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a man of an acute mind and fluent, influenced perhaps by ill will towards his bishop, at first denied the truth of Alexander's positions, on the ground that they were allied to the Sabellian errors, which were condemned by the church: and then, going to the opposite extreme, he maintained, that the Son is totally and essentially distinct from the Father; that he was only the first and noblest of those created beings whom God the Father formed out of nothing, and the instrument which the Father used in creating this material universe; and therefore, that be was inferior to the Father both in nature and in dignity. What were his views of the Holy Spirit, is not equally manifest. Vol. I. pp. 342-4.
The opinions of Arius were no sooner divulged, than they found very many abettors, and among them men of distinguished talents and rank, both in Egypt and the neighboring provinces. Alexander, on the other hand, accused Arius of blasphemy, before two councils assembled at Alexandria, and cast him out of the church. He was not discouraged by this disgrace, but retiring to Palestine, he wrote various letters to men of distinction, in which he labored to demonstrate the truth of his doctrines, and with so much success that he drew over immense numbers to his side, and in particular Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia, who was a man of vast influence. The emperor, Constantine, who considered the discussion as relating to a matter of little importance and remote from the fundamentals of religion, at first addressed the disputants by letter, admonishing them to desist from contention. But when he found that nothing was effected by this measure, and that greater commotion was daily rising throughout the empire, he in the year 325 summoned that famous council of the whole church, which met at Nice in Bithynia, to put an end to this controversy. In this council, after various altercations and conflicts of the bishops, the doctrine of Arius was condemned, Christ was pronounced to be of the same essence with the Father, Arius was sent into exile in Illyricum, and his followers were compelled to assent to a creed or confession of faith, composed by the council. Vol. I. p. 345-7.
It was not long, however, before the efforts of the Arian party turned the scale in their favor.
Both Alexander and Arius have left us statements, each of his own doctrines, and also of what he understood to be the sentiments of his antagonist. Dr. Murdock has given these statements, for the first time, we believe, in the English language. They are too long to be inserted here, but are thus presented by Dr. M. in a clear and brief summary. "According to these statements, both the Arians and the orthodox considered the Son of God and Savior of the world, as a derived existence, and as generated by the Father. But they differed on two points. I. The Orthodox believed his generation was from eternity, so that he was coeval with the Father. But the Arians believed, there was a time, when the Son was not. II. The Orthodox believed the Son to be derived of and from the Father; so that he was of the same essence with the Father. But the Arians believed, that he was formed out of nothing, by the creative power of God. Both however, agreed in calling him God, and in ascribing to him divine perfections. As to his offices, or his being the Savior of sinful men, it does not appear, that they differed materially in their views. (See pa. 345, and Note 21.) Indeed, so imperfect and fluctuating were the views of that age, respecting the offices of Christ and the way in which sinners are saved, that he was, for aught they could see, an equally competent Savior, whether he were a finite creature, or the infinite and all-perfect God. Hence both the Arians and the orthodox then embraced the same system of theology in substance; and the chief importance, in a theological view, of their controversy respecting the Sonship of Christ, related to the assigning him that rank in the universe which properly belongs to him."— Vol. I. p. 344.
+ This letter of Constantine is given for the first time in English, by Dr. Murdock. It is a curious document, exhibiting the feelings of one who was more solicitous for peace, than for perfection in the statement of a doctrine, whose importance he did not fully understand. The whole letter is too long for insertion, but we give the following extracts. "I learn, then, that the origin of the present controversy was thus. Whereas you, Alexander, enquired of the presbyters
In a few years after the Nicene council, an Arian presbyter, whom Constantia, the emperor's sister, at her death had recommended to the care of her brother, succeeded in persuading Constantine the Great, that Arius had been wrongfully condemned, from personal enmity. Accordingly, in the year 330, the emperor recalled Arius from exile, rescinded the decrees passed against his associates and fiends, and permitted Eusebius of Nicomedia, the principal supporter of Arius, and his powerful faction, now thirsting for revenge, to persecute the defenders of the Nicene council. They assailed no one more fiercely, than Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria. When he could in no way be brought to restore Arius to his former honors and ecclesiastical standing, Athanasius was first deprived of his office, in a council held at Tyre AD. 335, and then banished to Gaul; while in the same year, by a numerous council held at Jerusalem, Arius and his friends were solemnly admitted to the communion of the church. But by none of these proceedings could the Alexandrians be induced to receive Arius among their presbyters. Accordingly the emperor called him to Constantinople, in the year 336, and ordered Alexander, the bishop of that city, to open the doors of his church to him. But before that could take place, Arius died at Constantinople, in a tragical manner. And the emperor himself closed life shortly after. Vol. I. pp. 352-3.
The rest of the history of the Arian controversy, like the preceding, is one of broils and persecutions, for nearly 50 years, sometimes one party gaining the ascendency, and sometimes the other, and neither failing to use with severity its temporary success. On the whole, the doctrine of Arius prevailed most in the East, and the decrees of the Nicene council in the West. At length, under Theodosius the Great, the Arians were deprived of their churches, and laws of so much severity were enacted against them, that the Nicene creed every where prevailed. Mosheim thus sums up the account of the whole controversy, in his own sensible and impartial way. "That there were great faults on both sides, in this long and violent contest, no candid person can deny; but which party was guilty of the greatest wrong, it is difficult to say."
what each believed on one of the subjects contained in the law, or rather on a point of vain controversy; and whereas you, Arius, inconsiderately advanced, what ought not to have entered your mind, or if it did, should have been smothered in silence; hereupon dissension arose between you, communion has been denied, and the most holy people, being split into two parties, the harmony of the whole body is destroyed. Wherefore do ye, mutually forgiving one another, follow the counsel here fitly offered you by your fellow worshipper [of the true God.] And what is it? It is, that it was unsuitable, at first, to put a question on such subjects; and when it was put, it was unsuitable to answer it. *** Is it right, on account of the little vain disputes about words among you, for brethren to array themselves against brethren, and the precious assembly to be rent asunder by the ungodly strife of you who thus contend about trifles of no consequence? This is vulgar and despicable: it is more befitting the folly of children, than the discretion of priests and wise men. Let us spontaneously depart from the temptations of the devil. Our great God, the common preserver of us all, hath extended to all the common light; and allow me his servant, under his providence, to bring my efforts to a successful issue, that by my admonitions, diligence, and earnest exhortations, I may bring his people to have fellowship in their meeting together. For since, as I said, ye both have one faith, and one and the same understanding of our religion; and since the requirement of the law, in its various parts, binds all to one consent and purpose of mind; and as this thing which has produced a little strife among you, does not extend to the power and efficacy of the whole gospel, let it not at all produce separations and commotions among you. Vol. I. pp. 345-6.
In reviewing the history of this and other theological controversies with which the ancient church was agitated, we are forcibly struck with one point of view, in which they may be regarded as favorable to the interests of christianity. They all contributed to the advancement of theological knowledge. None of the early christians, except the apostles, and perhaps a few of their immediate disciples, can be regarded as having possessed a thorough acquaintance with the doctrines of religion, and the just mode of defending them. They had scarcely as yet had occasion to state and define accurately, and vindicate upon just principles, the scheme of christian doctrine. The language of the bible was the received dialect of theology, and nicer questions respecting the mammer in which it should be understood, had not been agitated. But the rise of heresies in the church compelled theologians to investigate more thoroughly, explain more clearly, and vindicate more justly, the truths of the bible. It was not that the same doctrines, in substance, had not been before believed; but, as they had not been called in question, the grounds on which they rest, and the best mode of explaining them, had not been studied. In this point of view, then, as creating a necessity for thorough investigation, and for the cautious statement and explanation of christian doctrine, the early controversies with heretics, may be regarded as having had a favorable tendency.
There is an historical argument which some alledge against certain doctrines of the bible, viz. that they cannot be traced in the history of the church, till a considerable time after the christian era. Such doctrines, they claim, are without hesitation to be ranked among the corruptions of christianity. The divine Trinity has been assailed with this argument. As applied to that doctrine, it is easily answered. In the first place, it is entirely a false assumption, that the primitive christians did not believe in what is meant by the doctrine of the Trinity. Münscher* states that the earliest christians professed faith in "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." This is sufficient for the matter of fact. In the second place, if we could find in the first two centuries, no traces of the Trinity, as exhibited in the form of a distinct doctrine, this would not prove that it was not generally received. It would only show that it had not been called in question. Until a controversy arose on the subject, the doctrine would naturally remain in the simple form of a statement that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. It was not included in theological systems, for the simple reason,
* Elements of Dogmatic History, pp. 54.
that the time for manufacturing such systems had not yet come; nor was it explained and defended at large in the writings of the earliest fathers, because, as we have said, not being attacked, it needed no defense. This is the true explanation, and a fair one, of the reason why the doctrine, as it has been said by its opposers, did not appear,' until the third or fourth century. It is true it did not appear, in this sense, viz. it was not publicly and extensively made a subject of discussion, was not logically stated and fully explained, and incorporated into the formulas of the christian faith. It did not appear in history. It did not hold a prominent place in polemical theology; and therefore some persons, overlooking the dependence which the developement of theological science has upon controversy, have maintained that this doctrine formed no part of the common belief of christians. The same is true of the history of other doctrines which have been greatly controverted in later times. Little or nothing is said of them in history, until they were brought into controversy, and thus made to assume a more distinctive character. And that controversy did not arise concerning them at an earlier period, was chiefly owing to the simple and unintellectual character of the early converts. They received the truth just as it is stated in the bible, without question. They had no favorite philosophy, by applying which to the declarations of the scriptures, they might pervert the meaning pointed out by common sense, and thus give rise to controversy. They had neither the abil ity to investigate, nor the wish to decide, abstruse questions iu theology. The practical part of religion, was more thought of than the theoretical. Gradually, however, as the light of christianity arose, it penetrated the abodes of learning and intellect. It arrested the attention of philosophers. They, of course, began to speculate; speculation produced diversity of opinion; and diversity of opinion broke out in open controversy. In the course of these controversies, the distinguishing doctrines of christianity underwent a thorough discussion, and the boundaries of the faith were definitely settled. Those truths too, which had from the first been received as such, but not stated and explained in full, now appeared in a logical form and manner of exhibition. What had always been the tacit, now became the expressed belief of christians; what had been oral, was now recorded in writing; the half-formed theories which had been loosely floating about in the minds of the reflecting few, were now gathered up, and committed to creeds and systems. That this is the true account of the process of things in those early ages, does not, we think, admit of a reasonable doubt; and if so, then the Nicene creed, among others, is entitled to high credit as an expression of the opinions of the earliest fathers on the subject of the Trinity.
But to return to the work before us. We congratulate the public that we have at length a translation of Mosheim's History, which represents that able production as it really is. Nor is this all. Dr. Murdock's edition, enriched as it is with the results of his own investigations for many years, and with a vast amount of information derived from Schlegel, Neander, Walch, Schröckh, and other great writers on this subject since the time of Mosheim, may be considered in some degree, as a synopsis of the latest and most valuable researches in ecclesiastical history. These additions constitute about one third part of the whole work. The remaining two volumes, we understand, will be ready for delivery in the month of June.
ART. IX.-VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATIONS.
Minutes of the Convention of Delegates, met to consult on Missions, in the City of Cincinnati, A. D. 1831. Published by order of the Convention. Lexington, Ky. 8vo. pp. 22.
A Report of the Minority in the Convention on Domestic Missions, held in Cincinnati, November, 1831. BY A COMMITTEE. Cincinnati: 1831. 8vo. pp. 48.
ABOUT forty years ago, a few individuals, members of a Baptist ministerial association in the interior of England, began to feel the duty which rested on them as members of the human family, and as followers of the Redeemer of men, to be doing something for the conversion of the unevangelized nations. Some of them offered to go abroad in this work; others who staid at home, formed themselves into an association to aid in their support. This was the beginning of the Baptist missions in the east. Out of this has grown all that the world has heard of Serampore, with its schools, its presses, its college, its translations of the scriptures, and its subordinate and sister stations, all operating for the overthrow of that dominion of darkness to which the millions of the east have been so long subjected. That simple arrangement made in Oct. 1792, by which it was agreed that Thomas and Carey should go to India, and that their friends in England should contribute for their support, marks a new era in the history of the christian religion.
Almost at the same time, many individuals belonging to the English congregational churches, and a few devoted and large-minded members of the established church, were moved by the same spirit which was exciting Carey and his colleagues to their apostolic enterprise. These men, feeling that by their individual relations to their Savior and to their fellow-men, they were bound to do all