these, which have their measure of truth, if we substitute for the unreal and almost passive illumination of the mystics, that instinctive moral perception which the practice of virtue ensures, found no sympathy in the shrewd secular policy and the intriguing spirit of the Arians; nor again, in their sharp-witted unimaginative cleverness, their precise and technical disputations, their verbal distinctions, and their eager appeals to the judgment of the populace, which is ever destitute of refinement and delicacy, and has just enough acuteness of apprehension to be susceptible of sophistical reasonings.

On the other hand, viewing the school of Antioch on its judaical side, we are met by a different but not less remarkable contrast to the Eclectics. These philosophers had followed the Alexandrians in adopting the allegorical rule; both from its evident suitableness to their mystical turn of mind, and as a means of obliterating the scandals and reconciling the inconsistencies of the heathen mythology. Judaism, on the contrary, being carnal in its views, was essentially literal in its interpretations; and, in consequence, as hostile from its grossness, as the Sophists from their dryness, to the fanciful fastidiousness of the Eclectics. It had rejected the Messiah, because He did not fulfil its hopes of a temporal conqueror and king. It had clung to its obsolete ritual, as not discerning in it the anticipation of better promises and commands, then fulfilled in the Gospel. In the Christian Church, it was perpetuating the obstinacy of its unbelief in a disparagement of Christ's spiritual authority, a reliance on the externals of religious worship, and an indulgence in worldly and sensual pleasures. Moreover, it had adopted in its most odious form the doctrine of the Chiliasts or Millenarians, respecting the reign of the saints upon earth, a doctrine which Origen, and afterwards his pupil Dionysius, opposed on the basis of an allegorical interpretation of Scripture. And in this controversy, Judaism was still in connexion, more or less, with the school of Antioch; which is celebrated in those times, in contrast to the Alexandrian, for its adherence to the theory of the literal sense.

It may be added, as drawing an additional distinction between the Arians and the Eclectics, that while the latter maintained the doctrine of Emanations, and of the eternity of matter, the hypothesis of the former required or implied the rejection of both tenets; so that the philosophy did not even furnish the argumentative foundation of the heresy, to which its theology outwardly bore a partial resemblance.


But in seasons of difficulty men look about on all sides. for support; and Eclecticism, which had no attractions for the Sophists of Antioch while their speculations were unknown to the world at large, became a seasonable refuge (as we learn from various authors), in the hands of ingenious disputants, when pressed by the numbers and authority of the defenders of orthodoxy. First, there was an agreement between the Schools of Ammonius and of Paulus, in the cardinal point of an inveterate opposition to the Catholic doctrine of our Lord's Divinity. The judaizers admitted at most only His miraculous conception. The Eclectics, honouring Him as a teacher of wisdom, still, far from considering Him more than man, were active in preparing from the heathen sages rival specimens of holiness and power. Next, the two parties agreed in rejecting from their theology all mystery, in the ecclesiastical notion of the word. The Trinitarian hypothesis of the Eclectics was not perplexed by any portion of that difficulty of statement which, in the true doctrine, results from the very incomprehensibility of its subject. They declared their belief in a sublime tenet, which Plato had first propounded and the Christians corrupted; but their Three Divine Principles were in no sense one, and, while essentially distinct from each other, there was a successive subordination of nature in the second and the third. In such speculations the judaizing Sophist found the very desideratum which he in vain demanded of the Church; a scripturally-worded creed, without its accompanying difficulty of conception.

Accordingly, to the doctrine thus put into his hands he might appeal by way of contrast, as fulfilling his just demands; nay, in proportion as he out-argued and unsettled the faith of his Catholic opponent, so did he open a way, as a matter of necessity and without formal effort, for the perverted creed of that philosophy which had so mischievously anticipated the labours and usurped the office of an ecclesiastical Synod.

And, further, it must be observed, that, when the Sophist had mastered the Eclectic theology, he had in fact a most powerful weapon to mislead or to embarrass his Catholic antagonist. The doctrine which Ammonius professed to discover in the Church, and to reclaim from the Christians, was employed by the Arian as if the testimony of the early Fathers to the truth of the heretical view which he was maintaining. What was but incaution, or rather unavoidable liberty, in the Ante-Nicene theology, was insisted on as apostolic truth. Clement and Origen, already subjected to a perverse interpretation, were witnesses provided by the Eclectics by anticipation against orthodoxy. This express appeal to the Alexandrian writers, seems, in matter of fact, to have been reserved for a late period of the controversy; but from the first an advantage would accrue to the Arians, by their agreement (as far as it went) with received language in the early Church. Perplexity and doubt were thus necessarily introduced into the minds of those who only heard the rumour of the discussion, and even of many who witnessed it, and who, but for this apparent primitive sanction, would have shrunk from the bold, irreverent inquiries and the idle subtleties which are the tokens of the genuine Arian temper. Nor was the allegorical principle of Eclecticism incompatible with the instruments of the Sophist. This also in the hands of a dexterous disputant, particularly in attack, would become more serviceable to the heretical than to the orthodox cause. For, inasmuch as the Arian controversialist professed to be asking for reasons why he should believe our Lord's divinity, an answer based on allegorisms did not silence him, while at the same time, it suggested to him the means of thereby evading those more argumentative proofs of the Catholic doctrine, which are built upon the explicit and literal testimonies of Scripture. It was notoriously the artifice of Arius, which has been since more boldly adopted by modern heretics, to explain away its clearest declarations by a forced figurative exposition. Here that peculiar subtlety in the use of language, in which his school excelled, supported and extended the application of the allegorical rule, recommended, as it was, to the unguarded believer, and forced upon the more wary, by its previous reception on the part of the most illustrious ornaments and truest champions of the Apostolic faith.

But after all there is no sufficient evidence in history that the Arians did make this use of Neo-Platonism, considered as a party. I believe they did not, and from the facts of the history should conclude Eusebius of Caesarea alone to be favourable to that philosophy: but some persons may attach importance to the circumstance, that Syria was one of its chief seats from its very first appearance. The virtuous and amiable Alexander Severus openly professed its creed in his Syrian court, and in consequence of this profession, extended his favour to the Jewish nation. Zenobia, a Jewess in religion, succeeded Alexander in her taste for heathen literature, and attachment to the syncretistic philosophy. Her instructor in the Greek language, the celebrated Longinus, had been the pupil of Ammonius, and was the early master of Porphyry, the most bitter opponent of Christianity that issued from the Eclectic school. Afterwards, Amelius, the friend and successor of Plotinus, transferred the seat of the philosophy from Rome to Laodicea in Syria; which became remarkable for the number and fame of its Eclectics. In the next century, Iamblicus and Libanius, the friend of Julian, both belonged to the Syrian branch of the sect. It is remarkable that, in the mean time, its Alexandrian branch declined in reputation on the death of Ammonius; probably, in consequence of the hostility it met with from the Church which had the misfortune to give it birth.