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AN ANCIENT CONTROVERSY REVIVED
IBERTY of conscience naturally led to a very free
enquiry concerning those doctrines which had
crystallized in the Church into matter-of-course conviction. As men on the one hand studied the Scriptures for themselves, and on the other began to apply reason and knowledge in their pursuit of religion, the doctrine of the Trinity, of three persons in One God, no longer was acceptable simply because it had been defined in one particular way in the early Church Councils. The exact relationship of Jesus Christ to God which had caused such dissension and strife between Arius and Athanasius in 325 began once again to agitate Christian conscience. There were many Puritan preachers who felt that there was no Scriptural authority for elevating Christ into the position of actual Godhead, since Christ always assumed the position of a son, and never claimed an equality with the Father. The old Church party clung pertinaciously to the doctrine of three persons in one God, and many were the pamphlets and tracts issued in support and defence of both sides of this argument.
No one now cares to read these old tracts and treatises in their musty, leather bindings, with their curious lettering, and interminable paragraphs of controversy and contention. They lie in dusty heaps on the floors of secondhand bookshops, or drift to the hawker's barrow; but in their day they represented the feelings of men with passions aflame, who were slowly beating out new paths
for themselves in the fields of thought, determined to accept nothing with their hearts which their minds did not fully understand.
As a sample of the manner in which the new theology was fretting against the shackles of the old, let us take a few quotations from one such dust-eaten volume of 1718, inscribed:
“The Innocent vindicated
The title further adds that it is printed by one Andrew Brice “at the Head of the Serge Market in Southgate Street.” It opens in this wise:
“The intemperate zeal of some professing Christians, both Ministers and people (arising probably from a conceit that they are infallible) has formed in their imaginations a monster, and given it the name of An Arrian; and they apply it to as many of their Fellow-Christians as are not of their size, though perhaps much more agreeable to the standard than themselves, and have branded them from Pulpit and Press as notorious Hereticks denying the Lord that bought them; imputing to them all the evil and pernicious consequences ignorance or prejudice can invent, and for no other reason but because they openly declare they believe all that is written in the sacred Scriptures, concerning our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, from the Declaration of Himself, and the Revelation he has been pleased to give us of his God and Father 'whose shape none have seen at any time, nor heard his voice (John 5:37) and whom none can know but those to whom the Son reveals Him:' and our blessed Lord having made known the Father and himself to his apostles so much as was necessary for them and his Church to know, they do therefore believe all that is in Sacred Writ, concerning the Father and the Son, and form their Faith by this Rule, and not by any Arian, Athanasian, Socinian or Sabellian rule whatsoever. 'Tis hoped all will allow the Holy Scriptures are appointed by their Author to convey to the understanding of Rational Creatures, ideas of persons and things; and that none are referred to scholastic Terms as Foundation Stones to build their Faith upon. Therefore as to 'Co-essential, Co-eternal, and Co-equal,' being Terms nowhere found in Scripture, we regard them not."'*
As we mentioned in our chapter dealing with the Council of Nicea, it is not easy at this date to gain a clear and impartial view of the actual tenets of Arianism. The picture of Arius has come down to us chiefly in the writings of his enemies, and that which stands out most prominently is the fact that the pure light of Christ was slowly being darkened by the personal jealousy and strife of worldly and masterful men. There are those who maintain that Athanasius was the true saint and champion of the truth, and there are those who feel that Arius was a persecuted martyr who would have preserved Christianity in its primitive purity had his counsel been allowed to prevail. It is best therefore in this vexed question to indulge in no romance or picturesque resetting of the stage of life in A.D. 325. Fiction founded on historic gleanings is by no means a sure source of information, coloured as it must inevitably be by the later opinions of the compiler. There are a few fragments of historical accuracy which have been preserved, and handed down to us by theological scholars, and it is best to examine these with a calm mind as being the most reliable information we possess on the subject. A fair analysis of the situation may be found in The Age of the Fathers by the late Dr. William Bright, at one time Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford. In this volume we read that Arius was a man of singular personality, grave, sweet, with unusual powers of conversation, and that in 319 or 321 Bishop Alexander of Alexandria called an episcopal synod at which Arius and his followers were present and avowed the following opinions:
(1) God was not always Father, but became so when He produced His Son out of nothing. For
(2) The Son was produced in the sense of being created. (3) He was a creature and therefore once He did not exist. (4) Therefore, He is not like the Father in essence.
(5) Nor is He the Father's true word or wisdom, but can be called so only in an improper sense, as being in fact the product of God's true wisdom, i.e., of that attribute whereby God made both the Son and the Universe.
“We are persecuted,” Arius writes in a letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, “because we say that the son has a beginning, but that God is without beginning."
The teaching of Christian Science is at one with neither Arius nor Athanasius. It is rather akin to the teaching of Origen. J. F. Bethune-Baker in his Early History of Christian Doctrine, gives us a very clear exposition of the mind of Origen concerning the Son of God, and we have already set forth how pure and spiritual was his teaching, how closely he and Mrs. Eddy resemble each other in thought and feeling, and how free he was from any contamination of wordly ambition or any root of personal bitterness. This is how Mr. Bethune-Baker presents Origen's view-point:
“The One represents the only real existence, the source