brated council, since the time of the apostles. It is a the most famous, and the most venerable of all councils : than which the church has nothing more illustrious.

It has also been censured by some of former, as well as later ages. Sabinus, bishop of Heraclea in Thrace, one of those Arians, which were called Macedonians, who wrote a history of councils, and is often cited by Socrates, called the bishops of the council of Nice weak and illiterate men. Among moderns some have not scrupled to say, that in this, as well as in most other councils, party, passion, and intrigue, bore a great sway. I put down - at large in the margin one censure of this kind.

XII. Let us in the next place observe the several points brought before this council.

One was the Meletian controversy, or schism. Of which I intend not to give any farther account than was done formerly. I only add, it seems to me, that there could be no occasion to call a general council for the sake of it. It might have been determined by the Egyptian bishops, and their neighbours.

XIII. Another point brought before them, and one ' occasion of their meeting, was the disagreement of the churches in several parts of the world about the time of keeping Easter : which the council now determined should be observed by all on the Sunday, which followed immediately after the 14th of the moon, that happened next after the vernal equinox: which (equinox) happened that year on the 21st day of March.

Upon this we may make several remarks.

1. There was no great harm in appointing Easter to be kept by Christians in general at one and the same time, provided this rule was not too rigorously enforced. But generally, when once determinations are made concerning the most indifferent matters by a respected authority, the consequence is, that in a short time they are imposed with great rigour and severity. Proofs of it in this very case may be seen in Bingham.

2. There was no necessity of a determination for fixing the time of keeping Easter. Christians might have been every where left at liberty to take the time they liked best, or not to keep it. at all. For, as Socrates says, it was not the design of the apostles to deliver laws about festivals, but to teach men virtue and piety. And some learned and acute men of late times have been of opinion, that ' so trifling a thing did not deserve all the pains that was taken about it: and that the ancients were more solicitous to procure an agreement than they should have been.

3. Notwithstanding all the care to bring men to uniformity in this practice, it was not obtained. Even they who were willing to keep Easter according to the order of the council, differed in their computations. Bingham says, it sometimes happened, that the churches of one country still kept it a week, or a month, sooner than others : of which he gives several instances.


[ocr errors]

a Basvag. Hist. de l'Eglise, liy. X. ch. 2. n, ii.

great council of Nice had once undertaken to determine hunc Nicænum patrum consessum, quo nihil deinde · this matter, such a deference was thought proper to be paid unquam illustrius habuit ecclesia. Balduin. De Leg. Const. 'to her decree,... that from this time, the opposers of the M. 1. i. p 55.

decree are commonly censured either as heretics or schisma• Teς μεν εν Νικαια, ως αφελεις και ιδιωίας διεσυρε. Socr. tics. The Audians railed at the council of Nice for intro1. i. c. 9 p. 22. Α. Αλλ' ιδιωίας, και μη εχειν γνωσιν, τες ducing a new custom ... and made a separation in the εκει συνελθονίας φησιν, C. 9. p. 31. D.

"church .... upon which Constantine banished Audius their d Quod ad cætera post [apostolicum) consecuta symbola, • leader into Scythia. ... And for this reason the imperial laws quæ in conciliis æcumenicis, ut vocantur, cusa fuerunt, ea, ' were often very severe upon the Quartodecimans. Theodoquia recentiora sunt, cum his comparari non merentur. Et, si sius the Great, in one of his laws, ranks them with the quod res est dicendum est, ea ab episcopis inter se magna Manichees, forbidding their conventicles, confiscating their: cum æmulatione jurgantibus & contendentibus, ex fervore, si 'goods, rendering them intestate, and liable also to capital non furore, partiumque studio insano ac male feriato, præci- punishment.' Bingham's Antiq. B. xx. Ch. y. vol. x. pitata potius videri debent, quam a compositis animis pro

p. 102, 103. fecta. Vide P. Martyrem in Comm. in 1 lib. Reg. cap. xii. Η Σκοπος μεν εν γείτονε τοις απος ολους και σερι ημερων εoρίασ. Unde & eadem veluti poma Eridos fuerunt in Ecclesià, et non Πικων νομοθελειν, αλλα βιον ορθον και την θεοσεβειαν ειση ησασlitium tantum & rixarum, sed tristissimarum divisionum, sedi- bas. Socr. l. v. c. 22. p. 283. D. tionum, factionum & persecutionum seminaria fuerunt. Exin- i De die Paschæ quæstio res levior videri poterat. ... Su-de quis sine lacrymis legere potest, quot contentiones interperstitiosior fortassis fuit posteritas in hoc genere, quam opus. Orientales & Occidentales ecclesias, post conditum symbolum erat. Atque ut eam puniret Deus, passus est, sensim vitiata Nicænum de voce du 08018 viguerint... Videatur Sozom. 1. ii. anni mensiumque sapputandorum verâ ratione, & æquinoctiocap. 8. Socr. l. ii. cap. 37. Thdret. I. ii. c. 18, 19, 21. rum diligenti consideratione neglectâ, eo rem recidere, ut in my Episc. Inst. Theol. I. iv. c. 34. p. 340.

tegro prope mense imprudentes plerumque dissideamus ab eo, e See p. 129-131.

quem Nicæni Patres præfixerant, die Paschæ. Balduin. de: I Vid. Euseb. V. C. 1. iii. cap. v.

Leg. Const, M. 1. i. p. 62, 63. & Having spoken of this controversy, as it had been ma- * Bing. Antiq. B. xx. Ch. k. Vol. 9. p. 107. &c. Confo. naged in the time of Pope Victor, he adds : ' But when the Ittig. Hist. Conc. Nic. p. 60, 61, 104.

the page.

[ocr errors]

4. Once more, the council's determination concerning this point has not been approved by all moderns, any more than by all of that time. I place some proofs of this at the bottom of

XIV. But the principal determination of the council of Nice relates to the Arian controversy.

1. And the first remark to be made here is, that their decision had not the intended effect; peace and unity were not thereby restored to the churches. Of this we have full assurance from the two ecclesiastical historians, Socrates and Sozomen. The first of which writes to this purpose: Eusebius Pamphilus says, that soon after the synod, the Egyptians quarrelled among themselves; though he does not say why. But as we have perceived by several letters, which the bishops wrote to one another after the council, the word consubstantial was disagreeable to some. And whilst they indulged too curious inquiries about that expression, • they raised an intestine war among themselves, which may be said to have been not unlike • fighting in the dark : for neither side seemed to know why they reproached each other. But : they who disliked the word consubstantial, supposed that they who approved of it, intended to • advance the sentiment of Sabellius, or Montanus : and therefore charged them with blasphemy, as denying the existence of the Son of God. On the other hand, they who were for maintaining the term consubstantial, supposing their adversaries to introduce polytheism, charged • them with a design to revive heathenism. Eustathius bishop of Antioch reproached Eusebius * with corrupting the Nicene faith. Eusebius answers, that he does not at all depart from that

faith, and accuseth Eustathius with introducing Sabellianism. By this means they were • induced to write against one another, as enemies. And though both sides maintained, that! * the Son of God was a distinct person, and had a proper existence, and owned one God in three

persons, they made a shift, one knows not well how, to differ with each other; nor could they • live in peace and quietness. And to the like purpose Sozomen.

The history of the church in the fourth century, fully justifies the observation of those writers. In short, notwithstanding the professions made by many, of a high veneration for councils, men do not value them any farther, than they countenance their own particular opinions ; and if they are under no restraints of external force, they contradict their decisions without scruple.

2. No man, or number of men, separate, or united in council, since the times of Christ and kis apostles, have any right to decide in matters of faith. It is inconsistent with the respect due to Jesus Christ, to attempt it: unless they can shew themselves to be inspired, and work miracles, to manifest evidently a divine commission. And if any such case as that should happen (which is very unlikely,) I think that what even such persons should propose, must be tried and examined by the doctrine of the gospel, delivered in the New Testament. This is agreeable to many things said by our Lord, particularly Matt. xxiii

. 9, 10; “ And call no man your father upon the earth ; for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, even Christ.” Compare 1 Cor. iii. 11—23.

8. The introducing force and authority in matters of a speculative nature, is subversive of true religion and virtue. For what avail human decisions, when they are not satisfying? If you can bring reason or scripture for any doctrine, men will assent: but to say, that the bishops

p. 33, 34.

• Rectius facturos fuisse theologos Nicænos, si Pascha, symbolum, quo filius Dei genitus,' non ' factus' Patrique æque ac Christi festum natale, jussissent eo die celebrari, quo * consubstantialis,' affirmabatur. Verum, neque hac definiresurrexisse credimus Christum, in quemcunque dieın bebdo- tione, neque illorum exiliis, qui subscribere renuerunt, finismadis hoc festum incideret, censet Lutherus noster in libro de malo allatus est. Quippe Ariani, tum ultimis Constantini an. Conciliis in T. vii. Witteb. Germ. f. 478. Nunc tamen mo- nis, tum in primis sub Constantio, Ariano ipsó, vires resumsere, rem tot seculis usitatum migrandum esse, negat. Recte etiam nec uno in concilio prævaluere. Turret. Compend. H. E. summuş ille mathematicus, Jo. Bernullius, in suo ad senatum Basileensem responso, de dic, quo celebrandum Pascha, cen- © Socr. 1. i. c. 23. p. 58. A. B. C. D. set, "negligi debuisse tam canones Nicænos, quam operosam

d Vid. de Vit. Constantin. 1. iii. c. 23. supputationem astronomicam plenilunii Paschalis. Ejusdem • Ως αναιρενίας την υπαρξιν το Yia το Θεό. ib. C. hæc sunt: Melius fuisset, si Protestantes non essent secuti sta- * Αμφοτεροι τε λείονlες ενυπος αλoν τε και ενυπάρχοντα τον tuta concilii Nicæni, sed quemdam solis diem in principium Υιον ειναι το Θεό, ένα τε Θεον εν τρισιν υποφασεσιν ειναι ομολοveris incidentem : e. g. primum post æquinoctium vernum, Γονίες. κ. λ. p. 58. D. 8 L. ii. c. 18. p. 468. C. D. determinâssent, ac decrevissent, ut eo die annuatim festum Conciliis non majorem, quam Aristoteli, tribuit auctoritaPaschatis celebretur. Hac methodo omnes lites tolli possent, tem Danhauerus in Hodosophiâ, p. 129:- Utrisque enim ideo quæ superfluis subtilitatibus ortum suum debent. Heumann. fidem habendam, quod, que statueront, recte statuerunt, & Diss. de Vero Paschate. p. 13. not. m.

vel Scripturæ sacræ vel rationi conyenienter. Heumann. Diss. ....quo Arianorum contentio damnata est, cusumque de vero Pasch. p. 13. not."


desire, you

of such a council have so declared and determined, is not convincing: therefore it ought not to be expected, that men should confess and act, as if they were convinced. If you make use of any methods, beside those of rational arguments, to induce men to profess and act as you

do what lies in your power to make them lie and prevaricate. So did this council of Nice.

It has been sometimes said, that they shew their moderation in their manner of speaking, concerning the sentence passed upon Arius. But I own I can discern no such thing. There may be art and dissimulation, but there is no real moderation, or sincere kindness in what they write. Whatever the sentence was, they approved of it: if it had not been agreeable to their mind, Constantine would not have banished Arius, or his adherents. Moreover, before the meeting of this council, Alexander and his synod had excommunicated Arius, and banished him from the city of Alexandria.

Thus this council of Nice introduced authority and force in the church, and the affairs of religion. Or, if authority had been introduced before, they now openly countenanced it, and gave it a farther sanction.

This way of acting, may be supposed to have been the chief cause of the ruin of the Christian interest in the east. This and the like determinations of speculative doctrines, and the violent methods, by which they were enforced, may be reckoned to have paved the way for Mahometanism, more than any thing else. By these means ignorance, and hypocrisy, and tedious rituals, came to take place of honesty, true piety, and undissembled, spiritual, and reasonable worship and devotion.

In about three hundred years after the ascension of Jesus, without the aids of secular power, or church authority, the Christian religion spread over a large part of Asia, Europe, and Africa : and at the accession of Constantine, and convening the council of Nice, it was almost every where, throughout those countries, in a flourishing condition. In the space of another three hundred years, or a little more, the beauty of the Christian religion was greatly corrupted in a large part of that extent, its glory defaced, and its light almost extinguished. What can this be so much owing to, as to the determinations and transactions of the council of Nice, and the measures then set on foot, and followed in succeeding times ?

These impositions poison the waters of the sanctuary at the very fountain. They require. the ministers of Christ, the officers of his church, to subscribe certain articles upon pain of heavy forfeitures: and a subscription to these articles, whether believed or not, gives a right to preferment. If any subscribe what they are not satisfied about, and so enter into the service of the church (which is very likely to happen,) they gain and hold their offices by the tenure of hypocrisy. How can religion flourish in this way? Will the persons who have so subscribed, (without conviction, or against it,) be sincere and upright ever afterwards ? Will they, upon all other occasions, speak the truth without fear or favour, who have once solemnly and deliberately prevaricated? and can others entirely confide in them ? or can they heartily reverence them, as upright and disinterested men ?

The temptation upon some occasions must be exceeding strong, and many specious things may be offered, to put a fair colour upon unrighteousness. Even an appearance of religion may concur with secular interest, to impose upon the mind, and lead to what is not to be justified. Has a person at great expence of study and labour qualified himself for the service of the church, with a sincere view of usefulness in an important station ? how grievous must it be, to be after all disappointed and excluded! If any obstacles lie in the way, there is great danger of compliance, not quite consistent with duty and conscience, provided those bars cannot be removed.

The temptation may be still stronger to some, who are already settled in agreeable stations. How trying is this case ! This was the case of Eusebius, bishop of Cæsarea; he was in a station of great honour and usefulness, beloved by his people, and they by him: moreover he might imagine, and reasonably, that his usefulness as an author, depended much upon his continuance in that station. Without the advantages which he there enjoyed, he could not carry on his various designs for composing useful books, which he hoped might be of extensive service to the Christian religion, in that and future times. Was not this a temptation to sign what he did not approve of?

I beg leave, however, to add here, that I would be cautious of condemning particular persons, whose circumstances I am not exactly acquainted with. Nor do I absolutely condemn Eusebius :

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


2 z

go away ?”

the reason is, that he was present at the drawing up of the Nicene Creed, and declared in what sense he understood the word consubstantial. This is an advantage which may not be allowed to all: when they have not a liberty to explain themselves, it will cause a diversity of case.

Tillemont has these words: • It was then, fear of banishment, and of the shame of having • so illustrious an assembly the witness of their ignominy, that induced the Arians to make haste • to renounce the doctrines that had been condemned, to anathematize them, and subscribe the • consubstantial faith, after all the other bishops; being led by Eusebius of Nicomedia, to confess with the mouth the faith of the church, without having it in the heart, as the event shewed.'

How can any man speak in this manner! how can any man triumph in the falls of his fellowcreatures, who has any respect for the Lord Jesus, any love of truth and sincerity, any tenderness of conscience, any sense of equity and goodness! Those Arians confessed with the mouth, and signed with the hand, what they did not believe. For that they are to be blamed. But how came they to do so? It was owing to a fear of ignominy and banishment. But why were they put in fear ? Why was a law made to banish such as did not believe the consubstantial doctrine? They offended, who signed; it is allowed: and are they innocent, who laid before them a temptation to sign ? Was there a necessity, that they should be required to sign, whether they believed or not? Can you shew any ground or authority from reason, or from Jesus Christ, whereby you are allowed or enjoined to require your brethren to sign certain speculative articles, whether they believe them or not? Nay, is not this quite contrary to the design and example of the Lord Jesus, who never proposed to men any arguments, but such as were suited to gain the judgment ? and who, when many forsook him, who had followed him for a time, took that oppor. tunity, to refer it to the choice of those who still stayed with him, whether b " they also would

If any pretend it to be of importance, that others should sign or profess certain doctrines, supposed by them to be true; I would answer, that sincerity is of yet greater importance. And you ought never to endeavour to secure the interest of speculative points, with the prejudice of what is of greater moment, honesty and integrity.

4. It remains, that when this council met, instead of deciding by their authority, and enforcing by worldly menaces or recompences, any speculative doctrines, they should rather have recommended forbearance and moderation to all parties.

They ought to have advised men to practise love and forbearance one to another, and should have intreated them, if there be any « bowels and mercies," and for the love of Jesus, " to received one another in love,” as the apostle says, “but not to doubtful disputations : that is, to own each other for brethren, and communicate together as Christians, notwithstanding some differences of opinion. Or, if any could not persuade themselves to do this, that yet they should allow each other full liberty to profess their principles, and carry on their worship, according to their own sentiments, in their religious assemblies, in their own way. This at least they should have recommended, and with the utmost earnestness, as altogether reasonable, agreeable to the gospel, and absolutely necessary for the honour of the Christian name. And they should have humbly recommended it the emperor, to take care accordingly, and in his great wisdom to provide, that all who acted peaceably should be protected, in the several cities, where they dwelt: and that all who caused tumults and disturbances, or by any outward act infringed the Liberty of their neighbours, on account of diversity of opinion, should be restrained and punished, as the nature of their offence required.

Possibly some may say, that such thoughts as these are founded upon the experience and observation of later ages; and that all this is more than could be reasonably expected of any men, however wise, at that time.

To which I answer, that it is no more than might have been expected: for it is not more than what men are taught by the common principles of equity. The gospel too, teaches and enacts moderation and forbearance, and condemns all imposition on the consciences of men, and all force and violence in things of religion.

Farther, what has been here suggested, is no more than what the Christians had before demanded and expected of heathens in power, as just and reasonable ; they were therefore selfcondemned in acting otherwise. If it was reasonable, that they should be tolerated and protected by heathen emperors; much more was it reasonable and evident, that all other sects of Christians should be tolerated and protected by that sect which happened to be the most numerous and powerful.

John vi. 07.

· Le Concile de Nicée, Art. x. near the end. Mem. Tom. vi. • Philip. ä.2.

d Rom. xiv, I,

Finally, for the main part, this is no other than the advice sent by Constantine, in his letter to Alexander and Arius, which the bishops assembled in council should have stood to. Nothing could have been more for their honour, and the interest of religion, than for them to have enforced with all their credit, the sage, and pious, and moderate counsels of the emperor. I have taken all this freedom, thus to propose these thoughts. But

But I do not mention them so much by way of blame and censure, as with a view of amendment; that Christians in

general may at length be so wise, as to consult the true interest of their religion : and hoping, that they who are in high stations in the church, and have a powerful influence, will improve all opportunities, and use their best endeavours, that “ the moderation of Christians may be known unto all men.'



[ocr errors]

1 A brief account of his life. II. His works. III. General remarks upon his works. IV. Whether

he was an Arian? V. His character, VI. Select passages. VII. Four passages concerning the books of the New Testament. VIII. Remarks upon those passages. IX. Books of the New Testament

received by Eusebius himself. X. Of the controverted and spurious writings mentioned by him. XI. The time of writing St. Matthew's gospel, according to Eusebius. XII. The language of St. Matthew's gospel, and of the epistle to the Hebrews. XIII. Various readings. XIV. Of the canon of the Old Testament, received by this writer. XV. General divisions of

scripture. XVI. Respect for the scriptures. XVII. The sum of his testimony. 1. ‘EUSEBIUS bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine,' says Jerom, • a man most studious in the divine

scriptures, and together with the martyr Pamphilus, very diligents in making a large collec• tion of ecclesiastical writers, published innumerable volumes, some of which are these : The • Evangelical Demonstration in twenty books : The Evangelical Preparation, in fifteen books : · Five books of the Theophanie: Ten books of Ecclesiastical History: Chronical Canons of * universal history, and an Epitome of them: and Of the Difference between the Gospels : Ten • books upon Isaiah : Against Porphyry, who at the same time wrote in Sicily, thirty books as * some think, though I have never met with more than twenty: Topics in one book: An Apology · for Origen in six books: The Life of Pamphilus, in three books: Several small Pieces con

cerning the Martyrs : most learned Commentaries upon the 150 Psalms, and many other • works, He flourished chiefly under the emperors Constantine and Constantius. On account • of his friendship with the martyr Pamphilus he received his surname from him.'

Eusebius, as is generally thought, and with some good degree of probability, was born at


* Vid. Euseb. de Vit. Const. I. ii. c. 64. &c. et Socr. 1. i.c.7. De Vita Pamphili libri tres: De Martyribus alia opuscula : b Philip. iv. 5.

Et in centum quinquaginta Psalmos eruditissimi commentarii, Eusebius, Cæsareæ Palæstinæ episcopus, in scripturis & multa alia. "Floruit maxime sub Constantino imperatore divinis studiosissimus, & bibliothecæ divinæ cum Pamphilo & Constantio. Et ob amicitiam Pamphili martyris ab eo cogmartyre diligentissimus pervestigator, edidit infinita volumina, nomentum sortitus est. Hieron. de V. I. c. 81. de φuibus haec sunt: Ευαγγελικης Αποδειξεως libri viginti : 11 hat interpretation was justified formerly. See p. 116, Ευαίγελικης Προπαρασκευης libri quindecim : Θεοφανιας libri 117. And it is the sense in which the words were always quinque : Ecclesiasticæ Historiæ libri decem : Chronicorum understood, till very lately. Says Valesius, speaking of Canonum omnimoda historia, & eorum Etilouen : Et de Evan- Pamphilus : Qui cum literarum sacrarum singulari amore geliorum Diaphoniâ : In Isaïam libri decem : Et contra Por- flagraret, omnesque ecclesiasticorum scriptorum libros summo phyrium, qui eodem tempore scribebat in Siciliâ, ut quidam studio conquireret, celeberrimam scholam ac bibliothecair patapt, libri triginta, de quibus ad me viginti tantum pervene- instituit Cæsareæ, De Vito & Scriptis Euseb. Cæs. sub init. unt : Τοπικων liber Opus : Απολούιας pro Origene libri sex:

« ElőzőTovább »