Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]


rally expect the WHY and WHEREFORE, or how could he form a just conclusion on the case ? This, however, was not the object of Fox and his editors; they did not wish the TRUTH should be known, and therefore they took special care not to relate the whole of it. We will however take upon ourself to supply the omission.

But before we enter on this task we must here make a remark on the second note introduced by the modern editors. They observe, "humiliating is it to perceive that the Christians had scarcely escaped " from the persecutions of their general enemy, ere they began to per"secute each other with the most unrelenting fury!"

This is a gross misrepresentation, for the Orthodox or Catholic Christians never persecuted the Arians, but contented themselves with defending their cause by the force of reason and public opinion, as we shall speedily prove.


with the modern editors that it is absurd to expect to enforce belief in any creed, and criminal to effect conviction by the civil sword, nor did the Catholic church ever attempt so unchristian a compulsion; though let it be remarked, this is invariably the case with those who are in error.. They know that there is no other way to establish their false notions and doctrines generally than by the effect of the civil sword, and they of course are doubly guilty ; that is, of false hood, by teaching that which is erroneous; and of injustice, by using coercive means to make hypocrites, for it is nonsense to call it conviction. It is clear, that the divine Founder of Christianity never intended that his system of heavenly truths and mysteries was to depend on earthly power, or he would never have chosen unarmed and defenceless men to carry it through the world. Men would never bave become convinced of its divine origin, if they had not seen as well as heard the powerful voice of God through these unsuccoured agents, as far as worldly interests were concerned. For three centuries these truths had been thus spread and maintained, in defiance of the powers of earth and hell; and having subdued the first monarch of the world to the obedience of faith, it is not to be supposed that a change or revolution would take place in that system which it was promised should last for ever. But it is time to return to our martyrologist, and supply the omissions he has made in the history of Arianism.

That the sect of had their origin from Arius, and that he was a native of Lybia is quite correct. That he was a broacher of HERESY, is also true; and his heresy consisted in his DENYING THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST, which is the case with the Antitrinitarians, the Unitarians, the Socinians, and the Deists; therefore, as the Arian doctrine is HERESY, according to John Fox's statement, so must the doctrine of the sects just named be heresy also, and we should not wonder if many of the professors of these doctrines have been active in thus publishing their own shame, in order, as they say, “to ex« cite a hatred and abhorrence of Popery and its professors." By the rule of common sense, those who now deny the divinity of our Saviour, stand convicted by this Book of Martyrs of HERESY, which, according to Johnson, is, an opinion of private men, different from that of “ the CATHOLIC or ORTHODOX church,” if those who denied this divine essence in the fourth century were heretics. And that the doctrine of Arius WAS heresy, we shall now proceed to prove.

We have shewn in the preceding pages that the belief of the divinity of the Son of God was an essential point of Christianity, and held by all the martyrs recorded by John Fox, who laid down their lives for this faith. Arius, however, having been censured by his bishop for joining in a schism to disturb the church of Alexandria, and disappointed in not being elected to the patriarchal chair of that city, through envy and malice, conceived the project of gratifying his evil passions by thwarting the new patriarch St. Alexander, in the instructions which the latter gave to his clergy. St. Alexander, like his predecessors, maintained the mystery of the 'Trinity, and the Incarnation of the Son of God, as the revealed doctrine of Christ himself to his apostles, and by them delivered to their successors in the different churches that had been raised by them. Arius, on the contrary, contended that the Son was a creature made out of nothing; that there was a time when he did not exist; and that he was capable of sin, besides other impieties. Being a man of grave deportment and of pleasing conversation, he not only succeeded in seducing two Lybian bishops with some priests and deacons, but he publicly avowed his doctrines, and was drawing many ignorant people, led away by novelty, into his errors. In this state of things the patriarch had recourse to the usual custom of the church, which is, not to rely on individual opinion, but on the united and concurrent testimony of competent judges. Accordingly he assembled a council or ecclesiastical parliament at Alexandria of one hundred bishops of the provinces of Egypt and Lybia, who discussed the propositions of Arius, and condemned them as erroneous, and contrary to the revealed truths derived from Truth itself. Arius persisting in his falsely conceived notions, was excommunicated and expelled' the church. Here then we see the sure foundation on which the Ca-' tholics rest their faith, and the sandy ground on which those who differ from them raise their rickety edifice of a church. The Catholic church, founded on a solid rock, stands immoveable amidst the storms of persecution and heresy that assail her, while the sects that spring from the perversion of reason and common sense, make a stand for a while, commit havock around the building, but are dispersed like a rope of sand by one breath of the divine Vengeance. Well here we see one hundred individuals, renowned for their learning and irreproachable conduct, deciding, upon the strongest ground imaginable, that is, by the concurrent testimony of their predecessors to the very time of the apostles, in favour of the divinity of Jesus Christ; and is it not more reasonable to suppose that these men, chosen to be the instructors of others in the way of truth, must be better judges of what was revealed to the apostles, than one man who could not produce a single witness to testify in favour of his notions, but relied for success on the subtilties of his mind and the web of sophistry? The reader must answer this question in the affirmative; and yet such is the conduct of those who follow the notions of this or that sectarian, instead of clinging steadfast to the undeviating Spirit of Truth, to be found only in the Catholic church.

Arius thus foiled in his impious attempts to rob the Redeemer of Mankind of his Divinity by public discussion, had recourse to private intrigue and artifice. He succeeded in gaining over Eusebius, bishop

[merged small][ocr errors]

of Nicomedia, to his cause, who, having great influence in the court of Constantine, through the favour of Constantia, the emperor's sister, and wife of Licinius, contrived to introduce Ariųs to his patroness, who gained her over, by hypocrisy and flattery, to espouse his cause. Here then we see the progress of error. Defeated by the force of reason and tradition, but unwilling to confess the truth, its next resource is stratagem and dissimulation, and finally brute force is pressed to its service. Arius now attempted to poison the mind of Constantine, through the influence of Constantia, but the emperor was too well impressed with the truths he had learned to be carried away by the arts laid to ensnare him. In the mean while several bishops were persuaded to join the factious heresiarch, and they thought to carry all before them by assembling a mock council of their party, in which they decreed that the doctrine of Arius was orthodox, and that the patriarch Alexander should receive it or be declared a heretic. Thus then the church, which had but lately been rescued from the persecutions of the Roman pagans under the miraculous banner of the cross, now found herself troubled with the divisions of her own children, and the peace of the empire was threatened by the tumults and seditions created by the factious opposition of Arius and his adherents to the decisions of the church, exercising that power given to her by her divine Founder: He that heareth you, heareth me.

In this state of confusion and disorder, Constantine had recourse to pope St. Sylvester, who had instructed him in the principles of Christianity, and advised with him as to the best means to restore peace and harmony to the church and the empire. The measure proposed and agreed on was such as every rational man must approve, and the most congenial to common sense that could be devised. It was to call a convocation of bishops from every part of the empire, who were to discuss and decide theologically the question that had created such contention and disturbance. Various provincial assemblies of the kind had been held during the time of persecution, when disputes on doctrine had arisen, but this was the first general council or spiritual parliament convened by the church, and as such, is deserving our particular notice. The emperor Constantine was then residing at Nicomedia, and it was resolved that the council should be held at Nice, the principal city of Bithynia, to which place the bishops were invited to repair. Accordingly, three hundred and eighteen bishops, besides priests and deacons, resorted to the place of assemblage, and on the 19th day of June, 325, the council was opened in a spacious hall suitable to that purpose. In this solemn parliament of Christendom were to be found the greatest and most famous men in the world, both for their extraordinary learning, the remarkable holiness of their lives, and the honourable marks which they carried with them of having suffered for their faith. The great Hosius, bishop of Cordova in Spain, presided as the representative of the pope, assisted by the priests Vitus and Vince ius. Then there were the three celebrated patriarchs, namely, Alexander of Alexandria; Eustathius of Antioch; and Macarius of Jerusalem; all rendered famous for their deep knowledge of the scripture. The church of Africa was represented by the renowned Cecilian, primate of that country, who had lately triumphed over the Donatists. [Men who contended that the true church had absolutely fal

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

len, except in those places where Donatism was professed; and complimented the Catholic church with the appellation of the whore of Balon, from whom we presume our “few plain Christians” have taken the example.). Besides these great personages came those courageous defenders of the faith, Hypatius of Gangra, who was afterwards

martyred; Eupsychius of Tynæ, Longinus of Neocæsarea, Protogenes of Sardica, Eutychius of Amasea, whom the illustrious martyr Basileus caused to be chosen in his stead; Alexander of Byzantium, (now Constantinople) Arestanes of the greater Armenia, the famous Leontius of Cæsarea in Cappadocia, and the celebrated Nicolas, archbishop of Myra, the capital of Lyra, a large ancient province of Asia. This last named holy man was so famed for the miracles he wrought through the divine power of Jesus Christ, that altars and churches were everywhere raised to his memory. To add to the sanctity of the assembly, many of its members were maimed in defence of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and had come to the council to defend by their suffrages that doctrine they had confessed by their sufferings. Of these there were the venerable Potamo of Heraclea in Egypt; one of whose eyes had been plucked out in the persecution of Maximin. Paphnutius, bishop of higher Thebais, who, during the fury of that persecution, had his right eye put out, and his left arm cut off, and was buried alive as it were in the mines. Paul, bishop of Neocæsarea upon the Euphrates, who in the time of Licinius, had both his hands burned with hot irons; James, bishop of Nisibis in Mesopotamia, who displayed invincible resolution while suffering the most cruel torments under Maximin; and the holy Spiridion, bishop of Tremithus in Cyprus, who likewise lost a leg and and an eye in the persecutions of Maximian Galerius. These facts are stated in the writings of Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and other ancient writers. On the other hand, there were Eusebius of Cæsarea, Maris of Chalcedon, and Theognis of Nice, who had denied our Saviour in the persecution, to save themselves from torments, besides several Pagan philosophers, who challenged the council to dispute upon religion, which the members accepted. In the midst of the hall was laid on a magnificent throne the book of the holy gospels, to take the place, as it were, of Christ himself.

Matters being thus settled, the fathers came to the council, and held their sittings every day, the speakers having the most perfect freedom of debate, in order to come to a right conclusion. Arius was heard in his own defence, as were also those who took part with him. The different points of dispute were examined and sifted with much minuteness; an exact inquiry was made into all the texts of scripture that bore upon the questions; and the arguments advanced on both sides were canvassed with nice discrimination. The proceedings of the provincial council of Alexandria were read, as were also some letters written by Eusebius the friend of Arius, and the decision was, that three hundred bishops declared that the Son of God was consubstantial with his Father, and entireiy equal to him in all his divine perfections. On this decision of the council being declared, the doctrine of Arius was reduced to several propositions and anathematized as new, erroneous and blasphemous. Eusebius of Nicomedia with seventeen of the bishops stood out, and rejected the term consubstantial, but on further

reflection, fourteen of these afterwards subscribed to the decision of the council, so that there were only two left in favour of Arius and his friend Eusebius.

It may here be necessary to remark, that this council was not called to decree new articles of faith, but to decide between that which was original and that which was counterfeit. The doctrine promulgated by Arius was evidently a novelty, or the people would not have been so shocked and affected on hearing it. Being new, it could not have been that which the apostles had received from God, and therefore could not be of divine origin, but must have been of human invention. How then could it have been supposed that the inventor would have the power to make the world believe, by the means of persuasion, that he'alone was right and all the 'rest were wrong? Such a thing was impossible. He might, however, by deceit and hypocrisy, impose upon some, and by threats and torments compel others to join his standard. The guardians of truth, on the other side, proceeded upon an infallible ground. They referred to the gospels and the tradition of the fathers, which they found to be invariably decisive on the subject of Christ's DIVINITY, as a revealed truth derived by the apostles from God himself, and as such indispensable to be believed. They had not to form a new belief, as we before observed, but to give testimony to the old one; and when we find three hundred bishops from all parts of the world, many of whom had never seen each other before, yet all coincided in the exact same opinion, as did also the people over whom they were placed, should we not aet contrary to common sense to reject that doctrine which is thus miraculously shewn to be divine, (for nothing but a divine power could cause such an unity in belief) and embrace the vain notions of a proud hypocrite as the oracle of divine wisdom? Who can answer us in the negative? Thus then the reader is in possession of the rule by which Catholics are guided in their religious belief. They do not take this upstart, nor that pretender, for their guide ; but they rely on the divine promises of the Founder of their church, and when any difference of sentiment is started, they look to the general opinion of the whole body, and not to an isolated branch of the church, or two or three factious members of it, as the only rational rule by which to decide with certainty.

Let us, by way of illustration, suppose a case to happen in this country. We all know that the privilege of trial by jury is one of the grand palladiums of British freedom. It is a fundamental principle of the English civil constitution, the same as the divinity of the Son of God is the fundamental principle of Christianity; for if you


away the divine essence of the Founder of the church of God, you make it stand on human strength; so if you take away the right of trial by jury, you take away the essence of civil liberty, and become subject to be condemned by individual caprice. Well, a man takes it into his head to dispute the efficacy of this fundamental principle of civil liberty. He contends that though the trial by jury has existed for a long, very long period of years, yet it is of no benefit to the security of the people, and therefore ought to be abolished. That such a man would find disciples there can be no doubt; for, in fact, the trial by jury was disregarded by the parliaments of Harry and Elizabeth, on their assuming

« ForrigeFortsæt »