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The Post-Nicene Greek Fathers

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The great Trinitarian. For fifty momentous years he was the central figure in the Christian world. His history is that of the Church in the most critical period of its existence, when it united its interests with an empire, and hazarded the truth in gaining outward prosperity. Hazarded, but did not lose; for, during these years, above soldiers and above emperors, stood forth the grand figure of this champion of the truth. As in the coalition the emperor was the state, so practically Athanasius was the church, until the relations of church and state had been so far adjusted that the church could not be absorbed or made a mere department of the state. Human annals record no life more absolutely devoted to a simple principle. Fifty years of battling and exile, the forces of an empire against him, and all for an [Greek letters]! * Hosius, after a hundred years of firmness, yielded. Liberius, the bishop of Rome, yielded; but, "the whole world against Athanasius, and Athanasius against it," he stood like the rock on which his feet were planted. There were other defenders of the truth in his own age, some of whom, after his death, did more for its logical adjustment than he had done; but none dispute his foremost place. His greatness was in grasping and embodying the truth, as yet unadjusted; holding it as in a citadel through a period when truth, resting only upon faith, must otherwise have been lost.

* [Greek letters] was the orthodox, [Greek letters] the heretical watchword.

Athanasius was born about A. D. 297. When a young man he became secretary to Bishop Alexander, and thus early began his training for the see of Alexandria. He first became known to the world through his two apologetical books, "Against the Gentiles" and "On the Incarnation of the Word," the second of which suggests the habit of mind which afterward made him the great opponent of Arianism. He accompanied Alexander to the Council of Nice, and, though not a regular member of that body, he took a prominent part in the discussions in the defense of the apostolic doctrines. Five months later he was elected bishop of Alexandria. For a few years the decision of the council secured tranquillity; but the reviving influence of Eusebius of Nicomedia over Constantine led to a new recognition of Arius, and to consequent opposition to the Alexandrian bishop as his most zealous antagonist. Charges were preferred against Athanasius, which caused him, A. D. 335, to be summoned before a council at Tyre. Justice being denied him there, he fled to Constantinople, and in the streets of the capital appealed personally to the emperor. Owing, however, to fresh charges by his enemies, Constantine caused his banishment to Aries, where he remained until A. D. 338, when he returned to his people. The Emperor Constantine yielding to the Arians, the Cappadocian Gregory was in A. D. 340 appointed to the see of Alexandria, whereupon Athanasius fled to Italy and appealed to the bishop of Rome for support. After six years of waiting, during which a council at Rome and the Council of Sardica indorsed him and condemned his enemies, Constantine was at last, upon the death of Gregory, induced to restore him to his see. Here he remained until A. D. 356, when he was driven forth to another six years of exile, which ended upon the accession of the Emperor Julian. He was expelled again for a few months toward the close of this reign, and yet once more under the reign of Valens; but, in February 366, he returned for the last time. The interval before his death, in 373, was comparatively undisturbed, and was devoted to unceasing labors in refuting heretics and establishing the faithful.

His famous "Historical Tracts" and his chief work, the "Orations against the Arians," were written in intervals of his years of battling. To the more tranquil close of his career belongs his "Life of Anthony."

Valuable texts of the "Tracts "and "Orations "are made easily accessible in Bright's Oxford edition.



Athanasius points out the origin of idolatry in human selfishness, which led man, made in the image of God, and free, to turn away from contemplating his Creator and regard himself and his own happiness. This happiness he thought to find in the senses, and that which gratified his passions he called good. The true idea of the Creator being lost, he saw nothing beyond his senses. Everything became divine, and he erected altars to the elements, to heroes, to animals, and to things insensible and even imaginary. Then the genius of the several nations led them to take for their gods whatever was like their own characters. Poetry framed for these gods customs, adventures, wants, and weaknesses like our own, and philosophy gave credence thereto by silence or by apologies. After showing the extravagance of polytheism, and that the Creator is incorporeal and independent, the author points out the two natural ways of escaping idolatry: through that internal light which in every man points to the one God, and through the contemplation of nature in its unity. These, however, have not sufficed for man; and so it has been needful for God to make himself known through his Word.



The world was not made by chance nor from pre-existing matter, but by God through his Word. The fall of man, who, made in God's image, addicted himself to what was corrupt, was the cause of the incarnation. For, God pitying man, and resolving to save him and restore his immortality, this could be accomplished in no other way than by the sending of his Son: 1. Because, being the essential Image of the Father, the Son alone could render man like God; 2. Because, being the Wisdom of God, he only could teach men. After speaking of the benefits accruing from the incarnation, the author suggests that the ignominy of the cross was chosen to give to Christ's death a solemn [Greek letters] commensurate with the extraordinary character of his resurrection. The fact of the resurrection is proved by the wonderful conversions which are wrought in the name of Jesus Christ, conquests possible only to one who is alive. True, he is not now visible to our eyes, still he makes himself known. The blind man whose eyes are closed to the light of the sun none the less feels the grateful warmth of its rays. The incarnation is proved by an appeal to the fulfillment of prophecy, to the cessation of the oracles, and to the authenticity of the miracles wrought during our Lord's life and after his death. The source of all this truth is the Holy Scriptures, to understand which one should live like the authors of these books.



As the loss of Eusebius's history would have left in obscurity the career through which the Church advanced to its important position as a visible institution, so the loss of these "Tracts" would have thrown an obscuring cloud over the circumstances under which it elaborated, and the determined struggle by which it maintained, its fundamental teachings. For, unlike our other sources of information as to this period, these writings of Athanasius give us original documentary evidence, of a kind which compels our acceptance. The work which commonly passes under the above title is a series of papers described as follows:


An Encyclical Epistle addressed to all Bishops everywhere.

This letter was written by Athanasius, A. D. 341, upon the coming of Gregory, whom a council at Antioch had named bishop of Alexandria. It recounts Gregory's violent seizure of churches, by the aid of the prefect Philagrius and a furious mob of heathens and Jews, and the outrages which followed. The letter begins by citing the Scripture story of the Levite's wife whose dismembered body was sent to all Israel, and closes with an earnest appeal to the bishops not to allow the church of Alexandria to be thus trodden down by heretics, but to avenge its wrongs as being their own. The bishops are also enjoined not to receive any communication from the Arian Gregory.


An Apology against the Arians.

This work, written after the author's return from his second exile, is a collection of numerous documents relating to many of the most important transactions of the Church from A. D. 300 to 350, and vindicating the position of Athanasius. The more noteworthy of them are: 1. "An Encyclical from the Egyptian Bishops." Whereas charges are made that Athanasius on his return was guilty of bloodshed and violence, we utterly deny it. The hostility of the Eusebians toward Athanasius began before the death of Alexander; but, after the Council of Nice and his election to the bishopric, this opposition became more malignant. In their council at Tyre they charged him with being elected clandestinely, whereas we testify that it was by a majority of the body of bishops, and with the acclamation of all the people. They now assert that it was a day of mourning when he returned to the city after his exile, whereas it was a day of joy, the people running together in their eager desire to see him. What sort of a council was that (of Tyre) to try him, in which every one was his enemy, and which was conducted by secular officers? There they charged Athanasius with the murder of Arsenius, who is alive, and is now seeking admission into the Church. Having found this council determined to crush him, Athanasius went himself to the emperor, but was followed by the bishops, who, dropping their former charges, falsely accused him of detaining the corn-ships in Alexandria. Thus they secured his banishment to Gaul. The charge made at the council of the breaking of a chalice could not be proved, even though they sent a hostile committee into Egypt to take testimony. The presbyters of the Mareotis deny it, and the emperor himself declared his accusers calumniators. And now Athanasius is accused of appropriating to his own uses corn which was given by the emperor for the support of widows; but the widows themselves acknowledge that they have always received the corn. The Eusebians are in league with the Arians in their wickedness; wherefore give no heed to their communication. 2. "Letter of Julius to the Eusebians at Antioch." Herein is set forth that Athanasius was fully vindicated by a council held at Rome. The Eusebians, on the contrary, have been in communion with the Arians; their proceedings against Athanasius have been of an ex parte nature; and they have in an uncanonical manner elected Gregory to the distant see of Alexandria, and caused him to be inducted by military force. Even bodily injuries have been inflicted on Catholic bishops. They must correct this conduct, for in any case they are disregarding the canons of the Church. 3. "Letters of the Council of Sardica." The Emperors Constantius and Constans caused the bishops of the East and West to meet at Sardica in the most considerable council between the first and second general councils. The Eastern bishops, who were chiefly Eusebians, withdrew on finding themselves in the minority. The decisions of the council were set forth in letters to the church of Alexandria and to the bishops of Egypt and Libya, and in an encyclical. The latter speaks of the persecution of Athanasius and Marcellus of Ancyra, the unsatisfactory conduct of the Eusebians in times past, and the flight of the latter from the council. The proceedings against Athanasius have been ex parte. Marcellus has in his book effectually exposed the fraud of the Eusebians who have accused him. Asclepas also has proved his innocence. The Eusebians have received and promoted Arians. Outrages, too, have been permitted. Accordingly, Athanasius, Marcellus, and Asclepas are declared innocent, and the wolves who have invaded their sees are excommunicated. Other Eusebian bishops the holy council deposes and declares unworthy to commune with the faithful. For, as Arians, they come under the rule concerning those who preach another gospel. 4. "Certain Imperial and Ecclesiastical Acts and Letters." These have to do chiefly with the return of Athanasius to his see after the Council of Sardica. 5. "Documents relating to Charges brought by the Miletians." This was a disaffected party at Alexandria which had been secured as allies by the Eusebians. 6. "Documents connected with the Council of Tyre." These are such as prove the falsity of the charge about the chalice; also, a letter from the Council of Jerusalem calling upon the church at Alexandria to receive the Arians; and the letter from Constantine Caesar on the first restoration of Athanasius, saying that the latter had been sent to Gaul fo rescue him from his enemies.


An Encyclical of Athanasius to Bishops of Egypt and Libya.

Written A. D. 356, its chief historical value is in its reference to an attempt of the Arians to induce the bishops to subscribe one of the Arian creeds devised by them as a substitute for the Nicene symbol.


Apology of Athanasius to Constantius.

It was evidently written for delivery before the emperor, though never so delivered, and defends the author among other charges against imputations upon his loyalty since his second return. Its date is A. D. 356.


Apology of Athanasius for his Flight.

Written A. D. 357. The outrages of Gregory were such that the author must have perished had he fallen into his hands. He therefore had taken counsel from scripture and withdrawn, not as fearing death for that would have been far more tolerable than flight but that he might continue to maintain the Lord's cause. Many scripture examples of such flight, including our Lord's, afford authority for this action.


Epistle to Serapion on the Death of Arius.

After Arius had sworn before Constantius that he held [Greek letters] the right faith, and did not profess the opinions for which Alexander (of Alexandria) had excommunicated him, his friends contended that he should be allowed to commune with them the next day in the bishop's church. But Bishop Alexander (of Constantinople) in great anxiety prayed to God, lying on the chancel pavement: "If Arius is brought to communion to-morrow, let me thy servant depart, and destroy not the pious with the impious; but, if thou wilt spare thy Church, look upon the words of the Eusebians, and give not their inheritance to destruction and reproach, and take off Arius." Before the time for communion, Arius died suddenly, whereby the Lord condemned the Arian heresy, and showed it to be unworthy of communion with the Church.


History of the Arians.

This work continues the account given in the "Apology against the Arians" down to A. D. 357. It begins by speaking of the Eusebians as admitting the Arians to communion, and causing the banishment of Eustathius of Antioch, Marcellus of Ancyra, Eutropius of Adrianople, and Paul of Constantinople, the latter being cruelly put to death. Seeing themselves declining in numbers and power, the Eusebians, after failing to get satisfaction through a council, appealed to Constantius to assist them by appointing Philagrius prefect, and naming Gregory as bishop of Alexandria. Gregory was inducted into this position by force, and perpetrated great cruelties. Athanasius, meantime, went to Rome, where a council of fifty bishops received him and denounced the Eusebians. The emperors Constantius and Constans having united in calling a council at Sardica, that council also vindicated Athanasius. The Eusebians who had withdrawn from Sardica went on with their cruelties, having the secular power in their favor. At last their shame-lessness turned Constantius against them, and he sent for Athanasius to come to Antioch. Dismissing him thence to return to Alexandria, the emperor swore solemnly that he would never again listen to accusations against him. The peace which followed, however, did not endure. Upon going to the West after the overthrow of Maxentius, Constantius took sides again with the Arians at Aries and Milan. Word was sent to Alexandria that the government supplies of corn should be taken from Athanasius and delivered to the Arians. Orders were also sent to all the cities, requiring the bishops either to subscribe against Athanasius and hold communion with the Arians, or to go into banishment. By threats and promises many were thus induced to subscribe. Among notable confessors who refused were four who, in the very presence of Constantius, urged that this novel procedure was contrary to the canons. To this the monarch replied: "Whatever I will, be that esteemed a canon; the bishops of Syria let me speak for them. Either, then, obey or be banished." Liberius, bishop of Rome, long resisted, but at last, after two years of banishment, and upon threats of death, he subscribed. Hosius, who presided at the councils of Nice and Sardica, now a hundred years old, after persistent refusals, was finally compelled to commune with Valens and Ursacius, two Arian champions. He did not, however, subscribe against Athanasius, whom, he said, "we and the church of the Romans and the whole council pronounced to be guiltless." Most earnest efforts were now made against the church of Alexandria, from which Athanasius quietly withdrew. Senators and magistrates and wardens of heathen temples (! ) were compelled to agree to receive as bishop whomsoever the emperor should send. An attack was made on the great church; the worshipers were shockingly abused, and the sacred utensils were carried into the street and burned, while frankincense was thrown on the flames, and shouts went up, "Constantius has become a heathen! " A general persecution followed, in which many endured martyrdom. Constantius, who thus persecuted the faithful, is worse than Saul or Ahab or Pilate. This is not to be wondered at, however, of one who has acted so murderously toward his own family. He has now begun the work of replacing the bishops of Egypt and Libya with Arians, and disorder everywhere prevails. It is not simply persecution, but a prelude to the coming of Antichrist. To the sees of venerable bishops are nominated profligate heathen youths, and men accused of crimes, who have gained these places by money or through political influence. Surely Constantius lacks no one of the marks of Antichrist.


The Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia.

Urged by Ursacius and Valens, the emperor first issued a call for a general council to meet at Nice; but afterward the Western bishops were convoked at Ariminum, the Eastern at Seleucia. There was no occasion for this council, which brought contempt upon the Church, as not yet knowing its own faith. The division of a general council, too, was an unheard-of thing; though this in the end led to good. There was a call for the Nicene Council to fix the Easter festival and to rebut a specific heresy, but now no new heresy had arisen. The true aim of the originators of the council was simply to over-throw the Nicene doctrine. At Ariminum there gathered four hundred bishops. Ursacius and Valens produced a paper, substantially the third Sirmian creed, and demanded its adoption. The council first required that the proposers should anathematize the Arians, and, when they refused it, declared in favor of the Nicene creed, and published a decree condemning and deposing Ursacius and Valens and three of their companions. The fathers also wrote to Constantius, announcing their action, and praying for liberty to dissolve and go home.*

* They were subsequently forced to accept an Arian creed.

At Seleucia one hundred and sixty bishops were present. The semi-Arian party predominated, and they accepted the Nicene doctrine, save that they complained of the term "consubstantial" as obscure and open to suspicion. They deposed and excommunicated Acasius and many others of the extreme Arians.

Various statements of Arian doctrine were made in Arius's "Thalia," ** and in letters and papers of the Eusebii and others, prior to any official recognition of the party. In A. D. 335 the council which convened at Jerusalem for the dedication of Constantine's magnificent church issued a letter, declaring that Arius and his friends had been received to communion. Subsequently eleven Arian and semi-Arian creeds were published, as follows: 1. A short Eusebian creed, promulgated by the Council of Antioch, A. D. 342. 2. A fuller semi-Arian creed by the same council, known as the Formulary of the Dedication. 3. A confession presented by Theophronius of Tyana and accepted by this council. 4. A negative confession prepared a few months later by these Antiochian bishops and sent into Gaul to the Emperor Constans. 5. Three years later the elaborate semi-Arian Macrostich creed was prepared and sent into Italy. 6. The first Sirmian creed, A. D. 351. It was semi-Arian, the confession being the same as in the last two creeds, the difference being in the anathemas. 7. The second Sirmian, A. D. 357. It was Arian, and was the one which Hosius was tortured into signing. 8. A third Sirmian creed, bearing the date of the consulate, was suppressed by an edict of the emperor, at the suggestion of its authors. 9. The Arian creed offered by the Acasians to the Council of Seleucia, A. D. 359, and rejected in favor of a semi-Arian position. 10. The Arian creed imposed upon the council at Ariminum. 11. An extreme Arian confession made at Antioch, A. D. 361, in which it is said that "the Son is altogether unlike the Father." The semi-Arians are not to be regarded by the Catholics as enemies but as brothers. They rightly allege that the council against the Samosatene rejected the term "one in substance." We can say that the older authorities employed it; but the term as used and as rejected had different meanings. The allowable one was affirmed by the Nicene Council. We would have these blessed men, who are truly religious, and ourselves to be at one. They with us recognize the many Scripture titles giving the Son unity with the Father. Yet we must take care lest, giving these [divine] properties to a foreign substance, we make two Gods. Pray then that, the Arian heresy being done away, there may be in the Church "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

** Part of the extract given by Athanasius: "Thus there is a Three, not in equal glories. Not intermingling with each other are their subsistences. One more glorious than the other in their glories unto immensity. Foreign from the Son in substance is the Father, for he is unoriginate. Understand that the One was; but the Two was not before it was in existence. It follows at once that, though the Son was not, the Father was God."



The Eusebians, having in the council been convicted of error, accepted the definition, and Eusebius of Caesarea wrote to his people of his acceptance. They are now committing a crime who gainsay the decree of an oecumenical council. Son-ship has two meanings: 1, Sonship by adoption, or attained through merit; and, 2, Substantial son-ship. The second is the Catholic definition; the divine generation, however, being not material but spiritual. The very Scripture names of the Son Word, Wisdom, Power, etc. imply his divinity. The Arian expressions, "out of nothing," "once he was not," etc., are not, on the other hand, to be found in Scripture. To prevent misunderstanding, the fathers in the council insisted upon the expression "from the substance of the Father," instead of the Eusebian "from the Father." They also introduced "one in substance" instead of "like," in order to negative all such terms as "created," "alterable," etc. But every corporeal thought is to be banished from this subject.

In support of the definition of the council, Theognostus, a disciple of Origen, used the phrase "of the substance"; Dionysius of Alexandria affirmed that the Son was "one in substance" with God; Dionysius of Rome declared that, as opposed alike to Sabellius and to the existence of three foreign substances, a Trinity was preached by the Scriptures but not three Gods. Nor must our Lord be called a "work" as being created; Origen, "the labor-loving man," established "the everlasting co-existence of the Word with the Father, and that he is not of another substance or subsistence but proper to the Father." In the face of these the Arians can cite no father of understanding and wisdom. The Arian term "ingenerate," borrowed from the Greek, should give place to the Scripture term "Father," since baptism is in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.



Discourse 1.

Arians, though affecting the use of the Scriptures, are not Christians, but Ario-maniacs, since they take the name of another founder than Christ, and follow the dissolute metres of the "Thalia"* rather than Scripture. Since some are misled by Arian statements, I will put some questions. The points at issue are shown in the counter-statement of our faith. To the assertion, "There was once when he was not," we reply: 1. The Scriptures make the Son co-eternal with the Father (John 1:1, etc.). The Arian phrases, "he was not," "before," are used by Scripture as appertaining to creatures, but are alien to the Word. 2. As being proper Son of God, he is eternal; for God was never imperfect nor unlike, himself; yet saying "once the Son was not," they rob God of his Word, the Light of its Radiance, i.e., make him unlike himself. But they say that the Son is not of the substance of the Father but "from nothing" and "Son by participation" Participation of what? we ask. Surely of nothing external to the Father, else he would not even be second to him, but of his substance. So, being proper Son, he is eternal. 3. As Creator, the Son is not of a foreign substance, but consubstantial and eternal; also as one of the Trinity, which never began to be; and as Wisdom, for God is evermore the Fountain of wisdom; and as the Word through whom are all things, for as such he is not one of the all; and again as the Image of the Father.

The popular Arian arguments are as follows: "He who is, did he make him who was not from him who is, or him who was? Therefore, did he make the Son whereas he was, or whereas he was not? " And again, "Is the Ingenerate one or two?"and, "Has he free-will, and yet does not alter at his own choice as being of an alterable nature? for he is not as a stone to remain by himself unmovable." Next they turn to women and address them in turn in this womanish language: "Hadst thou a son before bearing? now, as thou hadst not, neither was the Son of God before his generation." We answer to the first, An architect can not build without materials, but God can; and so he begets not as man but as God. Again, the question is irrelevant, since both "what is" becomes, as in the case of man made from the earth, and "what is not" becomes, as in the case of the earth from which man was made. Their talk is thus only sophism. But we ask a counter-question to show their absurdities, viz., "God who is, has he so become whereas he was not, or is he also before his generation? whereas he is, did he make himself, or is he of nothing, and being nothing before did he suddenly appear himself? " Such an inquiry is indecent, yea indecent and very blasphemous, yet parallel with theirs; for the answer they make abounds in irreligion. But, if it be blasphemous and utterly irreligious thus to inquire about God, it will be blasphemous too to make the like inquiries about his Word. The true answer is, that whereas God is he was eternally; since then the Father is ever, his radiance ever is, which is his Word. In answer to the second sophism we inquire, If the "time" idea in generation is recognized, why not also the proper likeness, i.e., that a son is from one's own self, not from without as a boughten slave? And what is to hinder God from being always Father? Again, let them inquire of the sun concerning its radiance. If they coexist, so do the Son and the Father. The divine generation is not as that of man, nor must the Son be thought a part of God. Uniting the two titles Son and Word, "Scripture speaks of 'Son,' in order to herald the offspring of his (God's) substance natural and true; and on the other hand that none may think of the offspring humanly, while signifying his substance it also calls him Word, Wisdom, and Radiance, to teach us that the generation was impassible and eternal and worthy of God." To our assertion that God was always a Father, men object, "Then always a Creator, and the world is eternal." But no, for a work is external to the nature of the worker, but a son is of the substance of his father; a man may be called a maker, though his work do not yet exist, but he is not a father without a son.

* In this "Thalia," his chief work, Arius thus refers to himself: "Along their track have I walked with like opinions,

I, the very famous, the much suffering for God's glory;

And taught of God, I have acquired wisdom and knowledge."

The Arian question "Is the Ingenerate one or two?"is not asked for the honor of the Father, but for the dishonor of the Son. "Ingenerate" has various meanings, and so must be denied. If one means by it "what is not made, but is ever," we say that the Son is ingenerate as the Father. If "existing but not generated nor having a father," the term belongs to the Father alone. Nothing, however, is to be made of this. The right use of the word ingenerate is as a correlative to things created or generated; whereas the correlative to son is father. The more pious usage, therefore, is to call God Father, just in proportion as the Word surpasses things created. We are not taught to pray "O God Ingenerate," but "Our Father who art in heaven." We are not baptized into the Ingenerate, but into Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In the question about the free-will of the Son they simply trifle. The antithesis which they make is not a true one. He has free-will, but he is not alterable, since he is the Image of the Father. Witness the Scripture, "They shall perish, but thou remainest; they shall be changed, but thou art the same."

The remainder of Oration I is devoted to the true interpretation of three texts cited by Arius to prove the Son alterable, viz., Phil. 2:9, 10. Here "exalted" refers to his human nature, just as he was "humbled" in the incarnation. Psalm 45:7, 8. The "anointed" is the man Christ Jesus, become such for us. Hebrews 1:4: "Better" does not compare, but contrasts, as different in nature. "Being made" is not spoken of the substance of the Son, but refers to the incarnation.


Discourse 2.

The argument in this discourse and the next is to show that the Son, the Word, is not a work or creature, as is urged by the Arians from various passages of Scripture which are here expounded, viz., Hebrews 3:2. This is only a verbal objection. The question is, Is the Lord Son, Word, Wisdom? This decided, "made" has the meaning "begat." He was made in becoming man, not as the Word. Acts 2:36: i.e., manifested him to us. Prov. 8:22, As introductory to this passage, it is shown that God could not have created the Word as a medium of creation; else there must be an endless series of media. The Father operates in the Word, but through his creatures. The text refers to the Word becoming flesh for the work of redeeming men from sin. "He founded me before the worlds" in the context refers to the eternally proposed mediatorship of Christ.


Discourse 3.

Here are expounded John 14:10; 17:3, 2:3, 35:12, 27; Matt. 28:18; 26:39; Mark 13:32; Luke 2:52. The rule of faith is said to be easily determined, "if we now consider the drift of that faith which we Christians hold, and, using it as a rule, apply ourselves as the Apostle teaches to the reading of inspired Scripture." Returning, then, to Arian objections, it is replied, to the assertion that the Son exists by the will of the Father, that then there must be another Word before him. Rather, the Son exists by nature. He is the will, not by the will of the Father.


Discourse 4.

The Father and Son are two, yet the unity of the Godhead is indivisible, and we preserve one origin; whence there is a divine monarchy. And there is one substance, the Word being substantive, not a sound. The Word also is from God. Since, now, that which is from another can not be that which it is, the Father and Son must be two. And they are one because the Son is not from without, but begotten of God; they are one through their consubstantiality. Sabellians fell into the same error with the Arians in saying that the Son was developed not created that God through him might create us. This involves the prior inactivity, and so the imperfection, of God. The theory of dilatation, by which one becomes three, implies passibility in God, the cause being either the creation or the incarnation. If the former, it involves the cessation of creation; if the latter, the Father became flesh.

The Word being from the Father, surely he is the Son. This is proved by Scripture appellations of the Word and the Son. The Son is not the man whom the Word bore, since the Son made the worlds. Nor is the Word and the man the Son, since the Son was before the flesh. Nor, again, is the Son the Word become man. The Old Testament as well as the New names the Son. The Sabellian view leads to the destroying of the grace of baptism and to the annihilation of creation; 1 John 1, and Psalm 110:3, prove that the Son had no beginning of being. Therefore, God the Word himself is Christ from Mary, God and man...seen, I say, not in his invisible Godhead, but in the operation of the Godhead through the human body and whole man, which he has renewed by appropriation to himself. To him be the adoration and the worship, who was before and ever shall be, even to all ages. Amen.



1. "And the mockeries which he prates in it, repulsive and most impious, are such as these: 'God was not always a Father, but there was when God was alone and not yet a Father, and afterward he became a Father. The Son was not always, for, all things being made out of nothing, and all existing creatures and works being made, even the Word of God himself was made out of nothing, and there was when he was not; and he was not before his generation, but he too had a beginning of creation. For God,' he says, 'was alone, and the Word as yet was not nor the Wisdom. Then, wishing to form us, he thereupon made a certain one, and named him Word and Wisdom and Son, that through him he might form us. Accordingly,' he says, 'there are two wisdoms; first, that which is truly co-existent with God, but in this Wisdom the Son was generated, and simply as partaking of it was named Wisdom and Word. For Wisdom,' he says, 'by the will of the wise God began to be in Wisdom.' So, also, he says that there is another Word in God besides the Son, and the Son, again, as having part in it, is himself by grace called Word and Son. And this, too, is an idea belonging to their heresy, as shown in other works of theirs: that there are many powers, one of which is God's own by nature and eternal; but that Christ, on the other hand, is not the true power of God, but he too is one of the so-called powers, one of which, 'the locust and the caterpillar,' is called not only the 'power' but the 'great' power. The others are many, and like the Son, of whom David sings, saying, The Lord of power [or of hosts]. And by nature, like all, so too the Word is alterable, and by his own will, so long as he chooses, remains good; when, however, he will, he too like us can alter, being of an alterable nature. 'For God, on this account,' he says, 'as foreknowing that he would be good, in anticipation, bestowed upon him this glory which afterward as a man he possessed from virtue. Thus from his works which he foreknew, God caused that he being such should come to be.'" Orat. 1, sec. 5.

2. "For behold we speak freely from the divine Scriptures concerning the religious faith, and set it up as a candle upon a candlestick, saying, 'He is very Son of the Father, natural and genuine, proper to his substance; Wisdom only-begotten, and very and only Word of God is he; he is not creature nor work, but proper offspring of the substance of the Father. Wherefore he is my God, being one in substance with the very Father. But others, to whom he said, 'I said, Ye are gods,' had this grace from the Father only by participation of the Word through the Spirit. For he is the impress of the Father's essence, and light from light, and power, and very image of the Father's substance. For this again the Lord said, ' He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' And he ever was and is, and never was not. For the Father being everlasting, everlasting must be his Word and Wisdom.'" Orat. 1, sec. 9.

3. "Besides, the good reason of what was done is apparent thus: If [God] had spoken in his power, and the curse had been dissolved, the power of him who commanded would have been shown, but man would have become like Adam before the transgression, receiving grace, from without, and not having it united to the body for he was such when he was placed in Paradise and even perhaps would have become worse, because he had learned to transgress. Being then such a one, if he had been seduced by the serpent there would again have been need that God give command and break the curse; and thus the need would have been interminable, and men would have remained not less guilty, as being enslaved by sin; and, ever sinning, they would ever have needed one to pardon, and would never have become free, being of themselves flesh, and always overcome by the law on account of the infirmity of the flesh." Orat. 2, sec. 68.

4. "'I and the Father are one.' Two are one, you say, either as one has two names, or as one is divided into two. If, now, the one is divided into two, of necessity what is divided is a body, and neither is perfect, for each is a part and not a whole. But, if one have two names, this is the explanation of Sabellius, who said that the Father and the Son are the same, and denied each, the Father when the Son [was confessed] and the Son when the Father. If the two are one, necessarily, while there are two, there is one according to the godhead and according to the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, and the Word being from the Father himself; thus there are two because there is Father and Son that is the Word, but one because there is one God." Orat. 4, sec. 9.



This letter to Marcellinus observes that the Psalms have a peculiar character and grace, in that there is no one who may not in them find himself with his various passions and changeable will, together with the means of calming the first and fixing the second. The other Scripture books teach us to do good and shun evil, or of the coming of the Saviour, or about the lives of kings and holy men. While not lacking in these particulars, the Psalms acquaint us with ourselves, and teach us to contend with our spiritual maladies. We have been taught to be penitent, to submit to adversities, to be thankful to God; here we are taught how to practice these graces. We have had the examples of others cited to us that we may emulate them; here we are taught how to identify these with ourselves. When on earth, Jesus Christ gave us, in his own virtues, the most admirable example to follow; but before his advent he had given us the Psalms as the most perfect code of the virtues which we should practice. Being prophetic, historic, moral, and devotional (as is shown by the author's classification), they are suited to all the varying circumstances and wants of life. '"This book alone suffices for all the needs of the heart;...whether one desires to give himself up to the emotions of contrition and penitence, or is tried by temptation or by adversity, as the object of enmity, or delivered from some peril, in sorrow or in joy, the Psalms furnish to the soul that which strengthens or consoles; they afford in abundance expressions of praise, of gratitude, of blessing toward the Lord; and the language of the prophet becomes one's own.

"Take heed not to add to the words of the Psalms the pomp of strange ornament, as if they needed the artifices of eloquence. It is permitted neither to transpose the expression nor to alter the text. They should be recited and sung as they are written, in order that the holy persons who have transmitted them to us as simple depositaries, recognizing their own language, may pray with us; that, above all, the Holy Spirit, who has spoken by their mouth, finding again the same words which he communicated to them by his divine inspiration, may accord to us, as to them, his all-powerful aid."



Anthony had commended himself to Athanasius by a visit to Alexandria to oppose the Arians when upward of a hundred years old; and the monks of the desert had been the patriarch's stanchest friends in his fugitive days. This panegyric, therefore, solicited from Athanasius by monks outside of Egypt, was written with the most entire sympathy with the man and with his order. It is rather, says Eugene Fialon, a poem of Saint Anthony than a life. "It is, in fact, less the life and the eulogy of a man than an ideal picture of a great institution." The work is of value to us as exhibiting the literalness of Athanasius's conception of Anthony's temptations. Our author was certainly not lacking in sound judgment nor devoid of the critical faculty, yet the supernatural appearances of demons and their violence toward the holy father of the monks seem not incredible to him.

A few sayings of Anthony's might well be popularly known. "Do not wonder," said he to his monks, "that an emperor writes to us; he is only a man. Be astonished rather that God has written his law for men and has spoken to us by the mouth of his own Son." "My book," said he, "is nature; it presents itself to me whenever I wish to read the discourses of God."



The Council of Nice decreed that the custom of celebrating Easter upon Sunday, which prevailed in the "western, southern, and northern parts of the world," should be the usage of the whole Church; but it fixed upon no paschal cycle. The determination of Easter was thus practically (if not, as Leo says, by express order of the council) left to the church at Alexandria, in which city astronomical science was cultivated as nowhere else. Throughout his episcopate, therefore, Athanasius, with the exception of certain years when he could not communicate with his church, wrote an annual letter announcing to his diocese the date of the festival and enjoining its proper observance. A considerable part of thirty-nine such letters is preserved in a Syriac translation brought to light in recent times. Two extracts are subjoined, the latter as testifying to the canon of that day.



"We begin the fast of forty days on the sixth day of Phamenoth; and having passed through that properly, with fasting and prayers, we may be able to attain to the holy day. For he who regards lightly the fast of forty days, as one who rashly and impurely treadeth on holy things, can not celebrate the Easter festival. Further, let us put one another in remembrance, and stimulate one another not to be negligent, and especially that we should fast those days; so that fasts may receive us in succession and we may duly bring the feast to a close. The fast of forty days begins, then, as was before said, on the sixth of Phamenoth (March 2); and the great week of the passion on the eleventh of Phar-muthi (April 6). And let us rest from the fast on the sixteenth of it (April 11), on the seventh day, late in the evening. Let us keep the feast when the first of the week rises upon us, on the seventeenth of the month Pharmuthi (April 12). Let us then add, one after the other, the seven holy weeks of Pentecost, rejoicing and praising God, that he hath by these things made known to us beforehand joy and rest everlasting, prepared in heaven for those of us who truly believe in Christ Jesus our Lord; through whom and with whom be glory and dominion to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen." From Letter 19 for A. D. 347

Having enumerated as canonical the now commonly received Old Testament books, with the exception of Esther and the addition of Baruch, and all of the now received books of the New Testament, the author adds: "These are the fountains of salvation, that he who thirsteth may be satisfied with the words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to them, neither let him take aught from them. For on this point the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, saying, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures. And he reproved the Jews, saying, Search the Scriptures, for they testify of me.

But for greater exactness, I add this also, considering it necessary so to write: that there are other books besides these, not indeed included in the canon, but appointed by the fathers to be read by those who are come of late, wishing for admonition and instruction in godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Doctrine of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there any mention of apocryphal writings. But this is an invention of heretics, writing them to favor their own views, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, and producing them as ancient writings, that thereby they might find occasion to lead astray the simple." From Letter 39 for A. D. 367.


List of Athanasius's Most Important Works now extant.

APOLOGETIC "Against the Gentiles," and "On the Incarnation." HISTORICAL The works given in the text under "Historical Tracts"; and the "Defense of the Nicene Definition." DOGMATICAL and CONTROVERSIAL "Orations against the Arians," the "Expositio fidei," four "Epistles to Serapion" on the Son and the Holy Ghost, and "On the Incarnation" against Apollinaris. SCRIPTURAL "Exposition of the Psalms" and "On the Titles of the Psalms." PRACTICAL The "Festal Epistles," and "Life of Anthony."


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