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CHAPTER IV

THE COUNCIL OF NICEA

"I say there is no darkness but ignorance."

SHAKESPEARE.

“No dream! No draught
Of Fancy's frenzied wine-cup; ecstasy
Of musing drugged with Faith's fine mandragore!
But the words true as daylight; plain and straight
The way as paths in meadows; clear the voice
Calling to airs celestial, as of Morn
Bidding with breezy lips the world awake.
Surer than any for the heart can know
Bliss of that sudden hour when each for each
Knows Heaven so nigh! only to let go Earth,
To let go, listen, love, and have:-for then
The kingdom came!"

SIR EDWIN ARNOLD.

"Jesus is not a magician and wonder-worker. His power is spiritual and requires for its effectiveness response. He has a deep insight into all who come to Him. He knows the reality of their spiritual nature, and His work shows how the Spiritual can influence and triumph over the material.”

RT. REV. ARTHUR C. HEADLAM, C.H., D.D.,

BISHOP OF GLOUCESTER.

IN

N the summer of 325 A.D. there was held at Nicea,–

the residence of the Kings of Bythnia—the first general

Church Council, to which 318 bishops came from various parts of the then known world, and which condemned the opinions of the Arians, and formulated the Nicene creed and the Doctrine of the Trinity. It is a little difficult for us to ascertain with any degree of clarity at this date, what opinions the Arians really held. Their doctrines have come down to us chiefly in the writ. ings of those who hotly refuted them, and there is an equal blaze of indignant protest in the pamphlets of divines of the Eighteenth Century, in opposition to those who were dubbed ‘Arians' by the orthodoxy of that age. It is certain that great confusion had arisen concerning the Divinity of Christ. The preaching of the Apostles had been preserved chiefly by tradition, and according to the impression it had made on the minds of those converts and students of converts who had survived the waves of repeated persecutions and were unavoidably coloured with the personality of the believer.

The veneration and awe in which the relics of the martyrs were held necessitated, on the one hand, that Christ Jesus should be placed in a position supremely superior to those faithful witnesses, and on the other hand, the pagan worship of many kinds of gods, which prevailed in the unconverted world accorded a ready channel for faith to put Jesus in a similar relationship—that of a kind of hero-god, or demigod, in which metaphysical truth was entirely forgotten. While Arius appeared to have contended for the principle of only one God, and Christ to be not God the ego, but the Emanation or Son of the Father, his followers possessing less illumination than himself quickly seized this to mean a condition wholly distinct and separate from God, and were in danger of looking upon our Saviour as merely a highly favoured man. Christianity with them quickly degenerated into being an admixture of the worship of God and of heathen idols at the same time. This is specially noticeable among the Goths who took it in this form and made but little spiritual progress.

The fact that Arians took up arms to press their claims and became a political party under Justina the dowager Empress, creating very great contentions and uproar in

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various cities, showed that whatever portions of truth they may have held in the letter, were entirely lost in their non-observance of the Spirit. At the same time the bitterness and virulence with which the Church Bishops condemned them "as crafty heretics” betrayed a form of self-righteousness that is equally to be deplored. In the heat of disputations and arguments, fightings and expellings, the original, true, primitive Christianity was lost. For many hundreds of years after there was no general healing of sick people by companies and congregations, and these words of Bishop Gore become only too sadly true, i.e., that "the history of religious movements is, in fact, very generally the history of a continuous decline, through a long period of years, from the level attained by a founder or a reformer."

But to return to the Nicene Council. With this great fear in mind, that the Divinity of Christ would become lost sight of if Arianism was not immediately stifled, the Bishops in conclave endeavoured to form a creed. Bishop Gore describes the position exactly, in his Bampton Lecture of 1891:

“The Churches as left by the Apostles believed themselves to possess in the person of Jesus Christ God's full, and for this world, final revelation of Himself to man. Their duty was to hold this word or message of God fast till the end. But the revelation, as they knew it, was not in the form of ordered knowledge; its meaning, its coherence, its limits, were very imperfectly recognised, its terminology was not exact. The faith of the Church as it expressed itself in life, in worship, in fervent statement, in martyrdom, was vigorous and unmistakable in meaning; it referred back for its authorization to apostolic teaching and apostolic writings, but it was a faith, not a science; a faith which

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in some sub-apostolic documents finds such inexact or even careless expression as impresses upon us the difference between the writers within, and those without, the canon.” Indeed, the mental confusion of that century can be gathered from these words of St. Hilary “We determine creed by the year, or by the month; and then we change our denomination; and then we prohibit our changes; and then we anathematize our prohibitions."

At Nicea, then, in 325, was first elaborated the creed known in the Church of England to-day as the Creed of Saint Athanasius, in which such passages as these occur:

"For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. ... The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible: and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. .

"There are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated: but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible. So the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet there are not three Gods: but one God.

“Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation: that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess: that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man: God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds: and man, of the substance of his mother born in the world. Perfect God and perfect man: of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching his Godhead, and inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood who although he be God and man; yet he is not two, but one Christ."

It is impossible to read this Creed, with its confusion and contradiction of terms, and feel that the truth it contains has been expressed in the clearest, best possible way.

Christendom surely owes one great debt of gratitude, however, to the Nicene Creed. It has preserved reverently and tenaciously the vital fact of the divinity of our Lord. In spirit at least if not in technique it expresses a firm conviction that God himself was manifested in his Son, and that whatever else happens the human race must never be deprived of this central glory of revelation, this knowledge that Christ Jesus was both human and divine.

The Creed fails to explain exactly in what way this has come to pass,-it cannot adequately explain it,-but it knows it happened. Ever since the life of Jesus on earth, ever since the teaching of the Apostles, there is that implanted in the conscience of humanity, which knows that perfect man is the expression of perfect God and that both God and man as Principle and its idea, exist, wholly spiritual and eternal being.

Since the late Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Charles Gore, has already been quoted by us on this subject of the Creed and the Incarnation, let us examine one or two more passages from his Bampton Lectures, and see if his clear and beautiful phraseology does not prepare the way for an equally clear understanding of the position maintained in the teaching of Christian Science.

He first approaches the Incarnation by a thoughtful analysis of the term 'miracle and disputes that law can only be said to belong to a physical world. “A God whose very being is law”, he declares, “has never vanished from the best theology.” “Miracle,” he continues, “can be regarded as a rational and credible element in the revelation of the Christ. What is a miracle? It is an event in physical nature which makes unmistakably plain the

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