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From Hesiod according to Damascius,
Spirit or Air.
Soul or Spirit.
the world. To which may, perhaps, be added from Sanchoniatho the three sons of Genus, Fire, Light,
Flame. By omitting the earth, water, and other materials, which in the formation of the world, are elsewhere disposed of, and passing over the refinements of the Pythagoreans, who sometimes even deviated so far as to place the (Táryabov) first cause, as the Monad, and the three concauses as the Triad, I think we may find in the above enumeration sufficient ground for maintaining the opinion that the persons of the Trinity of the Gentiles, viewed under a physical aspect, were regarded as the Fire, the Light, and the Spirit or Air, of the Etherial fluid substance of the heavens, which in a Metaphysical aspect were held to be no other than the Power or Will, the Intellect or Reason, and the Spirit or Affections of the Soul of the World; accordingly, as the prior Monad was contemplated in its Etherial or Intellectual substance. * * *
* * * The numerous passages in the Scriptures in which the Persons of the christian Trinity are shadowed forth by the same natural and mental powers which I suppose to constitute the original triad of the Gentiles, are too numerous to require to be specifically referred to. The Father is continually typified as a Fire accepting the sacrifices, consuming and punishing the guilty, as the Lord of all power and might, to whom all
prayers are commonly addressed ;-the Son, as Light, as a Mediator, and a Teacher, enlightening the understanding, addressing himself more particularly to the Intellect, pointing out the distinctions between good and evil;—the Spirit, as Spirit or Air, a mighty rushing wind, opening upon the Affections, Feelings, or Emotions. We are commanded by the christian faith to look to the Son for knowledge, to obey his instructions, and to accept the conditions of salvation he has offered, -to the Spirit, for grace to influence us in all our feelings, wishes and intentions ;—and to the Father, our prayers are to be directed for the power to act.
TESTIMONY OF THE EARLY FATHERS OF THE DOCTRINE OF
We have assumed, in our whole discussion, the truth, the Divine inspiration, and the authority of the sacred Scriptures. From this it follows that the teaching of Scripture, in all questions of doctrine, when clearly ascertained, is the infallible rule and judge of what is to be believed as true.
Widely different interpretations, however, have been and are put, upon various passages of Scripture. It is therefore necessary, while every man must, for himself, search the Scriptures, and be fully persuaded in his own mind, that he should avail himself of all proper assistance in confirming himself in the correctness of his conclusions. This assistance is to be found, in the most eminent manner, in the promised influences of that Holy Spirit, who alone can infallibly guide into all truth Next to this, however, is the confirmation given to our opinions by the judgment of others, whose ability and character render them capable judges of the true meaning of the sacred Scriptures.
Now, among those who must be regarded as, beyond controversy, most eminently capable of knowing what our Lord and his apostles really taught, orally, and in writing, the christians who lived contemporaneously and immediately after them, must be enrolled. If, therefore, we can ascertain those views which were held by the primitive church, on the subject of the Trinity, we have the highest assurance that these must have been delivered by Christ and his apostles, and must contain the real doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. And if we find that those views are not those of the Unitarians, but are, in all that is essential, those of Trinitarians, then we may safely conclude that the Trinitarian, and not the Unitarian doctrine, is that taught in the word of God. In a very important sense, Tertullian's declaration is correct, as it regards christian doctrine: "Whatever is first, is true, whatever is later, is adulterate." And the rule of Vincentius will apply, that whatever christian doctrine was held by all, every where in the first age of christianity, must be true. The question is not one regarding the opinions of the early christians, but as to the simple fact of their holding certain opinions because they believed them to be those taught in the word of God, and by Christ and his apostles. Christianity being undoubtedly a revelation from God, and this revelation being now contained in the sacred writings, what views on the subject of the Trinity did the primitive christians consider to be enforced in those writings, and to have been taught by Christ and his inspired apostles? We appeal to the primitive christians therefore, not as judges, but simply as credible and fully qualified witnesses of what was held and believed in the churches in their day, as the undoubted doctrine of christianity. We do not, therefore, constitute them either judges or interpreters of the faith; but most reliable witnesses of facts, and most capable translators of language, which, to many of them, was vernacular, who were also most likely to know the views and opinions of the inspired penmen.
At the period of the Reformation, as we shall afterwards prove, the doctrine of the Trinity was every where and by all the reformed churches, adopted as the undoubted teaching of Scripture, and as of primary and fundamental importance. This was done while the same judgment was delivered by the Romish church, from whose tenets and practices they would naturally have been disposed to recede, as far as Scripture warranted. Such also, was the doctrine held by the churches of Rome, of Britain, of the Greek and Oriental churches, with a very partial exception, and that under the pressure of very severe persecutions, up to the time of the Council of Nice, A. D. 325. To constitute this general council, or assembly of the representatives of the christian world, more than 300* were present.
These ministers were representatives of the various churches of Spain, Italy, Egypt, the Thebais, Libya, Palestine, Phænica, Colo-Syria, Lydia, Phrygia, Psididi, Lycia, Pamphylia, the Greek Islands, Caria, Isauria, Cyprus, Bithynia, Europa, Dacia, Mysia, Macedonia, Achaia, Thessaly, Calabria, Africa, Dardania, Dalmatia, Pannonia, the Gauls, Gothia, Bosphorus. It is thus made certain, as a matter of fact, that the Trinitarian doctrine was held by nearly all the clergy, when the controversy first began. Alexander mentions only three bishops, five presbyters, and six deacons, who supported the Arian heresy: and without supposing these persons to be actuated by improper motives, (a suspicion, which is more than insinuated against some of them,) it is only reasonable to decide, that the sentiments of so small a minority are not to be weighed against the deliberate declaration of the whole catholic church.
*318 or 320, besides, as Eusebius says, "an infinite number" of other clergy and officers.
The creed adopted by this council was as follows:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten, only-begotten from the Father, that is, from the substance of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not created; consubstantial with the Father: through whom were all things made, both things in heaven and things in earth; who, on account of us men, and of our salvation, descended, and became incarnate, and was made man: suffered, was buried, and rose again on the third day: ascended into the heavens: is coming to judge the quick and the dead.
We believe also in the Holy Ghost.
But those who say there was a time when the Son existed not, and that he existed not before he was begotten, and that he was made out of things which are not, or who say that he was from any person or substance, or who teach that the Son of God was created, or was vertible, or was mutable; these persons the apostolic and catholic church anathematizes.
This council was called on account of the views of the Trinity broached by Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, which denied the absolute consubstantiality, coequality, and divinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, though he admitted the personality and divine nature of each.
The creed thus adopted was declared by these various representatives of churches in Asia, Africa and Europe, to be that which had invariably been the doctrine of the Catholic Church, from the very age, and by the very teaching of the Apostles themselves.
In his historical epistle to his own church of Cesarea, Eusebius unequivocally states, that the Nicene Fathers avowedly proceeded in their definition of sound christian doctrine, on this principle: “As,” says he, “we have received from the Bishops, our predecessors, both in our first catechumenical instruction, and, afterwards, at the time of our baptism; and as we have learned from the Holy Scriptures; and as, both in our Presbyterate, and in our Episcopate itself, we have both believed and taught, this also, now believing, we expound to your faith.”*
*Eusebius introduced a creed, or confession of faith, to the Council assembled at Nice. The creed is as follows:
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God