« PreviousContinue »
Eusebius's reply to Marcellus's charge of novelty is equally unsatisfactory, as he only, in a general way, refers to writings older than those of Origen, in all of which he says he found the same faith. *
As to the hymns used by Christians, and said by Eusebius to have been “from the beginning," no inference can be safely drawn from them, because divinity may be ascribed to persons in very different senses, and some of them very innocent ones, especially in the language of poetry; and as to the antiquity of these hymns, as the historian has not mentioned the age of them, it is very possible, for any thing that appears to the contrary, that they might have been those very hymns which were rejected by Paulus Samosatensis on account of their novelty.
It is likewise alleged, that Pliny says, that “ the Christians on a certain day, before it was light, met to sing a hymn to Christ as to God (or a God).”+ But as to this writer, if he had been told that hymns were sung by Christians in honour of Christ, being himself a Heathen, he would naturally imagine that they were such hymns as had been composed in honour of the Heathen gods who had been men. He would be far from concluding from that circumstance, that Christ was considered by his followers either as the supreme God, or as a pre-existent spirit, the maker of the world under God.
SECTION II. Of the Excommunication of Theodotus by Victor. The argument that is urged with the most plausibility against the antiquity of the Unitarian doctrine, is that which is drawn from the excommunication of Theodotus by Victor, bishop of Rome, about the year 200; as it may be said, that this bishop, violent as he was, would not have proceeded to the public excommunication of a man whose opinions were not generally obnoxious.
dicit, Theodotum primum scilicet asseruisse Christum fuisse nudum hominem: ipse cnim optinie novit hæc, si strictc sumatur, vera non esse: novit alios quamplurimos diu ante Theodotum, non paucos etiam ante Ignatium, eandem hæresin promulgasse, quorum catalogus apud Epiphanium legitur," Vindicia, L. ii. C. ii. p. 24. (P.)
* Εγω δε και Ωριγενες παλαιότερων ανδρων, σλειςοις όσοις εκκλησιαςικοις συγΓραμμασιν εντελυχηκα, επισκοπων τε και συνοδων επιστολαις, προπαλαι γραφεισαις, δι' ών εις και αυτος και της πιστεως χαρακλης αποδεικνυλαι" ουκ ορθως αρα διαβεβληκεν, ειπων επινοεισθαι την νυν diperu ÜmO TWY diabañaqueywy. Contra Marcellum, L. i. p. 20. (P.)
† “ Affirmabant autem hanc fuisse summam vel culpæ suæ vel erroris, quod essent soliti stato die, ante lucem convenire ; carmenque Christo, quasi Deo, dicere.” Epist. xcvii. (P.) See Yol XVIII, p. 21.
I wish that we had a few more particulars concerning this excommunication of Theodotus, as it is the first of the kind that is mentioned in history. It is to to be observed, that it is not Caius, the writer quoted by Eusebius, who says that he was excommunicated on account of his being an Unitarian, but Eusebius himself; * so that, considering the writer's prejudices, there may be some room to doubt whether he was excommunicated on that account.
The Unitarians, it has been seen, said that Victor favoured their doctrine, and this we find asserted in the Appendix to Tertullian's Treatise, De Præscriptione, which, whether written by Tertullian himself or not, is probably as good an authority as that of Eusebius. He says that, after the two Theodotuses,“ Praxeas introduced his heresy into Rome, which Victorinus endeavoured to strengthen. He said that Jesus Christ was God the Father omnipotent, that he was crucified, suffered, and died,” &c. † “ Victorinus,” in this passage, Beausobre says,
“ it is agreed, should be Victor;" I and it cannot be supposed, that he would have patronized in Praxeas the same doctrine for which he had before excommunicated Theodotus. The probability, therefore, is, Theodotus was excommunicated on some other account than that of his being an Unitarian.
Theodotus having been excommunicated as an Unitarian, is hardly consistent with that general prevalence of the Unitarian doctrine in the time of Tertullian, (which was also that of Victor,) which we have seen that Tertullian expressly asserts. However, the account of Eusebius, though improbable, may be admitted without denying that of Tertullian, when the circumstances attending them are duly considered.
Tertullian lived in Africa, where there seems to have been a greater inclination for the Unitarian doctrine than there was at Rome; as we may collect from the remarkable popularity of Sabellius in that country, and other circumstances. Alha
• Ησαν δε έτοι αμφω Θεοδοτα το σκευτεως μαθηίαι, το πρωΐa επι ταυτη τη φρονησει" μαλλον δε αφροσυνη, αφορισθενος της κοινωνιας υπο Βικλoρoς ως εφην, του τοίε επισκοπο. Hist. L. v. C. xxi. p. 254. (P.)
+ “Sed post hos omnes etiam Praxeas quidam hæresim introduxit, quam Victorinus corroborare curavit. Hic Deum Patrem omnipotentem Jesum Christum esse dicit; hunc crucifixum passumque contendit et mortuum." Ad Finem, P, 923. (P.)
Histoire de Manichéisme, I. p. 533, Note 5. (P.) “On convient que ce Victorinus est Victor." Ibid. See Vol. XVIII, pp. 524 526
nasius also, who complains of many persons of low understanding favouring the same principle, was of the same country, residing chiefly in Egypt; though he had seen a great part of the Christian world, and was, no doubt, well acquainted with the state of it.
We should likewise consider the peculiarly violent character of Victor, who was capable of doing what few other persons would have attempted ; being the same person who excommunicated all the eastern churches, because they did not observe Easter at the same time that the western churches did, for which he was much censured by many bishops even in the west.
Such an excommunication as this of Theodotus was by no means the same thing with cutting a person off from communion with any particular church, with which he had been used to communicate. Theodotus was
Theodotus was a stranger at Rome, and it is very possible that the body of the Christian church in that city did not interest themselves in the affair ; the bishop and his clergy only approving of it; for I readily grant that, though there were some learned Unitarians in all the early ages of Christianity, the majority of the clergy were not so.
Theodotus, besides being a stranger at Rome, was a man of science, and is said by the Unitarians to have been well received by Victor at first; so that it is very possible that the latter might have been instigated to what he did by some quarrel between them, of which we have no account.
Upon the whole, therefore, though Victor excommunicated this Theodotus, who was a stranger, and had, perhaps, made himself conspicuous, so as to have given some cause of umbrage or jealousy to him, it is very possible that a great proportion of the lower kind of people, who made no noise or disturbance, might continue in communion with that church, though they were known to be Unitarians.
There is no instance, I believe, of any person having been excommunicated for being an Unitarian before Theodotus. Whereas, had the universal church been Trinitarian from the beginning, would not the first Unitarians, the first broachers of a doctrine so exceedingly offensive to them, as in all ages it has ever been, have experienced their utmost indignation, and have been expelled from all Christian societies with horror ?
See Vol. VIII. pp. 158-160. “ The Asiatics answered his lordly summons by the pen of Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, who declared in their name, and that with great spirit and resolution, that they would by no means depart, in this matter, from the custom handed down to them by their ancestors. Upon this, the thunder of excommunication began to roar "
of the Part taken by the Laity in the Excommunication of the
early Unitarians, and other considerations relating to the Subject.
It is particularly remarkable, that, except Theodotus, we read of none of the laity having been excommunicated on account of their Unitarian principles, which they were well known to hold. And whenever any of the bishops were deposed on this account, it is also remarkable, that the common people appear to have been their friends. None of the laity were excommunicated along with Noetus, about A. D. with Sabellius, about A. D. 255;
• Paulus Samosatensis, A. D. 269; or Photinus, A. D. 344, &c. After the bishops had deposed Paulus Samosatensis, it is observable, that only sixteen signed the condemnation ; † and he could not be expelled from the episcopal house till the aid of the emperor Aurelian was called in ; and he may be supposed to have been offended at him for his having been in the interest of his rival Zenobia. This could not have been necessary, if the majority of his people had not been with him, and, therefore, if his deposition had not, in fact, been unjust.
Besides, the prosecution of Paulus Samosatensis, as Dr. Lardner has observed, was vehemently urged by his “presbyter Malchion,” who had a quarrel with him. Having been disobliged,” he “could not be satisfied till his bishop was removed.” I “He wrote, says Jerome, the large epistle in the name of the council. Paul had many friends and admirers among the bishops and presbyters of the neighbouring churches and villages, and was much beloved and admired by others.” S He could not be expelled in the first council, in 264, when Firmilian of Cappadocia and Gregory of Neocasarea were present; and Firmilian was dead at the time of the second council, in 269 or 270.||
Dr. Lardner's account of Paulus Samosatensis, is as follows:
“ As we have not now before us any of Paul's writings, and have his history from adversaries only, we cannot propose to judge distinctly of his talents, nor draw his character at length. However, from the several particulars before put down, and collected from divers authors, some things may be concluded. And I apprehend that, laying aside for the present the consideration of his heterodoxy, we shall not mistake much if we conceive of him after this manner. He had a great mind, with a mixture of haughtiness, and too much affection for human applause. He was generally well respected in his diocese, and by the neighbouring bishops, in esteem with the great, and beloved by the common people. He preached frequently, and was a good speaker. And from what is said by the fathers of the council, of his rejecting, or laying aside, some hymns, as modern, and composed by moderns, it may be argued, that he was a critic, which is a valuable accomplishment at all times, especially when uncommon.
* See Lardner's Credib. IV. p. 593. (P.) Works, III. p. 72. + Eusebii Ilist. L. vii. C. xxx. p. 359. (P.) t Credib IV. n. 694. (P.) Works. III, p. 85.
He adds, in a note, “ A learned writer among the moderns, (viz. Garner,) whom I did not think of when I drew the above character, confirms almost every part of it; for he allows Paul to have possessed the third see in the church, and to have had the patronage of a great princess, an appearance of piety, reputation for learning, flowing eloquence, and the favour of the multitude.”+
As to Photinus, he was so popular in his diocese, that his solemn deposition by two councils, could not remove him from his see. “ He defended himself,” says Tillemont, “ against the authority of the church, by the affection which his people had for him, even to the year 351, though his heresy began to appear as early as 342, or $43, according to Socrates ; and the Eusebians condemned it in one of their confessions of faith, in 345."! At length the Emperor Constantius, a zealous. Arian, thought it necessary to interfere, and to get him banished, in a council held at Sirmium itself. § Had the body of Christians in those times been generally Trinitarians, the common people would, no doubt, have been ready enough to take an active part against their heretical bishops.
Credib. IV. p. 644. (P.) Works, III. pp. 93, 94. t“ Ex infimæ sortis homine factus est Antiochenus episcopus, et tertium ecclesiæ thronum iisdem artibus conscendit, quibus hæretici solent, feminie principis potentia, specie pietatis, doctrinæ fama, dicendi facilitate, et multitudinis factiosæ gratia. Dis rt. i. de Har. et L. j. Nestor. C. iii. 9 iii. p. 307." Lardner, Ill. p. 94.
Hist. of the Arians, I. p. 116. (P.) “ Photin se défendit même par l'affection que son peuple avoit pour lui, contre l'autorité de l'église, jusqu'en 351, quoique son hérésie ait commencé à paroître des S42, ou 343, selon Socrate: et que les Eusebiens la condamnent dans un de leurs formulaires-eu 345.” Hist. Eccles. (1704), VI. p. 330.
See Yol VIIL