« PreviousContinue »
hypostasis and have a beginning. It could hardly be said, then, that there had been a time when the Son was not in existence, since God can never be destitute of reason. From this statement the existence of the Son might seem to arise from an absolute necessity, not from an act of the Father's will. The Son would be, therefore, in his essence the supreme God, but in his generation a subordinate, distinct being. But generation could not destroy his essence, and therefore logically it might appear as if God were at once himself and something else — at the same time, supreme and subordinate, which is absurd.
According to the Gnostic Rabbinical emanation theory, the Son was not from eternity, and his efflux from the supreine God was not of necessity. The Son was not God, but a God; not eternal, but made in time.
From contact between these two systems sprang the Arian controversy. Arius was presbyter at Alexandria, in the beginning of the fourth century. As a representative of the Gnostic system, we must say that he differed materially from their idea of emanations. Arius started from the point of the Son's generation, and said that the Son was created like other angelic beings. He existed before all time, that is, before the creation of the world; but not from eternity, for there was a time when he did not exist. He was formed by the will of God, and like everything out of God, was created from nothing. He was not of the same substance ( buoovolos ) with the Father, but of inferior essence the first spirit next to God. The followers of Arius modified this view in various ways, one class taking the name of Heterousians or Eunomians, another class being called Homoiousians or Semi-Arians. The three great points between Arius and Bishop Alexander were first, whether the Son had any commencement of existence; secondly, whether he was created out of nothing, like any other creature, or whether he derived his being from the Father's essence; thirdly, whether he was generated by the free will of the Father, or by a necessity of his nature. Alexander and Athanasius, - the former, Bishop, the latter, a deacon, of Alexandria, - were the strongest opponents of Arius, whose doctrines were condemned by the Council of Nice, A. D. 325; at which it was established, that Christ, the Son, was “begotten, not made,” and “begotten of the
essence of the Father" –"God of God - Light of Light - very God of very God-consubstantial with the Father.” At this time, however, the famous word “doovotos," consubstantial, probably denoted simply the oneness of essence in the Father and the Son, and did not refer to numerical unity. Of the Holy Ghost, nothing was determined by this Council.
But from the Council of Nice another difficulty arose. The earliest Fathers had considered the Logos as suffering in Christ. Arius also, who with the ancient Fathers held that the Logos supplied the place of a human intellect in Christ, and was created, found no difficulty in this view. But in the Nicene statement a difficulty soon manifested itself on this point, as the sufferings of the Son seemed to imply the sufferings of the Father. The idea of a double nature not yet being fully apprehended, this matter was to be decided ; but Apollinaris, in attempting a definition, came very close upon Arianism. In A. D. 381, another Council was held at Constantinople, in which it was decreed, that Christ was not only perfect God, but perfect man also, and possessed of a rational soul. Thus was the doctrine of a double nature in Christ established.
Still the relation of these two natures to each other remained to be defined, and the doctrine of communication of properties was resorted to. Absurdities were heaped upon absurdities. Blasphemy, bribery, and open violence disgraced and darkened the infallible councils of the Holy Church for nearly a century. Malice, envy and hate fought and blustered about the union of the Divine and the human in Christ, until Satan had driven both Divine and human out of all their natures. At the Council at Chalcedon, A. D. 451, it was solemnly decided, that the Lord Jesus was possessed of two distinct natures, united without mixture or confusion in one person.
At the time of the Council of Nice, the nature of the Holy Ghost was almost undefined. The Fathers had from the first wavered in their conceptions on this point, and Arius himself was as orthodox as anybody on a point on which as yet there had been no heterodoxy. It would require some space and some acuteness to trace out the
precise time at which the Holy Spirit was invested with supreme Divinity, and to discover the means by which it
Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
attained such an elevation. Until after the Council of Nice, orthodox and heterodox seemed equally indifferent about it. The very orthodox Hilary held the Holy Spirit to be merely Divine power, called it a gift of God, and the like,* while the heterodox Cyril of Jerusalem conceived of it as a person, Divine and incomprehensible, through whom angels and archangels derive their holiness, as higher than a servant, etc. This will serve to show the little consequence attached to it in the middle of the fourth century. Such a state of opinion in regard to this point might have continued much longer, had not Athanasius been still living. This keen, bitter theologian, seeming to think his victory over the Arians incomplete, determined to exalt the Holy Spirit to equal dignity with the Son. This was no easy undertaking among conscientious men. The doctrine was cautiously introduced by such men as Gregory Nazianzen and Basilius the Great. Their proofs were not so numerous as their opponents; and as the latter appeared to have entirely the advantage, the plan for deifying the Holy Spirit seemed far from being accomplished.
The Emperor Constantius had exerted his power against the prevalence of the Nicene Creed. His successor Julian was pleased with the Christian wrangling, and let both sides have fair play. Forthwith Hilary and Athanasius busied themselves to make up for lost time, and the contest was hotly waged. On the death of Julian, (A. D. 363) the Orthodox party came into favor under Jovian, and Athanasius used all diligence in hastening the accomplishment of his great purpose. Jovian, however, died in 364, and the Western Empire fell to Valentinian, an advocate of Orthodoxy, but tolerant to the Arians and disposed to protect them from harm. Valens, in the East, was a hot Arian, and persecuted the Orthodox as well as Semi-Arians. In the meantime Athanasius died. But his fierce intolerance was still warm in his followers. In A. D. 375, the Western Bishops held a conference in Illyricum, and decided that Father, Son and Holy Spirit were homoousian, and uttered anathema against all who refused to accept this as a point of belief. Soon after this, Valentinian died, and in A. D. 378, Valens, the Arian, died also, in a fight with
* Hilar. De Trinit. Lib. XII. 5. + Cyril. Catech. XVI. 3, 4, 23. VOL. XLI. 4TH S. VOL. VI. NO. I.
the Goths. Now “ the Catholic faith” became triumphant. In A. D. 380, Theodosius published an edict for the establishment of the true faith. In A. D. 381, he summoned the great Council at Constantinople, at which additions were made to the Nicene Creed, in the article of the Son, that he was “ begotten before all ages,” — and by this article on the Holy Ghost, “And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and Son, who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who spoke by the prophets." This, however, was not the Trinity. The contest was by no means ended. In A. D. 383, Theodosius called a Council at Constantinople of the leaders of the conflicting parties, in order to effect a reconciliation, but it was of no avail.
Civil power, the authority of an imposing belief, and divisions among the Arians themselves, threw the supremacy into the hands of the other party, who were by degrees, slowly but surely, building up the doctrine they seemed pledged to uphold. The struggle went on, from country to country, and from city to city, — Church against Church Bishop against Bishop - Emperors, ecclesiastics, Huns, Christianized Goths, or rather Vandalized Christians, fighting and cursing, pell-mell together. At length, somewhere about the commencement of the fifth century, it was proclaimed to the world in most remarkable language, that God is not one, but three. The doctrine that had thus been forming for so many ages, at length was plainly stated in the form of a “ Creed ; ” which, though falsely, bore the name of Athanasius. Its author is not known. It inade its appearance from some dark corner, as suited its character, and after a considerable lapse of time was received as the faith of the Roman Catholic Church. It was accepted in France about the middle of the ninth century ; in Spain and Germany, still later ; at Rome about A. D. 1014. It has been set to music, and was chanted in the English churches in the tenth century :
" Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith.
“ Which faith except every one do keep entire and inviolate, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
" Now, the Catholic faith is this ; that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.”
O. B. F.
ART. VI. – MILLERISM.
Any observer of human nature can see that the knowledge of any future event makes an impression deeper and stronger in proportion to the uncertainty of the time of its coming. If men can ascertain the precise day and hour when it is to arrive, they neglect and delay all preparation for it, and it comes unprovided for at last. Since it is so with men, God reserves the knowledge of times and seasons to himself: but not to assert his own sovereignty and humble human pride ; it is rather in merciful consideration to human infirmity, in order to place man in the condition most favorable to spiritual improvement and the right discharge of duty. For the certainty that preparation must be made, taken in connexion with the uncertainty of the time, gives just enough of assurance and leaves just enough of mystery to have the deepest influence on the heart. And yet, certain as it is that the arrangements of Divine Providence are kind, and idle as it is to attempt to gather by underhand means from the Scriptures what they were never intended to disclose, there are those who are constantly biting the chains of nature, and endeavoring to search out what even the Saviour himself acknowledged that he did not know.
The time when the world shall end, has been a subject of special interest to such persons, as if it had some connexion with their religious duty. The language of all prophecy favors these fanciful investigations: it is always full of suggestion, figurative and glowing, well suited, and probably meant to excite the imagination to living action, and through that avenue to reach the mind and heart. The prophet's eye kindles as he looks into the dark rolling clouds that cover the future; shadows pass before him, lifelike indeed, but undefined, and though he feels their presence, he cannot discern their form. He describes the vision, or rather his own emotions, in language dim and magnificent, and the broad landscape of the future is spread out at once in darkness and in light; — nothing can be surer than the event, and at the same time nothing more uncertain than the time when it is to be.
In a very early age the Christians borrowed, or rather brought with them, the Hebrew fancy of a millennium; for