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The doctrineimplies Hypostatic distinctionsin God.33
a truth beyond itself. It postulates the existence in God of certain real distinctions having their necessary basis in the Essence of the Godhead. That Three such distinctions exist is a matter of Revelation. In the common language of the Western Church these distinct forms of Being are named Per
Yet that term cannot be employed to denote Them, without considerable intellectual caution. As applied to men, Person implies the antecedent conception of a species, which is determined for the moment, and by the force of the expression, into a single incommunicable modification of being d. But the conception of species is utterly inapplicable to That One Supreme Essence Which we name God; and, according to the terms of the Catholic doctrine, the same Essence belongs to Each of the Divine Persons. Not however that we are therefore to suppose nothing more to be intended by the revealed doctrine than three varying relations of God in His dealings with the world. On the contrary, His Self-Revelation has for its basis certain eternal distinctions in His Nature, which are themselves altogether anterior to and independent of any relation to created life. Apart from
d So runs the definition of Boethius. Persona est naturæ rationalis individua substantia.' (De Pers. et Duabus Naturis, c. 3.) Upon which St. Thomas observes : Conveniens est ut hoc nomen (persona) de Deo dicatur; non tamen eodem modo quo dicitur de creaturis, sed excellentiori modo.' (Sumn. Th., 1". qu. 29. a. 3.) When the present use of ovoía and ÚTÓgtaois had become fixed in the East, St. Gregory Nazianzen tells us that in the formula μία ουσία, τρεις υποστάσεις, ουσία signifes την φύσιν της θειότητος, while υποστάσεις points to τας των τριών ιδιότητας. He observes that with this sense the Westerns were in perfect agreement; but he deplores the poverty of their theological language. They had no expression really equivalent to ÚTOOTAOIS, as contrasted with ovoia, and they were therefore obliged to employ the Latin translation of apbownov that they might avoid the appearance of believing in three ovolai. (Orat. xxi. 46.) St. Augustine laments the necessity of having to say 'quid Tria sint, Quæ Tria esse fides vera pronuntiat.' (Đe Trin. vii. n. 7.) Cum ergo quæritur quid Tria, vel quid Tres, conferimus nos ad inveniendum aliquod speciale vel generale nomen, quo complectamur hæc Tria : neque occurrit animo, quia excedit supereminentia Divinitatis usitati eloquii facultatem.' (Ibid.)
‘Cum conaretur humana inopia loquendo proferre ad hominum sensus, quod in secretario mentis pro captu tenet de Domino Deo Creatore suo, sive per piam fidem, sive per qualemcunque intelligentiam, timuit dicere tres essentias, ne intelligeretur in Illa Summå Æqualitate ulla diversitas. Rursus non esse tria quædam non poterat dicere, quod Sabellius quia dixit, in hæresim lapsus est. ... Quæsivit quid Tria diceret, et dixit substantias sive personas, quibus nominibus non diversitatem intelligi voluit, sed singularitatem noluit. (De Trin, vii. n. 9.) Cf. Serm. cxvii. 7, ccxv. 3, ccxliv. 4. On the term Person, see further St. Athan. Treatises, i. 155, note f (Lib. Fath.)
these distinctions, the Christian Puevelation of an Eternal Father. hood, of a true Lucarnation of God, and of a real communication of His Spirit, is but the baseless fabric of a dream. These three distinct · Subsistences to which we name Father, Son, and Spirit, while they enable us the better to understand the mystery of the Self-sufficing and Blessed Life of God before He surrounded Himself with created beings are also strictly compatible with the truth of the Divine Unity 8. And when we say that Jesus Christ is God, we mean that in the Man Christ Jesus, the second of these Persone or Subsistences, One in Essence with the First and with the Third, vouchsafed to become Incarnate.
IV. The position then which is before us in these lectures is briefly the following: Our Lord Jesus Christ, being truly and perfectly Man, is also, according to His Higher Pre-existent Nature, Very and Eternal God; since it was the Second Person of the Ever Blessed Trinity, Who, at the Incarnation, robed Himself with a Human Body and a Human Soul. Such explicit language will of course encounter objections in more than one quarter of the modern world; and if of these objections one or two prominent samples be rapidly noticed, it is possible that, at least in the case of certain minds, the path of our future discussion will be cleared of difficulties which are at present more or less distinctly supposed to obstruct it.
(a) One objection to our attempt in these lectures may be expected to proceed from that graceful species of literary activity which may be termed, without our discrediting it, Historical Æstheticism. The protest will take the form of an appeal to the sense of beauty. True beauty, it will be argued, is a creation of nature; it is not improved by being meddled with. The rocky hill-side is no longer beautiful when it has been quarried ; nor is the river-course, when it has been straightened and deepened for purposes of navigation; nor is the forest which
• Cf. Wilberforce on the Incarnation, p. 152.
! 'Subsistentiæ, relationes subsistentes.' Sum. Th. 18. qu. 29. a. 2; and qu. 40. a. 2.
• This compatibility is expressed by the doctrine of the nepixápnois--the safeguard and witness of the Divine Unity; St. John xiv. II; 1 Cor. ii. 11: the force of which is not impaired by St. John xiv. 20, xvii. 21, 23; 1 St. John iv. 15, 16, v. 20. This doctrine, as 'protecting the Unity of God, without entrenching on the perfections of the Son and the Spirit, may even be called the characteristic of Catholic Trinitarianism, as opposed to all counterfeits, whether philosophical, Arian, or oriental.' Newman's '
s'Arians,' p. 190, 1st ed. Cf. Athan. Treatises, ii. 403, note i.
The æsthetic historians.
has been fenced and planted, and made to assume the disciplined air of a symmetrical plantation. In like manner, you urge, that incomparable Figure whom we meet in the pages of the New Testament, has suffered in the apprehensions of orthodox Christians, from the officious handling of a too inquisitive Scholasticism. As cultivation robs wild nature of its beauty, even so, you maintain, is definition' the enemy of the fairest creations of our sacred literature. You represent definition' as ruthlessly invading regions which have been beautified by the freshness and originality of the moral sentiment, and as substituting for the indefinable graces of a living movement, the grim and stiff artificialities of a heartless logic. You wonder at the bad taste of men who can bring the decisions of Nicæa and Chalcedon into contact with the story of the Gospels. What is there in common, you ask, between these dead metaphysical formulæ and the ever-living tenderness of that matchless Life ? You protest that you would as readily essay to throw the text of Homer or of Milton into a series of syllogisms, that you would with as little scruple scratch the paint from a masterpiece of Raffaelle with the intention of subjecting it to a chemical analysis, as go hand in hand with those Church-doctors who force Jesus of Nazareth into rude juxtaposition with a world of formal thought, from which, as you conceive, He is severed by the intervention of three centuries of disputation, and still more by all which raises the highest forms of natural beauty above the awkward pedantry of debased art.
Well, my brethren, if the object of the Gospel be attained when it has added one more chapter to the poetry of human history, when it has contributed one more Figure to the world's gallery of historical portraits, upon which a few educated persons may periodically expend some spare thought and feeling ;-if this be so, you are probably right. Plainly you are in pursuit of that which may nourish sentiment, rather than of that which can support moral vigour or permanently satisfy the instinct of truth. Certainly your sentiment of beauty may be occasionally shocked by those direct questions and rude processes, which are necessary to the investigation of intellectual truth and to the sustenance of moral life. You would repress these processes; you would silence these questions; or at least you would not explicitly state your own answer to them. Whether, for instance, the stupendous miracle of the Resurrection be or be not as certain as any event of public interest which has taken place in Europe during the present year, is a point which does not affect, as it seems, the worth or the completeness of your Christology. Your Christ is an Epic; and you will suffer no prosaic scholiast to try his hand upon its pages. Your Christ is a portrait; and, as we are all agreed, a portrait is a thing to admire, and not to touch.
But there is a solemn question which must be asked, and which, if a man is in earnest, he will inevitably ask; and that question will at once carry him beyond the narrow horizon of a literary æstheticism in his treatment of the matter before us.
My brethren, where is Jesus Christ now? and what is He? Does He only speak to us from the pages which were traced by His followers eighteen centuries ago ? Is He no more than the first of the shadows of the past, the first of memories, the first of biographies, the most perfect of human ideals? Is He only an Ideal, after all ? Does He reign, only in virtue of a mighty tradition of human thought and feeling in His favour, which creates and supports His imaginary throne? Is He at this moment a really living Being? And if living, is He a human ghost, flitting we know not where in the unseen world, and Himself awaiting an award at the hands of the Everlasting? or is He a super-angelic Intelligence, sinless and invested with judicial and creative powers, but as far separated from the inaccessible Life of God as must be even the first of creatures from the everlasting Creator ? Does He reign, in any true sense, either on earth or in heaven? or is His Regal Government in any degree independent of the submission or the resistance which His subjects may offer to it? Is He present personally as a living Power in this our world! Has He any certain relations to you ? Does He think of you, care for you, act upon you ? Can He help you ? Can He save you from your sins, can He blot out their stains and crush their power, can He deliver you
deathagony from the terrors of dissolution, and bid you live with Him in a brighter world for ever? Can you approach Him now, commune with Him now, cling to Him now, become one with Him now, not by an unsubstantial act of your own imaginations, but by an actual objective transaction, making you incorporate with His Life? Or is the Christian answer to these most pressing questions a weakly delusion, or at any rate too definite a statement; and must we content ourselves with the analysis of an historical Character, while we confess that the Living Personality which once created and animated It may or may not be God, may or may not be able to hear us and help us, may or may not be in distinct conscious existence at this moment, may or
Objectors. (2) The anti-doctrinal moralists.
may not have been altogether annihilated some eighteen hundred years ago ? Do you urge that it is idle to ask these questions, since we have no adequate materials at hand for dealing with them? That is a point which it is hoped may be more or less cleared up during the progress of our present enquiry. But if such questions are to remain unanswered, do not shut your eyes to the certain consequence.
A Christ who is conceived of as only pictured in an ancient literature may indeed furnish you with the theme of a magnificent poetry, but he cannot be the present object of your religious life. A religion must have for its object an actually Living Person: and the purpose of the definitions which you deprecate, is to exhibit and assert the exact force of the revealed statements respecting the Eternal Life of Christ, and so to place Him as a Living Person in all His Divine Majesty and all His Human Tenderness before the eye of the soul which seeks Him. When you fairly commit yourself to the assertion that Christ is at this moment living at all, you leave the strictly historical and ästhetical treatment of the Gospel record of His Life and character, and you enter, whether it be in a Catholic or in an heretical spirit, upon the territory of Church definitions. In your little private sphere, you bow to that practical necessity which obliged great Fathers and Councils, often much against their will, to take counsel of the Spirit Who illuminated the collective Church, and to give point and strength to Christian faith by authoritative elucidations of Christian doctrine. Nor are you therefore rendered insensible to the beauty of the Gospel narrative, because you have discovered that thus to ascertain and bear in mind, so far as Revelation warrants your effort, what is the exact Personal dignity and what the enduring prerogatives of Him in whom you have believed, is in truth a matter of the utmost practical importance to your religious life.
(B) But the present enquiry may be objected to, on higher grounds than those of literary and æsthetic taste. • Are there not,' it will be pleaded, “moral reasons for deprecating such discussions! Surely the dogmatic and theological temper is sufficiently distinct from the temper which aims, beyond everything else, at moral improvement. Surely good men may be indifferent divines, while accomplished divines may be false or impure at heart. Nay more, are not morality and theology, not merely distinct, but also more or less antagonistic interests? Does not the enthusiastic consideration of dogmatic problems tend to divert men's minds from that attention which is due to the