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shall be assigned his eternal abode in the fire of hell and the society of devils and their reprobate companions. Then let us beseech the Most High to have compassion on the work of his hands, and in mercy bestow on all the sons of men a docile spirit, and lead them to the knowledge of the truth, that they may have an opportunity for salvation and attain to the everlasting glory that is prepared for them in heaven from before the foundation of the world, that they may praise and glorify him for ever and ever. Amen.
THE CONFLICT OF TRINITARIANISM AND UNITARIANISM IN THE ANTE-NICENB AGE.
BY PHILIP SCIIAFF, D. D.
The doctrine of the holy Trinity, that is, of the living and only true God, Father, Son, and Spirit, the source of creation, redemption, and sanctification, has in all ages been regarded as the sacred symbol and the fundamental article of the Christian system, in distinction alike from the abstract monotheism of Judaism and Mohammedanism, and from the dualism and polytheism of the heathen religions. The denial of this doctrine implies necessarily also, directly or indirectly, a denial of the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, together with the divine character ot the work of redemption and sanctification.
The Bible teaches the Trinity expressly in the baptismal formula, Matt. 28: 19, and in the apostolic benediction, 2 Cor. 13: 14, i. e. in those two passages where all the truths and blessings of Christianity are comprehended in a short summary. These passages, especially the first, form the basis of all the ancient creeds. The Scriptures, however, inculcate the doctrine, not so much in express state
raents and single passages, as in great living facts; in the history of a threefold revelation of the living God from the creation of the world to its final consummation, when God shall be all in all. Every passage, moreover, which proves the divinity of Christ or the Holy Spirit, proves also the holy Trinity, if we view it in connection with the fundamental doctrine of the divine Unity as revealed in the Old Testament and confirmed in the New.
On this scriptural basis arose the orthodox dogma of the Trinity as brought out in the oecumenical creeds of the Nicene age, and incorporated into the Evangelical Protestant confessions of faith. The same belief directly or indirectly ruled the church from the beginning, even during the anteNicene period, although it did not attain its full logical form till the fourth century. The doctrine is primarily of a practically religious nature, and speculative only in a secondary sense. It arose, not from the field of metaphysics, but from that of experience and worship; and not as an abstract, isolated dogma, but in inseparable connection with the study of Christ and of the Holy Ghost; especially in connection with Christology, since all theology proceeds from " God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." Under the condition of monotheism, this doctrine followed of necessity, as already stated, from the doctrine of the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Ghost. The unity of God was already immovably fixed, by the Old Testament, as a fundamental article of revealed religion in opposition to all forms of idolatry. But the New Testament and the Christian consciousness as firmly demanded faith in the divinity of the Son, who effected redemption, and of the Holy Ghost, who founded the church and dwells in believers; and these apparently contradictory interests could be reconciled only in the form of the Trinity;1 that is, by distinguishing in the one and indivisible essence of God (ovaLa, <pv<n<;, substantia, sometimes also, inaccurately, inroaracm), three hypostases or persons (TpeZ? vTrocrrdaeis, rpia irpocrayira, persona;); at the
1 Tpic£s, first in Theophilus; trinitas, first in Tertullian; from the fourth century more distinctly /loyorptds, novas in rpidSt, triunitas.
same time allowing for the insufficiency of all human conceptions and words to describe such an unfathomable mystery.
The Socinian and rationalistic opinion, that the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity sprang from Platonism1 and NewPlatonism,a is therefore radically false. The Indian Triinurti, altogether pantheistic in spirit, is still further from the Christian Trinity. Only thus much is true : that the Hellenic philosophy operated from without, as a stimulating force upon the form of the whole patristic theology, the doctrines of the Logos and the Trinity among the rest; and that the deeper minds of heathen antiquity discovered a presentiment of a threefold distinction in the divine essence; but only a remote and vague presentiment, which, like all the deeper instincts of the heathen mind, serves to strengthen rather than to weaken the Christian truth. Far clearer and more fruitful suggestions presented themselves in the Old Testament, particularly in the doctrines of the Messiah, of the Spirit, of the Word, and of the Wisdom of God, and even in the system of symbolical numbers, which rests on the sacredness of the numbers three (God), four (the world), seven and twelve (the union of God and the world, hence the covenant number). But the mystery of the Trinity could be fully revealed only in the New Testament after the completion of the work of redemption and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. #
Again : it was primarily the economic or transitive trinity, which the church had in mind; that is, the trinity of the revelation of God in the threefold work of creation, redemption, and sanctification; the trinity presented in the apostolic writings as a living fact. But from this, in agreement with both reason and Scripture, the immanent or ontologic trinity was inferred; that is, an eternal distinction in the essence
1 Comp. Plato, Ep. 2 and 6, which, however, arc spurious or doubtful. Legg. IV. p. 185. 'O dtbs apxhv T6 Ka^ TeXeyr^y not ^iFffa ruv oyrwy cnrdi/Taiv iXuv~
1 Plotiu. Enu. V. 1 anil Porphyry in Cyril. Alex. c. Jul., who, however, were already unconsciously affected by Christian ideas, speak of rpus lnro<rriatis, hat in a sense altogether different from that of the church.
of God itself, which reflects itself in its revelation, and can be understood only so far as it manifests itself in its works and words. The divine nature thus came to be conceived, not as an abstract, blank unity, but as an infinite fulness of life; and the Christian idea of God (as John of Damascus has already remarked), in this respect, combined Jewish monotheism with the truth, which lay at the bottom of even the heathen polytheism, though distorted and defaced there beyond recognition. Then for the more definite illustration of this trinity of essence, speculative church teachers of subsequent times appealed to all sorts of analogies in nature, particularly in the sphere of the finite mind, which was made after the image of the divine, and thus to a certain extent authorizes such a parallel. They found a sort of triad in the universal law of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis; in the elements of the syllogism; in the three persons of grammar; in the combination of body, soul, and spirit in man; in the three leading faculties of the soul; in the nature of intelligence and knowledge, as involving a union of the thinking subject and the thought object; and in the nature of love, as likewise a union between the loving and the loved (" ubi amor, ibi trinitas," says St. Augustine). These speculations began with Origen and Tertullian; they were pursued by Athanasius and Augustine, and by the scholastics and the mystics; and they are not yet exhausted. For the holy Trinity, though the most evident, is yet the deepest of mysteries, and can be adequately explained by no analogies from finite and earthly things.
The theological activity of the ante-Nicene, and even of the Nicene period, centred around the divinity of Christ, while the divinity of the Holy Ghost was far less clearly and satisfactorily developed, and was not made the subject of special controversy at all, until the middle of the fourth century, in the dispute with the Macedonians or Pneumatomachians. Hence in the Apostles' Creed only one article (credo in Spiritum Sanctum) is devoted to the third person of the holy Trinity, while the confession of the Son of God, in six or seven articles, forms the body of the symbol. The reason is
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because the Christological article precedes the pneumatological article in the order of the Christian consciousness, and consequently also in the order of doctrine history. With this connects itself the fact that the Christological dogma was first and chiefly assailed by the early heresies, Ebionism which denied the true divinity of the Saviour, and Gnosticism which denied its true humanity; also by the two classes of Monachians or Unitarians, who either denied the divinity of Christ, like the Ebionites, or sunk it in the divinity of the Father, so as to destroy the proper personality of the Son.
In either dogma, however, we should well remember, that the belief of the ante-Nicene church here is to be inferred by no means simply from express doctrinal passages of the ecclesiastical writers which bear testimony to the divine character of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. The whole worship and practical life of ancient Christianity, up to the apostolic age, furnish as strong an argument for the true belief, as the logical statements. Thus the doctrine of the divinity of our Lord is clearly implied in the custom of the early Christians to sing hymns to Christ as God, which is testified by the heathen governor Plinius under Trajan, and the synod of Antioch, which deposed Paul of Samosata; in the act of baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; in the celebration of the eucharist, or the atoning sacrifice of Christ as the Mediator between God and man and the only source of salvation; in the weekly celebration of his resurrection; in the annual festivals of Easter and Pentecost; in the catechetical use of those early creeds; in the use of emblems and symbols -which represent the mystery of the cross; and finally in the martyrdom of so many hundreds and thousands of professors, who would never have sacrificed their life for a mere man.
If we allow these facts their proper weight, the testimony of the ancient church in favor of the divinity of Christ and also of the Holy Ghost, will appear to us far more strong, decided, and overwhelming, than if we take in view merely the express logical statements of the Fathers. For these, it