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Fathers themselves, and some of those to whom he has appealed as authorities, are against him ; for they roundly tax the more ancient Fathers, to whom be also appeals, with unsoundness on the subject of the Trinity. One of his authorities is Origen. We have seen what Huet thought of bim. Jerome thought no better; for he accuses him of asserting that the Son
commend them to the attention of the Bishop. They occur in the articles on Schleiermacher, in the numbers of the “ Biblical Repository and Quarterly Observer ” for April and July, 1825. They are at variance with the Professor's former statements relating to the opinions of the early Fathers. He thinks them more accurate, as they are the result of a more intimate acquaintance with the writings of the Fathers. The views of the Nicene Fathers, he tells us, “ if he understands them,” do
really and effectually interfere with the true equality in substance, power, and glory, of the three persons or distinctions in the Godhead.” The Son and Spirit, he says, according to them, are derived beings, and derivation implies inferiority. “A derived God,” he says, “cannot be a self-existent God." The numerical identity of the Father and Son, he affirms, was not a doctrine of the ancient Fathers. “Justin,” he observes, “ says in so many words that the logos (Son) is different from the Father, and another in number.” In regard to the unity and distinction of the Father and Son, he says, the" zeal of Origen led him to a theory in no important respect better than that of Arius.” “Such was the case, too, with Eusebius the historian,” and “ Dionysius names the Son a creation and work of the Father." The council of Nice, he says, according to Athanasius, “ did not mean to assert the numerical unity of the Godhead," and much more to the same purpose. The result is, that the Fathers generally, before and at the council of Nice, asserted the Son to be inferior to the Father, and numerically a different being from him. So says Professor Stuart!
We are aware that the Professor is no favorite with the Bishop. He is accused by him of recommending “the ministers of Christ to study the most revolting and impious writers of the German school,” while he takes credit to himself • for the language of absolute contempt” towards the ancient Fathers, and of sundry other heinous offences, one of which is a disposition, imbibed from those same Germans, to “make concessions for which he receives no acknowledgment either from friend or foe!” The Bishop thinks, that, if the Professor had studied the German theology less, and the Fathers more," the change would have been in favor of his soundness and learning, his strength and power,” and " he probably would have wielded a weapon against error, of far higher temper and keener edge,” and “there would have been none of his present disregard, not to say contempl, for the learning and judgment of the Fathers, and the authority of the Primitive Church !”
It is somewhat diverting to hear the Bishop of Vermont gravely lecturing Professor Stuart on his ignorance of the writings of the Fathers. We do not suppose, that the Professor surpasses all that are, or have been, in the accuracy and extent of his knowledge of those writings, nor do we know that he claims for himself any such distinction. But
was "not begotten, but made."* The Bishop quotes and extols Basil the Great. What was Basil's opinion of the AnteNicene Fathers? What he says of Dionysius and Gregory Thaumaturgus, another of the Bishop's authorities, has been just quoted. Of Dionysius he says further, that he “ sowed the seeds of the Anomaan (Arian) impiety ; for he not only made a diversity of persons between the Father and the Son, but a difference of essence, taking away their consubstantiality. The same Basil admits, that the old Fathers were silent the question of the Spirit ; and says, that they who acknowledged its divinity in his day were “condemned as introducing novel dogmas on the subject.” Rufinus accuses Clement of Alexandria of calling the Son a "creature,” and Dionysius, he says, “in his zeal against Sabellianism, fell into Arianism.” Origen admits, that there might be a few in his day who pronounced the Saviour to be “God over all,” but this, he expressly tells us they did rashly, and that it was by no means the cominon sentiment. “Grant,” says he, “that among the multitude of believers there are some, who, differing from others, rashly affirm the Saviour to be God over all; we do not acknowledge him as such, for we believe him when he said, “The Father, who sent me, is greater than I.'”+ This, Origen, as did the Ante-Nicene Fathers, we believe, without exception, understood as spoken of Christ's whole, or superior nature.
Such (and we might add to the number) are some of the authorities among the Fathers in direct opposition to the Bishop. Were these Fathers “ignorant of Christian antiquity?” They were themselves ancient, “primitive,” according to the Bishop's standard. Have they then borne false witness of each other and of themselves ? This supposition is hardly consistent with the title to exalted veneration the Bishop so freely accords to them. I
we should like to see the Bishop measure strength with him in a contest requiring the use of weapons drawn from the armory of the Fathers. If we do not greatly mistake, the author of the “ Primitive Creed Examined and Explained ” would, in a very short time, find himself uphorsed.
* Epist. 59. Ad Avitum. + Adv. Cels. Lib. 8.
# It is amusing to find, that Bishop Hopkins, quoting Eusebius the historian, as an undoubted Trinitarian, and quoting too from his Letter to his people from Nice, which, if it is to be trusted (and it is confirmed in the main by the testimony of Athanasius), shows that neither Euse
The Bishop is not more fortunate in his appeal to councils. They all, if we may believe him, including the Arian and the Semi-Arian of the fourth century, bear testimony in his favor. He specifies several. First, the second council of Antioch, holden A. D. 341. But this council expressly declared against the Nicene faith, rejected the term consubstantial, and in favor of their own views appealed to the testimony of antiquity.* The term was rejected also from the creed of the third council of Sirmium, which, says Du Pin, is Arian, but which Hosius, long one of the pillars of the Nicene faith, in an evil hour, as the orthodox will bave it, signed. Sad fall indeed. It was anathematized by the council of Philippopolis ; condemned by that of Antioch holden soon after; by the fifth of Sirmium; by those of Seleucia and Ariminum (Rimini), and others. In regard to the council of Ariminum the Bishop's statement is as trustworthy as usual. He says, that, notwithstanding the efforts of the Arians, and the “ influence of the Emperor, and the apprehension of banishment and persecution," the four hundred Bishops assembled there “determined to adhere to the Nicene confession, and solemnly republished it as the symbol of the Catholic faith.”+ And yet, notwithstanding their “determination," and their “republication," if the Bishop will have it so, “of the Nicene confession," it is quite certain that these Bishops generally, before the council broke up, did recede from the determination, violate their constancy, and sign a creed of a very different import, being one recently drawn up at Sirmium, in opposition to the Nicene symbol. Du Pin says, that “ all the bishops signed,” and thus, says he, “ended this council, whose beginning was glorious, and end deplorable.” |
And yet Bishop Hopkins is not ashamed to ask “the enemies of Trinitarians to point out only one council which adopted their sentiments.” That the council of Rimini before its close, and others just named, and more we might mention, were Anti-trinitarian, we want no better evidence than the fact that they openly declared against the Nicene creed, and uniformly condemned and rejected from their symbols the term consubstantial, which had been from the first exceedingly obnoxious to the Arians, but which the orthodox made the very watchword of their party. If the Bishop, by appealing to the Arians as testifying in favor of the Trinity, really means to intimate that they held the doctrine in a form satisfactory to him, it is all
bius nor the council were orthodox in the modern sense of the term. Eusebius was in no good repute for orthodoxy among the Fathers. 66 An Arian,” says Athanasius; the “ Prince of Arians,” exclaims Jerome ; “an Arian, and worse than an Arian,” adds Nicephorus. For some remarks on this subject, see Christian Examiner, Vol. XIII. (New Series.) pp. 98, 99.
* Soc. Lib. II. c. 10. Soz. Lib. III. c. 5.
+ p. 310.
# History of Eccles. Writers, Vol. II. p. 264. To the time of the abovementioned council Jerome refers, when he says, the whole world groaned to find itself Arian.
well. We will not contend with him on that point. But if the Arian doctrine differs from the orthodox, to what purpose this appeal to the authority of the Arians ? It is wholly deceptive. The Bishop may be satisfied with Arian expositions, but they cannot nevertheless be considered as expositions of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. Of his Trinity they may. *
We will follow the Bishop no further in his book of the “Primitive Creed Examined and Explained.” Several of his remaining statements are no nearer the truth, and no better substantiated, than those already noticed. We have given our readers a sufficient specimen of the contents of the volume, and have said enough, we trust, to show the sort of credit to which the author's assertions are entitled, and the admirable modesty evinced by bim in charging all who differ from him
* The Arians, it seems, believed in a Trinity! Undoubtedly they did. And so do we. But not a trinity in unity; nor did they. We believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and so did they. But we do not believe that these three are numerically one or equal ; nor did they, nor any of the Ante-Nicene Fathers. Though these Fathers held language respecting the Father and the Son of which the Arians disapproved, they stopped short, as we have before said, of the doctrine of the numerical identity of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. We challenge Dr. Hopkins to produce a single writer of any note, during the first three ages, who held this doctrine.
We beg to assure the Bishop, however, that we do not consider the Athanasian creed as evidence of the faith of primitive antiquity exactly, though he is pleased to give it as such, transcribing damnatory clauses and all. He quotes it as a genuine relic of antiquity, and means that his readers shall believe that it is really a production of Athanasius himself. He roundly asserts that it was “ published at Rome, A. D. 340”! Of this there is not the least shadow of proof, the statements of Baronius and some other Romish writers of the same stamp being wholly unsupported. Neither Athanasius, nor any writer of his own or of the next century, ever alludes to it in any of their writings now
respecting the opinions of the earlier Fathers, with “ignorance and contempt of antiquity."
In regard to the “Discourses on the Evidences,” the second work, the title of which is given at the head of the present article, a word must suffice. The Bishop's motive in the publication is unquestionably good, but there is nothing either in the matter or style which gives it any decided claim to approbation. It is not particularly adapted to meet the wants of the age, and it contains several erroneous statements, have been the result of accident, but which we confess have strongly the appearance of design. Like some of those already noticed in the volume on the “Creed,” they ear too much the aspect of “pious frauds," as they are termed, which, whatever may have been thought of them in former times, will hardly, we suppose, be openly defended, at the present day, as useful for the edification of the Christian, or the conversion of the infidel. Some of them are very gross.
It is painful to be under the necessity of calling attention to statements of the kind alluded to. We regret exceedingly to meet them in treatises designed to set forth the evidences of our faith, for by means of them religion is wounded in the house of its friends. No cause can be permanently benefited by arguments which rest on falsehood as their basis. Truth and sincerity are the only weapons we may lawfully use.
As long as we can wield these, let us contend, but not one moment longer; for no longer will Christ own us as his true champions, or heaven's blessing crown our arms.
We cannot take leave of the author of the works, which
extant. No mention of it occurs of a date prior to the sixth century,
nd some of the writings in which we find the earliest allusions to it are of doubtful genuineness. In regard to Athanasius, says Du Pin, “all the world agrees it was none of his, but of some authors who lived a long time after him. — It is certain, that it was composed after the council of Chalcedon," A. D. 451. (Hist. Eccles. Writers, Vol. IV. pp. 35, 36.) “That which is called the creed of Athanasius," says Pretyman, “ certainly was not written by that Father.” “It was never heard of till the 6th century, above a hundred years after the death of Athanasius." “ It cannot now be ascertained who was its real author;
it had never the sanction of any council.” — (Elements of Christian Theology, Vol. II. p. 219.). It was “the composition,” says Dr. Samuel Clarke, “ of an uncertain obscure author, written (not certainly known whether) in Greek or Latin, in one of the darkest and most ignorant ages of the church.” (Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, p. 447, ed. Lond. 1712.)