Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Confutation of Arianism deduced from the Writings of Eustathius and Athanasius.
Chapter VII.—Confutation of Arianism deduced from the Writings of Eustathius and Athanasius.
The above-named bishops, however, did not consent to it in sincerity, but only in appearance. This was afterwards shewn by their plotting against those who were foremost in zeal for religion, as well as by what these latter have written about them. For instance, Eustathius, the famous bishop of Antioch, who has been already mentioned, when explaining the text in the Proverbs, The Lord created me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old 340 , wrote against them, and refuted their blasphemy.
341 “I will now proceed to relate how these different events occurred. A general council was summoned at Nicæa, and about two hundred and seventy bishops were convened. There were, however, so many assembled that I cannot state their exact number, neither, indeed, have I taken any great trouble to ascertain this point. When they began to inquire into the nature of the faith, the formulary of Eusebius was brought forward, which contained undisguised evidence of his blasphemy. The reading of it before all occasioned great grief to the audience, on account of its departure from the faith, while it inflicted irremediable shame on the writer. After the Eusebian gang had been clearly convicted, and the impious writing had been torn up in the sight of all, some amongst them by concert, under the pretence of preserving peace, imposed silence on all the ablest speakers. The Ariomaniacs, fearing lest they should be ejected from the Church by so numerous a council of bishops, sprang forward to anathematize and condemn the doctrines condemned, and unanimously signed the confession of faith. Thus having retained possession of their episcopal seats through the most shameful deception, although they ought rather to have been degraded, they continue, sometimes secretly, and sometimes openly, to patronize the condemned doctrines, plotting against the truth by various arguments. Wholly bent upon establishing these plantations of tares, they shrink from the scrutiny of the intelligent, avoid the observant, and attack the preachers of godliness. But we do not believe that these atheists can ever thus overcome the Deity. For though they gird themselves they shall be broken in pieces, according to the solemn prophecy of Isaiah 342 .”
These are the words of the great Eustathius. Athanasius, his fellow combatant, the champion of the truth, who succeeded the celebrated Alexander in the episcopate, added the following, in a letter addressed to the Africans.
“The bishops convened in council being p. 45 desirous of refuting the impious assertions invented by the Arians, that the Son was created out of that which was non-existent 343 , that He is a creature and created being 344 , that there was a period in which He was not 345 , and that He is mutable by nature, and being all agreed in propounding the following declarations, which are in accordance with the holy Scriptures; namely, that the Son is by nature only-begotten of God, Word, Power, and sole Wisdom of the Father; that He is, as John said, the true God 346 , and, as Paul has written, the brightness of the glory, and the express image of the person of the Father 347 , the followers of Eusebius, drawn aside by their own vile doctrine, then began to say one to another, Let us agree, for we are also of God; There is but one God, by whom are all things 348 ; Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God 349 . They also dwelt particularly upon what is contained in The Shepherd 350 : Believe above all that there is one God, who created and fashioned all things, and making them to be out of that which is not.
“But the bishops saw through their evil design and impious artifice, and gave a clearer elucidation of the words of God, and wrote, that the Son is of the substance of God; in order that while the creatures, which do not in any way derive their existence of or from themselves, are said to be of God, the Son alone is said to be of the substance of the Father; this being peculiar to the only-begotten Son, the true Word of the Father. This is the reason why the bishops wrote, that He is of the substance of the Father.
“But when the Arians, who seemed few in number, were again interrogated by the Bishops as to whether they admitted that the Son is not a creature, but Power, and sole Wisdom, and eternal unchangeable 351 Image of the Father; and that He is very God, the Eusebians were noticed making signs to one another to shew that these declarations were equally applicable to us. For it is said, that we are the image and glory of God 352 ; and for always we who live 353 : there are, also, they said, many powers; for it is written—All the power of God went out of the land of Egypt 354 . The canker-worm and the locust are said to be a great power 355 . And elsewhere it is written, The God of powers is with us, the God of Jacob helper 356 . To which may be added that we are Gods own not simply, but because the Son called us brethren 357 . The declaration that Christ is the true God does not distress us, for, having come into being, He is true.
“Such was the corrupt opinion of the Arians; but on this the bishops, having detected their deceitfulness in this matter, collected from Scripture those passages which say of Christ that He is the glory, the fountain, the stream, and the express image of the person; and they quoted the following words: In thy light we shall see light 358 ; and likewise, I and the Father are one 359 . They then, with still greater clearness, briefly declared that the Son is of one substance with the Father; for this, indeed, is the signification of the passages which have been quoted. The complaint of the Arians, that these precise words are not to be found in Scripture, is proved groundless by their own practice, for their own impious assertions are not taken from Scripture; for it is not written that the Son is of the non-existent, and that there was a time when He was not: and yet they complain of having been condemned by expressions which, though not actually in Scripture, are in accordance with true religion. They themselves, on the other hand, as though they had found their words on a dunghill, uttered things verily of earth. The bishops, on the contrary, did not find their expressions for themselves; but, received their testimony from the fathers, and wrote accordingly. Indeed, there were bishops of old time, nearly one hundred and thirty years ago, both of the great city of Rome and of our own city 360 , who condemned those who asserted that the Son is a creature, and that He is not of one substance with the Father. Eusebius, the bishop of Cæsarea, was acquainted with these facts; he, at one time, favoured the Arian heresy, but he afterwards signed the confession of faith of the Council of Nicæa. He wrote to the people of his diocese, maintaining that the word consubstantial was used by illustrious bishops and learned writers as a term for expressing the divinity of the Father and of the Son 361 .”
So these men concealed their unsoundness through fear of the majority, and gave their p. 46 assent to the decisions of the council, thus drawing upon themselves the condemnation of the prophet, for the God of all cries unto them, “This people honour Me with their lips, but in their hearts they are far from Me 362 .” Theonas and Secundus, however, did not like to take this course, and were excommunicated by common consent as men who esteemed the Arian blasphemy above evangelical doctrine. The bishops then returned to the council, and drew up twenty laws to regulate the discipline of the Church.
Prov. viii. 22, lxx. Κύριος ἔκτισέ με ἀρχὴν ὁδῶν αὐτοῦ εἰς ἔργα αὐτοῦ44:341
At this point, according to Valesius, a quotation from the homily of Eustathius on the above text from Proverbs viii. 22, begins. On Eustathius, see notes on Chapters III. and XX.44:342
Is. viii. 9, lxx. ἐὰν γὰρ πάλιν ἰσχύσητε πάλιν ἡττηθήσεσθε45:343
᾽Εξ οὐκ ὄντων45:344
Κτίσμα καὶ ποίημα45:345
Ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν45:346
1 Joh. v. 2045:347
Heb. i. 3. Cf. p. 37, note xxvii.45:348
2 Cor. viii. 645:349
2 Cor. 5:17, 1845:350
Herm. Pastor. Vis. v. Mand. i.45:351
ἀπαράλλακτος, cf. James i. 17, Παρ᾽ ᾦ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγή45:352
1 Cor. xi. 745:353
2 Cor. iv. 11 ἀεὶ γὰρ ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες. The ἀεί of St. Paul qualifies not “οἱ ζῶντες” but the παραδιδόμεθα which follows, “For we who live are ever being delivered to death.”45:354
Exod. xii. 41, “The Hosts of the Lord,” A.V. ἐξῆλθε πᾶσα ἡ δύναμις Κυρίου, Sept.45:355
Joel ii. 25, “My great army,” A.V.45:356
“The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge,” Ps. xlvi. 745:357
Heb. ii. 1145:358
Ps. xxvi. 945:359
Joh. x. 3045:360
Alexandria. The allusion, according to Valesius, is to Dionysius, Bishop of Rome, 259–269, and to Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria. The Letter of Athanasius to the Africans was written, according to Baronius, in 369. So τριῶν may suit the chronology better than τριάκοντα45:361
Ath. Ep. ad Afros 5 and 6.46:362
Isa. 1:0, Isa. 29:13
Next: Facts relating to Meletius the Egyptian, from whom originated the Meletian Schism, which remains to this day.--Synodical Epistle respecting him.
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