The History of Opinions relating to Jesus Christ.
(Part One of the History of the Corruptions of Christianity)
The unity of God is a doctrine on which the greatest stress is laid in the whole system of
revelation. To guard this most important article was the principal
object of the Jewish religion; and, notwithstanding the proneness of
the Jews to idolatry, at length it fully answered its purpose in
reclaiming them, and in impressing the minds of many persons of other nations in favor of the same fundamental truth.
The Jews were taught by their prophets to expect a Messiah, who was to be descended from the tribe of Judah, and the family of David, a person in whom themselves and all the nations of the earth should be blessed; but none of their prophets gave them an idea of any other than a man like themselves in that illustrious character, and no other did they ever expect, or do they expect to this day.
Jesus Christ, whose history answers to the description given of the Messiah by the prophets, made no other pretensions; referring all his extraordinary power to God, his Father, who, he expressly says, spake and acted by him, and who raised him from the dead: and it is most evident that the apostles, and all those who conversed with our Lord before and after his resurrection, considered him in no other light than simply as " a man approved of God, by wonders and signs which God did by him." Acts ii. 22.
Not only do we find no trace of so prodigious a change in the ideas which the apostles entertained concerning Christ, as from that of a man like themselves, (which it must be acknowledged were the first that they entertained,) to that of the most high God, or one who was in any sense their maker or preserver, that when their minds were most fully enlightened, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, and to the latest period of their ministry, they continued to speak of him in the same style; even when it is evident they must have intended to speak of him in a manner suited to his state of greatest exaltation and glory. Peter uses the simple language above quoted, of a man approved of God, immediately after the descent of the Spirit: and the apostle Paul, giving what may be called the christian creed, says, 1 Tim. ii. 5, "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." He does not say the God, the God-man, or the super-angelic being, but simply the man Christ Jesus; and nothing can be alleged from the New Testament in favor of any higher nature of Christ, except a few passages interpreted without any regard to the context, or the modes of speech and opinions of the times in which the books were written, and in such a manner, in other respects, as would authorize our proving any doctrine whatever from them.
From this plain doctrine of the Scriptures, a doctrine so consonant to reason and the ancient prophecies, Christians have at length come to believe what they do not pretend to have any conception of, and than which it is not possible to frame a more express contradiction. For, while they consider Christ as the supreme, eternal God, the maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible, they moreover acknowledge the Father and the Holy Spirit to be equally God in the same exalted sense, all three equal in power and glory, and yet all three constituting no more than one God.
To a person the least interested in the inquiry, it must appear an object of curiosity to trace by what means, and by what steps, so great a change has taken place, and what circumstances in the history of other opinions, and of the world, proved favorable to the successive changes. An opinion, and especially an opinion adopted by great numbers of mankind, is to be considered as any other fact in history, for it cannot be produced without an adequate cause, and is therefore a proper object of philosophical inquiry. In this case I think it not difficult to find causes abundantly adequate to the purpose, and it is happily in our power to trace almost every step by which the changes have been successively brought about.
If the interest that mankind have generally taken in any thing, will at all contribute to interest us in the inquiry concerning it, this history cannot fail to be highly interesting. For, perhaps, in no business whatever have the minds of men been more agitated, and, speculative as the nature of the thing is, in few cases has the peace of society been so much disturbed. To this very day, of such importance is the subject considered by thousands and tens of thousands, that they cannot write or speak of it without the greatest zeal, and without treating their opponents with the greatest rancor. If good sense and humanity did not interpose to mitigate the rigor of law, thousands would be sacrificed to the cause of orthodoxy in this single article; and the greatest number of sufferers would probably be in this very country, on account of the greater freedom of inquiry which prevails here, in consequence of which we entertain and profess the greatest diversity of opinions.
The various steps in this interesting history it is now my business to point out, and I wish that all my readers may attend me with as much coolness and impartiality as I trust I shall myself preserve through the whole of this investigation.
Of the Opinion of the ancient, Jewish and Gentile Churches.
That the ancient Jewish church must have held the opinion that Christ was simply a man, and not either God Almighty, or a super-angelic being, may be concluded from its being the clear doctrine of the Scripture, and from the apostles having taught no other; but there is sufficient evidence of the same thing from ecclesiastical history. It is unfortunate, indeed, that there are now extant so few remains of any of the writers who immediately succeeded the apostles, and especially, that we have only a few inconsiderable fragments of Hegesippus, a Jewish Christian, who wrote the history of the church in continuation of the Acts of the Apostles, and who travelled to Rome about the year 160; but it is not difficult to collect evidence enough in support of my assertion.
The members of the Jewish church were, in general, in very low circumstances, which may account for their having few persons of learning among them; on which account they were much despised by the richer and more learned gentile Christians, especially after the destruction of Jerusalem, before which event all the Christians in Judea, (warned by our Saviour's prophecies concerning the desolation of that country,) had retired to the north-east of the sea of Galilee. They were likewise despised by the Gentiles for their bigoted adherence to the law of Moses, to the rite of circumcision, and other ceremonies of their ancient religion. And on all these accounts they probably got the name of Ebionites, which signifies poor and mean, in the same manner as many of the early reformers from Popery got the name of Beghards, and other appellations of a similar nature. The fate of these ancient Jewish Christians was, indeed, peculiarly hard. For, besides the neglect of the gentile Christians, they were, as Epiphanius informs us, held in the greatest abhorrence by the Jews from whom they had separated, and who cursed them in a solemn manner three times, whenever they met for public worship. [Epiphanii Opera, 1682. (Haer. 29) I. p. 124.]
In general, these ancient Jewish Christians retained the appellation of Nazarenes, and it may be inferred from Origen, Epiphanius and Eusebius, that the Nazarenes and Ebionites were the same people, and held the same tenets, though some of them supposed that Christ was the son of Joseph as well as of Mary, while others of them held that he had no natural father, but had a miraculous birth. [Ibid. p. 125.] Epiphanius in his account of the Nazarenes, (and the Jewish Christians never went by any other name,) makes no mention of any of them believing the divinity of Christ, in any sense of the word.
It is particularly remarkable that Hegesippus, in giving an account of the heresies of his time, though he mentions the Carpocratians, Valentinians, and others who were generally termed Gnostics, (and who held that Christ had a pre-existence, and was man only in appearance,) not only makes no mention of this supposed heresy of the Nazarenes or Ebionites, but says that, in his travels to Rome, where he spent some time with Anicetus, and visited the bishops of other sees, he found that they all held the same doctrine that was taught in the law, by the prophets, and by our Lord. [Eusebii Hist. 1720, L. iv. C. xxii. pp. 181, 182.] What could this be but the proper Unitarian doctrine held by the Jews, and which he himself had been taught?
That Eusebius doth not expressly say what this faith was, is no wonder, considering his prejudice against the Unitarians of his own time. He speaks of the Ebionites, as persons whom a malignant demon had brought into his power [Ibid. L. iii. C. xxvii. p. 121.]; and though he speaks of them as holding that Jesus was the son of Joseph as well as of Mary, he speaks with no less virulence of the opinion of those of his time, who believed the miraculous conception, calling their heresy madness. Valesius, the translator of Eusebius, was of opinion that the history of Hegesippus was neglected and lost by the ancients, on account of the errors it contained, and these errors could be no other than the Unitarian doctrine. It is possible also, that it might be less esteemed on account of the very plain, unadorned style, in which all the ancients say it was written.
Almost all the ancient writers who speak of what they call the heresies of the two first centuries, say, that they were of two kinds; the first were those that thought that Christ "was man in appearance only," and the other that he was "no more than a man." [Lardner's Hist. of Heretics, p. 17. Works, IX. pp. 234, 235.] Tertullian calls the former Docetae, and the latter Ebionites. Austin, speaking of the same two sects, says, that the former believed Christ to be God, but denied that he was man, whereas the latter believed him to be man, but denied that he was God. Of this latter opinion Austin owns that he himself was, till he became acquainted with the writings of Plato, which in his time were translated into Latin, and in which he learned the doctrine of the Logos.
Now that this second heresy, as the later writers called it, was really no heresy at all, but the plain simple truth of the gospel, may be clearly inferred from the apostle John taking no notice at all of it, though he censures the former, who believed Christ to be man only in appearance, in the severest manner. And that this was the only heresy that gave him any alarm, is evident from his first epistle, chap. iv. ver. 2, 3, where he says that "every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (by which he must have meant is truly a man), is of God." On the other hand, he says, "every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God, and this is that spirit of Antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world." For this was the first corruption of the Christian religion by the maxims of Heathen philosophy, and which proceeded afterwards, till Christianity was brought to a state little better than Paganism.
That Christian writers afterwards should imagine
that this apostle alluded to the Unitarian heresy, or that of the
Ebionites, in the introduction to his gospel, is not to be wondered at; as nothing is more common than for men to interpret the
writings of others according to their own previous ideas and
conceptions of things. On the contrary, it seems very evident that, in
that introduction, the apostle alludes to the very same system of
opinions, which he had censured in his epistle, the fundamental
principle of which was that, not the Supreme Being himself, but an
emanation from him, to which they gave the name of Logos, and which
they supposed to be the Christ, inhabited the body of Jesus, and was
the maker of all things; whereas he there affirms, that the Logos
by which all things were made, was not a being distinct from God, but
God himself, that is, an attribute of God, or the divine power and
wisdom. We shall see that the Unitarians of the third century, charged
the orthodox with introducing a new and strange interpretation of the
word Logos. [See Beausobre "Histoire Critique de Manichee et du
Manicheisme," I. p. 540. "Les Noetiens reprochoient aux
Orthodoxes, d'introduire un langage etrange et nouveau, en appellant
le Verbe, Fils de Dieu." L. iii. Ch. vi. Sect. xi.]
That very system, indeed, which made Christ to have been the eternal reason, or logos of the Father, did not, probably, exist in the time of the apostle John, but was introduced from the principles of Platonism afterwards. But the Valentinians, who were only a branch of the Gnostics, made great use of the same term, not only denominating by it one of the aeons in the system described by Irenaeus, but also one of them that was endowed by all the other aeons with some extraordinary gift, to which person they gave the name of Jesus, Saviour, Christ and Logos. [Irenaei Opera, 1702. L. i. Sect. iv. p. 14.]
The word logos was also frequently used by them as synonymous to aeon, in general, or an intelligence that sprung, mediately or immediately, from the divine essence. [Beausobre, I. p. 571. L. iii. Ch. ix. Sect. iii.] It is, therefore, almost certain, that the apostle John had frequently heard this term made use of, in some erroneous representations of the system of Christianity that were current in his time, and therefore he might choose to introduce the same term in its proper sense, as an attribute of the Deity, or God himself, and not a distinct being that sprung from him. And this writer is not to be blamed if, afterwards, that very attribute was personified in a different manner, and not as a figure of speech, and consequently his language was made to convey a very different meaning from that which he affixed to it.
Athanasius himself was so far from denying that the primitive Jewish church was properly Unitarian, maintaining the simple humanity and not the divinity of Christ, that he endeavors to account for it by saying, that "all the Jews were so firmly persuaded that their Messiah was to be nothing more than a man like themselves, that the apostles were obliged to use great caution in divulging the doctrine of the proper divinity of Christ." [De Sententia Dionysii, Athanasii Opera. 1630. I. p. 553.] But what the apostles did not teach, I think we should be cautious how we believe. The apostles were never backward to combat other Jewish prejudices, and certainly would have opposed this opinion of theirs, if it had been an error. For if it had been an error at all, it must be allowed to have been an error of the greatest consequence.
Could it rouse the indignation of the apostle John so much as to call those Antichrist, who held that Christ was not come in the flesh, or was not truly man; and would he have passed uncensured those who denied the divinity of his Lord and Master, if he himself had thought him to be true and very God, his Maker as well as his Redeemer? We may therefore safely conclude that an opinion allowed to have prevailed in his time, and maintained by all the Jewish Christians afterwards, was what he himself and the other apostles had taught them, and therefore that it is the very truth; and consequently that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, or of his being any more than a man, is an innovation, in whatever manner it may have been introduced.
Had the apostles explained themselves distinctly and fully, as its importance, if it had been true, required, on the subject of the proper divinity of Christ, as a person equal to the Father, it can never be imagined that the whole Jewish church, or any considerable part of it, should so very soon have adopted the opinion of his being a mere man. To add to the dignity of their Master, was natural, but to take from it, and especially to degrade him from being God, to being man, must have been very unnatural. To make the Jews abandon the opinion of the divinity of Christ in the most qualified sense of the word, must at least have been as difficult as we find it to be to induce others to give up the same opinion at this day; and there can be no question of their having, for some time, believed what the apostles taught on that, as well as on other subjects.
Of the same opinion with the Nazarenes, or Ebionites among the Jews, were those among the Gentiles whom Epiphanius called Alogi, from their not receiving, as he says, the account that John gives of the Logos, and the writings of that apostle in general. But Lardner, with great probability, supposes, "there never was any such heresy" [Hist, of Heretics, p. 416. Works, IX. p. 516.] as that of the Alogi, or rather that those to whom Epiphanius gave that name, were unjustly charged by him with rejecting the writings of the apostle John, since no other person before him makes any mention of such a thing, and he produces nothing but mere hearsay in support of it. It is very possible, however, that he might give such an account of them, in consequence of their explaining the Logos in the introduction of John's gospel in a manner different from him and others, who in that age had appropriated to themselves the name of orthodox.
Equally absurd is the conjecture of Epiphanius, that those persons and others like them, were those that the apostle John meant by Antichrist. [Haer. 51, Sect. iii. Opera, I. p. 424.] It is a much more natural inference that, since this writer allows these Unitarians to have been contemporary with the apostles, and that they had no peculiar appellation till he himself gave them this of Alogi (and which he is very desirous that other writers would adopt after him [Ibid. p. 428.]), that they had not been deemed heretical in early times, but held the opinion of the ancient Gentile church, as the Nazarenes did that of the Jewish church; and that, notwithstanding the introduction, and gradual prevalence of the opposite doctrine, they were suffered to pass uncensured and consequently without a name, till the smallness of their numbers made them particularly noticed.
It is remarkable, however, that those who held the simple doctrine of the humanity of Christ, without asserting that Joseph was his natural father, were not reckoned heretics by Irenaeus, who wrote a large work on the subject of heresies; and even those who held that opinion are mentioned with respect by Justin Martyr, who wrote some years before him, and who, indeed, is the first writer extant, of the Gentile Christians, after the age of the apostles. And it cannot be supposed that he would have treated them with so much respect, if their doctrine had not been very generally received, and on that account less obnoxious than it grew to be afterwards. He expresses their opinion concerning Christ, by saying that they made him to be a mere man, (ψιλος ανθρωπος,) and by this term Irenaeus, and all the ancients, even later than Eusebius, meant a man descended from man, and this phraseology is frequently opposed to the doctrine of the miraculous conception of Jesus, and not to that of his divinity. It is not therefore to be inferred that because some of the ancient writers condemn the one, they meant to pass any censure upon the other.
The manner in which Justin Martyr speaks of those Unitarians who believed Christ to be the son of Joseph, is very remarkable, and shows that though they even denied the miraculous conception, they were far from being reckoned heretics in his time, as they were by Irenaeus afterwards. He says, "there are some of our profession who acknowledge him" (Jesus) "to be the Christ, yet maintain that he was a man born of man. I do not agree with them, nor should I be prevailed upon by ever so many who hold that opinion; because we are taught by Christ himself not to receive our doctrine from men, but from what was taught by the holy prophets and by himself." [Dial. Edit. Thirlby, p. 235.]
This language has all the appearance of an apology for an opinion contrary to the general and prevailing one, as that of the humanity of Christ (at least with the belief of the miraculous conception) probably was in his time. This writer even speaks of his own opinion of the pre-existence of Christ, (and he is the first that we certainly know to have maintained it, on the principles on which it was generally received afterwards,) as a doubtful one, and by no means a necessary article of Christian faith. "Jesus," says he, "may still be the Christ of God, though I should not be able to prove his pre-existence, as the Son of God who made all things. For though I should not prove that he had pre-existed, it will be right to say that, in this respect only, I have been deceived, and not to deny that he is the Christ, if he appears to be a man born of men, and to have become Christ by election." [Ibid. pp. 233, 234.] This is not the language of a man very confident of his opinion, and who had the sanction of the majority along with him.
The reply of Trypho the Jew, with whom the dialogue he is writing is supposed to be held, is also remarkable, showing in what light the Jews will always consider any doctrine which makes Christ to be more than a man. He says, "They who think that Jesus was a man, and, being chosen of God, was anointed Christ, appear to me to advance a more probable opinion than yours. For all of us expect that Christ will be born a man from man, (ανθρωπος εξ ανθρωπο,) and that Elias will come to anoint him. If he therefore be Christ, he must by all means be a man born of man." [Ibid. p. 235.]
It is well known, and mentioned by Eusebius, that the Unitarians in the primitive church, always pretended to be the oldest Christians, that the apostles themselves had taught their doctrine, and that it generally prevailed till the time of Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome, but that from that time it was corrupted [Hist. L. v. C. xxviii. p. 252.]; and as these Unitarians are called Idiotae (common and ignorant people) by Tertullian, it is more natural to look for ancient opinions among them, than among the learned who are more apt to innovate. With such manifest unfairness does Eusebius, or a more ancient writer, whose sentiments he adopts, treat the Unitarians, as to say that Theodotus, who appeared about the year 190, and who was condemned by Victor the predecessor of Zephyrinus, was the first who held that our Saviour was a mere man [Hist. L. v. C. xxviii. p. 252.]; when in refuting their pretensions to antiquity, he goes no farther back than to Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Clemens; in whose second and spurious epistle only it is to be found, and the ancient hymns, not now extant, but in which, being poetical compositions, divinity was probably ascribed to him, in some figurative and qualified sense; though Eusebius in his own writings alone might have found a refutation of his assertion. Epiphanius, speaking of the same Theodotus, says, that his heresy was a branch (αποσπασμα) of that of the Alogi, which sufficiently implies that they existed before him. [Haer. 54, Opera, I. p. 462.]
The Alogi, therefore, appear to have been the earliest Gentile Christians, and
Dr. Berriman supposes them to have been a branch of the Ebionites.
["An Historical Account of the Trinitarian
Controversy," 1725, p. 82.]
In fact, they must have been the same among the Gentiles, that the Ebionites were among the Jews. And it is remarkable that, as the
children of Israel retained the worship of the one true God all the
time of Joshua, and of those of his contemporaries who outlived
him; so the generality of Christians retained the same faith,
believing the strict unity of God, and the proper humanity of Christ,
all the time of the apostles and of those who conversed with them, but
began to depart from that doctrine presently afterwards; and the
defection advanced so fast, that in about one century more, the
original doctrine was generally reprobated and deemed heretical. The
manner in which this corruption of the ancient doctrine was introduced, I must now proceed to explain.
Of the first Step that was made towards the Deification of Christ by the Personification of the Logos.
As the greatest things often take their rise from the smallest beginnings, so the worst things sometimes proceed from good intentions. This was certainly the case with respect to the origin of Christian idolatry. All the early heresies arose from men who wished well to the gospel, and who meant to recommend it to the Heathens, and especially to philosophers among them, whose prejudices they found great difficulty in conquering. Now we learn from the writings of the apostles themselves, as well as from the testimony of later writers, that the circumstance at which mankind in general, and especially the more philosophical part of them, stumbled the most, was the doctrine of a crucified Saviour. They could not submit to become the disciples of a man who had been exposed upon a cross, like the vilest malefactor. Of this objection to Christianity we find traces in all the early writers, who wrote in defense of the gospel against the unbelievers of their age, to the time of Lactantius; and probably it may be found much later. He says, "I know that many fly from the truth out of their abhorrence of the cross." [Lactantii Epitome, 1718. C. li. p. 143. "Scio equidem multos, dum abhorrent nomen crucis, refugere a veritate." Opera, 1748, II. p. 33.] We, who only learn from history that crucifixion was a kind of death to which slaves and the vilest of malefactors were exposed, can but very imperfectly enter into their prejudices, so as to feel what they must have done with respect to it. The idea of a man executed at Tyburn, without any thing to distinguish him from other malefactors, is but an approach to the case of our Saviour.
The apostle Paul speaks of the crucifixion of Christ as the great obstacle to the reception of the gospel in his time; and yet, with true magnanimity, he does not go about to palliate the matter, but says to the Corinthians (some of the politest people among the Greeks, and fond of their philosophy), that he was determined to know nothing among them but "Jesus Christ and him crucified:" for though this circumstance was "unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness," it was to others "the power of God and the wisdom of God." 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. For this circumstance at which they cavilled, was that in which the wisdom of God was most conspicuous; the death and resurrection of a man, in all respects like themselves, being better calculated to give other men an assurance of their own resurrection, than that of any super-angelic being, the laws of whose nature they might think to be very different from those of their own. But "since by man came death, so by man came also the resurrection of the dead." 1 Cor. xv. 21.
Later Christians, however, and especially those who were themselves attached to the principles of either the Oriental or the Greek philosophy, unhappily took another method of removing this obstacle; and instead of explaining the wisdom of the divine dispensations in the appointment of a man, a person in all respects like unto his brethren, for the redemption of men, and of his dying in the most public and indisputable manner, as a foundation for the clearest proof of a real resurrection, and also of a painful and ignominious death, as an example to his followers who might be exposed to the same, &c. &c, they began to raise the dignity of the person of Christ, that it might appear less disgraceful to be ranked amongst his disciples. To make this the easier to them, two things chiefly contributed ; the first was the received method of interpreting the Scriptures among the learned Jews, and the second was the philosophical opinions of the heathen world, which had then begun to infect the Jews themselves.
It has been observed that after the translation of the Old Testament into Greek, which was done probably in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt, in consequence of which the Jewish religion became better known to the Greeks, and especially to the philosophers of Alexandria, the more learned of the Jews had recourse to an allegorical method of interpreting what they found to be most objected to in their sacred writings; and by this means pretended to find in the books of Moses, and the prophets, all the great principles of the Greek philosophy, and especially that of Plato, which at that time was most in vogue. In this method of interpreting Scripture, Philo, a learned Jew of Alexandria, far excelled all who had gone before him; but the Christians of that city, who were themselves deeply tinctured with the principles of the same philosophy, especially Clemens Alexandrinus and Origen, who both believed the pre-existence of souls, and the other distinguishing tenets of Platonism, soon followed his steps in the interpretation of both the Old and the New Testament. [Le Platonisme devoille, ou Essai touchant le verbe Platonicien." 1700, p. 145.]
One method of allegorizing, which took its rise in the East, was the personification of things without life, of which we have many beautiful examples in the books of Scripture, as of wisdom by Solomon, of the dead by Ezekiel, and of sin and death by the apostle Paul. Another method of allegorizing was finding out resemblances in things that bore some relation to each other, and then representing them as types and antitypes to each other. The apostle Paul, especially if he be the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, has strained very much, by the force of imagination, to reconcile the Jews to the Christian religion, by pointing out the analogies which he imagined the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion bore to something in Christianity. Clemens Romanus, but more especially Barnabas, pushed this method of allegorizing still farther. But the fathers who followed them, by employing both the methods, and mixing their own philosophy with Christianity, at length converted an innocent allegory into what was little better than Pagan idolatry.
It had long been the received doctrine of the East, and had gradually spread into the western parts of the world, that besides the supreme divine mind, which had existed without cause from all eternity, there were other intelligences, of a less perfect nature, which had been produced by way of emanation from the great original mind, and that other intelligences, less and less perfect, had, in like manner, proceeded from them: in short, that all spirits, whether demons, or the souls of men, were of this divine origin. It was supposed by some of them that even matter itself, which they considered as the source of all evil, had, in this intermediate manner, derived its existence from the Deity, though others supposed matter to have been eternal and self-existent. For it was a maxim with them all, that "nothing could be created out of nothing" In this manner they thought they could best account for the origin of evil, without supposing it to be the immediate production of a good being, which the original divine mind was always supposed by them to be.
In order to exalt their idea of Jesus Christ,
it being then a received opinion among the philosophers that all souls
had pre-existed, they conceived his soul not to have been that of
a common man (which was generally supposed to have been the production
of inferior beings), but a principal emanation from the divine mind
itself, and that an intelligence of so high a rank either animated
the body of Jesus from the beginning, or entered into him at his
baptism. There was, however, a great diversity of opinion on this
subject; and, indeed, there was room enough for it, in a system which
was not founded on any observation, but was the mere creature of
fancy. But all these philosophizing Christians had the same general
object, which was to make the religion of Christ more reputable, by
adding to the dignity of our Lord's person.
Thus, according to Lardner, Cerinthus, one of the first of these philosophizing Christians, "taught one Supreme God, but that the world was not made by him, but by angels;" that Jesus "was a man born of Joseph and Mary, and that at his baptism, the Holy Ghost, or the Christ, descended upon him;" that Jesus "died and rose again, but that the Christ was impassible." [Hist. of Heretics, p. 150. Works, IX. p. 325. ] On the other hand, Marcion held that Christ was not born at all, but that "the son of God took the exterior form of a man, and appeared as a man; and without being born, or gradually growing up to the full stature of a man, he showed himself at once in Galilee, as a man grown." [Ibid. p. 227. Works, IX. pp. 378, 379.] All the heretics, however, of this class, whose philosophy was more properly that of the East, thought it was unworthy of so exalted a person as the proper Christ to be truly a man, and most of them thought he had no real flesh, but only the appearance of it, and what was incapable of feeling pain, &c.
These opinions the apostles, and especially John, had heard of, and he rejected them, as we have seen, with the greatest indignation. However, this did not put a stop to the evil, those philosophizing Christians either having ingenuity enough to evade those censures, by pretending these were not their opinions, but others somewhat different from theirs, that properly fell under them, or new opinions really different from them, (but derived in fact from the same source, and having the same evil tendency,) rising up in the place of them; for they were all calculated to give more dignity, as they imagined, to the person of their master. The most remarkable change in these opinions was that, whereas the earliest of these philosophizing Christians supposed, in general, that the world was made by some superior intelligence of no benevolent nature, and that the Jewish religion was prescribed by the same being, or one very much resembling him, and that Christ was sent to rectify the imperfections of both systems; those who succeeded them, and whose success at length gave them the title of orthodox, corrupted the genuine christian principle no less, by supposing that Christ was the being who, under God, was himself the maker of the world, and the medium of all the divine communications to man, and therefore the author of the Jewish religion.
As Plato had travelled into the East, it is probable that he there learned the doctrine of divine emanations, and got his ideas of the origin of this visible system. But he sometimes expresses himself so temperately on the subject, that he seems to have only allegorized what is true with respect to it; speaking of the divine mind as having existed from eternity, but having within itself ideas or archetypes of whatever was to exist without it, and saying that the immediate seat of these ideas, or the intelligence which he styled Logos, was that from which the visible creation immediately sprung. However, it was to this principle in the divine mind, or this being, derived from it, that Plato, according to Lactantius, gave the name of a second God, saying, "the Lord and maker of the universe, whom we justly call God, made a second God, visible and sensible." [Epitome, C. xlii. p. 106. "Dominus et factor universorum, quern Deum vocari existimavimus, secundum fecit Deum, visibilem et sensibilem." Opera, II. p. 50.]
By this means, however, it was, that this Logos, originally an attribute of the divine mind itself, came to be represented, first by the philosophers, and then by philosophizing Christians, as an intelligent principle or being, distinct from God, though an emanation from him. This doctrine was but too convenient for those who wished to recommend the religion of Christ. Accordingly, they immediately fixed upon this Logos as the intelligence which either animated the body of Christ, or which was in some inexplicable manner united to his soul; and by the help of the allegorical method of interpreting the Scriptures, to which they had been sufficiently accustomed, they easily found authorities there for their opinions.
Thus, since we read in the book of Psalms, that by the word of the Lord (which, in the translation of the Seventy, is the Logos) the heavens were made, &c. they concluded that this Logos was Christ, and therefore, that, under God, he was the maker of the world. They also applied to him what Solomon says of wisdom, as having been in the beginning with God, and employed by him in making the world, in the book of Proverbs. But there is one particular passage in the book of Psalms in which they imagined that the origin of the Logos, by way of emanation from the divine mind, is most clearly expressed, which is what we render, My heart is inditing a good matter, Psalm xlv. 1, this matter being Logos in the Seventy, and the verb ερευγομενος throwing out. Nothing can appear to us more ungrounded than this supposition, and yet we find it in all the writers who treat of the divinity of Christ for several centuries, in ecclesiastical history. After this we cannot wonder at their being at no loss for proofs of their doctrine in any part of Scripture.
But Philo, the
Jew, went before the Christians in the personification of the Logos,
and in this mode of interpreting what is said of it in the Old
Testament. For he calls this divine word a second God, and sometimes
attributes the creation of the world to this second God, thinking it
below the majesty of the great God himself. He also calls this
personified attribute of God his προτογυνος, or his first-born, and
the image of God. He also says, that he is neither unbegotten, like
God, nor begotten, as we are, but the middle between the two
extremes. [See "Le Platonisme devoile," Ch. x. pp. 98-107; and LeCIerc's Comment
The Christian philosophers having once got the idea that the Logos might be interpreted of Christ, proceeded to explain what John says of the Logos, in the introduction of his gospel, to mean the same person, in direct opposition to what he really meant, which was that the Logos, by which all things were made, was not a being, distinct from God, but God himself, being his attribute, his wisdom and power, dwelling in Christ, speaking and acting by him. Accordingly we find some of the earlier Unitarians charging those who were called orthodox with an innovation in their interpretation of the term Logos. "But thou wilt tell me something strange, in saying that the Logos is the Son." Hippolytus contra Noetum, quoted by Beausobre. [Histoire, I. p. 540. L. iii. Ch. vi. Sect. xi.]
We find nothing like divinity ascribed to Christ before Justin Martyr, who, from being a philosopher, became a Christian, but always retained the peculiar habit of his former profession. As to Clemens Romanus, who was contemporary with the apostles, when he is speaking in the highest terms concerning Christ, he only calls him the sceptre of the majesty of God. [Epistle, Sect. xvi.] Whether Justin Martyr was the very first who started the notion of the pre-existence of Christ, and of his superangelic or divine nature, is not certain, but we are not able to trace it any higher. We find it, indeed, briefly mentioned in the Shepherd of Hermas, but though this is supposed by some to be the Hermas mentioned by Paul, and to have written towards the end of the first century, others suppose this to be the work of one Hermes, brother of Pius, Bishop of Rome, and to have been written about the year 141, or perhaps later; and as this work contains such a pretension to visions and revelations, as I cannot but think unworthy of the Hermas mentioned by Paul, I cannot help being of this opinion. He says, "having seen an old rock and a new gate, they represent the son of God, who was more ancient than any creature, so as to be present with the Father at the creation, ad condendam creaturam." [Hermae Pastor, L. iii. Sim. ix. Sect. xii. p. 115. Wake's Gen. Epist. Ed. 4, p. 320.] The book was written in Greek, but we have only a Latin version of it.
Justin Martyr being a philosopher, and writing an apology for Christianity to a philosophical Roman emperor, would naturally wish to represent it in what would appear to him and other philosophers, the most favorable light; and this disposition appears by several circumstances. Thus he represents virtuous men, in all preceding ages, as being in a certain sense, Christians; and apologizing for calling Christ the son of God, he says, that "this cannot be new to them who speak of Jupiter as having sons, and especially of Mercury, as his interpreter, and the instructor of all men, (λογον 'ερμηνευτικον και παντων διδασκαλον). [Apol. I. Ed.Thirlby, p. 81.] On the same subject he says, "If Christ be a mere man, yet he deserves to be called the Son of God, on account of his wisdom, and the Heathens called God (i. e. Jupiter), the father of gods and men; and if, in an extraordinary manner, he be the Logos of God, this is common with those who call Mercury the Logos that declares the will of God, (λογον τον παρα Θεο αγγελτικον)." [Ibid. p. 33.]
With this disposition to make his religion appear in the most respectable light to the Heathens, and having himself professed the doctrine of Plato, can it be thought extraordinary, that he eagerly caught at the doctrine of the Logos, which he found ready formed to his hands in the works of Philo, and that he introduced it into the Christian system; that Irenaeus, who was also educated among the philosophers, about the same time, did the same thing; or that others, who were themselves sufficiently pre-disposed to act the same part, should follow their example?
That the doctrine of the separate divinity of Christ was at first nothing more than a personification of a divine attribute, or of that wisdom and power by which God made the world, is evident from the manner in which the earliest writers who treat of the subject mention it. Justin Martyr, who was the first who undertook to prove that Christ was the medium of the divine dispensations in the Old Testament, as that "he was the person sometimes called an Angel, and sometimes God and Lord, and that he was the man who sometimes appeared to Abraham and Jacob, and he that spake to Moses from the fiery bush, [Dial. Edit.Thirlby, p. 263.]" does it, as we have seen above, with a considerable degree of diffidence; saying, that "if he should not be able to prove his pre-existence, it would not therefore follow that he was not the Christ." And as new opinions do not readily lay firm hold on the mind, forms of expression adapted to preceding opinions, will now and then occur; and as good sense will, in all cases, often get the better of imagination, we sometimes find these early writers drop the personification of the Logos, and speak of it as the mere attribute of God.
Thus Theophilus, who was contemporary with Justin, though a later writer, says, that when God said let us make man, he spake to nothing but his own logos, or wisdom; [Ad Autolycum, 1684, L. ii. p. 114.] and, according to Origen, Christ was the eternal reason, or wisdom of God. He says, that, "by the second God, we mean only a virtue" (or perhaps power) "which comprehends all other virtues, or a reason which comprehends all other reasons, and that this reason (λογος) is particularly attached to the soul of Christ." [Origen contra Celsum, 1677, L. v. p. 259.] Also, explaining John i. 3, he says, "God can do nothing without reason (παρα λογον), i.e. without himself" (παρ' εαυτον). [Ibid. p. 247.]
Athenagoras, who wrote in the second century, calls Christ the first production (γεννημα) of the Father; but says he was not always actually produced (γενομενον), for that from the beginning, God, being an eternal mind, had reason (λογος) in himself, being from eternity rational (λογικος). [Athenagorae Opera, 1685, Apol. p. 83.]
Tatian, who was also his contemporary, gives us a fuller account of this matter. He says, "when he (that is, God) pleased, the word (logos) flowed from his simple essence; and this word not being produced in vain, became the first-begotten work of his spirit. This we know to be the origin of the word: but it was produced by division, not by separation, for that which is divided (μερισθεν) does not diminish that from which it derives its power. For, as many torches may be lighted from one, and yet the light of the first torch is not diminished, so the word (logos) proceeding from the power of the Father, does not leave the Father void of logos. Also, if I speak and you hear me, I am not void of speech (logos) on account of my speech (logos) going to you." [Oratio contra Graecos, at the end of Justin's Works, 1686, p. 145.]
If lrenaeus had this idea of the generation of the Logos, as no doubt he had, it is no wonder that he speaks of it as a thing of so wonderful a nature. "If any one," says he, "asks us, how is the Son produced from the Father, we tell him that whether it be called generation, nuncupation, or adapertion, or by whatever other name this ineffable generation be called, no one knows it; neither Valentinus, nor Marcion, nor Saturninus, nor Basilides, nor Angels, nor Archangels, nor Principalities, nor Powers; but only the Father who begat, and the Son who is begotten." [L. ii. C. xlviii. p. 176.]
Tertullian, whose orthodoxy in this respect was never questioned, does not seem, however, to have any difficulty in conceiving how this business was, but writes in such a manner, as if he had been let into the whole secret; and we see in him the wretched expedients to which the orthodox of that age had recourse, in order to convert a mere attribute into a real person. For it must be understood that when the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was first started, it was not pretended, except by lrenaeus in the passage above quoted (who was writing against persons who pretended to more knowledge of this mysterious business than himself), that there was any thing unintelligible in it, or that could not be explained. Every thing, indeed, in that age, was called a mystery that was reputed sacred, and the knowledge of which was confined to a few; but the idea of unintelligible, or inexplicable, was not then affixed to the word mystery. The heathen mysteries, from which the Christians borrowed the term, were things perfectly well known and understood by those who were initiated, though concealed from the vulgar.
things," says this writer, "God was alone; but not absolutely alone,
for he had with him his own reason, since God is a rational being.
This reason the Greeks called Logos, which word we now render Sermo.
And that you may more easily understand this from yourself, consider that
you, who are made in the image of God, and are a reasonable being, have
reason within yourself. When you silently consider with yourself, it is by
means of reason that you do it." ["Ante omnia, Deus erat solus.
Ceterum ne tunc quidem solus; habebat, enim, secum, rationem suam.
Rationalis euim Deus. Hanc Gracci Λογον dicunt, quo vocabulo etiam Sermonem appellamus. Idque, quo facilius intelligas
ex teipso ante recognosce et ex imagine et similitudine Dei, quum
habeas et tu in temetipso rationem, qui es animal rationale. — Vide
quum tacitus tecum ipse congrederis, ratione hoc ipsum agi intra te,
&c. Ad Praxeam, C. v. p. 505. Tertulliani Opera, 1675.]
Upon this stating of the case, it was natural to object, that the reason of a man can never be converted into a substance, so as to constitute a thinking being, distinct from the man himself. But, he says, that though this is the case with respect to man, yet nothing can proceed from God but what is substantial. "You will say," says he, "but what is speech besides a word or sound, something unsubstantial and incorporeal? But I say that nothing unsubstantial and incorporeal can proceed from God, because it does not proceed from what is itself unsubstantial; nor can that want substance, which proceeds from so great a substance." [Quid est enim dices sermo nisi vox, et sonus oris? Vacuum nescio quid, et inane, et incorporate. At ego nihil dico de Deo inane et vacuum prodire potuisse, ut non de inani et vacuo prolatum, nec carere substantia, quod de tanta substantia processit, &c. Ibid. C. vii. p. 503.]
Having in this manner (lame enough to be sure) got over the great difficulty of the conversion of a mere attribute into a substance, and a thinking substance too, this writer proceeds to ascertain the time when this conversion took place; and he, together with all the early Fathers, says that it was at the very instant of the creation. "Then," says he, "did this speech assume its form and dress, its sound and voice, when God said, Let there be light. This is the perfect nativity of the word, when it proceeded from God. From this time making him equal to himself" (by which phrase, however, we are only to understand like himself) "from which procession he became his son, his first-born, and only begotten, begotten before all things." [Tunc ipse sermo speciem et ornatum suum sumit, sonum et vocem, quum dicit Deus fiat lux. Haec est nativitas perfecta sermonis, dum ex Deo procedit. Exinde eum parem sibi faciens, de quo procedendo filius factus est primogenitus, et ante omnia genitus, et unigenitus, et solus Deo genitus. Ibid.]
This method of explaining the origin of the personality of the Logos continued to the council of Nice, and even afterwards. For Lactantius, who was tutor to the son of Constantine, gives us the same account of this business, with some little variation, teaching us to distinguish the Son of God from the angels, whom he likewise conceived to be emanations from the divine mind. "How," says he, "did he beget him? (that is Christ). The Sacred Scriptures inform us that the Son of God is the sermo or ratio (the speech or reason) of God, also that the other angels are the breath of God, spiritus Dei. But sermo (speech) is breath emitted, together with a voice, expressive of something; and because speech and breathing proceed from different parts, there is a great difference between the Son of God and the other angels. For they are mere silent breathings (spiritus taciti), because they were created not to teach the knowledge of God, but for service (ad ministrandum). But he being also a breathing (spiritus), yet proceeding from the mouth of God with a voice and sound, is the word; for this reason, because he was to be a teacher of the knowledge of God," &c. [Lactantii Opera, 1660. Inst. L. iv. Sect. viii. p. 371. "Primum nec sciri a quoquam possunt, nec enarrari, opera dlvina: sed tamen sanctae literae docent, in quibus cantum est, ilium Dei filium, Dei esse sermonem, sive etiam rationem; itemque caeteros angelos Dei spiritus esse. Nam sermo est spiritus cum voce aliquid significante prolatus. Sed tamen quoniam spiritus et sermo diversis partibus proferuntur, siquidem spiritus naribus, ore sermo procedit, magna inter hunc Dei filium et caeteros angelos differentia est. Illi enim ex Deo taciti spiritus exierunt; quia non ad doctrinam Dei tradendam, sed ad ministerium creabantur. Ille vero eum sit et ipse spiritus, tamen cum voce ac sono ex Dei ore processit, sicut verbum, ea scilicet ratione, quia voce ejus ad populum fuerat usuras; id est, quod ille magister futurus esset doctrinae Dei et coelestis arcani ad hominem proferendi: quod ipsum primo locutus est, ut per eum ad nos loqueretur, et ille vocem Dei ac voluntatem nobis revelaret." Opera, I. p. 289.] He therefore calls him spiritus vocalis. Then, in order to account for our breathings not producing similar spirits, he says that "our breathings are dissoluble, because we are mortal, but the breathings of God are permanent; they live and feel, because he is immortal, the giver of sense and life." [Ibid. "Nostri spiritus dissolubiles sunt, quia mortales sumus. Dei autem spiritus et vivunt et manent et sentiunt; quia ipse immortalis est et sensus et vita dator. Ibid. p. 290.]
All the early Fathers speak of Christ as not having existed always, except as reason exists in man, viz. an attribute of the Deity; and for this reason they speak of the Father as not having been a Father always, but only from the time that he made the world. "Before any thing was made," says Theophilus, "God had the logos for his council; being his νους or φρονησις (reason or understanding); but when he proceeded to produce what he had determined upon, he then emitted the logos, the first-born of every creature, not emptying himself of logos (reason), but λογον γεννησας (begetting reason), and always conversing with his own logos." (reason). [Ad Autolycum, L. ii. p 129.]
Justin Martyr also gives the same explanation of the emission of the logos from God, without depriving himself of reason, and he illustrates it by what we observe in ourselves. For, "in uttering any word," he says, "we beget a word (logos), not taking any thing from ourselves, so as to be lessened by it, but as we see one fire produced from another." [Dial. Edit.Thirlby, pp. 266, 267.]
Clemens Alexandrinus calls the Father alone without beginning (αναρκος) and immediately after he characterizes the Son, as the beginning, and the first-fruits of things (αρχην και απαζχην των οντων ) from whom we must learn the Father of all, the most ancient and beneficent of beings. [Strom. L. vii. Opera, p. 700.] Tertullian expressly says that God was not always a father or a judge, since he could not be a father before he had a son, nor a judge before sin; and there was a time when both sin and the son (which made God to be a judge and a father) were not. [Ad Hermogenem, C. iii. p. 234.]
This language was held at the time of the council of Nice, for Lactantius says, "God, before he undertook the making of the world, produced a holy and incorruptible spirit, which he might call his Son; and afterwards he by him created innumerable other spirits, whom he calls angels." [Inst. L. iv. C. vi. p. 364. "Deus igitur machinator constitutorque rerum,— antequam praeclarum hoc opus mundi adoriretur, sanctum et incorruptibilem spiritum genuit, quem Filium nuncuparet. Et quamvis alios postea innumerabiles per ipsum creavisset, quos angelos dicimus," &c. Opera, I. p. 284.] The church, says Hilary, "knows one unbegotten God, and one only begotten Son of God. It acknowledges the Father to be without origin, and it acknowledges the origin of the Son from eternity, not himself without beginning, but from him who is without beginning (ab initiabili)." [De Trinitate, L. iv.] It is not impossible that Hilary might have an idea of the eternal generation of the Son, though the fathers before the council of Nice had no such idea. For the Platonists in general thought that the creation was from eternity, there never having been any time in which the Divine Being did not act. But, in general, by the phrase from eternity, and before all time, &c. the ancient christian writers seem to have meant any period before the creation of the world.
Consistently with this representation, but very inconsistently with the modern doctrine of the Trinity, the fathers supposed the Son of God to have been begotten voluntarily, so that it depended upon the Father himself whether he would have a son or not. "I will produce you another testimony from the Scriptures," says Justin Martyr, "that in the beginning, before all the creatures, God begat from himself a certain reasonable power (δυναμιν λογικην) who by the spirit is sometimes called the glory of God, sometimes God, sometimes the Lord and Logos, because he is subservient to his Father's will, and was begotten at his Father's pleasure." [Dial. Ed. Thirllby, p. 266.]
Novatian says, "God the Father is therefore the maker and creator of all things, who alone hath no origin, invisible, immense, immortal and eternal, the one God, to whose greatness and majesty nothing can be compared, from whom, when he himself pleased, the word (sermo) was born." [De Trinitate, C. x. p. 31.] Eusebius, quoted by Dr. Clarke, says, "The light does not shine forth by the will of the luminous body, but by a necessary property of its nature. But the Son, by the intention and will of the Father, received the subsistence so as to be the image of the Father. For by his will did God become (ζυληθεις) the Father of his Son." [Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, Ed. 3, p, 281.]
The Fathers of the council of Sirmium say, "If any one says that the Son was begotten not by the will of the Father, let him be anathema. For the Father did not beget the Son by a physical necessity of nature, without the operation of his will, but he at once willed, and begat the Son, and produced him from himself, without time, and without suffering any diminution himself." [Ibid.] Hilary mentions his approbation of this sentiment, but we shall see that Austin corrects him for it. A strong passage in favor of the voluntary production of the Son of God may also be seen quoted from Gregory Nyssen, by Dr. Clarke, in the place above referred to.
The Supremacy was always ascribed to the Father before the Council of Nice.
We find upon all occasions, the early christian writers speak of the Father as superior to the Son, and in general they give him the title of God, as distinguished from the Son; and sometimes they expressly call him, exclusively of the Son, the only true God; a phraseology which does not at all accord with the idea of the perfect equality of all the persons in the Trinity. But it might well be expected, that the advances to the present doctrine of the Trinity should be gradual and slow. It was, indeed, some centuries before it was completely formed.
It is not a little amusing to observe how the Fathers of the second, third and fourth centuries were embarrassed with the Heathens on the one hand, to whom they wished to recommend their religion, by exalting the person of its founder, and with the ancient Jewish and Gentile converts (whose prejudices against Polytheism, they also wished to guard against) on the other. Willing to conciliate the one, and yet not to offend the other, they are particularly careful, at the same time that they give the appellation of God to Jesus Christ, to distinguish between him and the Father, giving a decided superiority to the latter. Of this I think it may be worth while to produce a number of examples, from the time that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was first started, to the time of the council of Nice; for till that time, and even something later, did this language continue to be used. Clemens Romanus never calls Christ, God. He says, "Have we not all one God, and one Christ, and one spirit of grace poured upon us all?" [Sect. xlvi.] which is exactly the language of the apostle Paul, with whom he was in part contemporary.
Justin Martyr, who is the first that we can find
to have advanced the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, says, "He who appeared to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, was
subordinate to the Father, and minister to his will."
[Ed. Thirlby, p. 264.] He even
says, that "the Father is the author to him both of his existence,
and of his being powerful, and of his being Lord and God."
[Ibid. p. 281.]
Origen, quoted by Dr. Clarke, says, "Hence we may solve the scruple
of many pious persons, who, through fear lest they should make two
Gods, fall into false and wicked notions. — We must tell them that he
who is of himself God, (αυτοθεος) is that God (ο Θεος), as our
Saviour, in his prayer to his Father says, that they may know thee,
the only true God. But that whatever is God besides that self-existent
person, being so only by communication of his divinity, cannot so
properly be styled (ο Θεος) that God, but rather (Θεος) a divine
person." [Scrip. Doc. p. 338.] The same observation had before been made by Clemens Alexandrinus, who also calls the Son a creature, and the work of
God. [Sandii Nucleus Hist. Eccl. p. 94.] Origen also says, "According to our doctrine, the God and Father of all is
not alone great; for he has communicated of his greatness to the
first-begotten of all the creation," (πρωτοτοκα πασης κτισειος).
[Contra Celsum, L. vi. p. 323.]
Arnobius says, "Christ, a God, under the form of a man, speaking by the order of the principal God." Again, "then, at length, did God Almighty, the only God, send Christ." [Arnobius adversus Gentes, 1610. L. ii. pp. 50, 57.]
Such language as this was held till the time of the council of Nice. Alexander, who is very severe upon Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, who was an Arian, says, in his circular letter to the bishops, "the Son is of a middle nature between the first cause of all things, and the creatures, which were created out of nothing." [Theodorit. L. i. C. iv. p. 17.] Athanasius himself, as quoted by Dr. Clarke, says, "the nature of God is the cause both of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and of all creatures." [P. 276.] He also says, "there is but one God, because the Father is but one, yet is the Son also God, having such a sameness as that of a Son to a Father." [P. 222.]
Lactantius says, "Christ taught that there is one God, and that he alone ought to be worshipped; neither did he ever call himself God, because he would not have been true to his trust, if, being sent to take away gods (that is, a multiplicity of gods) and to assert one, he had introduced another besides that One. — Because he assumed nothing at all to himself, he received the dignity of perpetual priest, the honor of sovereign king, the power of a judge, and the name of God." [Institutionum, L. iv C. xiv. "Docuit enim quod unus Deus sit, eumque solum coli oportere; nec unquam se ipse Deum dixit, quia non servasset fidem, si missus ut deos tolleret, et unum assereret, induceretalium, praeter Unum.— Propterea quia tarn fidelis extitit, quia sibi nihil prorsus assumpsit, ut mandata mittentis impleret, et sacerdotis perpetui dignitatem, et regis summi honorem, et judicis potestatem, et Dei nomen accepit." Opera, I. p. 309.]
Hilary, who wrote twelve books on the doctrine of the Trinity, after the council of Nice, to prove that the Father himself is the only self-existing God, and in a proper sense the only true God (quod solus innascibilis et quod solus verus sit) after alleging a passage from the prophet Isaiah, quotes in support of it the saying of our Saviour, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." [DeTrinitate, L. iv. p. 56.] Much more might be alleged from this writer, to the same purpose.
Lastly, Epiphanius says, "Who is there that does not assert that there is only one God, the Father Almighty, from whom his only begotten Son truly proceeded?" [Haer. 57, Opera, I. p. 483.]
Indeed, that the Fathers of the council of Nice could not mean that the Son was strictly speaking equal to the Father, is evident from their calling him God of God, which in that age was always opposed to God of himself (αυτοθεος) that is, self-existent or independent; which was always understood to be the prerogative of the Father. It is remarkable that when the writers of that age speak of Christ as existing from eternity, they did not therefore suppose that he was properly self-existent. Thus Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, says, "We believe that the Son was always from the Father; but let no one by the word always be led to imagine him self-existent (αγεννητος) for neither the term was, nor always, nor before all ages, mean the same thing as self-existent (αγεννητος)." [Theodorit. L. i. C. iv. p. 19.]
On these principles the primitive fathers had no difficulty in the interpretation of that saying of our Lord, "my Father is greater than I." They never thought of saying, that he was equal to the Father with respect to his divinity, though inferior with respect to his humanity; which is the only sense of the passage that the doctrine of the Trinity in its present state admits of. For they thought that the Son was in all respects, and in his whole person, inferior to his Father, as having derived his being from him.
Tertullian had this idea of the passage when he says, "the Father is all substance, but the Son is a derivation from him, and a part, as he himself declares, 'the Father is greater than I.'" [Ad Praxeam, Sect. ix. p. 504.] It is also remarkable, as Mr. Whiston observes, that the ancient fathers, both Greek and Latin, never interpret Phil. ii. 7, to mean an equality of the Son to the Father. [Collections, p. 109.]
Novatian says, "He therefore, though he was in the form of God, did not make himself equal to God (non est rapinam arbitratus equalem se Deo esse), for though he remembered he was God of God the Father, he never compared himself to God the Father, being mindful that he was of his Father, and that he had this, because his Father gave it him." [Opera, C. xvii. p. 84.]
It also deserves to be noticed, that
notwithstanding the supposed derivation of the Son from the Father, and
therefore their being of the same substance, most of the early
christian writers thought the text "I and my Father are one," was
to be understood of an unity or harmony of disposition only. Thus
Tertullian observes, that the expression is unum, one thing, not one
person; and he explains it to mean unity, likeness, conjunction, and
of the love that the Father bore to the Son.
[Ad Praxeam, C. xxii. p. 313.] Origen says, "let him
consider that text, 'all that believed were of one heart and of one
soul,' and then he will understand this, 'I and my Father are one.'"
[Contra Celsum, L. viii. p. 386.] Novatian says, one thing
(unum) being in the neuter gender,
signifies an agreement of society, not an unity of person, and he
explains it by this passage in Paul, "he that planteth and he that
watereth are both one." [C. xxvii. p. 99.] But the fathers of the council of Sardica,
held A.D. 347, reprobated the opinion that the union of the Father and
Son consists in consent and concord only, apprehending it to be a strict
unity of substance [Theodorit. L. ii. C. viii. p.
82.]; so much farther was the doctrine of
the Trinity advanced at that time.
Of the Difficulty with which the Doctrine of the Divinity of Christ was established.
It is sufficiently evident from many circumstances, that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ did not establish itself without much opposition, especially from the unlearned among the Christians, who thought that it savored of Polytheism, that it was introduced by those who had had a philosophical education, and was by degrees adopted by others, on account of its covering the great offense of the cross, by exalting the personal dignity of our Saviour.
To make the new doctrine less exceptionable, the advocates for it invented a new term, viz. economy or distribution, as it may be rendered; saying they were far from denying the unity of God, but that there was a certain economy, or distribution respecting the divine nature and attributes, which did not interfere with it; for that, according to this economy the Son might be God, without detracting from the supreme divinity of the Father. But this new term, it appears, was not well understood or easily relished, by those who called themselves the advocates for the monarchy of the Father, a term much used in those days, to denote the supremacy and sole divinity of the Father, in opposition to that of the Son. All this is very clear from the following passage in Tertullian:
"The simple, the ignorant, and the unlearned, who are always the greater part [This shows that the greater part of Christians, in the time of Tertullian, were Unitarians, and exceedingly averse to the doctrine of the Trinity.] of the body of Christians, since the rule of faith itself," (meaning perhaps the apostles' creed, or as much of it as was in use in his time,) "transfers their worship of many gods to the one true God, not understanding that the unity of God is to be maintained, but with the economy, dread this economy, imagining that this number and disposition of a trinity is a division of the unity. They therefore will have it, that we are worshippers of two, and even of three Gods; but that they are the worshippers of one God only. We, they say, hold the monarchy. Even the Latins have learned to bawl out for monarchy, and the Greeks themselves will not understand the economy;" ["Simplices enim, nec dixerim imprudentes et idiotae, quae major semper credentium pars est, quoniam et ipsa regula fidei a pluribus diis seculi ad unicom Deum verum transfert, non intelligentes unicum quidem, sed cum sua economia esse, credendum, expavescunt ad economiam. Numerum et dispositionem trinitatis divisionem praesumunt unitatis. Itaque duos et tres jam jactitant, a nobis praedicari, se vero unius Dei cultores praesumunt. Monarchiam inquiunt tenemus. Monarchiam sonare student Latini, economiam intelligere nolunt etiam Graeci." Ad Praxeam, Sect. iii. p. 502.] monarchy being a Greek term and yet adopted by the Latins, and economy, though a Greek term, not being relished even by the Greek Christians.
Upon another occasion we see by this writer how offensive the word Trinity was to the generality of Christians. "Does the number of Trinity still shock you?" says he. ["Sic te adhuc numerus scandalizat trinitatis?" Ad Praxeam, Sect. xii. p. 506.] For this reason, no doubt, Origen says, "that to the carnal they taught the gospel in a literal way, preaching Jesus Christ, and him crucified, but to persons farther advanced, and burning with love for divine celestial wisdom," (by which he must mean the philosophical part of their audience) "they communicated the Logos." [Preface to his Comment on John, Opera, II. p. 255.]
Origen candidly calls these adherents to the doctrine of the strict unity to God, pious persons (φιλοθεον). "Hence," says he, "we may solve the scruple of many pious persons, who, through fear lest they should make two gods, fall into false and wicked notions." He endeavors to relieve them in this manner. "This scruple of many pious persons may thus be solved. We must tell them, that he who is of himself God, (αυτοθεος) is that God, (God with the article) (ο Θεος), — but that whatsoever besides that self-existent person," is "rather a divine person, is God without the article, (θεος)" as was observed before. [Clarke's Scrip Doc. p. 338. See p. 37.] How far this solution of the difficulty was satisfactory to these pious, unlearned Christians does not appear. It does not seem calculated to remove a difficulty of any great magnitude.
That these ancient Unitarians, under all the names by which their adversaries thought proper to distinguish them, have been greatly misrepresented, is acknowledged by all who are candid among the moderns. The learned Beausobre, himself a Trinitarian, is satisfied that it was a zeal for the unity of God that actuated the Sabellians ["Lorsque j'en recherche la source, (L'Heresie Sabellienne) je n'en trouve point d'autre que la crainte de multiplier la Divinite, en multipliant les Personnes Divines, et de ramener dans I'Eglise le Polytheisme, qui renverse le premier principe de la Religion. C'est ce que temoignent assez unanimement les anciens pores." L. iii. Ch. vi. Sect. viii. I. p. 535.] (who were no more than Unitarians under a particular denomination). Epiphanius says, that when a Sabellian met the orthodox, they would say, "My friends, do we believe one God or three?" [Haer. 62, Opera, I. p. 514.]
Eusebius speaking with great wrath against Marcellus of Ancyra, allows that he did not deny the personality of the Son, but for fear of establishing two Gods. [Ibid. p. 536.] This also appears from the manner in which Eusebius expresses himself when he answers to the charge of introducing two Gods. "But you are afraid, (φοβη) perhaps, lest acknowledging two distinct subsistances, you should introduce two original principles, and so destroy the monarchy of God." [Clarke's Scrip. Doc. p. 345.]
Basil complains of the popularity of the followers of Marcellus. whose disciple, Photinus is said to have been, at the same time that the name of Arius was execrated. "Unto this very time," says he, in his letter to Athanasius, "in all their letters they fail not to anathematize the hated name of Arius; but with Marcellus, who has profanely taken away the very existence of the divinity of the only begotten Son, and abused the signification of the word Logos, with this man they seem to find no fault at all." [Opera, III. p. 80.]
It was impossible not to perceive that this economy, and the style and rank of God, given to Christ, made a system, entirely different from that of the Jews, as laid down in the Old Testament. For Christians either had not at that time laid much stress on any argument for the doctrine of the Trinity drawn from the books of Moses, or at least had not been able to satisfy the Jews, or the Jewish Christians, with any representations of that kind. Tertullian, therefore, makes another, and, indeed, a very bold attempt for the same purpose, saying, that it was peculiar to the Jewish faith so to maintain the unity of God, as not to admit the Son or Spirit to any participation of the divinity with him; but that it was the characteristic of the gospel, to introduce the Son and Spirit, as making one God with the Father. He says, that God was determined to renew his covenant in this new form. I shall give his own words, which are much more copious on the subject, in a note. "Judaicae fides ista res sic unum Deum credere, ut Filium adnumerare ei nolis, et post Filium, Spiritum. Quidenim inter nos et illos, nisi differentia ista. Quid opus evangelii si non exinde Pater et Filius et Spiritus unum deum sistunt. Sic Deus voluit novare sacramentum, ut nove unus crederetur per Filium et Spiritum, et coram jam Deus in suis propriis nominibus et personis cognosceretur, qui et retro per Filium et Spiritum predicatus non intelligebatur." Ad Praxeam, Sect. xxx. p. 518.]
When the philosophizing Christians went
beyond the mere personification of a divine attribute, and proceeded
to speak of the real substance, as I may say, of the divine Logos,
they were evidently in danger of making a diversity, or a separation
in the divine nature. That the common people did make this very
objection to the new doctrine is clearly intimated by Tertullian. "When I say that the Father is one, the Son another, and the Spirit a
third, an unlearned or perverse person understands me as if I meant a
diversity, and in this diversity he pretends that there must be a
separation of the Father, Son and Spirit." ["Ecce enim dico alium esse
Patrem, et alium Filium, et alium Spiritum. Male accipit idiotes
quisque aut perversus hoc dictum, quasi diversitatem sonet, et ex
diversitate separationem pretendat Patris, Filii et Spiritus." Ad Praxeam,
Sect. viii. p. 504.]
Justin Martyr, however, as we
have seen, made use of the same comparison, and as far as appears,
without censure. But after his time, the ideas of philosophizing
Christians had undergone a change. He and his contemporaries were
only solicitous to make out something like divinity in the Son,
without considering him as united in one substance with the Father,
the unity of God being then defended on no other principle than that
of the supremacy of the Father; so that, though Christ might be
called God in a lower sense of the word, the Father was God in a sense
so much higher than that, that strictly speaking, it was still
true that there was but one God, and the Father only was that God.
But, by the time of Hilary, the philosophizing Christians, finding
perhaps that this account of the unity of God did not give entire
satisfaction, were willing to represent the Son, not only as
deriving his being and his divinity from the Father, but as still
inseparably united to him, and never properly detached from him; and,
therefore, the former comparison of one torch lighted by another would
no longer answer the purpose. But this could not be objected to
the comparison of the root and the branch, the fountain and the
stream, or the sun and the beam of light, according to the philosophy
of those times. For, in all these cases, things were produced from the
substance of their respective origins, and yet were not separated from
These explanations suited very well with the doctrine of the Trinity as held by the council of Nice; when it was not pretended, as it is now, that each person in the Trinity is equally eternal and uncaused. But they certainly did not sufficiently provide for the distinct personality of the Father, Son and Spirit; which, however, especially with respect to the two former, they asserted. With respect to the latter, it is not easy to collect their opinions; for, in general, they expressed themselves as if the Spirit was only a divine power.
In order to satisfy the advocates of the proper unity of God, those who then maintained the divinity of Christ, make, upon all occasions, the most solemn protestations against the introduction of two Gods, for the deification of the Spirit was then not much objected to them. But they thought that they guarded sufficiently against the worship of two Gods, by strongly asserting the inferiority and subordination of the Son to the Father; some of them alleging one circumstance of this inferiority, and others another.
Tertullian cautions us not to destroy the monarchy when we admit a Trinity, since it is to be restored from the Son to the Father. [Ad Praxeam, C. iv. p. 502.] Novatian lays the stress on Christ's being begotten and the Father not begotten. "If," says he, "the Son had not been begotten, he and the Father being upon a level, they would both be unbegotten, and therefore there would be two Gods," &c. [C. xxxi. p. 122.] Again, he says, "when it is said that Moses was appointed a God to Pharoah [sic], shall it be denied to Christ, who is a God, not to Pharoah but to the whole universe?" [C. xx. p. 77.] But this kind of divinity would not satisfy the moderns.
Eusebius's apology for this qualified divinity of Christ (for the manner in which he writes is that of an apology, and shows that this new doctrine was very offensive to many in his time) turns upon the same hinge with the former of these illustrations of Novatian. "If," says he, "this makes them apprehensive lest we should seem to introduce two Gods, let them know that, though we indeed acknowledge the Son to be God, yet there is absolutely but one God, even he who alone is without original and unbegotten, who has his divinity properly of himself, and is the cause even to the Son himself both of his being, and of his being such as he is; by whom the Son himself confesses that he lives, (declaring expressly, I live by the Father,)— and declares to be greater than himself," and "to be even his God." [Clarke's Scrip. Doc. p. 343.] This, indeed, is written by an Arian, but it is the language of all the Trinitarians of his time: for then it had not occurred to any person to say that the one God was the Trinity, or the Father, Son and Spirit in conjunction, but always the Father only. The distinction between person and being, which is the salvo at present, was not then known. Some persons in opposing Sabellius, having made three hypostases, which we now render persons, separate from each other, Dionysius, Bishop of Rome, quoted with approbation by Athanasius himself, said that it was making three Gods. [De Synodo Nicaena, Opera, p. 275.]
I have observed before, and may have occasion to repeat the observation hereafter, that, in many cases, the phraseology remains when the ideas which originally suggested it have disappeared; but that the phraseology is an argument for the pre-existence of the corresponding ideas. Thus it had been the constant language of the church, from the time of the apostles, and is found upon all occasions in their writings, that Christ suffered; meaning, no doubt, in his whole person, in every thing which really entered into his constitution. This, however, was not easily reconcileable with the opinion of any portion of the divinity being a proper part of Christ; and therefore the Docetae, who first asserted the divine origin of the Son of God, made no scruple to deny, in express words, that Christ suffered. For they said, that Jesus was one thing, and the Christ, or the heavenly inhabitant of Jesus, another; and that when Jesus was going to be crucified, Christ left him.
Irenaeus, writing against this heresy, quotes the uniform language of the Scriptures as a sufficient refutation of it; maintaining that Christ himself, in his whole nature, suffered. "It was no impassible Christ," he says, "but Jesus Christ himself, who suffered for us." [L. iii. C. xx. p. 246.] It is evident, however, that this writer, who was one of the first that adopted the idea of the divinity of Christ (but on a principle different from that of the Docetae, viz. the personification of the Logos of the Father) could not himself strictly maintain the passibility of his whole nature; for then he must have held that something, which was a proper part of the Deity himself, was capable of suffering. He, therefore, but in a very awkward and ineffectual manner, endeavors to make a case different from that of the Docetae, by supposing a mixture of the two natures in Christ.
"For this reason," he says, "The word of God became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man, being mixed with the word of God, that receiving the adoption, he might become the Son of God. For we could not receive immortality, unless we were united to immortality," &c. [Ibid. C. xxi. Opera, p. 249.] Origen also, in his third book against Celsus, speaks of the mixture of the humanity with the divinity of Christ. He even speaks of the mortal quality of the very body of Christ, as changed into a divine quality. [Ibid. p. 136.]
This confusion of ideas, and inconsistency, appears to have been soon perceived. For we presently find that all those who are called orthodox, ran into the very error of the Docetae, maintaining that it only was the human nature of Christ that suffered, while another part of his nature, which was no less essential to his being Christ, was incapable of suffering; and to this day all who maintain the proper divinity of Christ, are in the same dilemma. They must either flatly contradict the Scriptures, and say, with the Docetae, that Christ did not suffer, or that the divine nature itself may feel pain. This being deemed manifest impiety, they generally adopted the former opinion, viz. that the human nature of Christ only suffered, and contented themselves with asserting some inexplicable mixture of the two natures; notwithstanding the idea of one part of the same person (and of the intellectual part too) not feeling pain, while the other did, is evidently inconsistent with any idea of proper union or mixture.
The very next writer we meet with after Irenaeus, viz. Tertullian, asserts, contrary to him, that it was not Christ, but only the human nature of Christ, that suffered. "This voice," says he, "'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' was from the flesh and soul, that is, the man, and not the word or spirit, that is, it was not of the God, who is impassible, and who left the Son while he gave up his man to death." ["Haec vex carnis et animae, id est hominis, non sermonis, non spiritus, id est non dei, propterea emissa est, ul impassibilem deum ostenderet qui sic filium dereliquit dum hominem ejus tradidit in mortem." Ad Praxeam, C. xxx. p. 518.] What could any of the Docetae have said more?
Arnobius expresses himself to the same purpose. Speaking of the death of Christ, with which the Christians were continually reproached, "That death," says he, "which you speak of, was the death of the man that he had put on, not of himself, of the burden, not of the bearer." ["Mors illa quam dicitis assumpti hominis fuit, non ipsius, gestaminis, non gestantis." Ad versus Gentes, L. i. p. 22.]
Hilary, who wrote after the council of Nice, went even farther than this, and maintained at large, that the body of Christ was at all times incapable of feeling pain, that it had no need of refreshment by meat and drink, and that he ate and drank only to show that he had a body. "Could that hand," says he, "which gave an ear to the man that Peter smote, feel the nail that was driven through it? And could that flesh feel a wound which removed the pain of a wound from another ?" [L. x. p. 244.]
Later writers, indeed, did not follow Hilary in this extravagance, but Epiphanius says, that Christ in his death upon the cross, suffered nothing in his divinity. [Haer. 20, Opera, I. p. 49.] This too is the language of those who are called orthodox at this day, but how this is consistent with their doctrine of atonement, which supposes an infinite satisfaction to have been made to the justice of God by the death of Christ, does not easily appear.
An Account of the Unitarians before the Council of Nice.
Before I proceed to the Arian controversy, I must take notice of those who distinguished themselves by maintaining the proper humanity of Christ in this early period. That the christian church in general held this doctrine till the time of Victor, was the constant assertion of those who professed it about this time, and I think I have shown that this was true.
One of the first who distinguished himself by asserting the simple humanity of Christ, was Theodotus of Byzantium, who, though a tanner, is acknowledged to have been a man of ability, and even of learning. He is said to have been well received at Rome, and at first even by Victor, the bishop of that city, who afterwards excommunicated him.
About the same time appeared Artemon, from whom those who maintained this opinion were by some called Artemonites; but it appears from the writings of Tertullian, that they were more generally called Monarchists, from their asserting the proper unity of the divine nature, and the supremacy of God the Father with respect to Christ. By their enemies they were called Patripassians, because they were charged with asserting that the Father was so united to the person of Christ, as even to have suffered with him. But Lardner treats this as a calumny. [Hist. of Heretics, p. 413. Works, IX. p. 497.] It should seem, however, that some of them went so far, (since Tertullian so particularly quotes it as their own language) as to say that the Father felt compassion for his suffering Son. [Ad Praxeam, Sect. xxix. p. 518.] But this language might be used by them in a figurative sense, in which sense various passions are in the Scriptures ascribed to God.
Beausobre [Vol. I. p. 538. L. iii. C. vi. Sect. x.] thinks them to have been entirely free from this imputation, and imagines it to have arisen from their adversaries, designedly or undesignedly, mixing their own ideas with theirs, and especially confounding the two terms Logos and Son of God. In consequence of this, when the Unitarians asserted that the Father and the Logos were one person, they would of course charge them with maintaining that the Father suffered in the Son. Indeed Tertullian, as Beausobre observes, contradicts himself when he charges the Unitarians with this opinion, because in other parts of his writings, he expressly says that they believed the Father to be impassible. [Vol. I. p. 534. L. iii. C. vi. Sect. vii.]
Praxeas the Montanist, and a man of genius and learning, against whom Tertullian writes, was an Unitarian, and so probably were many others of that sect. [Lardner's Hist. of Heretics, pp. 398, 411. Works, IX. pp.488, 496.] For their peculiar opinions and practices, as Montanists, had no relation to any particular opinion concerning the nature of Christ.
It is very evident that about this time the Unitarians were very numerous in all parts of the christian world; and as they were not distinguished by having assemblies separate from those of other Christians, which Mosheim allows [Ecclesiastical History, 2d. Edit. 1758, I. p. 191. Cent. ii. Pt. ii. Ch. v. Sect. xx.], their opinion certainly could not be deemed heretical. It is even acknowledged that many of these Unitarians (though none of their writings are now come down to us) were men of science. They are particularly said to have been addicted to geometry, and are also said to have treated questions in theology in a geometrical method; but no particulars of this kind are known to us. It is very possible that this circumstance (which is mentioned by their adversaries by way of reproach) might have arisen from their endeavoring to show, that if the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, (if this last was then considered as a distinct person,) were each of them God, in any proper sense of the word, there must be more gods than one. Such geometry as this, I doubt not, gave great offense.
In the following century, viz. the third, we find Noetus, Sabellius, and Paul, bishop of Samosata, the most distinguished among the Unitarians. Noetus was of Smyrna, and is said to have been a disciple of Artemon. Sabellius was bishop or priest of Cyrene in Africa, in which country the Unitarian opinion, as taught by Noetus, is said to have been generally adopted. It is, indeed, said by ecclesiastical historians, that many bishops in this country were brought over to this opinion by Sabellius. But it is much more probable that they held the same opinion before. In that age the prevailing bias was to magnify the personal dignity of Christ, and not to lessen it; so that we find few or no clear instances of any who, having once maintained that Christ was either God, or a super-angelic being, and the maker of this world under God, came afterwards to believe that he was merely a man. Both Noetus and Sabellius were charged by their adversaries with being Patripassians: but the Unitarians of that age asserting, as the Socinians now do, that all the divinity of the Son, was that of the Father residing in him, and acting by him, was sufficient to give a handle for that injurious representation of their opinion.
There was nothing peculiar in the doctrine of Sabellius, though he is generally charged with maintaining that there were three persons in the Trinity, but that these three persons or rather characters, (προσωπα) were only different names, or attributes of the same person or being. If this was a fair representation, Sabellius and his followers must have meant to disguise their Unitarian sentiments in terms appropriated to the orthodoxy of their age. But though many persons are said to do this at present, Sabellius himself is not charged with it by any of his opponents. On the contrary, he is generally said to have been a disciple of Noetus. It is, therefore, probable, as Beausobre conjectures, that this representation arose from his adversaries misapprehending what he said concerning the Father and the Son being one, and concerning the Father being in him, and doing the works, as our Saviour expresses himself. At the same time Sabellius might mean nothing more than the most avowed Socinians mean by such language at this day.
Paul, bishop of Samosata, a man of genius and learning, but said to have been of a profligate life, and charged with the arrogance and ambition of other bishops of great sees in those times, made himself obnoxious by maintaining the Unitarian principles, and was condemned for them in several councils held at Antioch, as well as on other accounts. His opinions are acknowledged to have spread much, and to have alarmed the orthodox greatly. [Sueur, A. D. 265.] But when we read of such persons as this bishop making many converts to the doctrine of the humanity of Christ, I cannot help suspecting, for the reason mentioned above, that it is to be understood of the numbers who were before of that opinion, being encouraged by men of their learning, ability and influence, to declare themselves more openly than they had done before; having been overborne by the philosophizing Christians of that age, the current of men's opinions having for some time set that way. This Paul of Samosata is represented by Epiphanius as alleging, in defense of his doctrine, the words of Moses, the Lord thy God is one Lord; and he is not charged by him, as others were, with maintaining that the Father suffered [Haer. 65, Opera, I. p. 608.]; and indeed from this time we hear no more of that accusation, though the tenets of the Unitarians most probably continued the same.
To these we might add, as falling within the same century, Beryllus, Bishop of Bostra, in Arabia, said to have been a man of learning and modesty, and to have maintained that Christ had no being before he was born of the Virgin Mary, and had no divinity besides that of the Father residing in him. [Eusebii Hist. L. vi. C. xxxiii. p. 297.] But he is said to have been converted to the orthodox faith by Origen, It is to be regretted that we have no farther information concerning this bishop and other Christians in Arabia. Many of them, we are told, maintained, contrary to the philosophy of their times, that the soul died with the body, and that all men would be in a state of insensibility from the time of their death to that of the general resurrection. [Ibid. C. xxxvii. p. 299.]
I shall close this account of the ancient Unitarians with just mentioning Photinus, bishop of Sirmium, though he flourished after the council of Nice; because he is the last of the Unitarians we read of till the revival of the doctrine in the last age. For though it can hardly be supposed that the opinion of the simple humanity of Christ was wholly extinct, those who maintained it were overborne and silenced by the Trinitarians on the one hand, and the Arians on the other. And of the two, the latter were full as hostile to them as the former. This Photinus is said to have been a man of great eloquence. He continued in his bishopric, notwithstanding his being condemned in three several synods or councils, especially in one held at Milan, A. D. 345, being extremely popular in his see; but at length he was expelled by a council held at Sirmium itself, in 351. This last council was called by order of the emperor Constantius, and consisted chiefly of Arian bishops.
Here I reluctantly bid adieu to what I apprehend to be the genuine doctrine of the Scriptures concerning the nature of Christ, but we shall see it re-appear with growing lustre in a later period.
Of the Arian Controversy.
There were several things relating to the divinity of Christ, which had not been determined by the christian fathers, before the time of Constantine. Thus, though the term begotten had been generally used in speaking of the origin of the Son, by way of emanation from the Father, the term created, and others of a similar meaning, had been used occasionally, and as far as appears without giving offense; nor indeed could it well have done so in an age in which all creation was considered as of the same kind, every substance (at least all intelligent substances or spirits) being supposed to have been derived ultimately from the same divine essence. This language we find used by Lactantius and Hilary, after it had begun to be disliked and reprobated, and therefore it was probably used by them through inadvertence.
Lactantius, however, speaking of the origin of the Son, says, "As when he was created in his first spiritual birth, he was, from God alone, made a holy spirit; so in his second carnal birth, from his mother alone, he became holy flesh." [Epitome, C. xliii. p. 114. "Quemadmodum in prima nativitate spiritali creatus, et ex solo Deo sanctus spiritus factus est, sic in secunda carnali ex sola matre genitus, caro sancta fieret." Opera, II. p. 32.] Hilary says, "God the Father is the cause of all, without beginning, and solitary; but the Son was produced by the Father without time, and was created and founded before the ages. He was not before he was born, but he was born without time. Before all time he alone subsists from the Father alone." As it is not easy to give an exact translation of this passage, on account of its extreme obscurity, I shall give it at length in the note. ["Deus Pater est causa omnium, omnino sine initio, solitarius; Filius autem sine tempore editus est a Patre, et ante secula creatus et fundatus. Non erat antequam nasceretur, sed sine tempore ante omnia natus, solus a solo Patre suhsistit." L. iv. p. 59.] This writer seems to have thought, as the generality of the Anti-Nicene Fathers did, that there was a time when Christ was not: but we shall find that after the Arian controversy this opinion was condemned.
It was in consequence of the controversy occasioned by Sabellius, in Africa, that the peculiar opinions of Arius were started. Sabellius having asserted that there was no difference between the divinity of the Father and that of the Son, Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, was thought to have advanced, in opposition to him, something derogatory to our Saviour, as that his divinity was so far different from that of the Father, that he was not even of the same substance with the Father; which, as we have seen, was contrary to the opinion of those who were deemed orthodox in that age. However, he justified himself in such a manner as gave satisfaction.
But not long after this, Alexander, another bishop of Alexandria, being led by the same controversy to discourse concerning Christ, in the presence of Arius, a presbyter of the same church (with whom he seems to have had some previous difference), among other things, in favor of the dignity of Christ, advanced that the Father did not precede the Son a single moment, and that he had issued from all eternity out of the substance of the Father himself. This, being in some respects an advance upon the generally received doctrine, provoked Arius to reply. He allowed that Christ existed before all time, and before the ages, as the only begotten Son of God, but he said that he had no being before he was begotten. He also asserted, in the course of the debate, that Christ was neither of the substance of the Father, nor formed out of pre-existing matter, but, like other things, was created out of nothing. It seems also to have been the opinion of Arius and his followers, but was not perhaps advanced at that time, that this pre-existent spirit was the only intelligent principle belonging to Christ, being in him what the soul was supposed to be in other men.
The prejudices of the Christians of that age against the doctrine of the proper divinity of Christ must have been very general, and very strong, to have made this doctrine of Anus so popular as we find it presently was. It was a doctrine that does not appear to have been publicly maintained before. But, possibly, the difficulty of conceiving how a mere attribute of the divine nature could become a real person, which had been the orthodox opinion, might have gradually led men to think that Christ had been produced by way of simple emanation from God, like other intelligences or spirits. And when the scripture doctrine of the creation of all things out of nothing began to take place of the doctrine of the philosophers, who asserted the impossibility of any such creation, the opinion of Arius that Christ was made out of nothing would naturally succeed to that of his emanation from the Father; so that it is possible that the minds of the more learned Christians might have been fully prepared to receive that doctrine before it was openly published by him.
Indeed, the appeal of Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia, and other learned and eminent bishops of that age, proves that he did not imagine that he had advanced an opinion that was altogether peculiar to himself; and their ready reception of his doctrine, and the countenance which they gave him, who was only a presbyter, and had nothing extraordinary to recommend him, is a stronger proof of the same thing. The Arian doctrine, however, was a kind of medium between that of the simple humanity of Christ, which was far from being entirely extinguished, though it was less and less relished, and that of his proper divinity, which made him to be of the same substance with the Father, and a kind of rival of his dignity, at which it is no wonder that the minds of many revolted. This circumstance, therefore, of the Arian doctrine being the medium between two great extremes, was alone sufficient to recommend it to many.
It is acknowledged that Arius, in the course of the controversy, had many abettors in Egypt, where the difference first arose; and among them were many persons distinguished by their genius and learning, as well as by their rank and station in the world. Notwithstanding those advantages on the side of Arius, Alexander prevailed so far, that, in two councils, which he summoned on the occasion, Arius was deprived of his office, and excommunicated. Upon this he retired into Palestine, where he was countenanced by a great number of bishops, but more especially by Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, one of the most distinguished of any in that age, both for his learning and moderation.
The emperor Constantine, having endeavored in vain to compose these differences in the religion which he had lately professed, and especially to reconcile Arius and Alexander, at length called a general council of bishops at Nice, the first which had obtained that appellation, and in this council, after much indecent wrangling and violent debate, Arius was condemned, and banished to Illyricum, a part of the Roman empire very remote from Alexandria, where the controversy originated. But, notwithstanding this condemnation, so far were the Christians of that age from having any opinion of the infallibility of councils, that the doctrine of Arius triumphed both over the decrees of this celebrated assembly, and the authority of the emperor, who was afterwards induced to think better of Arius. He, therefore, recalled him from banishment, and ordered Alexander his bishop to admit him to communion. But Arius died before the order could be executed.
Constantius, the successor of Constantine, and also some others of the emperors, favored the Arians, and in those reigns their doctrine was by far the most generally received throughout the Roman empire. The bishops of that profession held many councils, and they are acknowledged to have been very full. But at length Arianism was in a great measure banished from the Roman empire by the persecutions of the emperor Theodosius, who interested himself greatly in favor of the Trinitarian doctrine. The Arians took refuge in great numbers among the Burgundians, Goths, Vandals, and other unconquered barbarous nations, whom they were a great means of bringing over to the Christian faith; and all of them, without exception, professed the Arian doctrine, till it was overpowered by the influence and authority of the bishops of Rome. The Vandals were long the support of Arianism in Africa, but it never recovered its credit after their extirpation from that province by the arms of the emperor Justinian.
So far was the council of Nice from giving general satisfaction, that Hilary, presently afterwards, complains of the Arians as being in all the provinces of the Roman empire [De Trinitate, L. vi. p. 99.]; and, in the next reign, Arianism was very near becoming the universal doctrine of the Christian church, and of course would have been deemed orthodox.
The debates occasioned by this famous council made a great revolution both in the language and in the opinions of those who were deemed orthodox. It is the natural effect of controversy to push men as far as possible from that extreme which they wish to avoid, so as often to drive them into the opposite extreme. This was remarkably the case on this occasion; and no controversy ever interested so many persons, and those so deeply, as this did, and indeed continues to do to this day.
In order to keep quite clear of Arianism, which made Christ to be a mere creature, those who approved of the decrees of the council began to express themselves, as Mosheim acknowledges, in such a manner as that they appeared to "substitute three Gods in the place of one." [Vol. I. p. 296. Cent. iv. Pt. ii. Ch. iii. Sect. i.] And many of them seemed to imagine that they sufficiently maintained the unity of the Godhead, by asserting that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were each of them of the same divine nature, as three or more men have each of them the same human nature.
This was certainly giving up the unity of the divine nature; and yet, being obliged by the whole tenor of revelation to maintain the doctrine of only one God, in conjunction with this new doctrine of three separate Gods, such a manifest inconsistency was introduced, as nothing could cover but the pretense that this doctrine of the Trinity was inexplicable by human reason. And then the word mystery, which had before been applied to the doctrine of the Trinity, in common with other things which were simply deemed sacred, began to be used in a new sense, and to signify, not as before, a thing that was secret, and required to be explained, but something absolutely incapable of being explained, something that must be believed, though it could not be understood. But the whole doctrine, as it was afterwards generally professed, and as it now stands in every established Christian church, was not finally settled before the composition of what is called the Athanasian creed, and its reception into the offices of public worship.
When this creed was made, and by whom, is uncertain. It appeared about the end of the fifth century, and is by some ascribed to Vigilius Tapsensis. [Jortin's Remarks, IV. p. 313. "A. 481. Vigilius Tapsensis hath been supposed, by many, to have been the maker of the Athanasian Creed, about this time. Others are of a different opinion. But it matters little by whom, or where, or when it was composed." Jortin, Eccles. Hist. 1805, III. p. 131.] Though this creed contains a number of as direct contradictions as any person, the most skilled in logic, can draw up, it still keeps its ground, guarded from all human inspection, like the doctrine of transubstantiation, by this new but thin veil of mystery. But before I proceed to give a. more particular account of this farther change in the doctrine, I must note by what steps the Holy Spirit came to be reckoned a distinct person in this Trinity.
Of the Doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit.
There is very little in the Scriptures that could give any idea of the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit, besides the figurative language in which our Lord speaks of the advocate, or comforter, as we render it (παρακλητος), that was to succeed him with the apostles after his ascension. But our Lord's language is, upon many occasions, highly figurative; and it is the less extraordinary that the figure called personification should be made use of by him here, as the peculiar presence of the spirit of God, which was to be evidenced by the power of working miracles, was to succeed in the place of a real person, viz. himself, and to be to them what he himself had been, viz. their advocate, comforter and guide.
That the apostles did not understand our Lord as speaking of a real person, at least afterwards, when they reflected upon his meaning, and saw the fulfilment of his promise, is evident from their never adopting the same language, but speaking of the spirit as of a divine power only. The apostle Paul expressly speaks of the spirit of God as bearing the same relation to God that the spirit of a man bears to man, 1 Cor. ii. 11: "What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man, which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God."
Besides, the writers of the New Testament always speak of the Holy Spirit as the same spirit by which the ancient prophets were inspired, which was certainly never understood by them to be any other than the Divine Being himself, enabling them, by his supernatural communications, to foretell future events.
Also, the figurative language in which the Holy Spirit and his operations are sometimes described by them, is inconsistent with the idea of his being a separate person; as being baptized with the spirit, being filled with the spirit, quenching the spirit, &c., in all which the idea is evidently that of a power, and not that of a person.
For these reasons I think it possible, that we should never have heard of the opinion of the real distinct personality of the Holy Spirit, if it had not been for the form of baptism supposed, but without reason, to be given in the gospel of Matthew, where the apostles are directed to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. For though the meaning of these words, as explained by pretty early writers in the primitive church, is nothing more than "baptizing into that religion which was given by the Father, by means of the Son, and confirmed by miraculous power," and this particular form of words does not appear to have been used in the age of the apostles, who seem to have baptized in the name of Jesus only; yet since this form did come into universal use, after forms began to be thought of importance, and in it the Father and Son were known to be real persons, it was not unnatural to suppose that the Spirit, being mentioned along with them, was a real person also.
It was a long time, however, before this came to be a fixed opinion, and especially an article of faith, the christian writers before and after the council of Nice generally speaking of the Holy Spirit in a manner that may be interpreted either of a person or of a power. But it is evident, that when they seem to speak of the Holy Spirit as of a person, they suppose that person to be much inferior to God, and even to Christ. Some of them might possibly suppose that the Holy Spirit was an emanation from the Divine Essence, and similar to the Logos itself; but others of them speak of the Holy Spirit as a creature made by Christ, by whom they supposed all other creatures to have been made.
With respect to the apostolical fathers, their language on this subject is so much that of the Scriptures, that we are not able to collect from it any peculiar or precise ideas. It is probable, therefore, that they considered the Holy Spirit as a power, and not a person.
Justin Martyr, who was one of the first that supposed the Logos to be Christ, never says, in express words, that the Spirit is God, in any sense; and when he mentions worship as due to the Spirit, it is in the same sentence in which he speaks of it as due to angels. "Him," says he, meaning God, "and the Son that came from him, and the host of other good Angels, who accompany and resemble him, together with the prophetic Spirit, we adore and venerate; in word and truth honoring them." [Apol. I. 27.] In another place he says, "we place the Son in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third." [Ibid. p. 19.] Again, he places "the Logos in the second place, and the Spirit which moved on the water, in the third." [Ibid. pp. 87, 88.] It is not improbable but that this writer might consider the Holy Spirit as a person, but as much inferior to the Son, as he made the Son inferior to the Father.
Tertullian in one place evidently confounds the Holy Spirit with the Logos, and therefore it is plain that he had no idea of a proper third person in the Trinity. Speaking of the Spirit of God which over-shadowed the Virgin Mary, he said, "It is that Spirit which we call the word. For the Spirit is the substance of the word, and the word the operation of the spirit, and those two are one." [Ad Praxeam, C. xxvi. p. 515.] But in another place he says, "the Spirit is a third after God and the Son; as the fruit, proceeding from the branch, is the third from the root." [Ibid. C. viii. Opera, p. 504.]
Origen speaks of it as a doubt whether the Holy Spirit be not a creature of the Son, since all things are said to have been made by him. [In Joannem, Opera, II. p. 276.]
Novatian says, "that Christ is greater than the Paraclete; for the Paraclete would not receive from Christ, unless he was less than Christ." [C. xxiv.]
The author of the Recognitions, a spurious but an ancient work, and never charged with heresy, says, " that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is neither God, nor the Son, but was made by him that was made, or begotten, (factus per factum) viz. by the Son, the Father only being not begotten nor made." [L. iii. C. viii.]
One reason why those fathers who had modified their theological tenets by the principles of the heathen philosophy did not readily fall into the notion of the personality, or at least the divinity, of the Holy Spirit, might be that there was nothing like it in the philosophy of Plato, which had assisted them so much in the deification of Christ. A third principle was indeed sometimes mentioned by the Platonists, but this was either the soul of the world, or the material creation itself; for there are different representations of the Platonic doctrine on this subject.
At length, however, the constant usage of the form of baptism mentioned by Matthew, together with the literal interpretation of our Saviour's description of the Holy Spirit, probably, gave most of the primitive Christians an idea of its being a person; and the rest of the language of Scripture would naturally enough lead them to conclude that he must be a divine person. But it was a long time before these things coalesced into a regular system.
The fathers of the council of Nice said nothing about the divinity, or the personality of the Holy Spirit; nor was it customary in the time of Basil to call the Holy Spirit God. Hilary interprets baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, by the equivalent expressions of the author, the only begotten, and the gift. [De Trinitate, L. ii. Opera, p. 22.]
That little is said concerning the separate divinity of the Spirit of God in the Scripture is evident to every body; but the reason that Epiphanius gives for it will not be easily imagined. In order to account for the apostles saying so little concerning the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and omitting the mention of him after that of the Father and the Son; (as when Paul says, "there is one God and Father of all, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things,") he says, that "the apostles writing by the inspiration of the Spirit, he did not choose to introduce much commendation of himself, lest it should give us an example of commending ourselves." [Haer. 57, Opera, I. p. 485.]
What is most particularly remarkable is, that the fathers of the council of Sardica, held in 347, a council called by the authority of the emperors Constance and Constantius, a hundred and sixty bishops being present, of whom Athanasius himself was one, and two hundred more approving of the decrees after they had been sent to them, (a council in which it was decreed that the Father, Son and Spirit, was one hypostasis, which they say the heretics call ουσια, and that the Father never was without the Son, nor the Son without the Father,) did not distinguish between the Holy Spirit and the Logos, any more than Tertullian did in the passage quoted above. They say, "We believe in the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord himself promised and sent. He did not suffer, but the man which he put on, and which Christ took from the Virgin Mary, which could suffer: for man is liable to death, but God is immortal." [Theodorit. L. ii. C. viii. p. 82.]
Basil says that "the Spirit is superior to a created being, but the title unbegotten (αγεννητος) is what no man can be so absurd as to presume to give to any other than to the supreme God." Then speaking of his not being begotten, like the Son, but proceeding from the Father, he says, "neither let any man think that our refusing to call the Spirit a creature is denying his personality," ('υποστασις). [Adv. Eunomium, L. iii. Opera, I. p. 758.]
The subject might have longer remained in this unsettled state, if Macedonius, an eminent Semi-Arian, who had been expelled from the church of Constantinople, had not expressly denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit; maintaining, as some say, that it was only the Spirit or power of God; or, according to others, that he was a creature like the angels, but superior to them. This opinion being much talked of, had many abettors, especially in Egypt. But Athanasius, who was then concealed in the deserts of that country, hearing of it, wrote against it, and he is said to have been the first who applied the word consubstantial to the Spirit, it having before been applied to the Son only.
It was some time, however, before any public notice was taken of this opinion of Macedonius; and in a council held at Lampsacum, in 365, a council demanded by the Catholic bishops, though the greater number of those who actually met were Arians, the opinion of Macedonius, as Socrates the historian observes, appeared to have gained more ground than ever, and would probably have been the received opinion, had it not been for the interference of an orthodox emperor in the business.
At length, in what is called the second general council, which was held at Constantinople in 381, under Theodosius the Great, the opinion of Macedonius was condemned, though thirty-six of the bishops present were in favor of it. In the creed drawn up by this council, it is said, "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeded from the Father, and who ought to be adored and glorified with the Father and the Son, and who spake by the prophets." This clause is now generally annexed to the Nicene creed, though no such thing had been determined at the time of that council.
Thus, at length, the great outline of the present doctrine of the Trinity was completed, though many points of less consequence still remained to be adjusted, as we shall see in the prosecution of this subject; and the doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Spirit with the Father and the Son, though implied, is not directly expressed in the decrees of this council.
As the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was very unpopular at first, so that of the divinity of the Holy Spirit appears to have been so too, as we may clearly infer from the writings of Basil. He speaks [Hom. xxvii. Contra Sabellianos, I. p. 525.] of all people being interested in the debate on the subject, and even of his own disciples, as presuming to act the part of judges in the case; asking questions not to learn, but to puzzle and confound their teachers. The argument by which he represents himself and his orthodox brethren as most frequently urged was the following:— Every thing must necessarily be either unbegotten, begotten or created. If the Holy Spirit be unbegotten, he must be the same with the Father, and if he be begotten, he must be the Son: if therefore, he be a person distinct from both, he must be a creature. For the good father's answer to this objection, I must refer my reader to his twenty-seventh homily which is against the Sabellians.
I shall close this article with a short account of the word Trinity, and of the advantage which this doctrine gave the Heathens. The first appearance of the word Trinity is in the writings of Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, but it is not clear that by it he meant a Trinity consisting of the same persons that it was afterwards made to consist of, and certainly not a Trinity of persons in the Godhead. He says [Ad Autolycum, L. ii. p. 106.], that the three days which preceded the creation of the heavenly bodies on the fourth day, in the first chapter of Genesis, represent the sacred mystery of the Trinity, viz. "God, the word and wisdom." He adds, "the fourth day is the type of man, who needs light, that there may be God, the word, wisdom, man." This passage is certainly obscure enough, and it could hardly have been imagined from it that by wisdom he meant the Holy Spirit, the third person in the modern Trinity, had not the same term been used by other writers, and especially by Tatian, who was contemporary with Theophilus. For he also makes a Trinity, of God, his word, and his wisdom. About the same time Irengeus mentions the same three members, though he has not the word Trinity. "There is always," says he, "with God, his word and wisdom, his Son and Spirit, by whom and in whom he made every thing freely." [Ad Autolycum, L. iv. C. xxxvii. p. 330.] After this we find the word Trinity in common use, but long before it was imagined that the three persons which constituted it, were consubstantial, coeternal, and equal in power and glory.
Both the term and the doctrine of the Trinity occur in a piece entitled Expositio Fidei, ascribed to Justin Martyr; but this is evidently spurious, and of a date much later than the time of Justin. It is remarkable too, that Clemens Alexandrinus, who was in the very center of the Platonism of those days, and who did not write till after Theophilus, never uses the term but once, and then it is to denote the bond of christian graces, faith, hope and charity. [Strom. L. iv. p. 495.]
We cannot wonder that this introduction of new objects of worship by Christians, should not pass unnoticed by the Heathens; and as it was chiefly a wish to recommend their religion to others, that gave them their original bias towards exalting the person of Christ, they were very properly punished by the advantage which the Heathens took of this very circumstance.
The incarnation of the eternal word, appears to have been a subject of ridicule to Celsus, who compares it to the fable of the transformations of Jupiter, in the history of Danae, &c. He also justifies the Polytheism of the Heathens by the example of the Christians in this respect. "If Christians," says he, "worshipped only one God, they might have some pretense for despising all others; whereas they render these immense honors to a mere upstart." [Contra Celsum, L. viii. p. 385.] To this, Origen answers, by alleging the text, "I and my Father are one," explaining it by all the disciples being of one heart and one mind. But so might the heathen gods have been one.
The emperor Julian did not overlook this obvious topic of reproach to Christians. He particularly upbraided them with calling Mary the mother of God, and charges them with contradicting Moses, who taught that there is but one God.
The History of the Doctrine of the Trinity from the Councils of Nice and Constantinople, till after the Eutychian Controversy.
Before I relate what was peculiar to those who obtained the name of orthodox in this controversy, I shall just mention the divisions of the Arians, which contributed much to the prejudice of their cause, as they often proceeded to great violence against each other.
The original and proper Arians held simply, that the Son was created out of nothing, some time before the creation of the world, which they said was made by him. But presently after, there arose among them a sect that were called Semi-Arians, the chief of whom were George, of Laodicea, and Basilius, of Ancyra, who held that, though Christ was a creature, yet he was, by special privilege, made of the same nature with the Father, whereas the proper Arians maintained that he was wholly of a different nature.
In 391 we find mention of another division among the Arians, viz. whether the Father could be properly so called from all eternity, before he had a Son. On this frivolous question, of mere words, the Arians are said to have divided with great bitterness, so as to have formed separate assemblies. But it must be considered that the history of these divisions is only given by their enemies. Before I give any account of more modern Arianism, I shall proceed with the state of Trinitarianism after the council of Nice.
No sooner was the general outline of the doctrine of three persons in one God settled, but the orthodox began to divide upon questions of great nicety; and human passions and interests always mixing with these debates, the different parties anathematized each other with great violence.
The first dispute was about the use of the word hypostasis, which we now render person, but which had generally been considered as very nearly synonymous with essence, (ουσια). In general, the Greeks understood it in a different sense; and having in view the Sabellians, who were said to assert the identity of the Father, Son and Spirit, said that there were three hypostases in the divine nature. On the other hand, the Latins, willing to oppose the Arians, who made the Son to be of a different nature from the Father, usually said that there was but one hypostasis in the Trinity; and we have seen that the fathers of the council of Sardica had decided in the same manner.
This dispute terminated more happily than almost any other in the whole compass of church history. For a council being held on the subject, at Alexandria, in 372, the fathers found that they had been disputing about words, and therefore they exhorted Christians not to quarrel upon the subject. Ever after, however, the phraseology of the Greeks prevailed, and the orthodox always say that there are three hypostases, or persons, in the unity of the divine essence. [See Suicer's Thesaurus, under the word hypostasis.]
By this happy device, and that of declaring the doctrine to be incomprehensible, the Trinitarians imagine that they sufficiently screen themselves from the charge of Polytheism and Idolatry. Whereas, if they did but pretend to affix any ideas to their words, they must see that the device can avail them nothing. If by person, or any other term which they apply to each of the three members of the Trinity, they mean an intelligent principle, having a real consciousness, they must, to all intents and purposes, admit three Gods. This was thought to be unavoidable by the council of Sardica, which therefore asserted one hypostasis, in agreement with the original idea of the Son being an emanation from the Father, but not separated from his essence. Whereas, now, the original idea, on which the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was formed, is entirely abandoned, and in reality another doctrine is received; a doctrine which all the Ante-Nicene fathers, who had no idea of any distinction between hypostasis and essence, would have reprobated, as downright Polytheism. The Arians, in a council held at Constantinople in 360, rejected the use of the word hypostasis, as applied to the Divine Being.
There seems to have been no reason why Christ should have been supposed to have had any more than one intelligent principle, and yet we have seen that some of the Ante-Nicene fathers thought there was in Christ a proper human soul, besides the logos, which constituted his divinity. But perhaps they might have been reconciled to this opinion by the popular notion of demons possessing men, who yet had souls of their own. Or by anima, which is the word that Tertullian uses, they might mean the sensitive principle in man, as distinct from the animus, or rational principle, a distinction which we find made by Cicero and others.
However, after the council of Nice, and about the year 370, Apollinaris the younger, bishop of Laodicea, who had distinguished himself by taking an active part against the Arians, being attached to the principles of the Platonic philosophy, (according to which there are three principles in man, viz. his body, together with the rational and sensitive soul, but not more than these three,) thought that the body, the sensitive principle, and the logos, were sufficient to constitute Christ, and therefore he asserted that Christ had no proper human soul. In consequence of this, he was charged with maintaining that the Deity suffered on the cross, but whether he himself avowed this opinion, does not appear. This doctrine, which was so far analogous to that of the Arians, that it supposed only one intelligent principle in Christ, was well received by great numbers of Christians in all the eastern provinces of the Roman empire; but it was condemned in a synod at Rome, and being likewise borne down by imperial authority, at length it became extinct.
Whiston, who was certainly well read in Christian antiquity, asserts, that Athanasius seems never to have heard of the opinion of Christ having any other soul than his divinity, and that the idea of a human and rational soul in Christ was one of the last branches of this heresy. [Collection of Records, p. 74.] This writer also asserts, that there does not appear in Athanasius's Treatise on the Incarnation, the least sign of the hypostatical union, or communication of properties, which he says the orthodox have been since forced to devise in support of their notions. [Ibid. p. 75.]
This business, however, was finally settled on the occasion of what is called the heresy of Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, which, though small in its origin, has had great consequences, the effects of it remaining to this day.
This being an age in which great compliments were paid to the Virgin Mary, among other appellations, it became customary to call her the mother of God, and this was a favorite term with the followers of Apollinaris. This phraseology Nestorius, who had distinguished himself by his opposition to the Apollinarians, declared to be improper, and said it was sufficient to call her the mother of Christ. To justify this, he was led to assert that there are two distinct natures in Christ, the divine and the human, and that Mary was the mother of the latter only.
This doctrine had many followers, and even the monks of Egypt were induced, in consequence of it, to discontinue their custom of calling Mary the mother of God. Cyril, then bishop of Alexandria, a man of a haughty and imperious temper, was highly offended at this; and having engaged in his interest Celestine, bishop of Rome, he assembled a council at Alexandria, in 430, and in this council the opinion of Nestorius was condemned, and a severe anathema was pronounced against him.
Nestorius, not being moved by this, excommunicated Cyril in his turn. But at length Theodosius the younger called a general council at Ephesus, in 431, in which Cyril, though a party concerned, presided; and without hearing Nestorius, and during the absence of many bishops who had a right to sit in that council, he was condemned, and sent into banishment, where he ended his days.
In this factious manner was the great doctrine of the hypostatical union of the two natures in Christ (which has ever since been the doctrine of what is called the catholic church) established. The opinion of Nestorius, however, was zealously maintained by Barsumas, bishop of Nisibis; and from this place it was spread over the East, where it continues to be the prevailing doctrine to this day. The opinion of Nestorius was also received in the famous school of Edessa, which contributed greatly to the same event.
This controversy was, in fact, of considerable consequence, there being some analogy between the doctrine of Nestorius and that of the ancient Unitarians, or modern Socinians; as they both maintained that Christ was a mere man. But, whereas the Socinians say that the divinity of the Father resided in Christ, the Nestorians say that it was the Logos, or the second person of the Trinity, that resided in him.
But "the union between the Son of God and the son of man" they said, "was not an union of nature, or of person, but only of will and affection; that Christ was therefore to be carefully distinguished from God, who dwelt in him, as in his temple." In this manner did the Nestorians, who had had several disputes among themselves, settle the matter, "in several councils, held at Seleucia." [Mosheim, I p. 412. Cent. v. Pt. ii. Sect. xii.]
The opposition that was made to the heresy of Nestorius produced another, formed by Eutyches, abbot of a convent of monks at Constantinople, who had had a great hand in the condemnation of Nestorius. Eutyches was so far from being of the opinion of Nestorius, that he asserted that there was but one nature in Christ, and that was the divine, or the incarnate word. Hence he was thought to deny the human nature of Christ; but he was generally supposed to mean that the human nature was absorbed in the divine, as a drop of honey would be absorbed, and no more distinguished, if it should fall into the sea. There were other explanations and distinctions occasioned by this doctrine, which I think it not worth while to recite.
It may be proper, however, to observe, that the minds of many persons, especially in Egypt, were prepared for this opinion by another which had obtained there, and which I have observed to have been maintained by Hilary, viz. that the body of Christ was incorruptible, and not subject to any natural infirmity. Theodosius the Great fell into this opinion in his old age. According to this doctrine, the human nature of Christ, being of so exalted a kind, might easily be supposed to have become so in consequence of its being absorbed, as it were, in the divine, so as to partake of its properties. It was, therefore, no wonder that they should express themselves as if they considered Christ to have, in fact, but one nature. [Sueur, A. D. 563.]
Eutyches was condemned by a council held at Constantinople, probably in 448, and in consequence of it was excommunicated and deposed. But he was acquitted by another council held at Ephesus, in 449. However, in a general council, called the fourth, held at Chalcedon, in 451, he was condemned finally, and from that time it has been the doctrine of what is called the catholic church, that, "in Christ there are two distinct natures, united in one person, but without any change, mixture, or confusion."
The doctrine of Eutyches continued to be professed by many, notwithstanding the decrees of the council. It was almost universally received in the patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria, and it is found in the East to this day. In 535 the Eutychians divided, some of them maintaining that there were some things which Christ did not know, while others asserted that he knew every thing, even the time of the day of judgment. [See Vol. II. p. 397. Note.]
By the decision of the council of Chalcedon, the modern doctrine of the Trinity was nearly completed, the union of the two natures in Christ corresponding to that of the three persons in the Deity; and it was thought to answer many objections to the divinity of Christ from the language of the Scriptures, in a better manner than the Ante-Nicene fathers had been able to do. These frankly acknowledged a real superiority in the Father with respect to the whole nature of Christ; but the later Trinitarians, by means of this convenient distinction of two natures in one person, could suppose Christ to be fully equal to the Father as God, at the same time that he was inferior to him as man; to know the day of judgment as God, no less than the Father himself, though, at the same time, he was entirely ignorant of it considered as man.
It might seem, however, to be some objection to this scheme, that, according to it, the evangelists must have intended to speak of one part of Christ only, and to affirm concerning that, what was by no means true of his whole person, at the same time that their language cannot be interpreted but so as to include his whole person. For, certainly, it is not natural to suppose that by the word Christ they meant any thing less than his whole person: much less can we suppose that our Saviour, speaking concerning himself, could mean only a part of himself. By means of this distinction, modern Trinitarians are able to say that the human nature of Christ only suffered; and yet its union with the divine nature (though it was so imperfect an union as to communicate no sensation to it) was sufficient to give it the same merit and efficacy as if it had been divine. To such wretched expedients, which do not deserve a serious consideration, are the advocates for this Christian polytheism reduced.
Thus, to bring the whole into a short compass, the first general council gave the Son the same nature with the Father, the second admitted the Holy Spirit into the Trinity, the third assigned to Christ a human soul in conjunction with the eternal Logos, the fourth settled the hypostatical union of the divine and human nature of Christ, and the fifth affirmed, that, in consequence of this union, the two natures constituted only one person. It requires a pretty good memory to retain these distinctions, it being a business of words only, and ideas not concerned in it.
Before I proceed any farther, it may not be amiss to give a brief account of some other particulars relating to the Eutychian doctrine, though they were hardly heard of in this part of the world; and the opinions that were then entertained in the East are not worth reciting, except to show into what absurdities men may fall, when they get out of the road of plain truth and common sense.
The decisions of the council of Chalcedon were condemned by those who called themselves Monophysites, a sect which sprung from the Eutychians. They maintained that the divinity and humanity of Christ were so united, as to constitute only one nature, yet, without any change, confusion, or mixture of the two natures; saying, that in Christ there is one nature, but that nature is twofold and compounded.
In the sixth century, the Monophysites acquired new vigor by the labors of a monk, whose name was Jacob, surnamed Baradeus, or Zanzales, and who died bishop of Edessa. From him the sect of Monophysites now go by the name of Jacobites in the East. Monophysites were afterwards divided into a variety of other sects; and the Armenians, who are of that denomination, are governed by a bishop of their own, and are distinguished by various rites and opinions from the other Monophysites.
It was long debated among the Monophysites whether the body of Christ was created or uncreated, and whether it was corruptible or not; and some of them maintained that though it was corruptible, it was never actually corrupted, but was preserved from corruption by the energy of the divine nature. The Monophysites had also many controversies concerning the sufferings of Christ; and among them Xenias of Hierapolis maintained that Christ suffered pain not in his nature, but by a submissive act of his will. Some of them also affirmed, that all things were known to the divine nature of Christ, but not to his human nature.
"From the controversies with the Monophysites, arose the sect of the Tritheists, whose chief was John Ascusnage, a Syrian philosopher," who, "imagined in the Deity three natures or substances, joined together by no common essence." The great defender of this opinion was "John Philoponus, an Alexandrian philosopher." A third sect was "that of the Damianists, who were so called from Damian, bishop of Alexandria.— They distinguished the divine essence from the three persons" and "denied that each person was God, when considered in itself, and abstractedly from the other two. But they affirmed, — that there was a common divinity, by the joint participation of which each person was God." [Mosheim, I. p. 473. Cent. vi. Pt. ii. Ch. v. Sect. x.]
Had these subtle distinctions occurred while the Roman empire was united under one head, councils would probably have been called to decide concerning them, solemn decrees, with the usual tremendous anathemas annexed to them, would have been made, and the Athanasian creed would not then, perhaps, have been the most perplexed and absurd thing imposed upon the consciences of Christians.
The State of the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Latin Church.
From the time of the complete separation of the eastern and western empires, the Greek and Latin churches had but little connection, and their writings being in different languages, were very little known to each other; few of the Latins being able to read Greek, or the Greeks Latin. Though, therefore, the members of both churches were much addicted to theological discussions, they took a quite different turn, and except upon very particular occasions, did not interfere with each other.
With respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, there was this difference between the eastern and western churches, that as the eastern empire was under one head, and the emperor resided at Constantinople, which was the center of all the Grecian literature, he frequently interfered with the disputes of the ecclesiastics; in consequence of which councils were called, decrees were made, and the orthodox articles of faith immediately enforced by imperial authority. Whereas the western empire being broken into many parts, and the studious theologians dispersed in different convents all over Europe, their speculations were more free; and though the authority of the Pope preserved a kind of union among them, yet the popes of the middle ages being sovereign princes, seldom interfered with religious tenets, unless they had some apparent influence with respect to their spiritual or temporal power. This was perhaps the reason why no new councils were called, and no new decrees were made respecting the doctrine of the Trinity.
Since, however, what had been determined by the first general councils was received in the West, as well as in the East, the liberty of speculating on this subject was very much confined; so that instead of inventing doctrines materially new, divines rather confined themselves to devising new modifications, and new modes of explaining the old ones. In this field the human faculties have perhaps appeared to as great advantage as in any other, within the whole compass of speculation. We are only apt to regret that such wonderful abilities, and so much time, should have been employed on no better objects. But when, in some future period, all the labors of the mind of man shall be compared, it will, I doubt not, appear, that the studies of the schoolmen, to whom I am now alluding, were not without their use.
Frivolous, however, as I think the objects of their inquiries were, I do not think that the world could ever boast of greater men, with respect to acuteness of speculation, than Peter Lombard and Thomas Aquinas, especially the latter. When I only look over the contents of his Summa, and see the manner in which a few articles are executed, (for no Protestant, I imagine, will ever think it worth his while to read many sections in that work,) and consider the time in which he lived, how much he wrote besides, and the age at which he died, viz. forty-seven, I am filled with astonishment. He seems to have exhausted every subject that his own wonderful ingenuity could start, and among the rest the doctrine of the Trinity has by no means been overlooked by him.
But the first who seems to have led the way, though in a remote preceding period, to the refinements of the schoolmen in later ages, and whose authority established the principal articles of orthodoxy, so that his opinions were generally received as the standard of faith, was Austin, who flourished after the great outline of the doctrine of the Trinity was drawn in the general councils of Nice and Constantinople.
In this writer we find the doctrine of the Trinity treated in a manner considerably different from that of preceding writers. For, in his time the doctrine established by the general councils had affected the language commonly used in treating the subject; so that words had begun to be used in senses unknown to the ancients. Thus, before the council of Nice, whenever the word God occurred in the Scriptures, and the Supreme God was meant by it, it had always been understood as referring to the Father only; and in this manner all the ancient fathers explained every passage in which the word God, as distinguished from Christ, occurred; and they had recourse to such expedients as have been mentioned in the early period of this history, to account for the divinity of Christ, without supposing that he had any title to be comprehended under that general expression.
But in the writings of Austin we often find the words God and Trinity to be synonymous. For he maintained that all the three persons are to be understood, though they are not expressly mentioned, and he allowed no real prerogative whatever to the Father; an idea which would have staggered all the Nicene fathers. So far was he from supposing that the Father was truly greater than the Son, that he says, "two or three of the persons are not greater than any one of them." This, says he, "the carnal mind does not comprehend, because it can perceive nothing to be true, but with respect to things that are created, and cannot perceive the truth itself, by which they are created." [De Trinitate, L. viii. C. i. Augustini Opera, 1569, III. p. 346.] He condemns those who had said that the Father alone is immortal and invisible [Ibid. L. ii. C. viii. p. 267.], and he blames Hilary for ascribing eternity to the Father only. [Ibid. L. vi. C. x. p. 332.] He so far, however, adheres to the language of his predecessors, as to say that the Father alone is God of God (ex Deo). [Ibid. L. xv. C. xvii. p. 463.] But by this he could not mean what the Nicene fathers meant by it.
Austin is also bolder, and more copious, in his illustrations of the doctrine of the Trinity, by comparisons with other things; though the doctrine being farther removed from human comprehension, it was then become much less capable of being explained in that way. Among other things, he finds a resemblance of the Trinity in the memory, understanding and will of man. [Ibid. L. x. C. xi. p. 376.] But then none of these powers, separately taken, constitute a man; and his other comparisons are, by his own confession, still more lame and inadequate than this.
As my readers will probably wish to see in what manner some of those texts of Scripture, which are usually alleged in support of the doctrine of the Trinity, were understood by this writer, I shall recite his interpretation of a few on which they have seen the comments of the earlier fathers, that they may see how the doctrine itself had changed in his time. He explains John xiv. 28, My Father is greater than I, by saying, that "Christ having emptied himself of his former glory, and being in the form of a servant, was then less, not only than his Father, but even than himself, even at the very time in which he was speaking; for he did not so take the form of a servant, as to lose the form of God." [De Trinitate, L. i. C. vii. pp. 246, 260.] He explains Christ giving up the kingdom to God, even the Father, by saying that the whole Trinity is intended in that expression, himself and the Holy Spirit not excluded. [Ibid. L. i. C. x. p. 250.] His manner of explaining Mark xiii. 32, in which it is said that the Son knows not the time of the day of judgment, is still more extraordinary. For he says, that by not knowing, is to be understood his not making others to know. [Ibid. C. xii. p. 253.] He seems to understand Philip. ii. 6, of a perfect equality with God. And, lastly, he says, that by the Father and Son being one, we are to understand the consubstantial unity of the Son with the Father. Most of these interpretations were then quite new; but now these, or such as these, are in the mouths of all Trinitarians.
After Austin we find a long period of great darkness in the western church, and in this period his credit was firmly established ; so that we find him quoted as an authority, almost equal to that of the councils, and even the Scriptures themselves. But the age of great refinement in speculation began about the time of Berenger and Anselm, two of the greatest scholars of their time; and had not the former of them been unfortunately heterodox in the doctrine of the eucharist, he would have been the most celebrated for his learning and abilities of all his contemporaries.
Anselm, though he writes with wonderful acuteness, is not systematical. He does not professedly treat of the Trinity, and indeed we find little in him that is particularly remarkable on this subject, besides an obscure intimation that the doctrine might have been known by natural reason. [Ad Romanos, C. i. Anselmi Opera, 1612, II. p. 11.] In proving the eternity of Christ, he says, "Christ is the wisdom of God, and the power of God; if, therefore, God had ever been without Christ, he must have been without wisdom and without power." [Ad Cor. C. i. II. p. 102.] And he says, that "Christ by his own power rose from the dead." [Ad Rom. C. x. II. p. 67.] Lastly, in answer to the question why we may not as well say that there are two persons in Christ, as two natures, he says, " as in God, the Father, Son, and Spirit, are three persons, and but one God; so in Christ, the Godhead is one person, and the manhood another person; and yet these are not two persons, but one person." [De Incarnatione, C. v. III. p. 39.] My reader, I hope, will not be disappointed in finding no great light on this subject from this learned archbishop; nor must he form much higher expectations either from Peter Lombard or Thomas Aquinas.
Peter Lombard has many new distinctions on the subject of the Trinity; and, as an article of some curiosity, I shall recite a few things from him, as well as from Thomas Aquinas, who wrote in the century following, and who is abundantly more copious, as well as more systematical.
Peter Lombard illustrates Austin's comparison of the three persons in the Trinity, by the memory, understanding and will of man, observing, that they all comprehend one another. "Thus we can say, I remember that I remember, that I understand, and that I wil ; I can also say I understand that I understand, that I remember, and that I will; and, lastly, I can say I will that I will, understand, and remember." [Petri Lombardi Sententiae, L. i. Dist. iii. p. 21.] He decides the question whether the Father begat the Son willingly or unwillingly, by saying, that he begat him by nature, and not by will (natura non voluntate [Ibid. L. i. Dist. vi. p. 42.]), so that he retained the idea, without adopting the offensive expression nolens. It is something extraordinary that he owns that he cannot distinguish between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit. [Ibid. Dist. xiii. p. 73.]
After asserting, after Austin, that no one person in the Trinity is less than the other two, or than all the three, he says, "he that can receive this, let him receive it; he that cannot, let him, however, believe it; and let him pray that what he believes he may understand." [Petri Lombardi Sententiae. L. i. Dist. xix. p. 115.] In this, which is certainly not a little curious, this subtle writer seems to have been followed by some moderns; and the last article I shall quote from him is not less curious, though I believe none of the moderns will choose to adopt his language; which, however, is very honest. After asking why, as we say that the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God, we may not say there are three Gods; "Is it," says he, "because the Scripture does not say so? But neither does the Scripture say that there are three persons in the Trinity. But this does not contradict the Scripture, which says nothing about it; whereas it would be a contradiction to the Scripture to say there are three Gods, because Moses says, Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord." [Ibid. Dist. xxiii. p. 136.] As to a contradiction with respect to reason and common sense, this writer seems to have made no difficulty of it, not having thought it worth his while to take it into consideration.
I must mention another peculiarity of Peter Lombard, because it was the occasion of some controversy. He, like the Damianists in the East, made some distinction "between the divine essence, and the three persons in the Godhead." But on this he was attacked in a large work by Joachim, abbot of Flora, who "denied that there was any thing, or any essence, that belonged in common to the three persons,— by which doctrine the substantial union between the three persons was taken away," and nothing but a numerical or moral union was left. This explication was, therefore, condemned by Innocent the Third, in 1215. [Mosheim, III. p. 134. The "sentence, however," adds Mosheim, "did not extend to the person or fame of the abbot himself. Joachim has at this day a considerable number of adherents and defenders, more especially among those of the Franciscans, who are called Observants." Eccl. Hist. Cent. xiii. Pt. ii. Ch. v. Sect. xv.]
Though Thomas Aquinas writes very largely on the subject of the Trinity, he has not much that is peculiar to himself. He defines a person to "be an individual substance of a rational nature," [Thomas Aquinatis Summa, 1631, Pt. i. Qu. xxix. Art. i. p. 70.] and pretends to demonstrate, a priori, that there must be more persons than one in the divine essence [Ibid. Qu. xxx. p. 72.], but not more than three. [Ibid. Qu. xxxiii. p. 80.] And, lastly, after asserting that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father, he says, that the Father and Son are but one origin (unum principium) of the Holy Spirit. [Ibid. Qu. xxxvi. p. 85.]
The History of the Doctrine of the Trinity after the Eutychian Controversy.
The doctrine of the Trinity, as it was ever held in the western part of the world, had now received its last improvements; and indeed continued with little alteration from the time of Austin. A few more subtleties, however, were started upon the subject, especially in the East, which require to be noticed.
In 519, some monks of Scythia, at the head of whom was P. Fullo, having a dispute with one Victor, a deacon in Constantinople, whom they accused of being a Nestorian, insisted upon his saying that one of the persons in the Trinity was crucified for us, an expression which no Nestorian would use. They both appealed to the Pope's legates, who were then at Constantinople. But though these thought the words capable of a good sense, yet, since they might be suspected of the Eutychian heresy, they thought it was better not to use them. The monks, not satisfied with this decision, appealed to Pope Hormisdas, who condemned the expression, but his successor John approved of it. Then, finding that the expression was not generally relished, they proposed to change it, and to say that the Logos, or the Word, had suffered for us; but this was also thought to savor too much of Eutychianism. [Sueur, A.D. 519.] Happily this controversy ended without any serious consequences.
It has been observed, that all the ancient, orthodox fathers supposed that there was a time when the Son of God was not, and that the Logos became a person immediately before the creation, having been originally nothing but an attribute of the divine nature. This opinion, it seems, was not quite extinct in the year 529. For we then find a decree of a synod of Vaison in France, condemning it, and the preamble shows that the opinion was pretty general: "Because," say they, "not only in the apostolical see, but also in the East, and in all Africa and Italy, heretics blasphemed, saying that the Son of God was not always with the Father, but had a beginning in time, they ordered it to be chanted in the common service, Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning." A form which has continued to be in use ever since. [Ibid. A.D. 529]
The next controversy of which I shall give an account, shows, at the same time, the subtlety of the mind of man in devising distinctions, and the impotence of power to restrain or guide it. In the seventh century, the emperor Heraclius, considering the detriment which his empire received from the migration of the persecuted Nestorians, and their settlement in Persia, was very desirous of uniting the Monophysites, and thought to prevent the diversity of opinions among them by inducing them to accede to the following proposition (suggested to him, it is said, by Anastasius, the chief of the Jacobites, and who pretended to renounce Eutychianism, in order to be made bishop of Antioch), "There was in Jesus Christ, after the union of the two natures, but one will and one operation." Accordingly he published an edict in favor of this doctrine, which was called that of the Monothelites, in 630.
It was afterwards confirmed in a council, and for some time seemed to have the intended effect. But soon after it was the occasion of new and violent animosities, in consequence of the opposition made to it by Sophronius, a monk of Palestine. He, being raised to the see of Jerusalem, was the occasion of a council being held at Constantinople in 680, which was called the sixth general council, in which the doctrine of the Monothelites was condemned. Notwithstanding this condemnation, this doctrine was embraced by the Mardiates, a people who inhabited Mount Libanus, and were afterwards called Maronites, from Maro, their first bishop; but in the twelfth century they joined the church of Rome. [Sueur, A. D, 629 and 680. Mosheim, p. 37. Eccl. Hist. Cent. vii. Pt. ii. Ch. v. Sect. xi.]
In the condemnation of this doctrine, it
is remarkable that it was not stated, nor any thing opposite to it
asserted; the writings only which contained it being condemned, as containing propositions "impious and hurtful to the soul;" and
they were therefore ordered to be exterminated and burned. It is,
indeed, no wonder that those who are called orthodox with respect to
the doctrine of the Trinity, should be embarrassed with two
intelligent principles in one person, in what manner soever they may
imagine them to be united. If there be but one intelligent principle,
or nature, there can be but one will, but if there be two intelligent
principles, it is natural to expect two wills. But then what certainty
can there be that these two wills will always coincide, and what
inconvenience would there not arise from their difference?
The Christian fathers who first imagined that Christ was the Logos of the Father, had no dispute about the sense in which he was the Son of God. That he was so by adoption, and not in his own nature, as immediately derived from God, had been peculiar to those who held his proper humanity. But in the eighth century, Felix, bishop of Urgella, in Spain, would have introduced a distinction in this case, in fact uniting the two opinions. For he held "that Christ, considered in his divine nature, was truly and essentially the Son of God, but that considered as a man, he was only so, nominally and by adoption." But this opinion was condemned by several councils, and especially in one held by Charlemagne, at Ratisbon, in 792. [Mosheim, II. p. 100. Eccl. Hist. Cent. viii. Pt. ii. Ch. v. Sect. iii.]
But the most ridiculous of all opinions that was, perhaps, every seriously maintained, and which yet proceeded from an unfeigned respect to Christ, (and which I mention only to relieve my readers from their attention to things that were either of a more serious nature, or that had more serious consequences,) was one that was started in the ninth century, about the manner in which Christ was born of the Virgin. For, Paschasius Radbert, the same who was so much concerned in establishing the doctrine of transubstantiation, composed in this century "an elaborate treatise, to prove that Christ was born without his mother's womb being opened, in the same manner as he came into the chamber where his disciples were assembled, after his resurrection, though the door was shut." [Ibid. p. 162. Cent. ix. Pt. ii. Ch. iii. Sect. xxvi.]
A controversy much more serious in its consequences, as it ended in the final separation of the Greek and Latin churches, was started in the same century, about the procession of the Holy Spirit. In the Nicene creed, with the addition which was afterwards made to it, it is said, I believe in the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father; and by this it was probably meant that the Holy Spirit, as a distinct person, bore a similar relation to the Father, as the source of divinity, to that which the Son, or the Logos bore to him. But the Scriptures expressly asserting that the Spirit was sent by the Son, or proceeded from the Son, it probably came by degrees to be imagined, that his nature was derived from that of the Son, as well as from that of the Father; but we hear no consequence of this, till the year 447, when the words Filioque, were added to the creed, by the order of a synod in Spain, whence it passed into Gaul. In this state things continued till the eighth century, when the question was a good deal agitated, as appears by a council of Gentilli held in 766; and in 809 Charlemagne ordered a council to be held at Aix-la-Chapelle, in which the question concerning the Holy Spirit was discussed.
In consequence of this, the Latins, in general at least, held that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, and in the churches of France and Spain, the creed was usually read in this manner: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, which from all eternity proceeded from the Father and the Son." This, however, was not the practice at Rome, and Leo the Third, at least for some time, ordered the creed to be read as formerly. At length the Greeks took offense at this addition, and Photius, bishop of Constantinople, wrote against it, as an innovation; and after much debating on the subject, in the year 1054, the two churches finally separated, and excommunicated one another on account of this difference.
When an attempt was made to reunite the two churches, at the council of Ferrara, in 1439, this procession of the Holy Spirit was thus explained, viz. "The Holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and he proceeds from them both eternally, as from a single principle, and by one single procession." ["Histoire de Papes," IV. p. 124.] If my readers have any ideas from these words, it is more than I can pretend to.
No people in the world were so much addicted to religious controversy as the Greeks. In the later period of that empire, notwithstanding the declining state of their affairs, and the perpetual inroads first of the Saracens, and then of the Turks, it continued to be one of their most serious occupations; and some of the emperors themselves entered into these debates, with as much eagerness as any mere divines. One of the most extraordinary instances of this occurs in the twelfth century, when a warm contest arose at Constantinople about the sense of these words of Christ, "My Father is greater than I." The emperor Emanuel Comneenus held a council upon it, in which he obtruded his own sense of them, which was, that they "related to the flesh that was hid in Christ, and that was passible, i. e. subject to suffering; and not only ordered this decision to be engraven on tables of stone, in the principal church of Constantinople, but also published an edict in which capital punishments were denounced against all such as should presume to oppose this explication, or teach any doctrine repugnant to it." [Mosheim, II. 435. This Emperor "from an indifferent Prince was become a wretched Divine." Eccles. Hist. Cent. xii. Pt. ii. Ch. iii. Sect. xvi.] However, the following emperor, Andronicus, cancelled the edict, and did every thing in his power to put an end to the contest. But whether the severe penalties which he enacted against those who engaged in them had the effect he intended, we are not told. His measures do not seem to have been better adapted to gain his end than those of his predecessor.
I shall close the account of these idle disputes, with mentioning one that was started in Barcelona, in 1351, "concerning the kind of worship that was to be paid to the blood of Christ" and which was revived " at Brixen in 1462," when "Jacobus a Marchia, a celebrated Franciscan, maintained publicly in one of his sermons, that the blood which Christ shed upon the cross did not belong to the divine nature, and, of consequence, was not to be considered as the object of divine and immediate worship." But the Dominicans opposed this doctrine, and appealed to Pius II., who contrived to put off the decision, so that the question remains undetermined in the church of Rome to this day. [Ibid. III. p. 270. The Pope decreed "that both sides of the question might be lawfully held, until Christ's Vicar upon earth should find leisure and opportunity for examining the matter, and determining on what side the truth lay." Cent. xv. Pt. ii. Ch. iii. Sect. xiv.]
Lastly, to conclude this Section, I must
observe, that about the tenth century, a festival began to be held in
honor of the Holy Trinity, in some cathedrals, and in
monasteries, and that John XXII., who distinguished himself so much by
his opinion concerning the beatific vision, fixed the office for it in
1334, and appointed the celebration of it to be on the first Sunday
after Pentecost; and accordingly on this day it has been kept by the
church of Rome, and the church of England, ever since.
A general View of the Recovery of the genuine Doctrine of Christianity concerning the Nature of Christ.
We are not able to trace the doctrine of the proper humanity of Christ much later than the council of Nice; the Arian doctrine having been much more prevalent for a considerable time afterwards, especially by the influence of the emperors Constantius and Valens; and the Arians were no less hostile to this primitive doctrine than the Trinitarians themselves. At length, though all the northern nations that embraced Christianity were at first of the Arian persuasion, yet, chiefly by the influence of the Popes, they became gradually Trinitarians, and continued so till near the reformation.
The first traces that we perceive of the revival of the ancient doctrine, are among the Albigenses. For I cannot say that I perceive any among the proper Waldenses, and the Albigenses were probably rather Arians than what we how call Socinians. It would seem, however, that if the Waldenses (the first reformers from Popery, and who may be traced as far as the time of Claudius, bishop of Turin) were Trinitarians, they did not originally lay much stress on that doctrine. For, in their confession of faith, composed in 1120, which was sixty or seventy years before Valdo of Lyons, there is nothing under the article of Jesus concerning his divinity, nor yet in that of 1544, which was presented to the king of France. In the first of these it was only said, that "Christ was promised to the fathers, and was to make satisfaction for sin." But after the time of the reformation by Luther, the Waldenses, in a confession of faith, presented to the king of Bohemia, in 1535, acknowledge expressly, "one essence of divinity in three persons, according to the Nicene creed and that of Athanasius," both of which they mention. [Jean Legers' Histoire des Eglises Evangeliques des Vallees du Piemont, ou Vaudoises," 1669, pp. 94, 97 and 109. In the Confession, 1120, Art. II. is in these words, "We believe that there is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Through the whole fourteen articles there is no other reference to a Trinity.]
But no sooner were the minds of men at full liberty to speculate concerning the doctrines of Christianity, and circumstances excited them to it, but, while Luther and Calvin retained the commonly received opinion with respect to Christ, there were many others of that age who revived the primitive doctrine, though there were Arians among them. The greater number, however, were of those who were afterwards called Socinians, from Faustus Socinus, who distinguished himself by his writings among those of them who settled in Poland, where they had many churches, and continued in a flourishing state till the year 1658, when they were, with great cruelty and injustice, banished from that country. This event, however, like others of a similar nature, contributed to the spreading of their doctrine in other countries.
In England this doctrine appears to have had many advocates about the time of the civil war, the most distinguished of whom were the truly learned and pious Mr. Biddle, and his patron the most excellent Mr. Firmin; and it does not appear that there were many, if any, Arians among them, the term Unitarian being then synonymous to what is now called Socinian.
[Note not by Priestley but interesting: One of these was Paul Best, of whose life and writings I know nothing, but whose sufferings, from the Long Parliament, will sufficiently appear, by the following passages, in Whitelocke's Memorials:
That virulent foe of Toleration, Thomas Edwards, the shallow Edwards in Milton's Sonnet, speaks of "Paul Best's damnable doctrines against the Trinity," and denounces two Independent Ministers in the city. One of them had declared that Paul Best's "imprisonment would do no good;" that he should be made "to sweat with arguments," but that the magistrate had "no authoritative power under the gospel to remedy it." The other said, "that the magistrate might not punish such," and "had nothing to do in matters of religion, but in civil things only." Edwards adds, on the authority of "a common councilman of good worth,— that an Independent Minister, within a few miles of London, one Mr. L., had said to him, 'that men ought not to be troubled for their consciences, but Papists should be suffered; and for his part, if he knew any Papists, who were at their devotions of beads, images, &c. he would not have them hindered or disturbed.'" It is to be regretted that we have not the names of these three ministers who were lights shining in a dark place. See Gangrana, Ed. 3d. 1646, p. 46.
Another Anti-Trinitarian of this period, whose name has been preserved, was John Frye, a member of the Long Parliament, to which he was chosen for Shaftesbury, first in 1640, when his election on some account was made void, and again in 1646. He was "suspended for writing a book against the Trinity; but upon declaring that he abominated the opinions charged upon him, re-admitted February S, 1648-9, but disabled February 24, 1650-1, for the same kind of offense." Mr. F. was one "of the commissioners appointed for the trial of the king, who occasionally attended, but did not sign the warrant for beheading hirn." Parl. Hist. Ed. 2d, IX p. 27. Of these transactions, Whitelocke has the following account:
[SeeToulmin's Socinus, p. 278, and his Review of Biddle's Life, 1791. passim. Also Dr. Towers, in Brit. Biog. 1770, VI. p. 79. Mr. John Farington, of the Inner Temple, appears to have been Biddle's earliest biographer. Wood has given a full and remarkably fair account of him, perhaps recollecting that Biddle's bitterest persecutors were also the foes of the crown and the mitre. He thus writes at the conclusion of his article:
"By the filth of a prison, in hot weather, contracting a disease, he died thereof, in the mouth of September (one tells me the 2d, and another the 22d day), about five of the clock in the morning, to the great grief of his disciples, in 1662. Whereupon his body being conveyed to the burial-place joining to Old Bedlam, in Moorfields, near London, was there deposited by the brethren, who soon after took care that an altar monument of stone should be erected over his grave, with an inscription thereon, showing that he was Master of Arts of the University of Oxon, and that he had given to the world great specimens of his learning and piety. He had in him a sharp and quick judgment, and a prodigious memory; and being very industrious withal, was in a capacity of devouring all he read. He was wonderfully well versed in the Scriptures, and could not only repeat all St. Paul's Epistles in English, but also hi the Greek tongue, which made him a ready disputant. He was accounted, by those of his persuasion, a sober man in his discourse, and to have nothing of impiety, folly or scurrility to proceed from him. Also, so devout, that he seldom or never prayed, without being prostrate, or flat on the ground."
Wood thus mentions that extraordinary youth who translated Biddle's Catechism into Latin: "Nathanael Stuckey, who had been partly bred up in grammar and logic by Biddle, or, at least, by his care, died 27th Sept. 1665, aged 16 years, and was buried close to the grave of Biddle, as it appears by an inscription engraven for him on one side at the bottom of Biddle's monument." Athen. Oxon. II. p. 202.
Yet, though his tomb cannot be discovered, his scriptural doctrine of the divine unity, for which he endured a great fight of afflictions, has not been lost; but taught, in the very neighborhood which contains his ashes, with a zeal, ability, and the recommendation of an exemplary life like his own, and in connection with those ideas of the divine influence, and the divine character, to which Biddle had but partially attained. I refer to the exertions of my valued friend, the late Mr. Vidler, lost to his family and his Christian associates, too near the age at which Biddle rested from his labors; but whose enlightened views of truth, with his energy and success in recommending them, happily survive, in the same connection. Primo avulso non deficit alter.]
Afterwards, however, chiefly by the influence of Mr. Whiston and Dr. Clarke in the Established Church, and of Mr. Emlyn and Mr. Peirce among the Dissenters, the Arians became so much the more numerous body, that the old Unitarians were in a manner extinct. But of late years, Dr. Lardner and others having written in favor of the simple humanity of Christ, this doctrine has spread very much, and seems now to be the prevailing opinion among those who have distinguished themselves by their freedom of thinking in matters of religion. This has been more especially the case since the application made to parliament by some members of the church of England for relief in the business of subscription and more particularly so since the erection of the Unitarian Chapel by Mr. Lindsey, (who, from a principle of conscience, on this ground only, voluntarily resigned his preferment in the church of England,) and the publication of his Apology, with its Sequel, and other excellent works, in vindication of his conduct and opinion.
It is something extraordinary, that the Socinians in Poland thought it their duty, as Christians, and indeed essential to Christianity, to pray to Jesus Christ, notwithstanding they believed him to be a mere man, whose presence with them, and whose knowledge of their situation, they could, not therefore be assured of; and though they had no authority whatever in the Scriptures for so doing, nor indeed in the practice of the primitive church till near the time of the council of Nice. Socinus himself was of this opinion, and is thought to have given too much of his countenance to the imprisonment and other hardships which Francis Davides suffered for opposing it. However, the famous Simon Budnaeus was also of those who denied that any kind of worship ought to be paid to Jesus Christ, contrary to the opinion of Socinus. [Mosheim, IV. p. 199. Cent. xvi. Pt. ii. Sect. iii. Ch. iv. xxii. xxiii.]
Many of those who went by the name of Anabaptists at the beginning of the Reformation, held the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ; insomuch that, before the time of Socinus, they generally went by that name. Among these one of the first was Lewis Hetzer, who appeared in 1524, and who "about three years afterwards was put to death at Constance." [Ibid. IV. p. 169. Ibid. III. Mosheim describes Hetzer as "one of the wandering and fanatical Anabaptists," but this name seems generally to provoke that historian's ill-will; and Hetzer, according to Sandius, to whom Mosheim refers, must have deserved more respectable epithets. Sandius attributes to him, among other pieces, one against the deity of Christ, which Zuinglius suppressed. Hetzer was beheaded, Feb. 4, 1529. Bibl. Anti-Trin. p. I7.]
Several of the Socinians of that age held the doctrine of the personality of the Holy Spirit, considering him as a being of a super-angelic order. Of this opinion was Mr. Biddle.
The first Arians in England were of the opinion of the original Arians, viz. that Christ was the first of all creatures, and even existed from eternity, by an eternal derivation from his eternal Father, that he was the immediate maker of the world, and of all things, visible and invisible, and appeared in a divine character to the patriarchs and prophets before he was born of the Virgin Mary. But, besides that this doctrine savors of that of the pre-existence of all human souls, a doctrine which has no countenance in reason or revelation (though it was generally held by philosophers at the time that the Trinitarian and Arian doctrines were broached, and indeed served as a necessary foundation for them), it has staggered many, when they reflect coolly upon the subject, to think that so exalted a being as this, an unique in the creation, a being next in dignity and intelligence to God himself, possessed of powers absolutely incomprehensible by us, should inhabit this particular spot in the universe, in preference to any other in the whole extent of perhaps a boundless creation.
It cannot, also, but be thought a little extraordinary, that there should be no trace of the apostles having ever regarded their Master in this high light. For, being Jews, they would certainly consider him at first as a man like themselves, since no Jew ever expected any other for their Messiah. Indeed, it can never be thought that Peter and others would have made so free with our Lord, as they sometimes did, if they had considered him as their maker, and the being who supported the whole universe; and therefore must have been present in every part of the creation, giving his attention to every thing, and exerting his power upon every thing, at the same time as he was familiarly conversing with them. Moreover, the history of the temptation, whether it be supposed to be a reality, or a vision, must be altogether improbable on such a supposition. For what could be the offer of the kingdoms of this world, supposing all of them, without exception, to have been intended, to him who made the world, and was already in possession of it? And there is no trace of the apostles, after their supernatural illumination, discovering the great mistake they had been under with respect to this subject. On the contrary, they continued to speak as if their former ideas of him had been just, never giving him any higher title than that of a man approved of God, &c.
If it be supposed that while Christ was on earth he ceased to discharge the high office he held before, viz. supporting alt things by the word of his power, there will be some difficulty in supposing how, and by whom, it was performed in that interval. For certainly it would not have been delegated to Christ, or any other created being, if there had not been some impropriety in its being done immediately by God himself. That our Lord had a knowledge of the rank he held before he came into the world, must, I think, be allowed by all Arians, if they give any attention to many circumstances in the gospel history, especially to our Lord's praying for the glory which he had with the Father before the foundation of the world, which all Arians suppose to refer to his pre-existent state.
For these, I suppose, and other reasons which might be alleged, a middle opinion has been adopted by some Arians. For they consider Christ merely as a pre-existent Spirit, but one who never had any business out of this world, and had no concern in making it; nor do all of them suppose that Christ was even the medium of divine communications to the patriarchs, &c. But then they do not seem to consider that many of the texts which, when interpreted literally, refer to the pre-existence of Christ, refer also, by the same mode of interpretation, to his being the maker of the world, &c. &c, so that if these texts do not prove both these particulars, they prove neither of them. If those texts which seem to speak of both these circumstances, viz. the pre-existence of Christ, and his making of the world, will admit of some other construction, much more may those which seem to refer to his pre-existence only.
Besides, if we once give up the idea of Christ having been the maker of the world, and content ourselves with supposing him to have been a being of a much more limited capacity, why may we not be satisfied with supposing him to have been a mere man? The purposes of his mission certainly could not require more. For it cannot be said that any thing is ascribed to him that a mere man (aided, as he himself says he was, by the power of God, his Father) was not equal to. And in other respects there seems to be a peculiar propriety in a man like ourselves being employed on such a commission as that of Christ, with respect to man; as his being an example to us, and especially in his resurrection being the resurrection of a man like ourselves, and therefore a more proper pattern of our own, and consequently a greater encouragement to us to look for the same. So that all the advantages of the Socinian hypothesis (and it cannot be denied to have some) are abandoned, and yet the peculiar ones of the original Arian hypothesis are not preserved, in the more qualified one, while no new advantage can be claimed by it. For all that can be said in its favor is, that the mind does not revolt at it quite so much as at the original hypothesis.
With respect to the Trinitarians of the present age, and especially with us in England, those who have written on the subject are far from being agreed in their opinions, and therefore ought to be classed very differently from one another. But as they can agree in using the same phraseology, and mankind in general look no farther, they pass uncensured, and the emoluments of the establishment are equally accessible to them all. They are all, however, reducible to two classes, viz. that of those who, if they were ingenuous, would rank with Socinians, believing that there is no proper divinity in Christ, besides that of the Father; or else with Tritheists, holding three equal and distinct Gods. For, it cannot be pretended that the words being and persons, have any definable difference in their corresponding ideas, when applied to this subject.
Dr. Waterland, and the generality of the more strict Trinitarians, make three proper distinct persons in the Trinity, independent of each other, which is nothing less than making three distinct Gods. Mr. Howe would have helped out this hypothesis by supposing a mutual self-consciousness among them. But this is equally arbitrary and ineffectual; since three perfectly distinct intelligent beings still remain. For, supposing a proper self-consciousness to be communicated to three men, this circumstance could never be imagined to make them one man.
Bishops Pearson and Bull were of opinion, "that though God the Father is the fountain of the Deity, the whole divine nature is communicated from the Father to the Son, and from both to the Spirit; yet, so as that the Father and Son are not separate, nor separable from the divinity, but do still exist in it." [Doddridge's Lectures, p. 403. Prop. cxxxii.] But this union is a mere hypothetical thing, of which we can neither have evidence nor ideas. If the Father be the sole fountain of Deity, he only is God, in the proper sense of the word, and the two others can be nothing but creatures, whether they exist in the Deity (of which also we have no idea) or out of him.
"Dr. Wallis," says
Dr. Doddridge, "thought the distinction between the three persons
was only modal; which seems also to have been Archbishop Tillotson's
opinion." If so, they were both of them nothing more than Sabellians, whom all the ancients classed with Unitarians. In the same class
also, ought to be ranked Dr. Thomas Burnet, who "maintains one
self-existent and two dependent beings; but asserts, that the two latter
are so united to, and inhabited by the former, that, by
virtue of that union, divine perfections may be ascribed, and divine
worship paid to them." [Ibid. p. 402.] This too was evidently the opinion of Dr. Doddridge himself, and probably that of a great number of those
who were educated under him, and perhaps also that of Dr. Watts.
But, in fact, this scheme only enables persons to use the language,
and to enjoy the reputation of orthodoxy, when they have no just title
to either. For the divinity of the Father dwelling in, or ever so
intimately united to, what is confessed to be a creature, is still no
other than the divinity of the Father in that creature, and by no
means any proper divinity of its own.
Besides, whatever we may fancy we can do by words, which are arbitrary things, and which we can twist and vary as we please, the properties and prerogatives of divinity cannot be communicated. The Divine Being cannot give his own supremacy; and whatever he can give, he must have a power of withdrawing, so that if he should communicate any extraordinary powers to Christ or to the Holy Spirit, (supposing this to have been a distinct being,) he can, whenever he pleases, withdraw those powers; and for the same reason, as he voluntarily gave them their being, he must have a power of taking away that also. How then can they make two parts of a proper Trinity in the divine nature, and be said to be equal in power and glory with the Father?
Christians should be ashamed of such unworthy subterfuges as these. The most fearless integrity, and the truest simplicity of language, become Christians, who wish to know, and to propagate truth. Certainly, if men be deceived, they are not instructed. All that we can gain by ambiguous language is, to make our readers or hearers imagine that we think as they do. But this is so far from disposing them to change their opinions, or to lay aside their prejudices, that it can only tend to confirm them. As to any inconveniences we may bring upon ourselves by an undisguised avowal of whatever we apprehend to be the truth, we may assure ourselves, that the God of truth, whom we honor by our conduct, will reward us, at least, with that inward peace of mind, which can never be enjoyed by those who so miserably prevaricate in a business of such moment as this. And what are all the honors and emoluments of this world, without that satisfaction of mind?
Light having thus, at length, sprung up in the Christian world, after so long a season of darkness, it will, I doubt not, increase to the perfect day. The great article of the unity of God will, in time, be uniformly professed by all that bear the Christian name; and then, but not before, may we hope and expect, that, being also freed from other corruptions and embarrassments, it will recommend itself to the acceptance of Jews and Mahometans, and become the religion of the whole world. But so long as Christians in general are chargeable with this fundamental error, of worshipping more Gods than one, Jews and Mahometans will always hold their religion in abhorrence. As, therefore, we wish to see the general spread of the gospel, we should exert ourselves to restore it to its pristine purity in this respect.