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Concerning which things, we firmly pronounce, anathematizing every godless heresy, both that they thus are; and that we thus think; and, again, that we have always thus thought; and yet, additionally, that we will insist upon this faith, even until death. Furthermore, in the presence of God Almighty, and our Lord Jesus Christ, we testify, that ever since we knew ourselves, we have always, from our heart and from our soul, thus thought, respecting these matters; and that we now think the same; and that we speak truly. For, by sure demonstrations, we are able to show, and to persuade you, that in times past also, we thus believed and preached. This faith, accordingly, having been by us expounded, there was no room for contradiction.”
Hence, the Nicene fathers alleged, as a notorious fact, that they propounded no doctrine, save what they themselves had learned in the course of their catechumenical institution; save what had been handed down to them from their predecessors; save what they had always taught to their several flocks during the tmes of their Presbyterate and their Episcopate. Into the more ancient creed, the single word consubstantial they acknowledge themselves to have introduced: and this addition they avowedly and openly made, for the purpose of effectually meeting the endless subterfuges of the Arians.
But, though the precise word consubstantial might not hitherto have appeared in any symbol formally adopted by the whole Catholic church, the doctrine set forth in that word was distinctly propounded in the older universally recognized symbols. Accordingly, they themselves adduced one of those ancient symbols, as containing the theological system handed down to them from their predecessors.
of God, Light of Light, Life of Life, the only begotten Son, the first born of every creature, begotten of God the Father before all the worlds : by whom all things were made ; who, for our salvation, was incarnate, and lived among men, and suffered and rose again the third day, and returned to the Father, and will come again in glory to judge the quick and dead. I believe also in one Holy Ghost, believing that each of these has a being and existence, the Father really the Father, the Son really the Son, and the Holy Ghost really the Holy Ghost. As our Lord, when he sent his disciples to preach, said, Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost: concerning whom I affirm, that I hold and think in this manner, and that I long ago held thus, and shall hold so until death, and perish in this faith, anathematizing every impious heresy. I declare in the presence of Almighty God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that I have held all these sentiments from my heart and soul, from the time that I know myself; and that I now think and express them sincerely, being able to show by demonstration, and to persuade you, that my belief was thus, and my preaching likewise, in time past."
Eusebius was born about the year 270, so that a creed which he recited at his baptism would carry us back to at least ten years before the end of the third century; and though we are not bound to suppose that this creed was actually recited, word for word, by Eusebius, at the time of his baptism, we must at least believe that the doctrines contained in it were in accordance with those which every catechumen was expected to possess, at the end of the third century. The words of Eusebius might allow us to refer to a still earlier period.
Their assertion, as expressed in their own precise words, runs in manner following: “This is the apostolic and blameless faith of the church; which faith, ultimately derived from the Lord himself, through the apostles, and handed down from our forefathers to their predecessors, the church religiously preserves and maintains the same, both now and forever: inasmuch as the Lord said to the disciples-Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."*
Thus, says Mr. Faber, in two several passages, we have the attestation of full three hundred responsible individuals, collected out of all parts of the world, little more than three centuries after the christian era, and little more than two centuries after the death of the apostle John, to a naked historical fact: the fact, namely, that the doctrines maintained in the first council of Nice, were the doctrines which they themselves had always taught, which, in the course of their catechumenical institution they had learned from predecessors, which they had openly professed at the time of their baptism, which, in the several lines of their respective churches, had invariably been handed from one spiritual generation to another, which had been received on the authority of the apostles, and which the apostles had ultimately derived from the Lord himself.
How more than three hundred men could have ventured to hazard such an assertion, unless the facts affirmed were almost universally admitted, and how otherwise such an assertion could have completely escaped contradiction, may be deemed extraordinary, and indeed impossible. It must, therefore, be regarded an established fact, that the Trinitarian doctrine was held by nearly all the churches, when the controversy respecting it first began. Alexander mentions only three bishops, five presbyters, and six deacons, who supported Arius in his heresy; and without supposing these persons to have been 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.
*Gelas. Cyric. Hist. Council Nic. prim, lib. i., c. 23. Labb. Council, vol. ii., p. 224.
This creed, it will also be remembered, was adopted after a long and careful inquiry and discussion. "All things," said the Emperor Constantine, in his circular epistle to the churches, "obtained a suitable examination."* He makes the same assertion in his particular epistle to the Church of Alexandria. "All things which might seem to give any handle for dispute or dissention, were argued and accurately examined.”+ On this assertion of the Emperor, the remark of the historian Socrates runs as follows: "Constantine, indeed, wrote these things to the people of Alexandria, signifying that the definition of the faith was made, not lightly, nor at pure hazard; but they laid it down with much inquiry and examination; and not that some things were mentioned, while other things were suppressed; but that all things were agitated, whatsoever were meet to be spoken for the establishment of the dogma; and that the definition was not made lightly; but that it was preceded by an accurate discussion."I Here then is proof positive that in A. D. 325, the Trinitarian doctrine was, beyond the possibility of contradiction, the almost universal doctrine of the christian church, and declared to have been such from the beginning. In confirmation of this position, we may, however, present many strong and conclusive arguments.
1. It will here be proper, as our first line of argument, to introduce the testimony afforded by the heathen, as to the opinions at this period, and previously, entertained in the christian church. From the very nature of the objections constantly put forward by the heathen, it is evident that they regarded, and that the christians admitted, the worship of Christ, as God essentially with the Father, to be a fundamental part of the faith and practice of christians.
These objections, as given by Arnobius, A. D. 303, are thus stated: “The gods” as Arnobius represents the pagan enemies of the gospel as saying, "are not angry at you christians, because you worship the omnipotent God. But they are indignant: both because you contend that one who was born a man, and who was put to death by the ignominious punishment of crucifixion, is God; and because you believe him still to survive, and because you adore him with daily supplications." Now the answer made to this charge by Arnobius in part, after a sarcastic allusion to the Gentile deities, is this: "You tell us that we worship one who was born a man,
*Euseb. de, vit. Constant. lib. ii., c. 17. Socrat. Hist. Eccles. lib. i., c. 9. $1b. ŠArnob. adv. gent, lib. i., pp. 19, 20. Lugdum, Batar, 1651.
* * * **. Now, even if it were true that we did worship a mere man, yet, on account of all the blessings which we have derived from him, he might, on your own principles, well deserve to be styled a divinity. But, since he is God in reality, and without the slightest ambiguity or doubt, do you imagine us inclined ever to deny that he is worshipped by us in the highest possible degree, and that he is called the President of our community ? * * * * Some one, maddened and enraged, will say: what then—is that Christ God? Yes, we answer, and God of the very innermost potency. We further profess, however it may irritate unbelievers, that for ends of the last importance, he was sent to us by the Supreme Sovereign. He was the high God; God radically and essentially. From unknown realms, by the Prince of the universe, he was sent, God, God the Saviour."
We find the same familiar allegation urged again and again, almost to absolute satiety, by the Epicurean Celsus, who flourished about the middle of the second century; and his testimony is peculiarly valuable, not only for its antiquity, but also because, like that of the Pagan in Arnobius, it unequivocally tends to show, that the christians of that period supposed their Lord to be God essentially.
"Well, therefore," says Origen, in his reply to Celsus and to his fictitious Jew, “do we censure the Jews for not deeming Him to be God, who is by the Prophets so often testified of, as being the great power and God, according to the God and Father of all things. For we assert, that, in the Mosaic cosmogony, the Father addressed to Him the command, Let there be light,—and Let there be a firmament,—and whatsoever other things God commanded to be made. He moreover said to him: Let us make man after our own image, and our likeness; and THE WORD, having these commands, did all the things the Father enjoined him. But we speak thus, not as separating the Son of God from the man Jesus; for, after the economy, the soul and the body of Jesus became most intimately one with the word of God.'
“On the whole,” says Origen, “since he (Celsus) objects to us, I know not how often, concerning Jesus ; that from a mortal body we esteem him to be God, and that in doing so, we conceive to act piously; it were superfluous, so much having already been said, to give him any further answer: yet, let these objectors know, that this person, whom, with full persuasion, we believe to be from the beginning, God and the Son of God, is the very Word, and the very Wisdom, and the very Truth; and we assert, that this mortal body, and the human soul in him, not only by fellowship, but likewise by absolute union and commixture, having participated of his divinity, have passed into the Deity.”+
*Orig. Cont Cels, lib. i., p. 54.
It will be observed, says Faber, that the allegations of Celsus, while they are throughout, constructed upon the express ground that Christ was believed to be strictly and properly the Supreme God, respect not only a few visionary individuals, but the whole collective body of the Church. As such, accordingly, they are understood and answered by Origen. Hence, whatever in the abstract we may think of the arguments on either side, we have the positive and admitted testimony of Celsus, to the evidently well-known and familiar circumstance, —that The Catholic Church, about the middle of the second century, or some fifty or sixty years after the death of St. John, held and maintained the essential divinity of Christ, viewed under the aspect of God the Word, the eternal Son of the Father, co-existent with him from the beginning, in the inseparable unity of the Godhead."
Similar proof of the Trinitarian views of the Church will be found in the similar objections of Trypho, the Jew, in his celebrated argument with Justin Martyr, some years earlier, i. e., in the year 136; that is only thirty-six years after the death of the apostle John.
"With regard to what you assert,” says Trypho, “that this Christ, in as much as he is God, pre-existed before all ages, and that he endured to be born a created man, and that he was not a mere man, born from man, in the ordinary course of nature; such an assertion, seems to me, not only a paradox, but even a downright absurdity.” “To this,” says Justin, “I replied: I know that my discourse is paradoxical, more especially to those of your race, who were never willing, either to understand or to perform the things of God. And Trypho said: You attempt to show a matter incredible and well nigh impossible, -that God endured to be born, and to become a man. My reply was: If I attempt to show this by mere human arguments, there were no need that you should bear with me;
+Cels. lib. iii., pp. 135, 136. See also lib. ii., p. 100: lib. vii., p. 368: lib. viii., p. 404.