IT has appeared in the foregoing Chapter, that the temper of the Ante-Nicene Church was opposed to the imposition of doctrinal tests upon her members; and on the other hand, that such a measure became necessary in proportion as the cogency of Apostolic Tradition was weakened by lapse of time. This is a subject which will bear some further remarks; and will lead to an investigation of the principle upon which the formation and imposition of creeds rests. After this, I shall delineate the Catholic doctrine itself; as held in the first ages of Christianity; and then, the Arian substitution for it.


I have already observed, that the knowledge of the Christian mysteries was, in those times, accounted as a privilege, to be eagerly coveted. It was not likely, then, that reception of them would be accounted a test; which implies a concession on the part of the recipient, not an advantage. The idea of disbelieving, or criticizing the great doctrines of the faith, from the nature of the case, would scarcely occur to the primitive Christians. These doctrines were the subject of an Apostolical Tradition; they were the very truths which had been lately revealed to mankind. They had been committed to the Church’s keeping, and were dispensed by her to those who sought them, as a favour. They were facts, not opinions. To come to the Church was all one with expressing a readiness to receive her teaching; to hesitate to believe, after coming for the sake of believing, would be an inconsistency too rare to require a special provision against the chance of it. It was sufficient to meet the evil as it arose: the power of excommunication and deposition was in the hands of the ecclesiastical authorities, and, as in the case of Paulus, was used impartially. Yet, in the matter of fact, such instances of contumacy were comparatively rare; and the Ante-Nicene heresies were in many instances the innovations of those who had never been in the Church, or who had already been expelled from it.

We have some difficulty in putting ourselves into the situation of Christians in those times, from the circumstance that the Holy Scriptures are now our sole means of satisfying ourselves on points of doctrine. Thus, every one who comes to the Church considers himself entitled to judge and decide individually upon its creed. But in that primitive age, the Apostolical Tradition, that is, the Creed, was practically the chief source of instruction, especially considering the obscurities of Scripture; and being withdrawn from public view, it could not be subjected to the degradation of a comparison, on the part of inquirers and half-Christians, with those written documents which are vouchsafed to us from the same inspired authorities. As for the baptized and incorporate members of the Church, they of course had the privilege of comparing the written and the oral tradition, and might exercise it as profitably as in comparing and harmonizing Scripture with itself. But before baptism, the systematic knowledge was withheld; and without it, Scripture, instead of being the source of instruction on the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, was scarcely more than a sealed book, needing an interpretation, amply and powerfully as it served the purpose of proving those doctrines, when they were once disclosed. And so much on the reluctance of the primitive Fathers to publish creeds, on the ground that the knowledge of Christian doctrines was a privilege reserved for those who were baptized, and in no sense a subject of hesi­tation and dispute.—It may be added, that the very love of power, which in every age will sway the bulk of those who are exposed to the temptation of it, and ecclesiastics in the number, would indispose them to innovate upon a principle which made themselves the especial guardians of revealed truth.

Their backwardness proceeded also from a profound reverence for the sacred mysteries of which they were the dispensers. Here they present us with the true exhibition of that pious sensitiveness which the heathen had conceived, but could not justly execute. The latter had their mysteries, but their rude attempts were superseded by the divine discipline of the Gospel, which here acted in the office which is peculiarly its own, rectifying, combining, and completing the inventions of uninstructed nature. If the early Church regarded the very knowledge of the truth as a fearful privilege, much more did it regard that truth itself as glorious and awful; and scarcely conversing about it to her children, shrank from the impiety of subjecting it to the hard gaze of the multitude. We still pray, in the Confirmation service, for those who are introduced into the full privileges of the Christian covenant, that they may be "filled with the spirit of God's holy fear;" but the meaning and practical results of deep-seated religious reverence were far better understood in the primitive times than now, when the infidelity of the world has corrupted the Church. Now, we allow ourselves publicly to canvass the most solemn truths in a careless or fiercely argumentative way; truths, which it is as useless as it is unseemly to discuss in public, as being attainable only by the sober and watchful, by slow degrees, with dependence on the Giver of wisdom, and with strict obedience to the light which has already been granted. Then, they would scarcely express in writing, what is now not only preached to the mixed crowds who frequent our churches, but circulated in print among all ranks and classes of the unclean and the profane, and pressed upon all who choose to purchase it. Nay, so perplexed is the present state of things, that the Church is obliged to change her course of acting, after the spirit of the alteration made at Nicaea, and unwillingly to take part in the theological discussions of the day, as a man crushes venomous creatures of necessity, powerful to do it, but loathing the employment. This is the apology which the author of the present work, as far as it is worth while to introduce himself, offers to all sober-minded and zealous Christians, for venturing to exhibit publicly the great evangelical doctrines, not indeed in the medium of controversy or proof (which would be a still more humiliating office), but in an historical and explanatory form. And he earnestly trusts, that, while doing so, he may be betrayed into no familiarity or extravagance of expression, cautiously lowering the Truth, and (as it were), wrapping it in reverent language, and so depositing it in its due resting-place, which is the Christian's heart: guiltless of those unutterable profanations with which a scrutinizing infidelity wounds and lacerates it. Here, again, is strikingly instanced the unfitness of books, compared with private communication, for the purposes of religious instruction; levelling, as they do, the distinctions of mind and temper by the formality of the written character, and conveying each kind of knowledge the less perfectly, in proportion as it is of a moral nature, and requires to be treated with delicacy and discrimination.


As to the primitive Fathers, with their reverential feelings towards the Supreme Being, great must have been their indignation first, and then their perplexity, when apostates disclosed and corrupted the sacred truth, or when the heretical or philosophical sects made guesses approximating to it. Though the heretics also had their mysteries, yet, it is remarkable, that as regards the high doctrines of the Gospel, they in great measure dropped that restraint and reserve by which the Catholics partly signified, and partly secured a reverence for them. Tertullian sharply exposes the want of a grave and orderly discipline among them in his day. "It is uncertain", he says, "who among them is catechumen, who believer. They meet alike, they hear alike, they pray alike; nay, though the heathen should drop in, they will cast holy things to dogs, and their pearls, false jewels as they are, to swine. This overthrow of order they call simplicity, and our attention to it they call meretricious embellishment. They communicate with all men promiscuously; it being nothing to them in what they differ from them, provided they join with them for the destruction of the truth. They are all high-minded; all make pretence of knowledge. Their catechumens are perfect in the faith before they are fully taught. Even their women are singularly forward venturing, that is, to teach, to argue, to exorcise, to undertake cures, nay, perhaps to baptise."

The heretical spirit is ever one and the same in its various forms: this description of the Gnostics was exactly paralleled, in all those points for which we have introduced it here, in the history of Arianism; historically distinct as is the latter system from Gnosticism. Arius began by throwing out his questions as a subject of debate for public consideration; and at once formed crowds of controversialists from those classes who were the least qualified or deserving to take part in the discussion. Alexander, his diocesan, accuses him of siding with the Jews and heathen against the Church; and certainly we learn from the historians, that the heathen philosophers were from the first warmly interested in the dispute, so that some of them attended the Nicene Council, for the chance of ascertaining the orthodox doctrine. Alexander also charges him with employing women in his disturbance of the Church, apparently referring at the same time to the Apostle's prediction of them. He speaks especially of the younger females as zealous in his cause, and as traversing Alexandria in their eagerness to promote it;—a fact confirmed by Epiphanius, who speaks (if he may be credited) of as many as seven hundred from the religious societies of that city at once taking part with the heresiarch. But Arius carried his agitation lower still. It is on no other authority than that of the historian Philostorgius, his own partisan, that we are assured of his composing and setting to music, songs on the subject of his doctrine for the use of the rudest classes of society, with a view of familiarizing them to it. Other of his compositions, of a higher literary excellence, were used at table as a religious accompaniment to the ordinary meal; one of which, in part preserved by Athanasius, enters upon the most sacred portions of the theological question. The success of these exertions in drawing public attention to his doctrine is recorded by Eusebius of Caesarea, who, though no friend of the heresiarch himself, is unsuspicious evidence as being one of his party. "From a little spark a great fire was kindled. The quarrel began in the Alexandrian Church, then it spread through the whole of Egypt, Lybia, and the farther Thebais; then it ravaged the other provinces and cities, till the war of words enlisted not only the prelates of the churches, but the people too. At length the exposure was so extraordinary, that even in the heathen theatres, the divine doctrine became the subject of the vilest ridicule."

Such was Arianism at its commencement; and if it was so indecent in the hands of its originator, who, in spite of his courting the multitude, was distinguished by a certain reserve and loftiness in his personal deportment, much more flagrant was its impiety under the direction of his less refined successors. Valens, the favourite bishop of Constantius, exposed the solemnities of the Eucharist in a judicial examination to which Jews and heathen were admitted; Eudoxius, the Arianizer of the Gothic nations, when installed in the patriarchal throne of Constantinople, uttered as his first words a profane jest, which was received with loud laughter in the newly-consecrated Church of St. Sophia; and Aetius, the founder of the Anomoeans, was the grossest and most despicable of buffoons. Later still, we find the same description of the heretical party in a discourse of the kind and amiable Gregory of Nazianzus. With a reference to the Arian troubles he says, "Now is priest an empty name; contempt is poured upon the rulers, as Scripture says.... All fear is banished from our souls, shamelessness has taken its place. Knowledge is now at the will of him who chooses it, and all the deep mysteries of the Spirit. We are all pious, because we condemn the impiety of others. We use the infidels as our arbiters, and cast what is holy to dogs, and pearls before swine, publishing divine truths to profane ears and minds; and, wretches as we are, we carefully fullfil the wishes of our enemies, while, without blushing, we pollute ourselves in our inventions."

Enough has now been said, by way of describing the condition of the Catholic Church, defenceless from the very sacredness and refinement of its discipline, when the attack of Arianism was made upon it; insulting its silence, provoking it to argue, unsettling and seducing its members, and in consequence requiring its authoritative judgment on the point in dispute. And in addition to the instruments of evil which were internally directed against it, the Eclectics had by this time extended their creed among the learned, with far greater decorum than the Arians, but still so as practically to interpret the Scriptures in the place of the Church, and to state dogmatically the conclusions for which the Arian controvertists were but indirectly preparing the mind by their objections and sophisms.


Under these circumstances, it was the duty of the rulers of the Church, at whatever sacrifice of their feelings, to discuss the subject in controversy fully and unreservedly, and to state their decision openly. The only alternative was an unmanly non-interference, and an arbitrary or treacherous prohibition of the discussion. To enjoin silence on perplexed inquirers, is not to silence their thoughts; and in the case of serious minds, it is but natural to turn to the spiritual ruler for advice and relief, and to feel disappointment at the timidity, or irritation at the harshness, of those who refuse to lead a lawful inquiry which they cannot stifle. Such a course, then, is most unwise as well as cruel, inasmuch as it throws the question in dispute upon other arbitrators; or rather, it is more commonly insincere, the traitorous act of those who care little for the question in dispute, and are content that opinions should secretly prevail which they profess to condemn. The Nicene Fathers might despair of reclaiming the Arian party, but they were bound to erect a witness for the truth, which might be a guide and a warning to all Catholics, against the lying spirit which was abroad in the Church. These remarks apply to a censure which is sometimes passed on them, as if it was their duty to have shut up the question in the words of Scripture; for the words of Scripture were the very subject in controversy, and to have prohibited the controversy, would, in fact, have been but to insult the perplexed, and to extend real encouragement to insidious opponents of the truth. But it may be expedient here to explain more fully the principle of the obligation which led to their interposition.

Let it be observed then, that as regards the doctrine of the Trinity, the mere text of Scripture is not calculated either to satisfy the intellect or to ascertain the temper of those who profess to accept it as a rule of faith.

1. Before the mind has been roused to reflection and inquisitiveness about its own acts and impressions, it acquiesces, if religiously trained, in that practical devotion to the Blessed Trinity, and implicit acknowledgment of the divinity of Son and Spirit, which holy Scripture at once teaches and exemplifies.

This is the faith of uneducated men, which is not the less philosophically correct, nor less acceptable to God, because it does not happen to be conceived in those precise statements which presuppose the action of the mind on its own sentiments and notions. Moral feelings do not directly contemplate and realize to themselves the objects which excite them. A heathen in obeying his conscience, implicitly worships Him of whom he has never distinctly heard. Again, a child feels not the less affectionate reverence towards his parents, because he cannot discriminate in words, nay; or in idea, between them and others. As, however, his reason opens, he might ask himself concerning the ground of his own emotions and conduct towards them; and might find that these are the correlatives of their peculiar tenderness towards him, long and intimate knowledge of him, and unhesitating assumption of authority over him; all which he continually experiences. And further, he might trace these characteristics of their influence on him to the essential relation itself, which involves his own original debt to them for the gift of life and reason, the inestimable blessing of an indestructible, neverending existence. And now his intellect contemplates the object of those affections, which acted truly from the first, and are not purer or stronger merely for this accession of knowledge. —This will tend to illustrate the sacred subject to which we are directing our attention.

As the mind is cultivated and expanded, it cannot refrain from the attempt to analyze the vision which influences the heart, and the Object in which that vision centres; nor does it stop till it has, in some sort, succeeded in expressing in words, what has all along been a principle both of its affections and of its obedience. But here the parallel ceases; the Object of religious veneration being unseen, and dissimilar from all that is seen, reason can but represent it in the medium of those ideas which the experience of life affords (as we see in the Scripture account, as far as it is addressed to the intellect); and unless these ideas, however inadequate, be correctly applied to it, they react upon the affections, and deprave the religious principle. This is exemplified in the case of the heathen, who, trying to make their instinctive notion of the Deity an object of reflection, pictured to their minds false images, which eventually gave them a pattern and a sanction for sinning. Thus the systematic doctrine of the Trinity may be considered as the shadow, projected for the contemplation of the intellect, of the Object of scripturally informed piety: a representation, economical; necessarily imperfect, as being exhibited in a foreign medium, and therefore involving apparent inconsistencies or mysteries; given to the Church by tradition contemporaneously with those apostolic writings, which are addressed more directly to the heart; kept in the background in the infancy of Christianity, when faith and obedience were vigorous, and brought forward at a time when, reason being disproportionately developed, and aiming at sovereignty in the province of religion, its presence became necessary to expel an usurping idol from the house of God.

If this account of the connexion between the theological system and the Scripture implication of it be substantially correct, it will be seen how ineffectual all attempts ever will be to secure the doctrine by mere general language. It may be readily granted that the intellectual representation should ever be subordinate to the cultivation of the religious affections. And after all, it must be owned, so reluctant is a well-constituted mind to reflect on its own motive principles, that the correct intellectual image, from its hardness of outline, may startle and offend those who have all along been acting upon it. Doubtless there are portions of the ecclesiastical doctrine, presently to be exhibited, which may at first sight seem a refinement, merely because the object and bearings of them are not understood without reflection and experience. But what is left to the Church but to speak out, in order to exclude error? Much as we may wish it, we cannot restrain the rovings of the intellect, or silence its clamorous demand for a formal statement concerning the Object of our worship. If, for instance, Scripture bids us adore God, and adore His Son, our reason at once asks, whether it does not follow that there are two Gods; and a system of doctrine becomes unavoidable; being framed, let it be observed, not with a view of explaining, but of arranging the inspired notices concerning the Supreme Being, of providing, not a consistent, but a connected statement. There the inquisitiveness of a pious mind rests, viz., when it has pursued the subject into the mystery which is its limit. But this is not all. The intellectual expression of theological truth not only excludes heresy, but directly assists the acts of religious worship and obedience; fixing and stimulating the Christian spirit in the same way as the knowledge of the One God relieves and illuminates the perplexed conscience of the religious heathen.—And thus much on the importance of Creeds to tranquillize the mind; the text of Scripture being addressed principally to the affections, and of a religious, not a philosophical character.

2. Nor, in the next place, is an assent to the text of Scripture sufficient for the purposes of Christian fellowship. As the sacred text was not intended to satisfy the intellect, neither was it given as a test of the religious temper which it forms, and of which it is an expression. Doubtless no combination of words will ascertain an unity of sentiment in those who adopt them; but one form is more adapted for the purpose than another. Scripture being unsystematic, and the faith which it propounds being scattered through its documents, and understood only when they are viewed as a whole, the Creeds aim at concentrating its general spirit, so as to give security to the Church, as far as may be, that its members take that definite view of that faith which alone is the true one. But, if this be the case, how idle is it to suppose that to demand assent to a form of words which happens to be scriptural, is on that account sufficient to effect an unanimity in thought and action! If the Church would be vigorous and influential, it must be decided and plain-spoken in its doctrine, and must regard its faith rather as a character of mind than as a notion. To attempt comprehensions of opinion, amiable as the motive frequently is, is to mistake arrangements of words, which have no existence except on paper, for habits which are realities; and ingenious generalizations of discordant sentiments for that practical agreement which alone can lead to co­operation. We may indeed artificially classify light and darkness under one term or formula; but nature has her own fixed courses, and unites mankind by the sympathy of moral character, not by those forced resemblances which the imagination singles out at pleasure even in the most promiscuous collection of materials. However plausible may be the veil thus thrown over heterogeneous doctrines, the flimsy artifice is discomposed so soon as the principles beneath it are called upon to move and act. Nor are these attempted comprehensions innocent; for, it being the interest of our enemies to weaken the Church, they have always gained a point, when they have put upon us words for things, and persuaded us to fraternize with those who, differing from us in essentials, nevertheless happen, in the excursive range of opinion, somewhere to intersect that path of faith, which centres in supreme and zealous devotion to the service of God.

Let it be granted, then, as indisputable, that there are no two opinions so contrary to each other, but some form of words may be found vague enough to comprehend them both. The Pantheist will admit that there is a God, and the Humanitarian that Christ is God, if they are suffered to say so without explanation. But if this be so, it becomes the duty, as well as the evident policy of the Church, to interrogate them, before admitting them to her fellowship. If the Church be the pillar and ground of the truth, and bound to contend for the preservation of the faith once delivered to it; if we are answerable as ministers of Christ for the formation of one, and one only, character in the heart of man; and if the Scriptures, are given us, as a means indeed towards that end, but inadequate to the office of interpreting themselves, except to such as live under the same Divine Influence which inspired them, and which is expressly sent down upon us that we may interpret them,—then, it is evidently our duty piously and cautiously to collect the sense of Scripture, and solemnly to promulgate it in such a form as is best suited, as far as it goes, to exclude the pride and unbelief of the world. It will be admitted that, to deny to individual Christians the use of terms not found in Scripture, as such, would be a superstition and an encroachment on their religious liberty; and in like manner, doubtless, to forbid the authorities of the Church to require an acceptance of such terms, when necessary, from its members, is to interfere with the discharge of their peculiar duties, as appointed of the Holy Spirit to be overseers of the Lord's flock. And, though the discharge of this office is the most momentous and fearful that can come upon mortal man, and never to be undertaken except by the collective illumination of the Heads of the Church, yet, when innovations arise, they must discharge it to the best of their ability; and whether they succeed or fail, whether they have judged rightly or hastily of the necessity of their interposition, whether they devise their safeguard well or ill, draw the line of Church fellowship broadly or narrowly, countenance the profane reasoner, or cause the scrupulous to stumble,—to their Master they stand or fall, as in all other acts of duty, the obligation itself to protect the Faith remaining unquestionable.

This is an account of the abstract principle on which ecclesiastical confessions rest. In its practical adoption it has been softened in two important respects. First, the Creeds imposed have been compiled either from Apostolical traditions, or from primitive writings; so that in fact the Church has never been obliged literally to collect the sense of Scripture. Secondly, the test has been used, not as a condition of communion, but of authority. As learning is not necessary for a private Christian, so neither is the full knowledge of the theological system. The clergy, and others in station, must be questioned as to their doctrinal views: but for the mass of the laity, it is enough if they do not set up such counterstatements of their own, as imply that they have systematized, and that erroneously. In the Nicene Council, the test was but imposed on the Rulers of the Church. Lay communion was not denied to such as refused to take it, provided they introduced no novelties of their own; the anathemas or excommunications being directed sold) against the Arian innovators.





I BEGIN by laying out the matter of evidence for the Catholic Doctrine, as it is found in Scripture; that is, assuming it to be there contained, let us trace out the form in which it has been communicated to us,—the disposition of the phenomena, which imply it, on the face of the Revelation. And here be it observed, in reference to what has already been admitted concerning the obscurity of the inspired documents, that it is nothing to the purpose whether or not we should have been able to draw the following view of the doctrine from them, had it never been suggested to us in the Creeds. For it has been (providentially) so suggested to all of us; and the question is not, what we should have done, had we never had external assistance, but, taking things as we find them, whether, the clue to the meaning of Scripture being given, (as it ever has been given,) we may not deduce the doctrine thence, by as argumentative a process as that which enables us to verify the received theory of gravitation, which perhaps we could never have discovered for ourselves, though possessed of the data from which the inventor drew his conclusions. Indeed, such a state of the case is analogous to that in which the evidence for Natural Religion is presented to us. It is very doubtful, whether the phenomena of the visible world would in themselves have brought us to a knowledge of the Creator; but the universal tradition of His existence has been from the beginning His own comment upon them, graciously preceding the study of the evidence. With this remark I address myself to an arduous undertaking.

First, let it be assumed as agreeable both to reason and revelation, that there are Attributes and Operations, or by whatever more suitable term we designate them, peculiar to the Deity; for instance, creative and preserving power, absolute prescience, moral sovereignty, and the like. These are ever included in our notion of the incommunicable nature of God; and, by a figure of speech, were there occasion for using it, might be called one with God, present, actively co-operating, and exerting their own distinguishing influence, in all His laws, providences, and acts. Thus, if He be eternal, or omnipresent, we consider His knowledge, goodness, and holiness, to be co-eternal and co-extensive with Him. Moreover, it would be an absurdity to form a comparison between these and God Himself; to regard them as numerically distinct from Him; to investigate the particular mode of their existence in the Divine Mind; or to treat them as parts of God, inasmuch as they are all included in the idea of the one indivisible Godhead. And, lastly, subtle and unmeaning questions might be raised about some of these; for instance, God's power: whether, that is, it did or did not exist from eternity, on the ground, that bearing a relation to things created, it could not be said to have existence before the era of creation.

Next, it is to be remarked, that the Jewish Scriptures introduce to our notice certain peculiar Attributes or Manifestations (as they would seem) of the Deity, corresponding in some measure to those already mentioned as conveyed to us by Natural Religion, though of a more obscure character. Such is what is called "the Spirit of God"; a phrase which denotes sometimes the Divine energy, sometimes creative or preserving power, sometimes the assemblage of Divine gifts, moral and intellectual, vouchsafed to mankind; having in all cases a general connection with the notion of the vivifying principle of nature. Such again, is "the Wisdom of God," as introduced into the book of Proverbs; and such is the "Name," the " Word," the "Glory," of God.

Further, these peculiar Manifestations (to give them a name) are sometimes in the same elder Scriptures singularly invested with the properties of personality; and, although the expressions of the sacred text may in some places be interpreted figuratively, yet there are passages so strangely worded, as at first sight to be inconsistent with themselves, and such as would be ascribed, in an uninspired work, to forgetfulness or inaccuracy in the writer;—as, for instance, when what is first called the Glory of God is subsequently spoken of as an intelligent Agent, often with the characteristics, or even the name of an Angel. On the other hand, it elsewhere occurs, that what is introduced as an Angel, is afterwards described as God Himself.

Now, when we pass on to the New Testament, we find these peculiar Manifestations of the Divine Essence concentrated and fixed in two, called the Word, and the Spirit. At the same time, the apparent Personality ascribed to Them in the Old Testament, is changed for a real Personality, so clearly and explicitly marked as to resist all critical experiments upon the language, all attempts at allegorical interpretation. Here too the Word is also called the Son of God, and appears to possess such strict personal attributes, as to be able voluntarily to descend from heaven, and assume our nature without ceasing to be identically what He was before; so as to speak of Himself, though a man, as one and the same with the Divine Word who existed in the beginning. The Personality of the Spirit in some true and sufficient sense is as accurately revealed; and that the Son is not the Spirit, is also evident from the fixed relations which are described as separating Them from each other in the Divine Essence.

Reviewing this process of revelation, Gregory Nazianzen, somewhat after the manner of the foregoing account, remarks that, as Almighty God has in the course of His dispensations changed the ritual of religion by successive abrogations, so He has changed its theology by continual additions till it has come to perfection, "Under the Old Dispensation," he proceeds, "the Father was openly revealed, and the Son but obscurely. When the New was given, the Son was manifested, but the Divinity of the Spirit intimated only. Now the Spirit dwells with us, affording us clearer evidence about Himself ... that by gradual additions, and flights, as David says, and by advancing and progressing from glory to glory, the radiance of the Trinity might shine out on those who are illuminated."

Now from this peculiar method in which the doctrine is unfolded to us in Scripture, we learn so much as this in our contemplation of it; viz. the absurdity, as well as the presumption, of inquiring minutely about the actual relations subsisting between God and His Son and Spirit, and drawing large inferences from what is told us of Them. Whether They are equal to Him or unequal, whether posterior to Him in existence or coeval, such inquiries (though often they must be answered when once started) are in their origin as superfluous as similar questions concerning the Almighty's relation to His own attributes (which still we answer as far as we can, when asked); for the Son and the Spirit are one with Him, the ideas of number and comparison being excluded. Yet this statement must be qualified from the evidence of Scripture, by two additional remarks. On the one hand, the Son and Spirit are represented to us in the Economy of Revelation, as ministering to God, and as, so far, personally subordinate to Him; and on the other hand, in spite of this personal inequality, yet, as being partakers of the fulness of the Father, they are equal to Him in nature, and in Their claims upon our faith and obedience, as is sufficiently proved by the form of baptism.

The mysteriousness of the doctrine evidently lies in our inability to conceive a sense of the word person, such, as to be more than a mere character, yet less than an individual intelligent being; our own notions, as gathered from our experience of human agents, leading us to consider personality as equivalent, in its very idea, to the unity and independence of the immaterial substance of which it is predicated.





This being the general Scripture view of the Holy Trinity, it follows to describe the Ecclesiastical Doctrine, chiefly in relation to our Lord, as contained in the writings of the Fathers, especially the Ante­Nicene.

Scripture is express in declaring both the divinity of Him who in due time became man for us, and also His personal distinction from God in His pre-existent state. This is sufficiently clear from the opening of St. John's Gospel, which states the mystery as distinctly as an ecclesiastical comment can propound it. On these two truths the whole doctrine turns, viz. that our Lord is one with, yet personally separate from God. Now there are two appellations given to Him in Scripture, enforcing respectively these two essentials of the true doctrine; appellations imperfect and open to misconception by themselves, but qualifying and completing each other. The title of the Son marks His derivation and distinction from the Father, that of the Word (i.e. Reason) denotes His inseparable inherence in the Divine Unity; and while the former taken by itself, might lead the mind to conceive of Him as a second being, and the latter as no real being at all, both together witness to the mystery, that He is at once from, and yet in, the Immaterial, Incomprehensible God. Whether or not these titles contain the proof of this statement, (which, it is presumed, they actually do,) at least, they will enable us to classify our ideas: and we have authority for so using them. "The Son," says Athanasius, "is the Word and Wisdom of the Father: from which titles we infer His impassive and indivisible derivation from the Father, inasmuch as the word (or reason) of a man is no mere part of him, nor when exercised, goes forth from him by a passion; much less, therefore, is it so with the Word of God. On the other hand, the Father calls Him His Son, lest, from hearing only that He was the Word, we should consider Him such as the word of man, impersonal, whereas the title of Son, designates Him as a Word which exists, and a substantial Wisdom."

Availing ourselves of this division, let us first dwell on the appellation of Son, and then on that of Word or Reason.


Nothing can be plainer to the attentive student of Scripture, than that our Lord is there called the Son of God, not only in respect of His human nature, but of His pre-existent state also. And if this be so, the very fact of the revelation of Him as such, implies that we are to gather something from it, and attach in consequence of it some ideas to our notion of Him, which otherwise we should not have attached; else would it not have been made. Taking then the word in its most vague sense, so as to admit as little risk as possible of forcing the analogy, we seem to gain the notion of derivation from God, and therefore, of the utter dissimilarity and distance existing between Him and all beings except God His Father, as if He partook of that unapproachable, incommunicable Divine Nature, which is increate and imperishable.

But Scripture does not leave us here: in order to fix us in this view, lest we should be perplexed with another notion of the analogy, derived from that adopted sonship, which is ascribed therein to created beings, it attaches a characteristic epithet to His Name, as descriptive of the peculiar relation of Him who bears it to the Father. It designates Him as the Only-begotten or the own Son of God, terms evidently referring, where they occur, to His heavenly nature, and thus becoming the inspired comment on the more general title. It is true that the term generation is also applied to certain events in our Lord's mediatorial history: to His resurrection from the dead; and, according to the Fathers, to His original mission in the beginning of all things to create the world; and to His manifestation in the flesh. Still, granting this, the sense of the word "only-begotten" remains, defined by its context to relate to something higher than any event occurring in time, however great or beneficial to the human race.

Being taken then, as it needs must be taken, to designate His original nature, it witnesses most forcibly and impressively to that which is peculiar in it, viz. His origination from God, and such as to exclude all resemblance to any being but Him, whom nothing created resembles. Thus, without irreverently and idly speculating upon the generation in itself, but considering the doctrine as given us as a practical direction for our worship and obedience, we may accept it in token, that whatever the Father is, such is the Son. And there are some remarkable texts in Scripture corroborative of this view: for instance, that in the fifth chapter of St. John, "As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself. What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth. As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will ... that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him."

This is the principle of interpretation acknowledged by the primitive Church. Its teachers warn us against resting in the word "generation," they urge us on to seize and use its practical meaning. "Speculate not upon the divine generation (gennesis)," says Gregory Nazianzen, "for it is not safe ... let the doctrine be honoured silently; it is a great thing for thee to know the fact; the mode, we cannot admit that even Angels understand, much less thou." Basil says, "Seek not what is undiscoverable, for you will not discover; if you will not comply, but are obstinate, I shall deride you, or rather I weep at your daring: ... believe what is written, seek not what is not written." Athanasius and Chrysostom repel the profane inquiry argumentatively. "Such speculators," the former says, "might as well investigate, where God is, and how God is, and of what nature the Father is. But as such questions are irreligious, and argue ignorance of God, so is it also unlawful to venture such thoughts about the generation of the Son of God." And Chrysostom: "I know that He begat the Son: the manner how, I am ignorant of. I know that the Holy Spirit is from Him; how from Him, I do not understand. I eat food; but how this is converted into my flesh and blood, I know not. We know not these things, which we see every day when we eat, yet we meddle with inquiries concerning the substance of God."

While they thus prohibited speculation, they boldly used the doctrine for the purposes for which it was given them in Scripture. Thus Justin Martyr speaks of Christ as the Son, "who alone is literally called by that name:" and arguing with the heathen, he says, "Jesus might well deserve from His wisdom to be called the Son of God, though He were only a man like others, for all writers speak of God as the Father of both men and gods. But let it not be strange to you, if, besides this common generation, we consider Him, as the Word of God, to have been begotten of God in a special way." Eusebius of Caesarea, unsatisfactory as he is as an authority, has nevertheless well expressed the general Catholic view in his attack upon Marcellus. "He who describes the Son as a creature made out of nothing," he says, "does not observe that he is bestowing on Him only the name of Son, and denying Him to be really such; for He who has come out of nothing, cannot truly be the Son of God, more than other things which are made. But He who is truly the Son, born from God, as from a Father, He may reasonably be called the singularly beloved and only-begotten of the Father, and therefore He is Himself God." This last inference, that what is born of God, is God, of course implicitly appeals to, and is supported by, the numerous texts which expressly call the Son God, and ascribe to Him the divine attributes.

The reverential spirit in which the Fathers held the doctrine of the gennesis, led them to the use of other forms of expression, partly taken from Scripture, partly not, with a view of signifying the fact of the Son's full participation in the divinity of Him who is His Father, without dwelling on the mode of participation or origination, on which they dared not speculate. Such were the images of the sun and its radiance, the fountain and the stream, the root and its shoots, a body and its exhalation, fire and the fire kindled from it; all which were used as emblems of the sacred mystery in those points in which it was declared in Scripture, viz. the mystery of the Son's being from the Father and, as such, partaker in His Divine perfections. The first of these is found in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where our Lord is called, "the brightness of God's glory." These illustrations had a further use in their very variety, as reminding the Christian that he must not dwell on any one of them for its own sake. The following passage from Tertullian will show how they were applied in the inculcation of the sacred doctrine. "Even when a ray is shot forth from the sun, though it be but a part from the whole, yet the sun is in the ray, inasmuch as it is the ray of the sun; nor is its substance separated, but drawn out. In like manner there is Spirit from Spirit, and God from God. As when a light is kindled from another, the original light remains entire and undiminished, though you borrow from it many like itself; so That which proceeds from God, is called at once God, and the Son of God, and Both are One."

So much is evidently deducible from what Scripture tells us concerning the generation of the Son; that there is, (so to express it,) a reiteration of the One Infinite Nature of God, a communicated divinity, in the Person of our Lord; an inference supported by the force of the word "only begotten," and verified by the freedom and fulness with which the Apostles ascribe to Christ the high incommunicable titles of eternal perfection and glory. There is one other notion conveyed to us in the doctrine, which must be evident as soon as stated, little as may be the practical usefulness of dwelling upon it. The very name of Son, and the very idea of derivation, imply a certain subordination of the Son to the Father, so far forth as we view Him as distinct from the Father, or in His personality: and frequent testimony is borne to the correctness of this inference in Scripture, as in the descriptions of the Divine Angel in the Old Testament, revived in the closing revelations of the News; and in such passages as that above cited from St. John's Gospel. This is a truth which every Christian feels, admits, and acts upon; but from piety he would not allow himself to reflect on what he does, did not the attack of heresies oblige him. The direct answer which a true religious loyalty leads him to make to any question about the subordination of the Son, is that such comparisons are irreverent, that the Son is one with the Father, and that unless he honours the Son in all the fullness of honour which he ascribes to the Father, he is disobeying His express command. It may serve as a very faint illustration of the offence given him, to consider the manner in which he would receive any question concerning the love which he feels respectively for two intimate friends, or for a brother and sister, or for his parents: though in such cases the impropriety of the inquiry arises from the incommensurableness, not the coincidence, of the respective feelings.

But false doctrine forces us to analyze our own notions, in order to exclude it. Arius argued that, since our Lord was a Son, therefore He was not God: and from that time we have been obliged to determine how much we grant and what we deny, lest, while praying without watching, we lose all. Accordingly, orthodox theology has since his time worn a different aspect; first, inasmuch as divines have measured what they said themselves; secondly, inasmuch as they have measured the Ante-Nicene language, which by its authors was spoken from the heart, by the necessities of controversies of a later date. And thus those early teachers have been made appear technical, when in fact they have only been reduced to system; just as in literature what is composed freely, is afterwards subjected to the rules of grammarians and critics. This must be taken as an apology for whatever there is that sounds harsh in the observations which I have now to make, and for the injustice which I may seem incidentally to do in the course of them to the ancient writers whose words are in question.

"The Catholic doctors," says Bishop Bull, "both before and after the Nicene Council, are unanimous in declaring that the Father is greater than the Son, even as to divinity [paternity?]; i.e. not in nature or any essential perfection, which is in the Father and not in the Son, but alone in what may be called authority, that is in point of origin, since the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son." Justin, for instance, speaks of the Son as "having the second place after the unchangeable and everlasting God and Father of all." Origen says that "the Son is not more powerful than the Father, but subordinate; according to His own words, "The Father that sent Me, is greater than I." This text is cited in proof of the same doctrine by the Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers, Alexander, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Cyril, and others, of whom we may content ourselves with the words of Basil: "My Father is greater than I,' that is, so far forth as Father, since what else does Father' signify, than that He is cause and origin of Him who was begotten by Him?" and in another place, "The Son is second in order to the Father, since He is from Him; and in dignity, inasmuch as the Father is the origin and cause of His existences."

Accordingly, the primitive writers, with an unsuspicious yet reverent explicitness, take for granted the ministrative character of the relation of both Son and Spirit towards the Father; still of course speaking of Them as included in the Divine Unity, not as external to it. Thus Irenaeus, clear and undeniable as is his orthodoxy, still declares, that the Father "is ministered to in all things by His own Offspring and Likeness, the Son and Holy Spirit, the Word and Wisdom, of whom all angels are servants and subjects." In like manner, a ministry is commonly ascribed to the Son and Spirit, and a bidding and willing to the Father, by Justin, Ireneus, Clement, Origen, and Methodius, altogether in the spirit of the Post-Nicene authorities already cited: and without any risk of misleading the reader, as soon as the second and third Persons are understood to be internal to the Divine Mind, connaturalia instrumento, concurrent (at the utmost) in no stronger sense, than when the human will is said to concur with the reason. Gregory Nazianzen lays down the same doctrine with an explanation, in the following sentence: "It is plain," he says, " that the things, of which the Father designs in Him the forms, these the Word executes; not as a servant, nor unskilfully, but with full knowledge and a master's power, and, to speak more suitably, as if He were the Father."

Such is the Scriptural and Catholic sense of the word Son; on the other hand, it is easy to see what was the defect of this image, and the consequent danger in the use of it. First, there was an appearance of materiality, the more suspiciously to be viewed because there were heresies at the time which denied or neglected the spiritual nature of Almighty God. Next, too marked a distinction seemed to be drawn between the Father and Son, tending to give a separate individuality to each, and so to introduce a kind of ditheism; and here too heresy and philosophy had prepared the way for the introduction of the error. The Valentinians and Manichees are chargeable with both misconceptions. The Eclectics, with the latter; being Emanatists, they seem to have considered the Son to be both individually distinct from the Father, and of an inferior nature.—Against these errors we have the following among other protests.

Tertullian says, "We declare that two are revealed as God in Scripture, two as Lord; but we explain ourselves, lest offence should be taken. They are not called two, in respect of their both being God, or Lord, but in respect of their being Father and Son; and this moreover, not from any division of substance, but from mutual relation, since we pronounce the Son to be individual with and inseparable from the Father." Origen also, commenting upon the word "brightness," in the first chapter of the Hebrews, says, "Holy Scripture endeavours to give to men a refined perception of its teaching, by introducing the illustration of breaths. It has selected this material image, in order to our understanding even in some degree, how Christ, who is Wisdom, issues, as though Breath, from the perfection of God Himself ... In like manner from the analogy of material objects, He is called a pure and perfect Emanation of the Almighty glory. Both these resemblances most clearly show the fellowship of nature between the Son and Father. For an emanation seems to be of one substance with that body of which it is the emanation or breath." And to guard still more strongly against any misconception of the real drift of the illustration, he cautions his readers against "those absurd fictions which give the notion of certain literal extensions in the Divine Nature; as if they would distribute it into parts, and divide God the Father, if they could; whereas to entertain even the light suspicion of this, is not only an extreme impiety, but an utter folly also, nay not even intelligible at all, that an incorporeal nature should be capable of division."


To meet more fully this misconception to which the word Sort gave rise, the ancient Fathers availed themselves of the other chief appellation given to our Lord in Scripture. The Logos or Sophia, the Word, Reason, or Wisdom of God, is only by St. John distinctly applied to Christ; but both before his time and by his contemporary Apostles it is used in that ambiguous sense, half literal, half evangelical, which, when it is once known to belong to our Lord, guides us to the right interpretation of the metaphor. For instance, when St. Paul declares that "the Word of God is alive and active, and keener than a two-edged sword, and so piercing as to separate soul and spirit, joints and nerves, and a judge of our thoughts and designs, and a witness of every creature," it is scarcely possible to decide whether the revealed law of God be spoken of, or the Eternal Son. On the whole it would appear that our Lord is called the Word or Wisdom of God in two respects; first, to denote His essential presence in the Father, in as full a sense as the attribute of wisdom is essential to Him; secondly, His mediatorship, as the Interpreter or Word between God and His creatures. No appellation, surely, could have been more appositely bestowed, in order to counteract the notions of materiality and of distinct individuality, and of beginning of existence, which the title of the Son was likely to introduce into the Catholic doctrine. Accordingly, after the words lately cited, Origen uses it (or a metaphor like it) for this very purpose. Having mentioned the absurd idea, which had prevailed, of parts or extensions in the Divine Nature, he proceeds: "Rather, as will proceeds out of the mind, and neither tears the mind, nor is itself separated or divided from it, in some such manner must we conceive that the Father has begotten the Son, who is His Image." Elsewhere he says, "It were impious and perilous, merely because our intellect is weak, to deprive God, as far as our words go, of His only-begotten co-eternal Word, viz. the wisdom in which He rejoiced. We might as well conceive that He was not for ever in joy." Hence it was usual to declare that to deny the eternity of our Lord was all one as saying that Almighty God was once without intelligence: for instance, Athenagoras says, that the Son is "the first­born of the Father; not as made, for God being Mind Eternal, had from the beginning reason in Himself, being eternally intellectual; but as issuing forth upon the chaotic mass as the Idea and Agent of Creation." The same interpretation of the sacred figure is continued after the Nicene Council; thus Basil says, "If Christ be the Power of God, and the Wisdom, and these be increate and co-eternal with God, (for He never was without wisdom and power,) then, Christ is increate and co-eternal with God."

But here again the metaphor was necessarily imperfect; and, if pursued, open to misconception. Its obvious tendency was to obliterate the notion of the Son's Personality, that is, to introduce Sabellianism. Something resembling this was the error of Paulus of Samosata and Marcellus: who, from the fleeting and momentary character of a word spoken, inferred that the Divine Word was but the temporary manifestation of God's glory in the man Christ. And it was to counteract this tendency, that is, to witness against it, that the Fathers speak of Him as the Word in an hypostasis the permanent, real, and living Word.


The above is a sketch of the primitive doctrine concerning our Lord's divine nature, as contained in the two chief appellations which are ascribed to Him in Scripture. The opposite ideas they convey may be further denoted respectively by the symbols "of God," and " in God;" as though He were so derived from the simple Unity of God as in no respect to be divided or extended from it, (to speak metaphorically,) but to inhere within that ineffable individuality. Of these two conditions of the doctrine, however, the divinity of Christ, and the unity of God, the latter was much more earnestly insisted on in the early times. The divinity of our Lord was, on the whole, too plain a truth to dispute; but in proportion as it was known to the heathen, it would seem to them to involve this consequence,—that, much as the Christians spoke against polytheism, still, after all, they did admit a polytheism of their own instead of the Pagan. Hence the anxiety of the Apologists, while they assail the heathen creed on this account, to defend their own against a similar charge. Thus Athenagoras, in the passage lately referred to, says; "Let no one ridicule the notion that God has a Son. For we have not such thoughts either about God the Father or about the Son as your poets, who, in their mythologies, make the Gods no better than men. But the Son of God is the Word of the Father [as Creator] both in idea and in active power. ... the Father and the Son being one. The Son being in the Father, and the Father in the Son, in the unity and power of the Spirit, the Son of God is the Mind and Word of the Father." Accordingly, the divinity of the Son being assumed, the early writers are earnest in protecting the doctrine of the Unity; protecting it both from the materialism of dividing the Godhead, and the paganism of separating the Son and Spirit from the Father. And to this purpose they made both the "of God," and the "in God," subservient, in a manner which shall now be shown.

First, the "in God." It is the clear declaration o Scripture, which we must receive without questioning that the Son and Spirit are in the one God, and He in Them. There is that remarkable text in the firs chapter of St. John which says that the Son is "in the bosom of the Father." In another place it is said that "the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son." (John 14. 2.) And elsewhere the Spirit of God is compared to "the spirit of a man which is in him" (I Cor. 2. 2). This is, in the language of theology, the doctrine of the coinherences; which was used from the earliest times on the authority of Scripture, as a safeguard and witness of the Divine Unity. A passage from Athenagoras to this purpose has just been cited. Clement has the following doxology at the end of his Christian Instructor. "To the One Only Father and Son, Son and Father, Son our guide and teacher, with the Holy Spirit also, to the One in all things, in whom are all things, &c.... to Him is the glory, &c." And Gregory of Neocaesarea, if the words form part of his creed, "In the Trinity there is nothing created, nothing subservient, nothing of foreign nature, as if absent from it once, and afterwards added. The Son never failed the Father, nor the Spirit the Son, but the Trinity remains evermore unchangeable, unalterable." These audiorities belong to the early Alexandrian School. The Ante-Nicene school of Rome is still more explicit. Dionysius of Rome says, "We must neither distribute into three divinities the awful and divine Unity, nor diminish the dignity and transcendant majesty of our Lord by the name of creature, but we must believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Christ Jesus His Son, and in the Holy Spirit; and believe that the Word is united with the God of the universe. For He says, I and the Father are One; and, I am in the Father, and the Father in Me. For thus the Divine Trinity and the holy preaching of the monarchie will be preserved ."

This doctrine of the coinherence, as protecting the Unity without intrenching on the perfections of the Son and Spirit, may even he called the characteristic of Catholic Trinitarianism as opposed to all counterfeits, whether philosophical, Arian, or Oriental. One Post-Nicene statement of it shall be added. "If any one truly receive the Son", says Basil, "he will find that He brings with him on one hand His Father, on the other the Holy Spirit. For neither can He from the Father be severed, who is of and ever in the Father; nor again from His own Spirit disunited, who in It operates all things... For we must not conceive separation or division in any way; as if either the Son could be supposed without the Father, or the Spirit disunited from the Son. But there is discovered between them some ineffable and incomprehensible, both communion and distinction."

Secondly, as the "in God" led the Fathers to the doctrine of the coinherence, so did the "of God" lead them to the doctrine of the monarchia; still, with the one object of guarding against any resemblance to Polytheism in their creed. Even the heathen had shown a disposition, designedly or from a spontaneous feeling, to trace all their deities up to one Principle or arché; as is evident by their Theogonies. Much more did it become that true religion, which prominently put forth the Unity of God, jealously to guard its language, lest it should seem to admit the existence of a variety of original Principles. It is said to have been the doctrine of the Marcionists and Manichees, that there were three unconnected independent Beings in the Divine Nature. Scripture and the Church avoid the appearance of tritheism, by tracing back, (if we may so say,) the infinite perfections of the Son and Spirit to Him whose Son and Spirit They are. They are, so to express it, but the new manifestation and repetition of the Father; there being no room for numeration or comparison between Them, nor any resting-place for the contemplating mind, till They are referred to Him in whom They centre. On the other hand, in naming the Father, we imply the Son and Spirit, whether They be named or not. Without this key, the language of Scripture is perplexed in the extremes. Hence it is, that the Father is called "the only God," at a time when our Lord's name is also mentioned, John 17. 3, I Tim. 1. 16-17, as if the Son was but the reiteration of His Person, who is the Self-Existent, and therefore not to be contrasted with Him in the way of number. The Creed, called the Apostles, follows this mode of stating the doctrine; the title of God standing in the opening against the Father's name, while the Son and Spirit are introduced as distinct forms or modes, (so to say,) of and in the One Eternal Being. The Nicene Creed, commonly so called, directed as it is against the impugners both of the Son's and of the Spirit's divinity, nevertheless observes the same rule even in a stricter form, beginning with a confession of the "One God." Whether or not this mode of speaking was designed in Scripture to guard the doctrine of the Unity from all verbal infringement (and there seems evidence that it was so, as in I Cor. 8. 5-6) it certainly was used for this purpose in the primitive Church. Thus Tertullian says, that it is a mistake "to suppose that the number and arrangement of the Trinity is a division of its Unity; inasmuch as the Unity drawing out the Trinity from itself is not destroyed by it, but is subserved." Novatian, in like manner, says, "God originating from God, so as to be the Second Person, yet not interfering with the Father's right to be called the one God. For, had He not a birth, then indeed when compared with Him who had no birth, He would seem, from the appearance of equality in both, to make two who were without birth, and therefore two Gods."

Accordingly it is impossible to worship One of the Divine Persons, without worshipping the Others also. In praying to the Father, we only arrive at His mysterious presence through His Son and Spirit; and in praying to the Son and Spirit, we are necessarily carried on beyond them to the source of Godhead from which They are derived. We see this in the very form of many of the received addresses to the Blessed Trinity; in which, without intended reference to the mediatorial scheme, the Son and Spirit seem, even in the view of the Divine Unity, to take a place in our thoughts between the Father and His creatures; as in the ordinary doxologies "to the Father through the Son and by the Spirit," or "to the Father and Son in the unity of the Holy Ghost."

This gives us an insight into the force of expressions, common with the primitive Fathers, but bearing, in the eyes of inconsiderate observers, a refined and curious character. They call the Son, "God of God, Light of Light," &c., much more frequently than simply God, in order to anticipate in the very form of words, the charge or the risk of ditheism. Hence, also, the illustrations of the sun and his rays, &c., were in such repute, viz. as containing, not only a description, but also a defence of the Catholic doctrine. Thus Hippolytus says, "When I say that the Son is distinct from the Father, I do not speak of two Gods; but, as it were, light of light, and the stream from the fountain, and a ray from the sun." It was the same reason which led the Fathers to insist upon the doctrine of the divine generation.





THERE will, of course, be differences of opinion, in deciding how much of the ecclesiastical doctrine, as above described, was derived from direct Apostolical Tradition, and how much was the result of intuitive spiritual perception in scripturally informed and deeply religious minds. Yet it does not seem too much to affirm, that copious as it may be in theological terms, yet hardly one can be pointed out which is not found or strictly implied in the New Testament itself. And indeed so much perhaps will be granted by all who have claim to be considered Trinitarians; the objections, which some among them may be disposed to raise, lying rather against its alleged over-exactness in systematizing Scripture, than against the truths themselves which are contained in it. But it should be remembered, that it is we in after times who systematize the statements of the Fathers, which, as they occur in their works, are for the most part as natural and unpremeditated as those of the inspired volume itself. If the more exact terms and phrases of any writer be brought together, that is, of a writer who has fixed principles at all, of course they will appear technical and severe. We count the words of the Fathers, and measure their sentences; and so convert doxologies into creeds. That we do so, that the Church has done so more or less from the Nicene Council downwards, is the fault of those who have obliged us, of those who, "while men slept," have "sowed tares among the wheat."

This remark applies to the statements brought together in the last Section, from the early writers: which, even though generally subservient to certain important ends, as, for instance, the maintenance of the Unity of God, &c., are, still on the whole written freely and devotionally. But now the discussion passes on to that more intentional systematizing on the part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, which, unavoidable as it was, yet because it was in part conventional and individual, was ambiguous, and in consequence afforded at times an apparent countenance to the Arian heresy. It often becomes necessary to settle the phraseology of divinity, in points, where the chief problem is, to select the clearest words to express notions in which all agree; or to find the proposition which will best fit in with, and connect, a number of received doctrines. Thus the Calvinists dispute among themselves whether or not God wills the damnation of the non-elect; both parties agree in doctrine, they doubt how their own meaning may be best expressed. However clearly we see, and firmly we grasp the truth, we have a natural fear of the appearance of inconsistency; nay, a becoming fear of misleading others by our inaccuracy of language; and especially when our words have been misinterpreted by opponents, are we anxious to guard against such an inconvenience in future. There are two characteristics of opinions subjected to this intellectual scrutiny: first, they are variously expressed during the process; secondly, they are consigned to arbitrary formulas, at the end of it. Now, to exemplify this in certain Ante-Nicene statements of the great Catholic doctrine.


The word unborn, ingenerate, was the philosophical term to denote that which had existed from eternity. It had accordingly been applied by Aristotle to the world or to matter, which was according to his system without beginning; and by Plato to his ideas. Now since the Divine Word was according to Scripture generate, He could not be called ingenerate (or eternal), without a verbal contradiction. In process of time a distinction was made between increate and ingenerate, according as the letter v was or was not doubled, so that the Son might be said to be increately generate. The argument which arose from this perplexity of language, is urged by Arius himself; who ridicules the ingenerately-generate, which he conceives must be ascribed, according to the orthodox creed, to the Son of God. Some years afterwards, the same was the palmary, or rather the essential argument of Eunomius, the champion of the Anomoeans:


The unoriginate. As is implied in the word monarchia, as already explained, the Father alone is the arché, or origin, and the Son and Spirit are not origins. The heresy of the Tritheists made it necessary to insist upon this. Hence the condemnation, in the (so-called) Apostolical Canons, of those who baptized into the name of Three Unoriginate." And Athanasius says, "We do not teach three Origins, as our illustration shows; for we do not speak of three Suns, but of the Sun and its radiance." For the same reason the early writers spoke of the Father as the Fount of Divinity. At the same time, lest they should in word dishonour the Son, they ascribed to Him "an unoriginate generation" or "birth." Thus Alexander, the first champion of orthodox truth against Arius, in his letter to his namesake of Byzantium: "We must reserve to the unbegotten (or unborn) Father His peculiar prerogative, confessing that no one is the cause of His existence, and to the Son we must pay the due honour, attributing to Him the unoriginate generation from the Father, and as we have said already, paying Him worship, so as ever to speak of Him piously and reverently, as pre-existent, ever-living, and before the worlds." This distinction however, as might be expected, was but partially received among the Catholics. Contrasted with all created beings, the Son and Spirit are of necessity Unoriginate in the Unity of the Father. Clement, for instance, calls the Son, "the everlasting, unoriginate, origin and commencement of all things." It was not till they became alive to the seeming ditheism of such phrases, which the Sabellian controversy was sure to charge upon them, that they learned the accurate discrimination observed by Alexander. On the other hand, when the Arian contest urged them in the contrary direction to Sabellius, then they returned more or less to the original language of Clement, though with a fuller explanation of their own meaning. Gregory Nyssen gives the following plain account of the variations of their practice: "Whereas the word Origin has many significations sometimes we say that the appellation of the Unoriginate is not unsuitable to the Son. For when it is taken to mean derivation of substance from no cause, this indeed we ascribe to the Father alone. But according to the other senses of the word, since creation, time, the order of the world are referred to an origin, in respect of these we ascribe to the Only-begotten, superiority to any origin; so as to believe Him to be beyond creation, time, and mundane order, through whom were made all things. And thus we confess Him, who is not unoriginate in regard to His subsistence, in all other respects to be unoriginate, and, while the Father is unoriginate and unborn, the Son to be unoriginate in the sense explained, but not unborn."

The word cause used in this passage, as a substitute for that use of Origin which peculiarly applies to the Father as the Fount of Divinity, is found as early as the time of Justin Martyr, who in his dialogue with Trypho, declares the Father is to the Son the cause of His being; and it was resumed by the Post-Nicene writers, when the Arian controversy was found to turn in no small degree on the exact application of such terms. Thus Gregory Nazianzen says, "There is One God, seeing that the Son and Spirit are referred to One Cause."


The Ante-Nicene history of the word homasion or consubstantial, which the Council of Nicaea adopted as its test, will introduce a more important discussion.

It is one characteristic of Revelation, that it clears up all doubts about the existence of God, as separate from, and independent of nature; and shows us that the course of the world depends not merely on a system, but on a Being, real, living, and individual. What we ourselves witness, evidences to us the operation of laws, physical and mora ; but it leaves us unsatisfied, whether or not the principle of these be a mere nature or fate, whether the life of all things be a mere Anima Mundi, a spirit connatural with the body in which it acts, or an Agent powerful to make or unmake, to change or supersede, according to His will. It is here that Revelation supplies the deficiency of philosophical religion; miracles are its emblem, as well as its credentials, forcing on the imagination the existence of an irresponsible self-dependent Being, as well as recommending a particular message to the reason. This great truth, conveyed in the very circumstances under which Revelation was made, is explicitly recognized in its doctrine. Among other modes of inculcating it, may be named the appellation under which Almighty God disclosed Himself to the Israelites; Yahweh being an expressive appellation of Him, who is essentially separate from those variable and perishable beings or substances, which creation presents to our observation.

Accordingly, the description of Him as God viewed as Being and as the one Being, became familiar to the minds of the primitive Christians; as embodying the spirit of the Scriptures, and indirectly witnessing against the characteristic error of pagan philosophy, which considered the Divine Mind, not as a reality, but as a mere abstract name, or generalized law of nature, or at best as a mere mode, principle, or an animating soul, not a Being external to creation, and possessed of individuality. Cyril of Alexandria defines the word usia, (being, substance), to be "that which has existence in itself, independent of every thing else to constitute it"; that is, an individual. This sense of the word must be carefully borne in mind, since it was not that in which it is used by philosophers, who by it denoted the genus or species, or the " ens unum in multis,"—a sense which of course it could not bear when applied to the One Incommunicable God.

The word, thus appropriated to the service of the God of Revelation, was from the earliest date used to express the reality and subsistence of the Son; and no word could be less metaphorical and more precise for this purpose, although the Platonists chose to refine, and from an affectation of reverence refused to speak of God except as hyperusios. Justin Martyr, for instance, speaks of heretics, who considered that God put forth and withdrew His Logos when it pleased Him, as if He were an influence, not a Persona, somewhat in the sense afterwards adopted by Paulus of Samosata and others. To meet this error, he speaks of Him as inseparable from the substance or being, usia, of the Father; that is, in order to exclude all such evasions of Scripture, as might represent the man Christ as inhabited by a divine glory, power, nature, and the like, evasions which in reality lead to the conclusion that He is not God at all.

For this purpose the word homousion or consubstantial was brought into use among Christian writers; viz. to express the real divinity of Christ, and that, as being derived from, and one with the Father's. Here again, as in the instance of its root, the word was adopted, from the necessity of the case, in a sense under the same general nature, or species; that is, it is applied to things, which are but similar to each other, and are considered as one by an abstraction of our minds; or, it may mean of the same material. Thus Aristotle speaks of the stars being consubstantial with each other; and Porphyry of the souls of brute animals being consubstantial to ours. When, however, it was used in relation to the incommunicable Essence of God, there was obviously no abstraction possible in contemplating Him, who is above all comparison with His works. His nature is solitary, peculiar to Himself, and one; so that whatever was accounted to be consubstantial or co-essential with Him, was necessarily included in His individuality, by all who would avoid recurring to the vagueness of philosophy, and were cautious to distinguish between the incommunicable Essence of Yahweh and all created intelligences. And hence the fitness of the term to denote without metaphor the relation which the Logos bore in the orthodox creed to His eternal Father. Its use is explained by Athanasius as follows. "Though," he says, "we cannot understand what is meant by the usia, being, or substance of God, yet we know as much as this, that God is, which is the way in which Scripture speaks of Him; and after this pattern, when we wish to designate Him distinctly, we say God, Father, Lord. When then He says in Scripture, 'I am God,' the Being, and ' I am Yahweh, God,' or uses the plain word God,' we understand by such statements nothing but His incomprehensible substance, and that He, who is there spoken of, is. Let no one then think it strange, that the Son of God should be said to be from the being or substance of God; rather, let him agree to the explanation of the Nicene fathers, who, for the words 'of God' substituted 'of the divine being or substance.' They considered the two phrases substantially the same, because, as I have said, the word 'God' denotes nothing but the the being of Him who is. On the other hand, if the Word be not in such sense 'of God,' as to be the true Son of the Father according to His nature, but be said to be 'of God,' merely as all creatures are such because they are His work, then indeed He is not from the being of the Father, nor Son according to being or substance, but so called from His virtue, as we may be, who receive the title from graces."

The term homousios is first employed for this purpose by the author of the Paemander, a Christian of the beginning of the second century. Next it occurs in several writers at the end of the second and the beginning of the third. In Tertullian, the equivalent phrase, "unius substantiae," "of one substance," is applied to the Trinity. In Origen's comment on the Hebrews, the homousion of the Son is deduced from the figurative title radiance, there given to Him. In the same age, it was employed by various writers, bishops and historians, as we learn from the testimonies of Eusebius and Athanasius. But at this era, the middle of the third century, a change took place in the use of it and other similar words, which is next to be explained.

The oriental doctrine of Emanations was at a very early period combined with the Christian theology. According to the system of Valentinus, a Gnostic heresiarch, who flourished in the early part of the second century, the Supreme Intelligence of the world gave existence to a line of Spirits or Eons, who were all more or less partakers of His nature, that is, of a nature specifically the same, and included in His glory, though individually separate from the true and Sovereign Deity. It is obvious, that such a teaching as this abandons the great revealed principle above insisted on, the incommunicable character and individuality of the Divine Essence. It considers all spiritual beings as like God, in the same sense that one man resembles or has the same nature as another: and accordingly it was at liberty to apply, and did actually apply, to the Creator and His creatures the word homousion or consubstantial, in the philosophical sense which the word originally bore. We have evidence in the work of Ireneus that the Valentinians did thus employ it. The Manichees followed, about a century later; they too were Emanatists, and spoke of the human soul as being consubstantial or co-essential with God, of one substance with God. Their principles evidently allowed of a kind of Trinitarianism; the Son and Spirit being considered Eons of a superior order to the rest, consubstantial with God because Eons, but one with God in no sense which was not true also of the soul of man. It is said, moreover, that they were materialists; and used the word consubstantial as it may be applied to different vessels or instruments, wrought out from some one mass of metal or wood. However, whether this was so or not, it is plain that anyhow the word in question would become unsuitable to express the Catholic doctrine, in proportion as the ears of Christians were familiarized to the terms employed in the Gnostic and Manichean theologies; nor is it wonderful that at length they gave up the use of it.

The history of the word probole or offspring is parallel to that of the consubstantial. It properly means any thing which proceeds, or is sent forth from the substance of another, as the fruit of a tree, or the rays of the sun; in Latin it is translated by prolatio, emissio, or editio, an offspring or issue. Accordingly Justin employed it, or rather a cognate phrases, to designate what Cyril calls above the self-existence of the Son, in opposition to the evasions which were necessary for the system of Paulus, Sabellius, and the rest. Tertullian does the same; but by that time, Valentinus had given the word a material signification. Hence Tertullian is obliged to apologize for using it, when writing against Praxeas, the forerunner of the Sabellians. "Can the Word of God," he asks, "be unsubstantial, who is called the Son, who is even named God? He is said to be in the form or image of God. Is not God a body [substance], Spirit though He be? .. Whatever then has been the substance of the Word, that, I call a Person, and claim for it the name of Son, and being such, He comes next to the Father. Let no one suppose that I am bringing in the notion of any such probole (offspring) as Valentinus imagined, drawing out his Eons the one from the other. Why must give up the word in a right sense, because heresy uses it in a wrong? besides, heresy borrowed it from us, and has turned truth into a lie ... This is the difference between the uses of it. Valentinus separates his probolo from their Father; they know Him not. But we hold that the Son alone knows the Father, reveals Him, performs His will, and is within Him. He is ever in the Father, as He has said; ever with God, as it is written; never separated from Him, for He and the Father are one. This is the true probole, the safeguard of unity, sent forth, not divided off". Soon after Tertullian thus defended his use of the word probole, Origen in another part of the Church gave it up, or rather assailed it, in argument with Candidus, a Valentinian. "If the Son is a probole of the Father," he says, "who begets Him from Himself, like the birth of animals, then of necessity both off­spring and original are of a bodily nature." Here we see two writers, with exactly the same theological creed before them, taking opposite views as to the propriety of using a word which heresy had corrupted.

But to return to the word consubstantial: though Origen gave up the word probole, yet he used the word consubstantial, as has already been mentioned. But shortly after his death, his pupils abandoned it at the celebrated Council held at Antioch (AD 264) against Paulus of Samosata. When they would have used it as a test, this heretic craftily objected to it on the very ground on which Origen had surrendered the probole. He urged that, if Father and Son were of one substance, consubstantial, there was some common substance in which they partook, and which consequently was distinct from and prior to the Divine Persons Themselves; a wretched sophism, which of course could not deceive Firmilian and Gregory, but which, being adapted to perplex weak minds, might decide them on withdrawing the word. It is remarkable too, that the Council was held about the time when Manes appeared on the borders of the Antiochene Patriarchate. The disputative school of Paulus pursued the advantage thus gained; and from that time used the charge of materialism as a weapon for attacking all sound expositions of Scripture truth. Having extorted from the Catholics the condemnation of a word long known in the Church, almost found in Scripture, and less figurative and material in its meaning than any which could be selected, and objectionable only in the mouths of heretics, they employed this concession as a ground of attacking expressions more directly metaphorical, taken from visible objects, and sanctioned by less weighty authority. In a letter which shall afterwards be cited, Arius charges the Catholics with teaching the errors of Valentinus and Manes; and in another of the original Arian documents, Eusebius of Nicomedia, maintains in like manner that their doctrine involves the materiality of the Divine Nature. Thus they were gradually silencing the Church by a process which legitimately led to Pantheism, when the Alexandrians gave the alarm, and nobly stood forward in defence of the faith.

It is worth observing that, when the Asiatic Churches had given up the consubstantial, they, on the contrary, had preserved it. Not only Dionysius willingly accepts the challenge of his namesake of Rome, who reminded him of the value of the symbol; but Theognostus also, who presided at the Catechetical School at the end of the third century, recognizes it by implication in the following passage, which has been preserved by Athanasius. "The substance of the Son," he says, "is not external to the Father, or created; but it is by natural derivation from that of the Father, as the radiance comes from light. For the radiance is not the sun ... and yet not foreign to it; and in like manner there is an effluence from the Father's substance, though it be indivisible from Him. For as the sun remains the same without infringement of its nature, though it pour forth its radiance, so the Father's substance is unchangeable, though the Son be its Image."


Some notice of the voluntary generation, will suitably follow the discussion of the consubstantial; though the subject does not closely concern theology. It has been already observed that the tendency of the heresies of the first age was towards materialism and fatalism. As it was the object of Revelation to destroy all theories which interfered with the belief of the Divine Omniscience and active Sovereignty, so the Church seconded this design by receiving and promulgating the doctrine of the "He that is," or the Divine "Being" or "Essence," as a symbol of His essential distinction from the perishable world in which He acts. But when the word substance or essence itself was taken by the Gnostics and Manichees in a material sense, the error was again introduced by the very term which was intended to witness against it.

According to the Oriental Theory, the emanations from the Deity were eternal with Himself, and were considered as the result, not of His will and personal energy, but of the necessary laws to which His nature was subjected; a doctrine which was but fatalism in another shape. The Eclectics honourably distinguished themselves in withstanding this blasphemous, or rather atheistical tenet. Plotinus declares, that "God's substance and His will are the same; and if so, as He willed, so He is; so that it is not a more certain truth that, as is His substance or nature, so is His will and action, than, as His will and action, so is His substance." Origen had preceded them in their opposition to the same school. Speaking of the simplicity and perfection of the Divine Essence, he says, "God does not even participate in substance, rather He is partaken; by those, namely, who have the Spirit of God. And our Saviour does not share in holiness, but, being holiness itself, is shared by the holy." The meaning of this doctrine is clear;—to protest, in the manner of Athanasius, in a passage lately cited, against the notion that the substance of God is something distinct from God Himself, and not God viewed as self-existent, the one immaterial, intelligent, all-perfect Spirit; but the risk of it lay in its tendency to destroy the doctrine of His individual and real existence (which the Catholic use of substance symbolized), and to introduce in its stead the notion that a quality or mode of acting was the governing principle of nature; in other words, Pantheism. This is an error of which Origen of course cannot be accused; but it is in its measure chargeable on the Platonic Masters, and is countenanced even by their mode of speaking of the Supreme Being, as not sub­stantial, but above the notion of substance."

The controversy did not terminate in the subject of Theism, but was pursued by the heretical party into questions of Christian Theology. The Manichees considered the Son and Spirit as necessary emanations from the Father; erring, first, in their classing those Divine Persons with intelligences confessedly imperfect and subservient; next, in introducing a sort of materialism into their notion of the Deity. The Eclectics on the other hand, maintained, by a strong figure, that the Eternal Son originated from the Father at His own will; meaning thereby, that the everlasting mystery, which constitutes the relation between Father and Son, has no physical or material conditions, and is such as becomes Him who is altogether Mind, and bound by no laws, but those established by His own perfection as a first cause. Thus Iamblichus Calls the Son self-begotten.

The discussion seems hardly to have entered farther into the Ante-Nicene Church, than is implied in the above notice of it: though some suppose that Justin and others referred the divine gennesis or generation to the will of God. However, it is easy to see that the ground was prepared for the introduction of a subtle and irreverent question, whenever the theologizing Sophists should choose to raise it. Accordingly, it was one of the first and principal interrogations put to the Catholics by their Arian opponents, whether the generation of the Son was voluntary or not on the part of the Father; their dilemma being, that Almighty God was subject to laws external to Himself, if it were not voluntary, and that, if on the other hand it was voluntary, the Son was in the number of things created. But of this more in the next Section.


The Word as internal or external to the Father:—One theory there was, adopted by several of the early Fathers, which led them to speak of the Son's generation or birth as resulting from the Father's will, and yet did not interfere with His consubstantiality. Of the two titles ascribed in Scripture to our Lord, that of the "Word" expresses with peculiar force His co-eternity in the One Almighty Father. On the other hand, the title "Son" has more distinct reference to His derivation and ministrative office. A distinction resembling this had already been applied by the Stoics to the Platonic Logos, which they represented under two aspects, the internal Thought and Purpose of God, and its external Manifestation, as if in words spoken.

The terms were received among Catholics; the "Endiathetic" standing for the Word, as hid from everlasting in the bosom of the Father, while the "Prophoric" was the Son sent forth into the world, in apparent separation from God, with His Father's name and attributes upon Him, and His Father's will to perform. This contrast is acknowledged by Athanasius, Gregory Nyssen, Cyril, and other Post-Nicene writers; nor can it be confuted, being Scriptural in its doctrine, and merely expressed in philosophical language, found ready for the purpose. But further, this change of state in the Eternal Word, from repose to energetic manifestation, as it took place at the creation, was called by them a genesis and here too, no blame attaches to them, for the expression is used in Scripture in different senses, one of which appears to be the very signification which they put on it, the mission of the Word to make and govern all things. Such is the text in St. Paul, that He is "the image of the Invisible God, the First-born of every creature;" such is His title in St. John as "the Beginning of the Creation of God." This gennesis or generation was called also the "going­forth," or "condescension," of the Son, which may Scripturally be ascribed to the will of the all-bountiful Father. However, there were some early writers who seem to interpret the gennesis in this meaning exclusively, ascribing the title of "Son" to our Lord only after the date of His mission or economy, and considering that of the "Word" as His peculiar appellation during the previous eternity. Nay, if we carry off their expressions hastily or perversely, as some theologians have done, we shall perhaps conclude that they conceived that God existed in One Person before the "going-forth," and then, if it may be said, by a change in His nature began to exist in a Second Person; as if an attribute (the Internal Word, "Endiathetic,") had come into substantive being, as "Prophoric." The Fathers, who have laid themselves open to this charge, are Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus, Hippolytus, and Novatian, as mentioned in the first Chapter.

Now that they did not mean what a superficial reader might lay to their charge, may be argued, first, from the parallel language of the Post-Nicenes, as mentioned above, whose orthodoxy no one questions: Next, from the extreme absurdity, not to speak of the impiety, of the doctrine imputed to them; as if, with, a more than Gnostic extravagance, they conceived that any change or extension could take place in that Individual Essence, which is without parts or passions, or that the divine generation could be an event in time, instead of being considered a mere expression of the eternal relation of the Father towards the Son. Indeed, the very absurdity of the literal sense of the words, in whatever degree they so expressed themselves, was the mischief to be apprehended from them. The reader, trying a rhetorical description by too rigid a rule, would attempt to elicit sense by imputing a heresy, and would conclude that they meant by the External or Prophoric Word a created being, made in the beginning of all things as the visible emblem of the Internal or Endiathetic, and the instrument of God's purposes towards His creation. This is in fact the Arian doctrine, which doubtless availed itself in its defence of the declarations of incautious piety; or rather we have evidence of the fact, that it did so avail itself, in the letter of Arius to Alexander, and from the anathema of the Nicene Creed directed against such as said that "the Son was not before His gennesis."

Lastly, the orthodoxy of the five writers in question is ascertained by a careful examination of the passages, which give ground for the accusation. Two of these shall here be quoted without comment. Theophilus then says, "God having His own Word in His womb, begat Him together with His Wisdom" (that is, His Spirit), "uttering them prior to the universe." "He had this Word as the Minister of His works, and did all things through Him ... The prophets were not in existence when the world was made; but the Wisdom of God, which is in Him, and His Holy Word, who is ever present with Him." Elsewhere he speaks of " the Word, eternally seated in the heart of God;" "for," he presently adds, "before anything was made, He possessed this Counseller, as being His mind and providence. And when He purposed to make all that He had deliberated on, He begat this Word as external to Him, being the First-born antecedent to the whole creation; not, however, Himself losing the Word" (that is, the Internal), but begetting it, and yet everlastingly communing with it."

In like manner Hippolytus in his answer to Noetus: —"God was alone, and there was no being coeval with Him, when He willed to create the world. Not that He was destitute of reason (the Logos), wisdom or counsel. They are all in Him, He was all. At the time and in the manner He willed, He manifested His Word [Logos] ... through whom He made all things ... Moreover He placed over them His Word, whom He begat as His Counseller and Instrument; whom He had within Him, invisible to creation, till He manifested Him, uttering the Word, and begetting Light from Light ... And so Another stood by Him, not as if there were two Gods, but as though Light from Light, or a ray from the Sun."

And thus closes our survey of Catholic Ante-Nicene theology.





IT remains to give some account of the heretical doctrine, which was first promulgated within the Church by Arius. There have been attempts to attribute this heresy to Catholic writers previous to his time; yet its contemporaries are express in their testimony that he was the author of it, nor can anything be adduced from the Ante-Nicene theology to countenance such an imputation. Sozomen expressly says, that Arius was the first to introduce into the Church the formula: of the "out of nothing," and the "once He was not," that is, the creation and the non-eternity of the Son of God. Alexander and Athanasius, who had the amplest means of information on the subject, confirm his testimony. That the heresy existed before his time outside the Church, may be true,—though little is known on the subject; and that there had been certain speculators, such as Paulus of Samosata, who were simply humanitarians, is undoubtedly true; but they did not hold the formal doctrine of Arius, that an Angelic being had been exalted into a God. However, he and his supporters, though they do not venture to adduce in their favour the evidence of former Catholics, nevertheless speak in a general way of their having received their doctrines from others. Arius too himself appears to be only a partisan of the Eusebians, and they in turn arc referable to Lucian of Antioch, who for some cause or other was at one time under excommunication. But here we lose sight of the heresy; except that Origen assails a doctrine, whose we know note, which bears a resemblance to it; nay, if we may trust Ruffinus, which was expressed in the very same heterodox formula, which Sozomen declares that Arius was the first to preach within the Church.


Before detailing, however, the separate characteristics of his heresy, it may be right briefly to confront it with such previous doctrines, in and out of the Church, as may be considered to bear a resemblance to it.

The fundamental tenet of Arianism was, that the Son of God was a creature, not born of the Father, but, in the scientific language of the times, made "out of nothing." It followed that He only possessed a super-angelic nature, being made at God's good pleasure before the worlds, before time, after the pattern of the attribute Logos or Wisdom, as existing in the Divine Mind, gifted with the illumination of it, and in consequence called after it the Word and the Wisdom, nay inheriting the title itself of God; and at length united to a human body, in the place of its soul, in the person of Jesus Christ.

1. This doctrine resembled that of the five philosophizing Fathers, as described in the foregoing Section, so far as this, that it identified the Son with the External or Prophoric Logos, spoke of the Divine Logos Itself as if a mere internal attribute, and yet affected to maintain a connection between the Logos and the Son. Their doctrine differed from it, inasmuch as they believed, that He who was the Son had ever been in personal existence as the Logos in the Father's bosom, whereas Arianism dated His personal existence from the time of His manifestation.

2. It resembled the Eclectic theology, so far as to maintain that the Son was by nature separate from and inferior to the Father; and again, formed at the Father's will. It differed from Eclecticism, in considering the Son to have a beginning of existence, whereas the Platonists held Him, as they held the universe, to be an eternal Emanation, and the Father's will to be a concomitant, not an antecedent, of His gennesis.

3. It agreed with the teaching of Gnostics and Manichees, in maintaining the Son's essential inferiority to the Father: it vehemently opposed them in their material notions of the Deity.

4. It concurred with the disciples of Paulus, in considering the Intellectual and Ruling Principle in Christ, the Son of God, to be a mere creature, by nature subject to a moral probation, as other men, and exalted on the ground of His obedience, and gifted, moreover, with a heavenly wisdom, called the Logos, which guided Him. The two heresies also agreed, as the last words imply, in holding the Logos to be an attribute or manifestation, not a Person. Paulus considered it as if a voice or sound, which comes and goes; so that God may be said to have spoken in Christ. Arius makes use of the same illustration: "Many words speaketh God," he says, "which of them is manifested in the flesh?" He differs from Paulus, in holding the pre-existence of the spiritual intelligence in Christ, or the Son, whom he considers to be the first and only creation of the Father's Hand, superangelic, and the God of the Christian Economy.

5. Arianism agreed with the heresy of Sabellius, in teaching God to exist only in one Person, and His true Logos to be an attribute, manifested in the Son, who was a creature. It differed from Sabellianism, as regards the sense in which the Logos was to be accounted as existing in Christ. The Sabellian, lately a Patripassian, at least insisted much upon the formal and abiding presence of the Logos in Him. The Arian, only partially admitting the influence of the Divine Logos on that superangelic nature, which was the Son, and which in Christ took the place of a soul, nevertheless gave it the name of Logos, and maintained accordingly that the incarnate Logos was not the true Wisdom and Word of God, which was one with Him, but a created semblance of it.

6. Such is Arianism in its relations to the principal errors of its time; and of these it was most opposed to the Gnostic and Sabellian, which, as we shall see, it did not scruple to impute to its Catholic adversaries. Towards the Catholics, on the other hand, it stood thus: it was willing to ascribe to the Son all that is commonly attributed to Almighty God, His name, authority, and power; all but the incommunicable nature or being (usia), that is, all but that which alone could give Him a right to these prerogatives of divinity in a real and literal sense. Now to turn to the arguments by which the heresy defended itself, or rather, attacked the Church.


1. Arius commenced his heresy thus, as Socrates informs us:—"(1) If the Father gave birth to the Son, He who was born has an origin of existence; (2) therefore once the Son was not; (3) therefore He is created out of nothing." It appears, then, that he inferred his doctrine from the very meaning of the word "Son," which is the designation of our Lord in Scripture; and so far he adopted a fair and unexceptionable mode of reasoning. Human relations, though the merest shadows of "heavenly things," yet would not of course be employed by Divine Wisdom without fitness, nor unless with the intention of instructing us. But what should be the exact instruction derived by us from the word "Son" is another question. The Catholics (not to speak of their guidance from tradition in determining it) had taken "Son" in its most obvious meaning; as interpreted moreover by the title "Only-begotten," and as confirmed by the general tenor of Revelation. But the Arians selected as the sense of the figure, that part of the original import of the word, which, though undeniably included in it, when referred to us, is at best what logicians call a property deduced from the essence or nature, not an element of its essential idea, and which was especially out of place, when the word was used to express a truth about the Divine Being. That a father is prior to his son, is not suggested, though it is implied, by the force of the terms, as ordinarily used; and it is an inference altogether irrelevant, when the inquiry has reference to that Being, from our notion of whom time as well as space is necessarily excluded. It is fair, indeed, to object at the outset to the word "Father" being applied at all in its primary sense to the Supreme Being; but this was not the Arian ground, which was to argue from, not against, the metaphor employed. Nor was even this the extent of perverseness which their argument evidences. Let it be observed, that they admitted the primary sense of the word, in order to introduce a mere secondary sense, contending that, because our Lord was to be considered really as a Son, therefore in fact He was no Son at all. In the first proposition Arius assumes that He is really a Son, and argues as if He were; in the third he has arrived at the conclusion that He was created, that is, no Son at all, except in a secondary sense, as having received from the Father a sort of adoption. An attempt was made by the Arians to smooth over their inconsistency, by adducing passages of Scripture, in which the works of God are spoken of as births,—as in the instance from Job, "He giveth birth to the drops of dew." But this is obviously an entirely new mode of defending their theory of a divine adoption, and does not relieve their original fault; which consisted in their arguing from an assumed analogy, which the result of that argument destroyed. For, if He be the Son of God, no otherwise than man is, that is, by adoption, what becomes of the argument from the anterior and posterior in existence? as if the notion of adoption, contained in it any necessary reference to the nature and circumstances of the two parties between whom it takes place.

2. Accordingly, the Arians were soon obliged to betake themselves to a more refined argument. They dropped the consideration of time, and withdrew the inference involving it, which they had drawn from the literal sense of the word "Son." Instead of this, they maintained that the relation of Father and Son, as such, in whatever sense considered, could not but imply the notion of voluntary originator, and on the other hand, of a free gift conferred; and that the Son must be essentially inferior to Him, from whose will His existence resulted. Their argument was conveyed in the form of a dilemma:—"Whether the Father gave birth to the Son volens or nolens?" The Catholics wisely answered them by a counter inquiry, which was adapted to silence, without countenancing, the presumptuous disputant. Gregory of Nazianzus asked them, "Whether the Father is God, volens or nolens?" And Cyril of Alexandria, "Whether He is good, compassionate, merciful, and holy, with or against His choice? For, if He is so in consequence of choosing it, and choide ever precedes what is chosen, these attributes once did not exist in God." Athanasius gives substantially the same answer, solving, however, rather than confuting, the objection. "The Arians," he says, "direct their view to the contradictory of willing, instead of considering the more important and the previous question; for, as unwillingness is opposed to willing; so is nature prior to willing, and leads the way to it."

3. Further:—the Arians attempted to draw their conclusion as to the dissimilarity of the Father and the Son, from the divine attribute of the "Ingenerate" (unborn or increate), which, as I have already said, was acknowledged on all hands to be the peculiar attribute of the Father, while it had been the philosophical as well as Valentinian appellation of the Supreme God. This was the chief resource of the Anomoeans, who revived the pure Arian heresy, some years after the death of its first author. Their argument has been expressed in the following form:--that "it is the essence of the Father to be ingenerate, and of the Son to be generate; but unborn and born cannot be the same." The shallowness, as well as the miserable trifling of such disputations on a serious subject, renders them unworthy of a refutation.

4. Moreover, they argued against the Catholic sense of the word "Son," from what they conceived to be its materiality; and, unwarrantably contrasting its primary with its figurative signification, as if both could not be preserved, they contended that, since the word must be figurative, therefore it could not retain its primary sense, but must be taken in the secondary sense of adoption.

5. Their reasonings (so to call them) had now conducted them thus far:—to maintain that our Lord was a creature, advanced, after creation, to be a Son of God. They did not shrink from the inference which these positions implied, viz. that He had been put on trial as other moral agents, and adopted on being found worthy; that His holiness was not essential, but acquired.

6. It was next incumbent on them to explain in what sense our Lord was the "Only-begotten," since they refused to understand that title in the Catholic sense of the Homousion or consubstantial. Accordingly, while pronouncing the divine birth to be a kind of creation, or an adoption, they attempfed to hide the offensiveness of the heretical doctrine by the variety and dignity of the prerogatives, by which they distinguished the Son from other creatures. They declared that He was, strictly speaking, the only creature of God, as being alone made immediately by Him; and hence He was called Only-begotten, as "born alone from Him alone," whereas all others were made through Him, as the instrument of Divine Power; and that in consequence He was "a creature, but not as being one of the creatures, a birth or production, but not as being one of the produced;" that is, to express their sentiment with something of the same ambiguity, "He was not a creature like other creatures." Another ambiguity of language followed. The idea of time depending on that of creation, they were able to grant that He, who was employed in forming all things, therefore brought time itself into being, and was "before all time"; not granting thereby that He was everlasting, but meaning that He was brought into existence "timelessly," independent of that succession of second causes (as they are called), that elementary system, seemingly self-sustained and self-renovating, to the laws of which creation itself may be considered as subjected.

7. Nor, lastly, had they any difficulty either in allowing or in explaining away the other attributes of divinity ascribed to Christ in Scripture. They might safely confess Him to be perfect God, one with God, the object of worship, the author of good; still with the reserve, that sacred appellations belonged to Him only in the same general sense in which they are sometimes accidentally bestowed on the faithful servants of God, and without interfering with the prerogatives of the One, Eternal, Self-existing Cause of all things.


This account of the Arian theology may be suitably illustrated by some of the original documents of the controversy. Here, then, shall follow two letters of Arius himself, an extract from his Thalia, a letter of Eusebius of Nicomedia, and parts of the encyclical Epistle of Alexander of Alexandria, in justification of his excommunication of Arius and his followers.

1. "To his most dear Lord, Eusebius, a man of God, faithful and orthodox, Arius, the man unjustly persecuted by the Pope Alexander for the all-conquering truth's sake, of which thou too art a champion, sends health in the Lord. As Ammonius, my father, was going to Nicomedia, it seemed becoming to address this through him; and withal to represent to that deep-seated affection which thou bearest towards the brethren for the sake of God and His Christ, how fiercely the bishop assaults and drives us, leaving no means untried in his opposition. At length he has driven us out of the city, as men without God, for dissenting from his public declarations, that, As God is eternal, so is His Son: where the Father, there the Son; the Son co-exists in God without a beginning (or birth): ever generate, an ingenerately-generate; that neither in idea, nor by an instant of time, does God precede the Son; an eternal God, an eternal Son; the Son is from God Himself. Since then, Eusebius, thy brother of Caesarea, Theodotus, Paulinus, &c. ... and all the Bishops of the East declare that God exists without origin before the Son, they are made anathema by Alexander's sentence; all but Philogonius, Hellanicus, and Macarius, heretical, ill-grounded men, who say, one that He is an utterance, another an offspring, another co-ingenerate. These blasphemies we cannot bear even to hear; no, not if the heretics should threaten us with ten thousand deaths. What, on the other hand, are our statements and opinions, our past and present teaching? that the Son is not ingenerate, nor in any way a part of the ingenerate, nor made of any subject-matter; but that, by the will and counsel of God, He subsisted before times and ages, perfect God, Only-begotten, unchangeable; and that before this generation, or creation, or determination, or establishment, He was not, for He is not ingenerate. And we are persecuted for saying, The Son has an origin, but God is unoriginate; for this we are under persecution, and for saying that He is out of nothing, inasmuch as He is neither part of God, nor of any subject-matter. Therefore we are persecuted; the rest thou knowest. I pray that thou be strong in the Lord, remembering our afflictions, fellow-Lucianist, truly named Eusebius."

2. The second letter is written in the name of himself and his partisans of the Alexandrian Church; who, finding themselves excommunicated, had withdrawn to Asia, where they had a field for propagating their opinions. It was composed under the direction of Eusebius of Nicomedia, and is far more temperate and cautious than the former.

"To Alexander, our blessed Pope and Bishop, the Priests and Deacons send health in the Lord. Our hereditary faith, which thou too, blessed Pope, hast taught us, is this:—We believe in One God, alone ingenerate, alone everlasting, alone unoriginate, alone truly God, alone immortal, alone wise, alone good, alone sovereign, alone judge of all, ordainer, and dispenser, unchangeable and unalterable, just and good, of the Law and the Prophets, and of the New Covenant. We believe that this God gave birth to the Only-begotten Son before age-long times, through whom He has made those ages themselves, and all things else; that He generated Him, not in semblance, but in truth, giving Him a real subsistence (or hypostasis), at His own will, so as to be unchangeable and unalterable, God's perfect creature, but not as other creatures, His production, but not as other productions; nor as Valentinus maintained, an offspring (probole); nor again, as Manichaeus, a consubstantial part; nor, as Sabellius, a Son-Father, which is to make two out of one; nor, as Hieracas, one torch from another, or a flame divided into two; nor, as if He were previously in being, and afterwards generated or created again to be a Son, a notion condemned by thyself, blessed Pope, in full Church and among the assembled Clergy; but, as we affirm, created at the will of God before times and before ages, and having life and being from the Father, who gave subsistence as to Him, so to His glorious perfections. For, when the Father gave to Him the inheritance of all things, He did not thereby deprive Himself of attributes, which are His ingenerately, who is the Source of all things.

"So there are Three Subsistences (or Persons); and, whereas God is the Cause of all things, and therefore unoriginate simply by Himself, the Son on the other hand, born of the Father time-apart, and created and established before all periods, did not exist before He was born, but being born of the Father time-apart, was brought into substantive existence (subsistence), He alone by the Father alone. For He is not eternal, or co-eternal, or co-ingenerate with the Father; nor hath an existence together with the Father, as if there were two ingenerate Origins; but God is before all things, as being a Monad, and the Origin of all;—and therefore before the Son also, as indeed we have learned from thee in thy public preaching. Inasmuch then as it is from God that He hath His being, and His glorious perfections, and His life, and His charge of all things, for this reason God is His Origin, as being His God and before Him. As to such phrases as from Him, and from the womb, and issued forth from the Father, and am come, if they be understood, as they are by some, to denote a part of the consubstantial, and a probole (offspring), then the Father will be of a compound nature, and divisible, and changeable, and corporeal; and thus, as far as their words go, the incorporeal God will be subjected to the properties of matter. I pray for thy health in the Lord, blessed Pope."

3. About the same time Arius wrote his Thalia, or song for banquets and merry-makings, from which the following is extracted. He begins thus:—"According to the faith of God's elect, who know God, holy children, sound in their creed, gifted with the Holy Spirit of God, I have received these things from the partakers of wisdom, accomplished, taught of God, and altogether wise. Along their track I have pursued my course with like opinions,—I, the famous among men, the much-suffering for God's glory; and, taught of God, I have gained wisdom and knowledge." After this exordium, he proceeds to declare, "that God made the Son the origin (or beginning) of creation, being Himself unoriginate, and adopted Him to be His Son; who, on the other hand, has no property of divinity in His own hypostasis, not being equal, nor consubstantial with Him; that God is invisible, not only to the creatures created through the Son, but to the Son Himself; that there is a Trinity, but not with an equal glory, the Hypostases being incommunicable with each other, One infinitely more glorious than the other; that the Father is foreign in substance to the Son, as existing unoriginate; that by God's will the Son became Wisdom, Power, the Spirit, the Truth, the Word, the Glory, and the Image of God; that the Father, as being Almighty, is able to give existence to a being equal to the Son, though not superior to Him; that from the time that He was made, being a mighty God, He has hymned the praises of His Superior; that He cannot investigate His Father's nature, it being plain that the originated cannot comprehend the unoriginate; nay, that He does not know His own."

4. On the receipt of the letter from Arius, which was the first document here exhibited, Eusebius of Nicomedia addressed a letter to Paulinus of Tyre, of which the following is an extract :—"We have neither heard of two Ingenerates, nor of One divided into two, subjected to any material affection; but of One Ingenerate, and one generated by Him really; not from His substance, not partaking of the nature of the Ingenerate at all, but made altogether other than He in nature and in power, though made after the perfect likeness of the character and excellence of His Maker ... But, if He were of Him in the sense of from Him, as if a part of Him, or from the effluence of His substance, He would not be spoken of (in Scripture) as created or established ... for what exists as being from the Ingenerate ceases to be created or established, as being from its origin ingenerate. But, if His being called generate suggests the idea that He is made out of the Father's substance, and has from Him a sameness of nature, we know that not of Him alone does Scripture use the word generate, but also of things altogether unlike the Father in nature. For it says of men, I have begotten sons and exalted them, and they have set Me at nought; and, Thou hast left the God who begat thee; and in other instances, as Who has given birth to the drops of dew? ... Nothing is of His substance; but all things are made at His will."

5. Alexander, in his public accusation of Arius and his party to Alexander of Constantinople, writes thus: —"They say that once the Son of God was not, and that He, who before had no existence, was at length made, made such, when He was made, as any other man is by nature. Numbering the Son of God among created things, they are but consistent in adding that He is of an alterable nature, capable of virtue and vice ... When it is urged on them that the Saviour differs from others, called sons of God, by the unchangeableness of His nature, stripping off all reverence, they answer, that God, foreknowing and foreseeing His obedience, chose Him out of all creatures; chose Him, I say, not as possessing aught by nature and prerogative above the others (since, as they say, there is no Son of God by nature), nor bearing any peculiar relation towards God; but, as being, as well as others, of an alterable nature, and preserved from falling by the pursuit and exercise of virtuous conduct; so that, if Paul or Peter had made such strenuous progress, they would have gained a sonship equal to His."

In another letter, which was addressed to the Churches, he says, "It is their doctrine, that God was not always a Father', that 'the Word of God has' not always existed, but was made out of nothing; for the self-existing God made Him, who once was not, out of what once was not ... Neither is He like the Father in substance, nor is He the true and natural Logos of the Father, nor His true Wisdom, but one of His works and creatures; and He is the Word and Wisdom, inasmuch as He Himself was made by the proper Logos of God, and by that Wisdom which is in God, by which God made all things, and Him in the number. Hence He is mutable and alterable by nature, as other rational beings; and He is foreign and external to God's substance, being excluded from it. He was made for our sakes, in order that God might create us by Him as by an instrument; and He would not have had subsistence, had not God willed our making. Some one asked them, if the Word of God could change, as the devil changed? They scrupled not to answer, 'Certainly, He can."


More than enough has now been said in explanation of a controversy, the very sound of which must be painful to any one who has a loving faith in the Divinity of the Son. Yet so it has been ordered, that He who was once lifted up to the gaze of the world, and hid not His face from contumely, has again been subjected to rude scrutiny and dishonour in the promulgation of His religion to the world. And His true followers have been themselves obliged in His defence to raise and fix their eyes boldly on Him, as if He were one of themselves, dismissing the natural reverence, which would keep them ever at His feet. The subject may be dismissed with the following remarks:­

1. First, it is obvious to notice the unscriptural character of the arguments on which the heresy was founded. It is true that the Arians did not neglect to support their case from such detached portions of the Inspired Volume as suited their purpose; but still it can never be said that they showed that earnest desire of sacred truth, and careful search into its documents, which alone mark the Christian inquirer. The question is not merely whether they confined themselves to the language of Scripture, but whether they began with the study of it. Doubtless, to forbid in controversy the use of all words but those which actually occur in Scripture, is a superstition, an encroachment on Scripture liberty, and an impediment to freedom of thought; and especially unreasonable, considering that a traditional system of theology, consistent with, but independent of, Scripture, has existed in the Church from the Apostolic age. "Why art thou in that excessive slavery to the letter," says Gregory Nazianzen, "and employest a Judaical wisdom, dwelling upon syllables, while letting slip realities? Suppose, on thy saying twice five, or twice seven, I were to understand thence ten or fourteen; or, if I spoke of a man, when thou hadst named an animal rational and mortal, should I in that case appear to thee to trifle? How could I so appear, in merely expressing your own meaning?" But, inasmuch as this liberty was an evangelical privilege, which might be allowed to the Arian disputants, on the other hand it was a dangerous privilege also, ever to be subjected to a profound respect for the sacred text, a cautious adherence to the whole of the doctrine therein contained, and a regard also for those received statements, which, though not given to us as inspired, probably are derived from inspired teachers. Now the most liberal admission which can be made in behalf of the Arians, is, to grant that they did not in controversy throw aside the authority of Scripture altogether; that is, proclaim themselves unbelievers; for it is evident that they took only just so much of it as would afford them a basis for erecting their system of heresy by an abstract logical process. The mere words "Father and Son," "birth," "origin," &c., were all that they postulated of revealed authority for their argument; they professed to do all the rest for themselves. The meaning of these terms in their context, the illustration which they afford to each other, and, much more, the divine doctrine considered as one undivided message, variously exhibited and dispersed in the various parts of Scripture, were excluded from the consideration of controversialists, who thought that truth was gained by disputing instead of investigating.

2. Next, it will be observed that, throughout their discussions, they assumed as an axiom, that there could be no mystery in the Scripture doctrine respecting the nature of God. In this, indeed, they did but follow the example of the contemporary spurious theologies; though their abstract mode of reasoning from the mere force of one or two Scripture terms, necessarily forced them more than other heretics into the use and avowal of the principle. The Sabellian, to avoid mystery, denied the distinction of Persons in the Divine Nature. Paulus, and afterwards Apollinaris, for the same reason, denied the existence of two Intelligent Principles at once, the Word and the human soul, in the Person of Christ. The Arians adopted both errors. Yet what is a mystery in doctrine, but a difficulty or inconsistency in the intellectual expression of it? And what reason is there for supposing, that Revelation addresses itself to the intellect, except so far as intellect is necessary for conveying and fixing its truths on the heart? Why are we not content to take and use what is given us, without asking questions? The Catholics, on the other hand, pursued the intellectual investigation of the doctrine, under the guidance of Scripture and Tradition, merely as far as some immediate necessity called for it; and cared little, though one mode of expression seemed inconsistent with another. Thus, they developed the notion of "substance" against the Pantheists, of the "Hypostatic Word" against the Sabellians, of the "Internal Word" to meet the imputation of Ditheism; still they did not use these formulae for any thing beyond shadows of sacred truth, symbols witnessing against the speculations into which the unbridled intellect fell.

Accordingly, they were for a time inconsistent with each other in the minor particulars of their doctrinal statements, being far more bent on opposing error, than on forming a theology:—inconsistent, that is, before the experience of controversy and the voice of tradition had detached them from less accurate or advisable expressions, and made them correct, or at least compare and adjust their several declarations. Thus, some said that there was but one hypostasis, meaning substance, in God; others three hypostases, meaning Subsistences or Persons; and some spoke of one usia, meaning substance, while others spoke of more than one usia. Some allowed, some rejected, the terms probole and homousion, according as they were guided by the prevailing heresy of the day, and by their own judgment how best to meet it. Some spoke of the Son as existing from everlasting in the Divine Mind; others implied that the Logos was everlasting, and became the Son in time. Some asserted that He was unoriginate, others denied it. Some, when interrogated by heretics, taught that He was born of the Father at the Father's will; others, from His nature, not His will; others, neither with His willing nor not willing. Some declared that God was in number Three; others, that He was numerically One; while to others it perhaps appeared more philosophical to exclude the idea of number altogether, in discussions about that Mysterious Nature, which is beyond comparison with itself, whether viewed as Three or One, and neither falls under nor involves any conceivable species.

In all these various statements, the object is clear and unexceptionable, being merely that of protesting and practically guarding against dangerous deductions from the Scripture doctrine; and the problem implied in all of them is, to determine how this end may best be effected. There are no signs of an intellectual curiosity in the tenor of these Catholic expositions, prying into things not seen as yet; nor of an ambition to account for the representations of the truth given us in the sacred writings. But such a temper is the very characteristic of the Arian disputants. They insisted on taking the terms of Scripture and of the Church for more than they signified, and expected their opponents to admit inferences altogether foreign to the theological sense in which they were really used. Hence, they sometimes accused the orthodox of heresy, sometimes of self-contradiction. The Fathers of the Church have come down to us loaded with the imputation of the strangest errors, merely because they united truths, which heresies only shared among themselves; nor have writers been wanting in modern times, from malevolence or carelessness, to aggravate these charges. The mystery of their creed has been converted into an evidence of concurrent heresies. To believe in the actual Incarnation of the Eternal Wisdom, has been treated, not as orthodoxy, but as an Ariano-Sabellianisms. To believe that the Son of God was the Logos, was Sabellianism; to believe that the pre-existent Logos was the Son of God, was Valentinianism. Gregory of Neo-Caesarea was called a Sabellian, because he spoke of one substance in the Divine Nature; he was called a forerunner of Arius, because he said that Christ was a creature. Origen, so frequently accused of Arianism, seemed to be a Sabellian, when he said that the Son was the the Archetypal Truth. Athenagoras is charged with Sabellianism by the very writer whose general theory it is that he was one of those Platonizing Fathers who anticipated Arius. Alexander, who at the opening of the controversy, was accused by Arius of Sabellianizing, has in these latter times been detected by the flippant Jortin to be an advocate of Semi-Arianism, which was the peculiar enemy and assailant of Sabellianism in all its forms. The celebrated word, homousion, has not escaped a similar contrariety of charges. Arius himself ascribes it to the Manichees; the Semi-Arians at Ancyra anathematize it, as Sabellian. It is in the same spirit that Arius, in his letter to Eusebius, scoffs at the "eternal birth," and the "ingenerate generation," as ascribed to the Son in the orthodox theology; as if the inconsistency, which the words involved, when taken in their full sense, were a sufficient refutation of the heavenly truth, of which they are, each in its place, the partial and relative expression.

The Catholics sustained these charges with a prudence, which has (humanly speaking) secured the success of their cause, though it has availed little to remove the calumnies heaped upon themselves. The great Dionysius, who has himself been defamed by the "accuser of the brethren," declares perspicuously the principle of the orthodox teaching. "The particular expressions which I have used," he says, in his defence, "cannot be taken separate from each other ... whereas my opponents have taken two bald words of mine, and sling them at me from a distance; not understanding, that, in the case of subjects, partially known, illustrations foreign to them in nature, nay, inconsistent with each other, aid the inquiry."

However, the Catholics of course considered it a duty to remove, as far as they could, their own verbal inconsistencies, and to sanction one form of expression, as orthodox in each case, among the many which might be adopted. Hence distinctions were made between the unborn and unmade, origin and cause, as already noticed. But these, clear and intelligible as they were in themselves, and valuable, both as facilitating the argument and disabusing the perplexed inquirer, opened to the heretical party the opportunity of a new misrepresentation. Whenever the orthodox writers showed an anxiety to reconcile and discriminate their own expressions, the charge of Manicheism was urged against them; as if to dwell upon, were to rest in the material images which were the signs of the unknown truths. Thus the phrase, "Light of Light," the orthodox and almost apostolic emblem of the derivation of the Son from the Father, as symbolizing Their inseparability, mutual relation, and the separate fulness and exact parallelism and unity of Their perfections, was interpreted by the gross conceptions of the Manichaean Hieracas.

3. When in answer to such objections the Catholics denied that they attached other than a figurative meaning to their words, their opponents suddenly turned round, and professed the figurative meaning of the terms to be that which they themselves advocated. This inconsistency in their mode of conducting the argument deserves notice. It has already been instanced in the original argument of Arius, who maintained, that, since the word Son in its literal sense included among other ideas that of a beginning of being, the Son of God had had a beginning or was created, and therefore was not really a Son of God at all. It was on account of such unscrupulous dexterity in the controversy, that Alexander and Athanasius give them the title of chameleons. "They are as variable and uncertain in their opinions," (says the latter,) "as chameleons in their colour. When refuted, they look confused, and when examined they are perplexed; however, at length they recover their assurance, and bring forward some evasion. Then, if this in turn is exposed, they do not rest till they have devised some new absurdity, and, as Scripture says, meditate vain things, so that they may secure the privilege of being profane."

Let us, however, pursue the Arians on their new ground of allegory. It has been already observed, that they explain the word Only-begotten in the sense of only-created; and considered the oneness of the Father and Son to consist in an unity of character and will, such as exists between God and His Saints, not in nature.

Now, surely, the temper of mind, which had recourse to such a comparison between Christ and us, to defend a heresy, was still more odious, if possible, than the original impiety of the heresy itself. Thus, the honours graciously bestowed upon human nature, as well as the condescending self-abasement of our Lord, were made to subserve the cause of the blasphemer. It is a known peculiarity of the message of mercy, that it views the Church of Christ as if clothed with, or hidden within, the glory of Him who ransomed it; so that there is no name or title belonging to Him literally, which is not in a secondary sense applied to the reconciled penitent. As our Lord is the Priest and King of His redeemed, they, as members of Him, are accounted kings and priests also. They are said to be Christs, or the anointed, to partake of the Divine Nature, to be the well-beloved of God, His sons, one with Him, and heirs of glory; in order to express the fullness and the transcendent excellence of the blessings gained to the Saints by Christ. In all these forms of speech, no religious mind runs the risk of confusing its own privileges with the real prerogatives of Him who gave them; yet it is obviously difficult in argument to discriminate between the primary and secondary use of the words, and to elicit and exhibit the delicate reasons lying in the context of Scripture for conclusions, which the common sense of a Christian is impatient as well as shocked to hear disputed. Who would so trifle with words, to take a parallel case, as to argue that, because Christians are said by St. John to "know all things," that therefore God is not omniscient in a sense infinitely above man's highest intelligence

It may be observed, moreover, that the Arians were inconsistent in their application of the allegorical rule, by which they attempted to interpret Scripture; and showed as great deficiency in their philosophical conceptions of God, as in their practical devotion to Him. They seem to have fancied that some of His acts were more comprehensible than others, and might accordingly be made the basis on which the rest might be interpreted. They referred the divine gennesis or generation to the notion of creation; but creation is in fact as mysterious as the divine gennesis; that is, we are as little able to understand our own words, when we speak of the world's being brought out of nothing at God's word, as when we confess that His Eternal Perfections are reiterated, without being doubled, in the person of His Son. "How is it," asks Athanasius, "that the impious men dare to speak flippantly on subjects too sacred to approach, mortals as they are, and incapable of explaining even God's works upon earth? Why do I say, His earthly works? Let them treat of themselves, if so be they can investigate their own nature; yet venturous and self-confident, they tremble not before the glory of God, which Angels are fain reverently to look into, though in nature and rank far more excellent than they." Accordingly, he argues that nothing is gained by resolving one of the divine operations into another; that to make, when attributed to God, is essentially distinct from the same act when ascribed to man, as incomprehensible as to give birth or beget; and consequently that it is our highest wisdom to take the truths of Scripture as we find them there, and use them for the purposes for which they are vouchsafed, without proceeding accurately to systematize them or to explain them away. Far from elucidating, we are evidently enfeebling the revealed doctrine, by substituting only-created for only-begotten; for if the words are synonymous, why should the latter be insisted on in Scripture? Accordingly, it is proper to make a distinction between the primary and the literal meaning of a term. All the terms which human language applies to the Supreme Being, may perhaps be more or less figurative; but their primary and secondary meaning may still remain as distinct, as when they are referred to earthly objects. We need not give up the primary meaning of the word Son as opposed to the secondary sense of adoption, because we forbear to use it in its literal and material sense.

4. This being the general character of the Arian reasonings, it is natural to inquire what was the object towards which they tended. Now it will be found, that this audacious and elaborate sophistry could not escape one of two conclusions:—the establishment either of a sort of ditheism, or, as the more practical alternative, of a mere humanitarianism as regards our Lord; either a heresy tending to paganism, or the virtual atheism of philosophy. If the professions of the Arians are to be believed, they confessed our Lord to be God, God in all respects, full and perfect, yet at the same time to be infinitely distant from the perfections of the One Eternal Cause. Here at once they are committed to a ditheism; but Athanasius drives them on to the extreme of polytheism. " If," he says, "the Son were an object of worship for His transcendent glory, then every subordinate being is bound to worship his superior." But so repulsive is the notion of a secondary God both to reason, and much more to Christianity, that the real tendency of Arianism lay towards the sole remaining alternative, the humanitarian doctrine.—Its essential agreement with the heresy of Paulus has already been incidentally shown; it differed from it only when the pressure of controversy required it. Its history is the proof of this. It started with a boldness not inferior to that of Paulus; but as soon as it was attacked, it suddenly coiled itself into a defensive posture, and plunged amid the thickets of verbal controversy. At first it had not scrupled to admit the peccable nature of the Son; but it soon learned to disguise such consequences of its doctrine, and avowed that, in matter of fact, He was indefectible. Next it borrowed the language of Platonism, which, without committing it to any real renunciation of its former declarations, admitted of the dress of a high and almost enthusiastic piety. Then it professed an entire agreement with the Catholics, except as to the adoption of the single word consubstantial, which they urged upon it, and concerning which, it affected to entertain conscientious scruples. At this time it was ready to confess that our Lord was the true God, God of God, born time-apart, or before all time, and not a creature as other creatures, but peculiarly the Son of God, and His accurate Image. Afterwards, changing its ground, it protested, as we shall see, against non-scriptural expressions, of which itself had been the chief inventor; and proposed an union of all opinions, on the comprehensive basis of a creed, in which the Son should be merely declared to be "in all things like the Father," or simply "like Him." This versatility of profession is an illustration of the character given of the Arians by Athanasius, some pages back, which is further exemplified in their conduct at the Council in which they were condemned; but it is here adduced to show the danger to which the Church was exposed from a party who had no fixed tenet, except that of opposition to the true notion of Christ's divinity; and whose teaching, accordingly, had no firm footing of internal consistency to rest upon, till it descended to the notion of His simple humanity, that is, to the doctrine of Artemas and Paulus, though they too, as well as Arius, had enveloped their impieties in such admissions and professions, as assimilated it more or less in appearance to the Faith of the Catholic Church.

The conduct of the Arians at Nicaea, as referred to, was as follows. "When the Bishops in Council assembled," says Athanasius, an eye-witness, "were desirous of ridding the Church of the impious expressions invented by Arius, 'the Son is out of nothing,' is a creature,' one was not,' of an alterable nature,' and perpetuating those which we receive on the authority of Scripture, that the Son is the Only-begotten of God by nature, the Word, Power, the sole Wisdom of the Father, very God, as the Apostle John says, and as Paul, the Radiance of His glory, and the express Image of His Person; the Eusebians, influenced by their own heterodoxy, said one to another, Let us agree to this; for we too are of God, there being one God, of whom are all things.'

The Bishops, however, discerning their cunning, and the artifice adopted by their impiety, in order to express more clearly the of God, wrote down of God's substance, creatures being said to be of God, as not existing of themselves without cause, but having an origin of their production; but the Son being peculiarly of the substance of the Father ... Again, on the Bishops asking the few advocates of Arianism present, whether they allowed the Son to be, not a creature, but the sole Power, Wisdom, and Image, eternal and in all respects, of the Father, and very God, the followers of Eusebius were detected making signs to each other, to express that this also could be applied to ourselves. For we too, they said, are called in Scripture the image and glory of God; we are said to live always ... There are many powers; the locust is called in Scripture "a great power." Nay, that we are God's own sons, is proved expressly from the text, in which the Son calls us brethren. Nor does their assertion, that He is very (true) God, distress us; He is very God, because He was made such. This was the unprincipled meaning of the Arians. But here too the Bishops, seeing through their deceit, brought together from Scripture, the radiance, source and stream, express Image of Person, In Thy Light we shall see light, I and the Father are one, and last of all, expressed themselves more clearly and concisely, in the phrase consubstantial with the Father; for all that was beforesaid has this meaning. As to their complaint about non-scriptural phrases, they themselves are evidence of its futility. It was they who began with their impious expressions; for, after their Out of nothing, and Once was not, going beyond Scripture in order to be impious, now they make it a grievance, that, in condemning them, we go beyond Scripture, in order to be pious." The last remark is important; even those traditional statements of the Catholic doctrine, which were more explicit than Scripture, had not as yet, when the controversy began, taken the shape of formula. It was the Arian defined propositions of the "out of nothing," and the like, which called for the imposition of the "consubstantial."

It has sometimes been said, that the Catholics anxiously searched for some offensive test, which might operate to the exclusion of the Arians. This is not correct, inasmuch as they have no need to search; the "from God's substance" having been openly denied by the Arians, five years before the Council, and no practical distinction between it and the consubstantial existing, till the era of Basil and his Semi-Arians. Yet, had it been necessary, doubtless it would have been their duty to seek for a test of this nature; nay, to urge upon the heretical teachers the plain consequences of their doctrine, and to drive them into the adoption of them. These consequences are certain of being elicited in the long-run; and it is but equitable to anticipate them in the persons of the heresiarchs, rather than to suffer them gradually to unfold and spread far and wide after their day, sapping the faith of their deluded and less guilty followers. Many a man would be deterred from outstepping the truth, could he see the end of his course from the beginning. The Arians felt this, and therefore resisted a detection, which would at once expose them to the condemnation of all serious men. In this lies the difference between the treatment due to an individual in heresy, and to one who is confident enough to publish the innovations which he has originated. The former claims from us the most affectionate sympathy, and the most considerate attention. The latter should meet with no mercy; he assumes the office of the Tempter, and, so far forth as his error goes, must be dealt with by the competent authority, as if he were embodied Evil. To spare him is a false and dangerous pity. It is to endanger the souls of thousands, and it is uncharitable towards himself.