Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

had'endured unparalleled sufferings for Christ, in the heathen persecutions. They were acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, and with the views of the church respecting the Trinity, from then, up to the apostles. In a long series of persecutions, they had evinced the sincerity of their love to God, and attachment to his truth.”

The historian says, “ Apostolical discernment and piety, in no inconsiderable degree, animated the spirit of the Nicene fathers. Not a few of them bore on their bodies

the marks of the Lord Jesus.” One, debilitated by the application of hot iron to both his hands; some deprived of both their eyes: others, of their legs. A croud of martyrs collected in one body.” Abr. p.

172 We have no reason to suppose, in the view of this account, that they came together to impose a new doctrine on the christian church; but, to vindicate “the faith which was once delivered to the saints,” and to cut off her heretical members. Duty required these steps to be taken.

But my opponent says" Anathemas were poured upon the head of Arius and his followers, by the Orthodox.” The expression “ anathemas," is

anathemas," is very strong indeed; but, it amounts to no more than excommunication from the communion of sound Christians. The church is commanded to do this in these words, which are of divine authority :-"A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that such an one is subverted; being condemned of himself.”

Concerning Arius, the gentleman adds; “ though he was restored to good standing in the church, by an emperor who favored his cause; yet, he came to a tragical end-probably by poison.” Constantine was this emperor. He was fond of peace and union in the church, to a fault; but, he was strictly orthodox in his own sentiments. He was not so fully aware of the duplicity of Arius, as the

Bishops were; and, therefore, he was more easily imposed upon by that artful heretic. There was some fear in the mind of Constantine, that the orthodox clergy, were prejudiced against him, on other grounds than doctrine. It was the man, and not his heresy, which the emperor favored.

Milner says “ Constantine himself, was not to be prevailed on to admit Arius into the church, unless he were convinced of his orthodoxy. He sent for him to the palace, and asked him plainly, whether he agreed to the Nicene decrees. Arius, without hesitation, subscribed: the emperor

ordered him to swear: he assented to this also. Constantine, whose scruples were now overcome, ordered the Bishop to receive him into the church the next day.”

The Arians then began to rejoice, and the church to weep. Both parties knew very well, that although Arius had subscribed to the Nicene creed, his principles remained the same. The Bishop, spent the time in solemn fasting and prayer,

for divine interposition in that affecting case. ** The next day,” says Milner,“ seemed to be a triumphant one to the Arians: the heads of the party paraded through the city with Arius in the midst. When they came nigh to the forum of Constantine, a sudden terror, with a disorder of the bowels, seized Arius. He retired, and then fainted ; and his bowels were poured out with a vast effusion of blood.” “Thus," says the historian, “ God sent deliverance, and confounded the adversaries of Zion."

This, is what my opponent calls “a tragical end-probably destroyed by poison.” But the word,“ probably," is all the evidence of the thing, that he has produced. To fasten such a charge upon the Orthodox, something of the testimony is necessary, which he demands to prove the authority of the text in dispute.

After the death of Arius, my opponent says,—“ His doctrine, however gained ground with astonishing rapidity

under the reign of two emperors, and seemed for a season, to bid fair to become the dominant religion, especially in the East, where it prevailed far more generally than in the West. At length, Trinitarianism gained a complete victory, and the cause of Arius was suddenly extinguished. Trinitarianism became the order of the day, from the reign of Justinian, down through all the dark ages, until the time of the reformation."

On what the gentleman has now said, a few brief remarks may be made. It is very true, that Arianism spread its baleful wings over the christian world, almost entirely; and, with a rapidity that was mournful, as well as “astonishing.” My opponent says—“ It seemed for a season, to bid fair to become the dominant religion.” The Arians, no doubt, then anticipated an everlasting triumph of their deleterious cause. But, it was only" for a season,that this smoke of the pit, darkened the christian horizon. The gentleman's expression “a season,is

very

indefinite. Its duration, however was, above one half of the fourth century, the whole of the fifth, and more than half of the sixth century; according to his own calculation; for, the emperor Justinian, died in the year 566. This season, therefore, was more than two hundred years.

It seems to be the object of my opponent, in calling the reign of Arianism“a season,” to impress the mind with such a view of its shortness, that no advantage could have been taken, of erasing the text in debate, from the manuscripts and versions of Scripture then in use, nor in forming others, in which it might have been omitted. He appears to keep his eye on this point, as a thing of the first importance to his cause. But, immediately after the Nicene council, which was in the 25th year of the fourth

century, Arianism prevailed to such a degree in the Roman empire, that Athanasius, who is called “the champion of Or

N

As he says, it

thodoxy,” was banished. The Nicene creed, therefore, with the men, and those parts of Scripture which supported it, must have experienced much opposition, through a period of time, not less than two hundred and fifty years. The exertions of men, on that side, to silence the sacred passages which are against them, we fully understand ; and we may be well assured that their predecessors have been animated with the same spirit.

The gentleman, closes his statement with these words; Trinitarianism became the order of the day, from the reign of Justinian, down through all the dark ages, until the time of the reformation."

it was a time of great darkness indeed; and long, being upwards of one thousand years. But, if the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, gave that era its sable aspect, the present day is not very luminous; for, the reformed churches as fully believe it now, as the church of Rome ever did. It seems to be my opponent's opinion, that such a long period of darkness, gave a fine opportunity to forge, insert and impose the text in debate. The doctrine of the Trinity, however, is not of Papal origin. 'It was firmly believed in the earliest times of christianity, and when the church was in her greatest purity; being supported by what was deemed “ sufficient evidence;" and therefore, the Roman Hierarchy were not under the necessity of fabricating evidence in its favor. It does not appear, that it was ever the desire of the Roman clergy to multiply manuscripts, or versions of the Scriptures; but, to keep them wholly out of the sight of the laity. If we take into view the nature of their scheme, we may easily see, that they were under a greater temptation to erase some part of the decalogue, than to forge and insert the text in dispute. By the account which my opponent has given us, the doctrie of the Trinity was not opposed in the dark ages; and, of course, there was no need of. forging Scripture for its support. He acknowledges, however, that "it became a subject of violent controversy throughout the christian world,” from the days of Arius to the commencement of the Papal reign. If the disputed text be a forgery, there can be no doubt, that the crime was committed in the Arian period of time ; for then, such a passage was necessary; and no one supposes that it was forged since the reformation. We may be well assured, that the Arians were heavily pressed with the arguments of the Orthodox; and, therefore, they had as great need to spike the artillery which was in operation against them, as their opponents had to forge such “a cannon of war,” as the text under consideration.

The gentleman in opposition, goes on to draw some inferences from the arguments which he has advanced.

His first conclusion is ;—"Now the argument stands thus-Had 1 John, 5. 7, been known, or contained in John's epistle, this was the time when it was wanted."

This, I cheerfully admit; for the time” to which he alludes, is the Arian period. My opponent, seems to press me with this supposed difficulty, namely ;-[f the text had existed then, it would have been largely quoted by the writers of that time—they did not use it;-and, therefore, it was not known by them. In my sermons on the passage, it was shown, that Jerom cited it in the beginning of the fifth century, and Vigilius at the close of it. Agustine, Marcus, Celedensis, and Phebadius, used it in the fourth century; and, if we may rely on historical testimony, it was cited by Athanasius. It was left as a testimony against the Arians, at the conference held at Carthage, in the fifth century.

No doubt, the writings of those ancient fathers, have suffered greatly by the lapse of ages; and perhaps by the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »