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in the pride of their hearts, may ask, how can these things be? But we are under no obligation to explain that point to them. And, indeed, it will be early enough for them to put the question, when they shall have explained how body, soul, and spirit constitute one indivi. dual human person. Every child may see that this distinction pervades the whole of divine revelation, and especially the New Testament. The FATHER is always represented as sustaining the majesty of the Godhead; as the great moral governor of the world, giving laws to his creatures, enforced by the sanctions of the rewards and punishments of a future state. The Word is described as becoming incarnate to accomplish the purposes of the Father's love in the redemption of the guilty. And the Holy Spirit as the efficient agent, carrying into effect the purpose of the Father and the grace of the Son, on the hearts of the elect. But then it never leads us to conceive of the Son of God, abstractedly from his incarnation. The WORD WAS MADE FLESH, or assumed a human body, and thus “that holy thing which was born of the virgin, was the Son of God." * The doctrine of“ eternal generation" was unknown to the inspired writers, and, unquestionably, hatched in the school of Alexandria. Happy had it been for the Christian world, could they have rested satisfied with the simple doctrine of divine revelation on this sublime subject; not seeking to be wise beyond what is written. Much as I dislike the character of Athanasius, it is only due to him to say, that he hath in a few words said all that can with propriety be said on this subject. “The Father," says he, “ cannot be the Son, nor the Son the Father; and the Holy Ghost is never called by the name of the Son, but is called the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. The

• Luke i. 31--35. John i. 14.

Holy Trinity is but one divine nature and one God. This is sufficient for the faithful; human knowledge goes no further. The Cherubims vail the rest with their wings."

But let the reader mark how these ecclesiastical combatants represent each others' opinions. Arius, in a letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, thus states the sentiments of Alexander. “God is always and the Son alwaysthe same time the Father, the same time the Son—the Son co-exists with God unbegottenly, being ever begotten, being unbegottenly begotten-God was not before the Son, no not in conception, or the least point of time, he being ever God, ever a Son-For the Son is out of God himself.” Alexander, on the contrary, in a letter to the bishop of Constantinople, gives us the doctrine of Arius in the following words. “There was a time when there was no Son of God, and that he who before was not, afterwards existed, being made, whensoever he was made, just as any man whatsoever; and that therefore he was of a mutable nature, and equally receptive of vice and virtue, &c."

If these things were publicly taught and avowed, by these men, as each represents the other's sentiments, every sober man will surely think that they both merited severe reprehension, for leaving the plain language of scripture, and introducing terms of their own invention into a doctrine of pure revelation, and at last dividing the whole of Christendom on account of it.

Numerous expedients were tried to bring Alexander and Arius to one mind; the emperor himself condescending to become a mediator between them; but all attempts proved fruitless. He wrote letters to them at Alexandria, exhorting them to lay aside their differences and become reconciled to each other. He informs them that he had diligently examined the rise and progress of this dispute, and that he found the occasion of the difference to be very trifling and not worthy such furious contentions; and that therefore he promised himself, his mediation for peace would have its desired effect. He reminds Alexander that “ He required from his presbyters a declaration of their sentiments concerning a silly, empty question-and Arius, that he had imprudently uttered what he should not even have thought of, or what at least he should have kept secret in his own bosom ; that questions about such things ought not to have been asked ; if asked, should not have been answered; that they proceeded from an idle itch of disputation, and were in themselves of so high and difficult a nature, as that they could not be exactly comprehended or suitably explained. And that to insist on such points before the people could produce no other effect than to make some of them talk blasphemy, and otbers turn schismatics." +

This unquestionably was excellent advice, but religions animosities are not so easily removed; and the ecclesiastical combatants were too warmly engaged to listen to such salutary counsel. Finding all other resources ineffectual, the emperor was at length under the necessity of issuing letters to the bishops of the several provinces of the empire, enjoining them to assemble together at Nice, in Bythinia, which was accordingly done, A. D. 325. This is what goes by the name of “the first general council.” The number of bishops were three hundred and eighteen, besides a multitude of presbyters, deacons, Acolythists, and others, amounting in the whole to two thousand and forty-eight persons. The ecclesiastical historians imform us, that in this vast collection of the bishops, some were remarkable for their gravity, patience under sufferings, modesty, integrity, and eloquence,

Eusebius's Life of Constantine, b. 1. ch. 63.

yet they all agree that there were others of very opposite characters.*

On the day appointed for holding the council, the bishops and inferior clergy were assembled in the largest room in the palace, rows of seats being placed on each side of it; and all having taken their places, they waited, standing in respectful silence for the emperor, who, being preceded by several of his friends, at length made his appearance, as Eusebius says, like an angel of God, exceeding all his attendants, in size, gracefulness, and strength ; and dazzling all eyes with the splendour of his

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*“The eloquence of Lactantius, and the beauty and purity of his style, raise him superior to every author of the fourth century, and place him upon an equality with some of the most accomplished writers of ancient Rome, Entrusted with the education of Crispus, the unfortunate son of Constantine, whom that monarch afterwards put to death, Lactantius, amidst the splendours of a court, was distinguished only by his talents and his poverty. His principal work consists of a masterly refutation of Paganism, and a learned comparison between it and Christianity. It is to the indelible disgrace of the age, that while a number of fanatic monks and popular declaimers obtained the higliest stations in the church, a man who possessed the learning of Aristotle, with the eloquence of Cicero, who united philosophy with religion, and an earnest piety with all the graces of a polished taste and enlightened understanding, should be permitted to languish without distinction or reward. It is, however, but too common a case, that the service which is rendered to a party, is rated higher than that which is rendered to mankind in general. The defence of a single dogma shall raise a man to eminence and fortune ; while the enlightening of thousands, the improving of the hearts, the morals, the judgments, and religions sentiments of the nation, shall frequently be passed over, with scarcely the cold return of fruitless praise.”—Gregory's Church History, vol. i. p. 224.

“Such was the taste of the times and the people, that Lactantius, who was a man of learning and real eloquence, a man of sound sentiments, extensive knowledge, and inoffensive life, the most excellent of the Latin fathers, and justly called the Christian Cicero, was in want of commos necessaries; while Ambrose, who was not worthy to carry his books, ww elected to the rich see of Milan; and this when the people elected their own bishops, "--Robinson's Escles. Researches.

dress; but shewing the greatest humility and modesty in his manner of walking, gesture, and behaviour. Having taken his station in the middle of the upper part of the room, near a low chair that was covered with gold, he did not sit down, till the fathers desired it.

All being now seated, says Eusebius, the bishop whose place was the first on his right hand (Maimbourg informs us it was Eustathius, patriarch of Antioch), rose, and addressing the emperor, gave thanks to God on his account, congratulating the church on its prosperous condition, brought about by his means, and particularly in the destruction of the idolatrous worship of Paganism. Then sitting down, the emperor himself addressed the company in Latin, expressing his happiness at seeing them all met on so glorious an occasion as the amicable settlement of all their differences, which, he said, had given him more concern than all his wars; but that these being at an end, he had nothing more at heart than to be the means of settling the peace of the church; and he concluded with expressing his earnest wish that they would, as speedily as possible, remove every cause of dissension, and lay the foundation of a lasting peace. What he said in Latin was interpreted to the fathers in Greek.

Immediately after this speech, this excellent emperor was witness to a scene which must have afforded him a very unpromising prospect as to the success of his project for peace. For before they entered upon the discussion of any thing that related to the great object of their meeting, the bishops began with complaining to the emperor of each other, and vindicating themselves. To every thing that was said, he gave a patient hearing, and by his mildness and great address, speaking to them in Greek (which he was in some measure able to do) he at length prevailed upon them to come to an agreement,

VOL. I.

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