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ment in his books on the praises of Constantine. Christ was of a middle nature between things created, and him that had no origin.”
We are now approaching to the time when we shall hear no more of this language from those who were reputed orthodox. We do, however, hear the same sentiment occasionally, when the writers were off their guard, and expressed themselves according to the ideas of their predecessors, especially writers near to those times. Thus Athanasius says, that“ Christ does every thing according to the will and knowledge of the Father." +
Theodoret, having mentioned the great distance between the unbegotten Father and rational and irrational beings, who were by him (un'auts) produced out of nothing, says, that “his only-begotten Son, by whom (Si' ris) all things were made out of nothing, is of a middle nature between them."
At the close of this Section, I shall observe, in general, that whenever the ante-nicene fathers used the term God absolutely, they always meant the Father only. But if, in their idea, the Father had been no more entitled to the appellation of God than the Son or the Spirit, they would certainly have confined the use of the word God to express divinity in general, and have used the word Father and not God, when they really meant the Father only, exclusively of the two other persons.
Had there been no proper correlative to the word son as a person, nothing could have been inferred from this; but since the term father is perfectly correlative to the term son, and as familiar, it would certainly have been used by them to denote the Father, as well as the term son to denote the Son. It is natural, therefore, to conclude, that their custom of using the term God to denote the Father only was derived to them from earlier times, in which no other than the Father was deemed to be God, in any proper sense of the word.
This language was continued long after, from a change of ideas, it ceased to be proper. ων και εις και μονος Θεος ουθ' ομοίως τους λοιπους ανθρωπους, ανθρωπος τι δε, ει μηδεν τελων, η θεου μονογενης υιος, νυν μεν ανθρωπων και Θεου μεσίτης γεγονως. Contra Marcellum, L. i. p. 8. (P.)
* Μεσιλευον τε και διειργον της των γεννηθως ουσιας, την αναρχον και αγεννηθον ιδεαν. De Laudibus Const. pp. 719, 757. (P.)
* Τα πανια προς δοξαν και γνωσιν του εαυτου παιρος εργαζείαι. Contra (Gentes, Opera, I. p. 48. (P.)
1 Αγνοενες οι ανασκηθοι, ως μακρον αν ειη μεταξυ ταίρος αγεννηθου, και των κτισθενίων υπ' αυλου εξ ουκ ανίων, λογικών τε και αλογων ων μεσιτευοσα φυσις μονογενης, δι' ης τα όλα εξ ουκ οντων εποιησεν ο πατηρ του Θεου λογον. Opera, ΠΙ:p. 18. (Ρ.)
Very happily, the word God is still, in common use, appropriated to the Father, so that none but professed theologians are habitual Trinitarians, and probably not even these at all times; and while the Scriptures are read without the comments of men, the Father alone will be considered as God, and the sole object of worship, exclusively of the Son or the Spirit.
CHAPTER V. Of the Power and Dignity of Christ, as the pre-existing Logos
of the Father. The great obstacle to the reception of Christianity, especially with persons distinguished for their learning, or their rank in life, was the meanness of the person and condition of Christ; and especially the circumstance of his having been crucified as a common malefactor. Those who had disciples, called by their names, in Greece, if they had not been distinguished for their wealth and rank in life, which was the case with some of them, had, at least, been men whose time had, in a great measure, been devoted to study, and none of them had been reckoned infamous. The death of Socrates bore some resemblance to that of Christ; but besides that the circumstances of the deaths themselves were considerably different, he had lived in intimacy with the first men of the state, and though not rich himself, had always been respected by the rich; and his life had been devoted to speculation and instruction. Whereas Christ had had no advantage of liberal education, or leisure for study and speculation. He was born of obscure parents, and had lived in a very obscure town of the most despised part of his country; and, till he was thirty years of age, when he commenced public teacher, had been nothing more than a common carpenter.
These circumstances might not have been much attended to beyond the limits of his own country. But his public execution as a common malefactor, was known wherever the name and religion of Jesus was heard of; and though he might not be thought guilty of any crime, (as it was no uncommon thing in any country for persons to be condemned and suffer unjustly,) yet the manner of his death sufficiently shewed the low estimation in which he had been held in his life, and marked him for one of the meanest of mankind. To be hanged at Tyburn in this country, or to be broke upon the wheel in France, gives us but a faint idea of the ignominy of crucifixion in the Roman empire.
This was one of the greatest difficulties that the first preachers of Christianity had to struggle with, in their attempts to propagate Christianity; and the weight of it was much greater than we, who are brought up with a high idea of the great personal dignity of Christ, notwithstanding the mean circumstances of his life, can be duly sensible of, or make sufficient allowance for. The apostles and first preachers of Christianity in general, being themselves illiterate men, had no means of removing this great obstacle, but by their accounts of the miracles wrought by Jesus Christ, and his resurrection from the dead; which were sufficient proofs of his divine mission. Also the miracles which the apostles themselves wrought, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, communicated to all the early converts, were standing proofs, during the age of the apostles, of the power of God accompanying their preaching. These plain arguments were all that the apostles, as we may see by their writings, ever opposed to the pride of the Jews, or the cavils and contempt of the Greeks. For a long time, Christianity seems to have spread chiefly among the illiterate, though it was by no means confined to persons of low circumstances, especially out of Judea; and though we may easily perceive that, to use the apostle's language, not many rich men were called, yet there were more of the rich than of the wise.
At length, however, some of the Greek philosophers embraced Christianity; and, as was natural, they were desirous of making converts of others, and therefore would wish to recommend it to them, by exhibiting it in such a light as they imagined would make it appear to the most advantage; and in order to this, they would endeavour to make it seem to be as little different from the philosophy to which they had been addicted as possible. Besides, all men are willing to combine into one system all the doctrines which they espouse; and they never reject any thing that they have been long attached to, without an evident necessity. These philosophers, therefore, even without any view to making converts, would not abandon their former tenets, unless they perceived that it was absolutely impossible to retain them and their profession of Christianity together ; and certainly they would not themselves be so ready to see the inconsistency there might be between them as other persons less interested might have been. As to those plain men from whom these philosophers had first heard the Christian doctrines, they might admit their historical evidence to matters of fact, and thus be convinced of the truth of Christianity; but, considering them as ignorant and unlearned persons, might not choose to be dictated to by them in matters of deep speculation; and, wretched as the state of science was in those ages, the pride of philosophy and the contempt of the vulgar, were much greater than they are
It happened that the philosophy which was most in vogue in that age, was Platonism, the principles of which have been seen to be more conformable to those of revealed religion in general, than those of any other system that was taught in the Grecian schools; as it contained the doctrines of the unity of God, the reality of a providence, and the immortality of the soul. But, unhappily, making a difference between the Supreme Being himself, and his mind or ideas; and giving an obscure notion of its being by means of a divine efflux that all truth is perceived by the mind, as common objects are seen by the beams of the sun; they imagined that a ray of this wisdom, or the great second divine principle in their system, might illuminate Jesus Christ, and even have permanently attached itself to him. And with respect to this divine principle, which qualified him to be a public teacher, they might easily imagine that he had had an existence from the time that any divine operation took place; so that they no longer looked upon themselves as the disciples of an obscure person, who had lately started up, and made himself conspicuous by new doctrines, but of that great Being who was instrumental in making the world, and who was the source of all truth.
This idea was highly flattering, and the philosophers lately become Christians, seeing that Philo had availed himself of the same Platonic notions, to explain the history of the divine dispensations in the Old Testament, followed him in this progress, and extended the same to the New; supposing that the same divine logos, which Philo had represented as the medium of all the visible appearances of God to the patriarchs, was the same that was manifested in Jesus Christ.
This system gave a dignity to the person and character of Christ, which effectually covered the offence of the cross. It made the profession of Christianity sit much easier upon the minds of these philosophers themselves, and furnished them with arguments by which to recommend it to others who entertained the same philosophical principles. In this
specious manner were the doctrines of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ introduced into the Christian system.
That it was the meanness of Christ's person, and the circumstances of his death, at which the Heathen philosophers revolted, we have abundant evidence.
" The Heathens,” says Arnobius, " reproach Christians with worshipping a man.
- The Gods are offended at you,” say they, “ not because you worship the God that is omnipotent, but because you daily pray to a man who was born, and (which is infamous even to the vilest person) put to death by crucifixion, and because you maintain that he is a God, and is now alive.” + " What is the reason,” says Austin, “ that you will not be Christians, but because Christ came in humility, and you are proud?" I
But when Christians had found two natures in Christ, a divine as well as a human nature, they could easily answer this reproach of the Heathens.
66 Who was it, says Arnobius, “ that was seen hanging on the cross?
The man whom he put on, and whom he carried with him. The death you speak of was that of the man he had assumed, that of the burthen, not of the bearer.” This was an answer that we do not find to have occurred to the apostles. “ Cavilling at the cross," Athanasius says, “ they do not see that his power fills the whole world, and that actions shewing him to be God are performed by him."||
It was also a great objection to Christianity that the system was new, and the author of it a person of yesterday. But this sublime doctrine, of Christ being the divine logos, and the medium of all the divine communications of God to mankind, enabled them to repel this accusation with great advantage. Eusebius gives an account of the appear. ances of Christ under the Old Testament; “ Lest any person,
should object to him as a new person.”[
as he says,
• « Natum hominem colimus." L. i. p. 12. (P.)
† “ Sed non (inquit) idcirco dii vobis inferti sunt, quod omnipotentem colatis Deum: sed quod hominem natum, et (quod personix infamc est vilibus) crucis supplicio interemptum, et Deum fuisse contenditis, et superesse adhuc creditis, et quotidianis supplicationibus adoratis." Ibid. Supra. (P.)
“Quid causa est cur propter opiniones vestras, quas vos ipsi oppugnatis, Christiani esse nolitis, nisi quia Christus humiliter venit, et vos superbi estis ?" De Civitate Dei, L. x. C. xxix.; Opera, V. p. 591. P.)
$ “Quis est ergo visus in patibulo pendere, quis mortuus est? Homo, quem induerat, et secum ipse portabat. Mors illa, quam dicitis, assumpti hominis fuit, non ipsius: gestaminis, pon gestantis." L. i. p. 22. (P.)
και ότι τον ταυρον διαβαλλονίες, εχ ορωσι την τελε δυναμιν πασαν την οικομενην πεπληρωκυιαν και δει δι' αυle τα της θεογνωσιας εργα σασι πεφανερωθαι. Contra Gentes, Opera, I. p. 2. (P.)
7 Ταυλα μεν ουν αναγκαίως προ της ιστοριας ενιαυθα μου κεισθω, ώς αν μη νεωθερον τις