« AnteriorContinuar »
poor Episcopalian worships Four. Is this a specimen of the ' progress of intelligence, and the improvement of the moral faculties' with which Dr. Channing compliments the supporters of his sentiments? Our ideas of morality and truth may be old-fashioned, and 'behind the age,' but we do sincerely trust, for the honor of our national literature, that Mr. Spacks' historical labors stand on much safer and higher ground, than his Christian fairness, or his Theological accuracy.
It may doubtless, however, seem strange that the Romanists, who adhere to the doctrine of the Trinity, should countenance the notion that the Fathers before the Council of Nice did not hold the same. Let us, therefore, quote the learned Bishop Bull's account of this anomaly, and we shall behold a humiliating but useful example of the power of polemic zeal, in shutting the eyes of men to the plainest truth, when they think it in their way.
Speaking of Petavius, to whose eminent learning and abilities as 'a great man and deeply skilled in every kind of literature,' he had before borne testimony, Bp. Bull observes as follows: (g) 'I should have thought that this man, who was a Jesuit, wished to serve the cause of the Pope, rather than of the Arians. For if he could have established the assertion that the Catholic Doctors of the first three ages for the most part fell into the samq error which the Nicene Council afterwards condemned in Arius, these two inferences would readily follow: 1. That but small reliance could be placed on the Fathers of the first
(g) Putarim hominem, Jesuitam scilicet, Pontificiae potius quam Arianae causae consultum voluisse. Ex eo enim quod Catholici Doctores trium primorum saeculorum plerique omnes eundem plane errorem errarunt, quam postea in Ario ut haeresim damnavit synodus Nicaeena, (quod contendit Petavius) haec duo facile eonsequentur: L Patribus trium primorum saeculorum, quos imprimis appellare solent Catholici Reformati, parum tribuendum esse; utpote quibus nondum sathree centuries, to which the Reformed Catholics are accustomed chiefly to appeal, since the principal doctrines of the Christian faith were not yet sufficiently understood and made clear to them: 2. That General Councils have the power of setting forth new articles of faith, or (as Petavius speaks,) of constituting and making them clear; from whence a fair prospect appeared for .those additions, which they made to the rule of faith, and which the Fathers of the Council of Trent obtruded on the Christian world: although indeed, even so, the Roman faith could not stand, for the Tridentine assembly was any thing rather than a General Council. But thus it seems to the masters of this school, that there is no religion but that of building their Pseudo-Catholic faith upon the ruins of the true Catholic faith. The very oracles of God must be accused of too much obscurity, the most holy doctors of the Primitive Church, Bishops and Martyrs, must personate heretics, so that by all or any mode, the faith and authority of the degenerate Church of Rome, patched up and covered, may be preserved. And yet these sophists have the hardihood to execrate us as the accursed Ham, calling us mockers and despisers of the venerable Fathers of the Church; and
tis perspecta et patefacta fuerunt praecipua Christianae fidei capita; 2. Concilia Oecumenica potestatem habere novos fidei articulos condendi, eive (ut Petavius loquitur) constituendi et patefaeiendi: unde satis prospectum videatur additamentis illis, quae regulae fidei assuerunt, quaeque Christiano orbi obtruserunt Patres Tridentini: quanquam ne, sic quidam fides Romana stabit; cum Tridentina conventio quidvis pOtius, quam generate concilium dicenda sit. Sed ita scilicet istius scholae magistris nulla religio est, Pseudo-Catholicam suam fidem super fidei vere Catholicae ruinas aedificare. Ipsa oracula Divina nimiae obscuritatis condemnanda; sanctissimiprimaevae Ecclesiae Doctores, Episcopi et martyres haereseos insimulandi sunt; ut quocunque modo degeneris Ecclesiae Romanae fides atque auctoritas sarta tecta conservetur. Et hi tamen sophistae (si Diis placet) nos tanquam Chamos maledictos et venerandorum Ecclesiae Patrum irrisores et
boast that they follow religiously the faith of the ancient doctor's, and revere their writings in the highest degree. But I dare not certainly affirm that Petavius wrote with this nefarious design, for it is the sole prerogative of God to judge the heart. Meanwhile, however, we confidently pronounce, that what this Jesuit has written against the holy Fathers, Nicene, and ante-Nicene, however acceptable it may be to our modern Arians, (who on this account receive and embrace him as their very patron,) is in truth a most injurious and shameful calumny.' (Vid. Def. Fid. Nicaen. ed. 1685, p. 9.
We have made this long extract from Bishop Bull, for the purpose of explaining a fact of no small interest and seeming difficulty in the history of Theology. It is the fact, that after centuries of veneration and confidence, including the very era of the reformation, so many modern Divines of entirely opposite sentiments, have agreed to vilify the early Fathers. The melancholy truth appears to be, that the spirit of polemic warfare blinded them. Each party had reasons, and, alas! antipathies to serve by this course. The Fathers of the first three centuries were in the way of the Romanist on many subjects; hence he charged them with unsoundness in doctrine. They were in the way of the Calvinist, because they proved Episcopacy and defended free will; hence he willingly echoed
contemtores execrantur; se vero veterum Doctorum fidem religiose sequi, eorumque seripta summopere revereri jactitant. Hoc autetn nefario consilio ista scripstsse Petavium non austm certo affirmare, Deo xagJto/vtu(frtj illud judicium permittens. Interim quod scripsit Jesuits, ut modernis Arianis pergratum, (qui ob id omnes tanquam pa* tronum suum ipsum suspiciunt atque exosculantur) ita veritati manifeste contrarium, atque in sanctos Patres tam Nicaenos quam Ante Nicaenos valde injuriosum et contumeliosum esse, fidenter pronuntiamus.'
the charge, and labored,—witness Daille and Blondel,—to fasten upon 'them a variety of absurdities. And they were in the way of the Socinian in every thing. But this last assailant has a double mode of managing his weapons which is truly skilful. He uses the calumnies of the Romanist to prove that the early Fathers did not maintain the Trinity, and when he is asked to agree -wijh what they did maintain, he derides their opinions altogether, telling us with Dr. Channing, ('Discourses,' Boston, 1830. p. 52,) that 'Christianity was then in its infancy. The Apostles communicated its great truths to tl»e rude minds of Jews and heathens, but the Primitive Church did not, and could not, understand all that was involved in those principles,' Stc. 'In the first age,' continues he, a little farther on, 'the religion was administered with a wise and merciful conformity to the capacity of its recipients. With the progress of intelligence, and the development of the moral faculties, Christianity is freeing itself, and ought to be freed, from the local, temporary, and accidental associations of its childhood.'
In opposition to all this, it is the peculiar felicity of the Protestant Episcopal Church, to have no motive for obscuring the evidence of that age which was next to the Apostles. We appeal to it as being, after Scripture, our witness in doctrine, in government, in worship. And we respectfully ask, what do these adversaries of the Trinitarian faith really mean by their notion, that Christianity was in its childhood in the Primitive Church, and is only now becoming mature? What is Christianity, if it be not a system revealed from heaven to man, for the purpose of raising man, by pure doctrines exemplified in a holy life, to heaven? And did not the Christianity of the primitive day equal that of ours? Were the workers of miracles— these rude Jews and heathens of whom Dr. C. speaks— who received the truth fromlhe Apostles, and the thousands who had all things in common, and the noble army of martyrs and confessors who succeeded them—were they really infants in Christian knowledge and power, when compared with the vigorous and enlightened sanctity of modem Socinianism? Was that Christianity in its childhood which manifested all its Divine influence in its strongest and most exalted form, and is it only to be judged full grown now, because it is ready to despise every restraint, and burst away from every ancient guide, and roam, unchecked, in the wildness of philosophic freedom, to search, in its nineteen hundredth year, after ' new forms of development?'
But we turn to our proposed task, viz., the showing by the Fathers themselves, 1st., that they held the doctrines of the Trinity' and the Deity of Christ; and 2d., that they rested these doctrines on the foundation of Scripture.
Beginning with the apostolical Fathers, we shall quote from Archbishop Wake's translation, the character of which is entitled to all confidence: New York ed. 1810.
St. Ignatius, in his Epistle, to the Ephesians, p. 198 says, 'Where is the boasting of those who are called wise, for our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the dispensation of God, conceived in the womb of Mary of the seed of David, by the Holy Ghost,' &c. The very phraseology of this passage is scriptural. Again, same page, ' Men's ignorance,' says he, 'was taken away, and the old kingdom abolished; God himself appearing jn the form of a man, for the renewal of eternal life.
And again, 'If Jesus Christ shall give you grace through your prayers, and it be his will,' &sc.; plainly showing that our Lord was then, as now, the object of worship.
Again, in his Epist. to the Magnesians, p, 204, < Study