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30898

OF THE

ANTE-NICENE FATHERS

TO THE DOCTRINE OF

THE TRINITY

AND OF THE

DIVINITY OF THE HOLY GHOST.

BY

THE REV. EDWARD BURTON, D. D.

REGIUS PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY AND CANON OF CHRIST CHURCH.

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OXFORD,
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS.

MDCCCXXXI.

INTRODUCTION.

IT is unnecessary to state, that the present work is intimately connected with one which has been already published, entitled, Testimonies of the AnteNicene Fathers to the Divinity of Christ. The two works might not improperly have been incorporated, and the whole would have formed a body of Ante-Nicene testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity. I preferred however making a distinct collection of all the passages, which assert a belief in Christ's divinity: and I had intended to follow this up by a similar collection of quotations concerning the divinity of the Holy Ghost. It is known to the readers of ecclesiastical history, that there was no specific controversy concerning the third person of the Trinity till the fourth century. It might not be incorrect to say, that till then the divinity of the third person was never doubted or denied : but however this may be, the absence of controversy might prepare us for few passages, which bear directly upon this subject; and I have therefore thought it better to bring together in the present work all the testimonies which remain, whether they relate to the doctrine of the Trinity, or the divinity of the Holy Ghost.

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The doctrine of the Trinity is in fact established by any passages, which prove the divinity of the second and third persons : and by the doctrine of the Trinity, I mean the doctrine of there being three distinct persons, each of whom is God, but all of whom, when considered as to their substance or essence, are only one God. I am not now explaining the nature of this mystery, but merely stating what is meant by the doctrine of the Trinity, as it has been held by the catholic church from the earliest ages to the present; and I repeat, that this doctrine is established by any passages, which prove the divinity of the Son and the Holy Ghost.

If this position be denied, we have no alternative between adopting the Arian or Sabellian hypothesis, or acknowledging a plurality of Gods. The Arians professed to believe, that Jesus Christ is God: they even called him very God of very God: but then they used the term God in a different sense, when applied to the Son, from what it bears, when applied to the Father. They believed that there was a time, when the Son did not exist : they believed him to have been created by the Father: and by this twofold meaning of the term God, they avoided the charge of holding a plurality of Gods, while they also differed totally from the orthodox faith. The Arians however can hardly be rescued with truth from acknowledging more Gods than one. They did not acknowledge two Gods in the same sense of the expression ; but there were two Beings of a

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different nature, to whom they applied the same term God: and if they are to be acquitted of the charge of polytheism, the same indulgence may be extended to the heathen, who believed Jupiter to be God in a different sense from their deified heroes.

The Arian creed, if considered in all its bearings and deductions, will perhaps appear much less rational and philosophical, than has been sometimes asserted. It has been described as a simpler and less mystical hypothesis, than that of the Trinitarians : and yet it requires us to apply the same term God to two Beings, who differ as widely from each other, as the Creator and his creature. It requires us to speak of Christ, as the begotten Son of God, though he only differs from all other creatures by having preceded them in the order of time. It requires us to believe of this created Being, that he was himself employed in creating the world; and to invest him with every attribute of Deity, except that of having existed from all eternity. If we contrast these notions with the creed of the Trinitarians, they will be found to present still greater difficulties to our faculties of comprehension : but the Arian hypothesis, whatever may be decided concerning it, confirms very strongly the fact, which I am endeavouring to establish, that the notion of Christ being a mere man was not held in early times. If the Fathers were unanimous in speaking of him as God, they could not have believed him to

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