A Formula for Christian Development

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Of course the doctrine of our Lord's divinity itself partly implies and partly recommends the doctrine of the Trinity; but implication and suggestion belong to another class of arguments which has not yet come into consideration. Moreover the statements of a particular father or doctor may certainly be of a most important character; but one divine is not equal to a Catena. We must have a whole doctrine stated by a whole Church. The Catholic Truth in question is made up of a number of separate propositions, each of which, if maintained to the exclusion of the rest, is a heresy.

In order then to prove that all the Ante-nicene writers taught the dogma of the Holy Trinity, it is not enough to prove that each still has gone far enough to be only a [Pg 15] heretic—not enough to prove that one has held that the Son is God, for so did the Sabellian, so did the Macedonian , and another that the Father is not the Son, for so did the Arian , and another that the Son is equal to the Father, for so did the Tritheist , and another that there is but One God, for so did the Unitarian ,—not enough that many attached in some sense a Threefold Power to the idea of the Almighty, for so did almost all the heresies that ever existed, and could not but do so, if they accepted the New Testament at all ; but we must show that all these statements at once, and others too, are laid down by as many separate testimonies as may fairly be taken to constitute a " consensus of doctors.

This is true, and admits of application to certain other doctrines besides that of the Blessed Trinity in Unity; but there is as little room for such antecedent probabilities as for the argument from suggestions and intimations in the precise and imperative Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus , as it is commonly understood by English divines, and is by them used against the later Church and the see of Rome.

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What we have a right to ask, if we are bound to act upon Vincent's rule in regard to the Trinitarian dogma, is a sufficient number of Ante-nicene statements, each distinctly anticipating the Athanasian Creed. Now let us look at the leading facts of the case, in appealing to which I must not be supposed to be ascribing any heresy to the holy men whose words have not always been sufficiently full or exact to preclude the imputation. First, the Creeds of that early day make no mention in [Pg 16] their letter of the Catholic doctrine at all. They make mention indeed of a Three; but that there is any mystery in the doctrine, that the Three are One, that They are coequal, coeternal, all increate, all omnipotent, all incomprehensible, is not stated, and never could be gathered from them.

Of course we believe that they imply it, or rather intend it. God forbid we should do otherwise! But nothing in the mere letter of those documents leads to that belief. To give a deeper meaning to their letter, we must interpret them by the times which came after. Again, there is one and one only great doctrinal Council in Ante-nicene times. It was held at Antioch, in the middle of the third century, on occasion of the incipient innovations of the Syrian heretical school.

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Hippolytus, St. Cyprian, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, St. Dionysius of Alexandria, and St. Of these, St. Dionysius is accused by St. Basil of having sown the first seeds of Arianism; [] and St. Gregory is allowed by the same learned Father to have used language concerning our Lord, which he only defends on the plea of an economical object in the writer.

Methodius speaks incorrectly at least upon the Incarnation; [] and St. Cyprian does not treat of theology at all. Such is the incompleteness of the extant teaching of these true saints, and, in their day, faithful witnesses of the Eternal Son. Again, Athenagoras, St. Clement, Tertullian, and the two SS. Dionysii would appear to be the only writers whose language is at any time exact and systematic enough to remind us of the Athanasian Creed. If we limit our view of the teaching of the Fathers by what they expressly state, St.

Ignatius may be considered as a Patripassian, St. Justin arianizes, and St. Hippolytus is a Photinian. Again, there are three great theological authors of the Ante-nicene centuries, Tertullian, Origen, and, we may add, Eusebius, though he lived some way into the fourth. Tertullian is heterodox on the doctrine of our Lord's divinity, [] and, indeed, ultimately fell altogether into heresy or schism; Origen is, at the very least, suspected, and must be defended and explained rather than cited as a witness of orthodoxy; and Eusebius was a Semi-Arian.

Further, Bishop Bull allows that "nearly all the ancient Catholics who preceded Arius have the appearance of being ignorant of the invisible and incomprehensible immensam nature of the Son of God;" [] an article expressly taught in the Athanasian Creed under the sanction of its anathema.

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It must be asked, moreover, how much direct and literal testimony the Ante-nicene Fathers give, one by one, to the divinity of the Holy Spirit? This alone shall be observed, that St. Basil, in the fourth century, finding that, if he distinctly called the Third Person in the Blessed Trinity by the Name of God, he should be put out of the Church by the Arians, pointedly refrained from doing so on an occasion on which his enemies were on the watch; and that, when some Catholics found fault with him, St. Athanasius took his part. Let it not be for a moment supposed that I impugn the orthodoxy of the early divines, or the cogency of their testimony among fair inquirers; but I am trying them by [Pg 19] that unfair interpretation of Vincentius, which is necessary in order to make him available against the Church of Rome.

And now, as to the positive evidence which those Fathers offer in behalf of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, it has been drawn out by Dr. Burton and seems to fall under two heads.

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One is the general ascription of glory to the Three Persons together, both by fathers and churches, and that on continuous tradition and from the earliest times. Under the second fall certain distinct statements of particular fathers; thus we find the word "Trinity" used by St.

Theophilus, St. Clement, St. Hippolytus, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Origen, St. Methodius; and the Divine Circumincessio , the most distinctive portion of the Catholic doctrine, and the unity of power, or again, of substance, are declared with more or less distinctness by Athenagoras, St. Clement, Tertullian, St. Hippolytus, Origen, and the two SS. This is pretty much the whole of the evidence. Perhaps it will be said we ought to take the Ante-nicene Fathers as a whole, and interpret one of them by another.

This is to assume that they are all of one school, which of course they are, but which in controversy is a point to be proved; but it is even doubtful whether, on the whole, such a procedure would strengthen the argument.

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  8. For instance, as to the second head of the positive evidence noted by Dr. Burton, Tertullian is the most formal and elaborate of these Fathers in his statements of the Catholic doctrine. Burton, after quoting a passage, "for Athanasius himself, or the compiler of the Athanasian Creed, to have delivered the doctrine of the Trinity in stronger terms than these.

    And again, as to the argument derivable from the Doxologies, it must not be forgotten that one of the passages in St. Justin Martyr includes the worship of the Angels. Justin was ready to concede to creatures. Thus much on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Let us proceed to another example.

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    There are two doctrines which are generally associated with the name of a Father of the fourth and fifth centuries, and which can show little definite, or at least but partial, testimony in their behalf before his time,—Purgatory and Original Sin. The dictum of Vincent admits both or excludes both, according as it is or is not rigidly taken; but, if used by Aristotle's "Lesbian Rule," then, as Anglicans would wish, it can be made to admit Original Sin and exclude Purgatory. It is, as far as words go, the confession of St.

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    Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, St. Perpetua, St. Cyprian, Origen, Lactantius, St. Hilary, St.

    ntancipsehick.ml Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Ambrose, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and of Nyssa, St. Chrysostom, St.

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    Jerome, St. Paulinus, and St. And so, on the other hand, there is a certain agreement of Fathers from the first that mankind has derived some disadvantage from the sin of Adam. Next, when we consider the two doctrines more distinctly,—the doctrine that between death and judgment there is a time or state of punishment; and the doctrine that all men, naturally propagated from fallen Adam, are in consequence born destitute of original righteousness,—we find, on the one hand, several, such as Tertullian, St.

    Cyril, St. Gregory Nyssen, as far as their words go, definitely declaring a doctrine of Purgatory: whereas no one will say that there is a testimony of the Fathers, equally strong, for the doctrine of Original Sin, though it is difficult here to make any definite statement about their teaching without going into a discussion of the subject. On the subject of Purgatory there were, to speak generally, two schools of opinion; the Greek, which contemplated a trial of fire at the last day through which all were to pass; and the African, resembling more nearly the present doctrine of the Roman Church.


    Of the Greek, the judgment of Hooker is well known, though it must not be taken in the letter: "The heresy of freewill was a millstone about those Pelagians' neck; shall we therefore give sentence of death inevitable against all those Fathers in the Greek Church which, being mispersuaded, died in the error of freewill?

    Austin was so angry that he stamped and disturbed it more.

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    And truly. I do not think that the gentlemen that urged against me St. Austin's opinion do well consider that I profess myself to follow those Fathers who were before him; and whom St. Austin did forsake, as I do him, in the question.