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which none of the fathers, none of the councils, even those, which have given us lists of the canonical books, have ever comprised in the canon ; a book, of which there is no trace in the three first centuries, nor hardly any in those, which immediately follow; a book, full of passages of scripture mis-quoted; a book, which makes decisions contrary to the inspired writings; as one decision touching the observation of the sabbath, another concerning women with child, a third, which allows a master a forbidden intercourse with his slave; a book, that bestows pompous titles on a bishop, giving him a pre-eminence above magistrates, princes, and kings; a book, that prescribes idle ceremonies in baptism, and enjoins the observation of superstitious fasts and festivals ; a book, which gives an absurd idea of building temples ; a book, that establisheth prayer for the dead, and directs us to offer the sacrament ofthe Eucharist for them ; a book which adopts notorious fables, as the pretended combat beween Simon the sorcerer, and Simon Peter; a book, where we meet with glaring contradictions, as what it says of St. Stephen in one place, compared with what it says of him in another ; a book, where we meet with profane things, as the comparison of a bishop with God the Father, of Jesus Christ with a deacon, of the holy Ghost with a deaconness; who, I say, can persuade himself, that such a book was compiled by apostles or apostolical men.
Such are the precautions necessary for understanding the sentiments of the fathers of the first ages on the doctrine in question. Let us pass on to some proofs of our conformity to their judgments on this article.
1. The fathers, who followed the doctrine of the Nicene council
, never pretended to teach new divinity. The Arians, on the contrary, boasted of being the first inventors, of their own system. The following passage of St. Athanasius proves the first member of this proposition. “We demonstrate, that our doctrine descended from teacher to teacher down to us. But what father can yon cito to prove your sentiments ? You find them all opposite to your opinions, and the devil, only, who is the author of your system, can pretend to authenticate it.” The following passage of Theodoret proves the second member of the proposition.
They boast of being the first inventors of their doctrine, they glory in affirming, that what never entered into the mind of man before has been res vealed to them."
2. The Jews accused the primitive christians of idolatry for worshipping Jesus Christ as God, nor did the primitive christians deny their worshipping Jesus as God; they only maintained, that to worship him as such was not idolatry. Here is a pasşage from Justin's dialogue with Trypho. The Jews say to him, “ Your affirmation, Christ is God, appears to me not only an incredible paradox, but downright foolishness.
Justin's answer will prove the second member of the proposition. “I know," replies he," this discourse appears incredible, particularly to people of your nation, who neither believe nor understand the things of the Spirit of God."
3. The heathens also reproached the christians with adoring Jesus Christ: nor did the christians tax them with calumny on this account. Weigh these words of Arnobius. A pagan makes this objection to him ; “ You adore a mere man." this were true," replies Arnobius, “ would not the benefits, which he has so freely and bountifully diffused, acquire him the title of a God? But as he is really God without any ambiguity or equivoca
tion, do you think, we will deny our paying him supreme honors ? What then, will some furiously ask, Is Jesus Christ God? Yes, we answer he is God, he is God over all heavenly powers." Origen answered the philosopher Celsus, who reproached him with believing that a man clothed in mortal flesh was God, in this manner. Let our accusers know, that this Jesus, who, we believe, is God, and the Son of God, is the word of God, bis mortal body and his soul have received great advantages from their union with the word, and, having partaken of the divinity,, have been admitted to the divine nature.
4. When any teachers rose up in the church to injure the doctrine of Christ's divinity, they were reputed heretics, and as such rejected. Witness Artemon, Theodosius, Paul of Samoseta. The latter lifted up a standard against the divinity of the Saviour of the world, and six of the most celebrated bishops were chosen by the Synod of Antioch, to write him a letter, which we yet have, and in which they profess to believe, that Jesus Christ subsisted from all eternity with his father. To which we add this passage of Origen,“ Let us represent as fully as we are able what constitutes heresy. He is a heretic, who has false notions about our Lord Jesus Christ. Such as deny, that he was the firstborn, the God of every creature, the word, the wisdom, the beginning of the ways of God, formed from the beginning, or ever the world was, begotten before the mountains and hills,” Prov. viii.
5. The fathers of the three first centuries made an invariable profession of adoring but one God. This was, as it were, the first distinct character of their religion. Yet the primitive christians adored Jesus Christ : witness Pliny's letter, which says, 5. they sang hymns to Jesus Christ as to a God." Witness Justin Martyr, who, in his apology to Antonius expressly says, “ Christians religiously worship Father, Son, and Spirit.” And in the same apology he assures us, that “ the constant doctrine of Christians, which they received from Jesus Christ himself, was the adoration of one only God.” Witness that famous letter of the faithful at Smyrna, whom the heathens accused of paying divine honors to Polycarp. “It is impossible,” say these believers “ that we should abandon Jesus Christ, or worship any other but him. We worship Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God: but in regard to the martyrs, disciples of Christ, and imitators of his virtues, we respect them for their invincible love to their Master and King." Hence it was, that Paul of Samoseta, who denied the divinity of Christ, would not allow the custom of singing hymns to his honor: and Eusebius uses this argument to prove the doctrine that we are maintaining : « The psalms and hymns,” says he, “ composed a long time ago by the faithful, do they not proclaim, " that Jesus Christ is the word of God, that he is God.”
6. Finally, among numberless passages in the fathers, which attest the truth in question, there are some so clear and so express, that we ourselves, who would prove their faith in our Saviour's divinity, cannot dictate terms more emphatical than those which they have used. Weigh these words of Tertullian. Jesus Christ had the substance of the human nature, and the substance of the divine nature; on which account we say, he had a beginning, and he had no beginning; he was natural and spiritual ; weak and powerful ; mortal and immortal; properties (adds this father) which distinguish his human and divine nature." Weigh these words of the same Tertullian. “We have been taught
that God' brought forth that spirit, which we call the Word, that God by bringing him forth begat him, that for this reason he is called the Son of God. because his substance and the substance of God is one and the same substance; as a ray proceeding from the body of the sun, receives a part of its lig dat without diminishing the light of the sun, so, in the generation of the word, spirit is derived of spirit, and God of God. As the light of a flambeau derived from another does not at all diminish the liglit whence it is taken, so it is with God. That, which proceeds from him, is God, both God and Son of God, one with the Father, and the Father with him. It follows, that this distinction of spirit from spirit, of God from God, is not in substance but in person.” Weigh again these words of Hyppolitus the martyr. “ Thou art he who existeth always. Thou art with the Father without beginning, and eternal as well as the holy Spirit.” Again, weigh these words of Origen. In examining what doctrines are necessary to salvation, he puts this in the first class.: Jesus Christ, who, being God, became incarnate, did not cease to be God.” Again, weigh these of Justin Martyr. “They call us Atheists, because we do not adore their demons. We grant we are such in regard to their gods; but not in regard to the true God, with whom we honor and worship the Son.” Finally, weigh these of Pope Felix. “ We believe, Jesus Christ the word is the eternal Son of God."
No part of our discourse would bear a greater enJargement than this. Literally speaking, the subject exemplified from the fathers would fill a large volume. We have abridged the matter. Let us finish with a few reflections of another kind on our text.
We have endeavored to prove, that Jesus Christ